Local ranch wins stewardship award

The Madison Valley Garden Ranch was awarded the Montana Wetland Stewardship Award on May 30.

Located in the Madison Valley, the Madison Valley Garden Ranch has worked to promote conservation of natural resources while maintaining a working cattle ranch. Some of the projects the ranch has worked on include the relocation of Haines Creek from a barnyard to the historic channel and plugging 13,000 feet of drain ditch along the historic Madison River floodplain toe. This restored shallow groundwater and allowed development of an estimated 400 acres of wetland and riparian plant community.

The Madison Valley Garden Ranch restored Irrigation Springs that reactivated 3,100 feet of channel creating spawning and rearing habitats. They also restored 18,500 feet of Moore’s Creek involving wetland sod mats and implemented management strategies that promote stewardship of the estimated 1,000 acres of wetlands.

The ranch works to alleviate historic degradation from previous land use while maintaining the working cattle ranch component.

In an effort to educate the Madison Valley community, the Madison Valley Garden Ranch presents their experiences and projects at landowners’ workshops and field tours.

Every two years, the Montana Wetland Council and the Montana Watershed Coordination Council present stewardship awards. These awards recognize individuals and teams who show an innovative commitment to wetland protection, conservation and restoration.

The Madison Valley Garden Ranch and the Story family were presented with the Wetland Stewardship Award in the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the Capitol building in Helena. After presenting their various projects to the audience in attendance, the Stories formally accepted their award in front of packed room in the historic building.

“The Valley Garden Ranch took a comprehensive approach and considered all natural resources,” said Sunni Heikes-Knapton, the Madison Watershed coordinator. “The ranch engaged the community while maintaining a working cattle ranch.”

Bart Story accepted the award on behalf of the ranch and his kids joined him.

Story says part of the success of their ranchland projects is thanks to Kevin Germain, Kevin Germain is the director of planning, development and environmental compliance at Moonlight Basin. Germain is an active member of Madison Byways, an organization dedicated to maintaining pathways and trails near Ennis. Story said Germain had a lot of ideas for projects the ranch could undertake.

Members of the Department of Environmental Quality spoke before the awards ceremony. Lieutenant Governor John Walsh was also present to congratulate the recipient winners.

The Madison Valley Garden Ranch joined other award winners including the Blackfoot Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program based near Lincoln. The program reintroduced trumpeter swans into an area they hadn’t inhabited for over a hundred years.

Adam Sigler from Montana State University Extension was awarded the Special Individuals Award for his work on water quality and citizen-based organizations throughout the state.

The Artic Grayling Candidate Conservation Agreement Management Team was presented with a Wetland Stewardship Award. The Grayling CCAA team has built local relationships and takes a collaborative team approach to create a positive trend in the Grayling populations in the Big Hole.

The Montana Wetland Council is an active network of different interests, working to conserve and restore Montana’s wetlands and riparian ecosystems as well as working toward solutions on complex wetland and riparian issues.  The Montana Watershed Coordination Council is a statewide information and support network organized to promote local watershed work.

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