Thursday, September 02, 2010

Ranchers Back Transferring to the State Important, Grazed Acres

Not a lot has changed in Montana’s rural Potomac Valley over the years. And that’s just fine for many of the multi-generational ranching families whose livelihoods are tied to this expanse of waving grass and trees drained by the lower Blackfoot River northeast of Missoula. Today, just as it was nearly a century ago, the Potomac is a working landscape. But faced with the possibility of large-scale changes sweeping across this broad valley and on to the low and rounded Garnet Range to the south, the valley’s ranchers did something that may surprise some. They got behind the transfer of tens of thousands of private acres in the Garnets—lands they’ve grazed their cattle on and cut timber from for decades—to the state of Montana. The Potomac ranchers faced a stark set of choices. Either accept a future where their access to prime grazing lands is threatened by residential development or embrace an alternative that keeps the landscape whole. So, in a place where politics generally fall on the conservative side of the spectrum, they backed the state’s purchase of most of the range’s north-facing slopes. The handwriting was on the wall, said Denny Iverson, a longtime rancher and logger from the Potomac...more