Conservation District welcomes new administrator
Osborn joins team, brings experience of a Montana native
ENNIS—The Madison Conservation District welcomed Emily Osborn to its team earlier this summer. Osborn takes over the administrator position for the MCD from Cori Koenig.
Osborn is a native-born Montanan and grew up on a wheat farm in the north-central part of the state. She has lived in cities of various sizes from Great Falls to Lewistown, but moved to the Madison Valley after a visit over a decade ago made her fall in love with the local communities.
“I was just drawn to Virginia City,” she says of her first visit. “I volunteered with the heritage commission for a few years and, after moving around a little bit, we made our home here.”
Having grown up on wheat farms and ranches, Osborn knows firsthand some of the concerns landowners and Montanans with rural businesses have when it comes to conservation, soils and water usage. Her primary role at the MCD is assisting with the permitting process of stream projects and reclamations and providing landowners with the resources they need to get those projects underway.
The conservation district has resources for landowners for any stream reclamation projects. As a government body, the MCD oversees and permits those projects to ensure they’re carried out as responsibly and efficiently as possible.
The MCD was founded in 1946 after a federal declaration that soil and water conservation needed to be a part of national policy. After the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, new importance shown on land and water as resources, and new urgency came to the cause of natural resource conservation.
With 56 counties, Montana has 58 conservation districts statewide. This is a boon for farmers and ranchers, as it allows for greater individuality catering to the wide variety in topography, aridity and land use around the state. The districts are separated more by waterway and topography than by county lines, Osborn says.
“Madison County is kind of unique in that it has two conservation districts: The Ruby Valley Conservation District and the Madison District,” she says. “Most anything that runs into the streams of the Madison River drainage is our region.”
Across that region, MCD has a variety of projects currently in the works. The restoration of the Lower Jack Creek area is happening in stages and is a reclamation project that will provide long-term benefits to that particular waterway.
MCD also organizes education programs for youth such as the Good Thymes Camp, which offers outdoor and resource learning opportunities for kids in elementary and middle school, and the Great Yellowstone Adventure Camp, which expands that learning for older students into the unique ecosystems of Yellowstone National Park.
There’s also the GROWW program, founded by Ennis High School science teacher Nichole Bailey. GROWW (which stands for Gardening, Resources, the Outdoors, Watersheds and Wildlife) is a cooperative educational program that shows students the interconnectedness of natural resources and allows them to experience the ways in which both proactive and retroactive conservation efforts broadly impact the environment they live in.
On the adult end of the spectrum, one of MCD’s largest projects is the Madison Stream Team, which has been collecting local water quality data for nearly a decade.
Started in 2010 through the Montana State University Extension’s water quality program, the Stream Team is a volunteer group that collects data from a number of local water bodies. Data is collected several times throughout the month and collated to identify any areas of concern as well as seasonal trends in Madison Valley waterways.
Since its inception, the Stream Team has collected over 1,000 volunteer hours of monitoring time. But perhaps its largest accomplishment is that its eight years of data is enough to begin working on the first ever Madison Watershed Restoration Plan. That project is one of MCD’s most significant upcoming projects. Osborn has hit the ground running and will get her hands dirty with a variety of projects moving forward.
“This is a whole new world for me since I haven’t been involved in things like this before,” she says. “It’s been really fascinating.”
MCD will also host its second annual conservation film celebration at the end of August, which will feature films relative to the region that focus on conservation and natural resources. The festival will take place on August 31 at the Madison Theater in downtown Ennis.
For more information on MCD’s upcoming events, visit madisoncd.net or call 406-682-3272.