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October 08, 2008

Patnership with the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group

Lane Adamson, a member of Defenders' Livestock Producers Advisory Council, shows his animal magnetism (Photo: Jesse Timberlake)

Lane Adamson, a member of Defenders' Livestock Producers Advisory Council, shows his animal magnetism

Photo: Jesse Timberlake

Last week I drove up to Madison Valley, Montana to visit a range rider project we are involved with. This is the first year we have partnered with the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group and other conservation organizations to help fund the project, and so I was eager to see how it was going and to meet the riders themselves. I met up with Lane Adamson who is on our Livestock Producers Advisory Council and the project director for the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group, a non-profit, grassroots ranching organization that encourages collaborative stewardship of the Madison Valley. We drove the twenty miles of so from Ennis, almost down to the Idaho border, then heading west along a dirt road we entered the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The range riders, a local couple who have been riding horses and roping cattle for much of their lives, had set up their base-camp at a creek at the valley bottom with their five dogs, four horses and one RV. We chatted about the project with the riders and the local wolf specialist from the state wildlife agency, and discussed ways in which riders can help both the livestock producers and the wolves. Riders are out with the cattle much of the time so are able to spot any sick or injured cattle, the ones most venerable to depredation by predators, and remove them from the pasture. They can look for wolf tracks and other signs to see if there is a lot of wolf activity in the area and take the appropriate action with the cattle. They can also help to put to bed the many myths that surround wolves as they have the rare experience of seeing wolves and cattle co-exist on our public lands.

The range rider next to 'Horsethief Cabin' that was built with help from Defenders (Photo: Mel Mckitrick)

The range rider next to 'Horsethief Cabin' that was built with help from Defenders.

Photo: Mel Mckitrick

Last year we teamed up with a grazing association in the Madison Valley to help build a cabin for their range riders. The grazing allotments in the National Forest that these producers use are a long way from any roads; it is a three hour ride in, and a three hour ride out. Doing this on a daily basis meant that there was not much time in the day to actually spend with the cattle and to look for signs of wolves in the area. They had decided to build a rider cabin that would allow the riders to stay overnight, giving them more time to do their job. 'Horsethief' cabin, as it has been named, has helped the rider project this year, and hopefully for many years to come.

Working with producers in these areas surrounding Yellowstone National Park is vital in protecting corridors on the landscape that provide wolves and other animals the connectivity between the Park, northwest Montana and Central Idaho. These corridors allow the genetic exchange that is vital to keeping populations of predators healthy and viable on an ever changing landscape. By encouraging producers to use non-lethal deterrents on wolves, we can give these animals the ability to disperse throughout the region using both public and private lands.


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Cattle are an invasive species. Get them off public lands/national forests that were designated for wildlife!

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