Fall in Montana is lovely. Being from Michigan I didn’t think fall could get much better with our mixed-deciduous forest, but Montana is up there. The air is crisp, the willows and aspens are turning, the bears are getting ready to sleep.
We wrapped up all the seed collections for Seeds of Success, and I have been working with the Range Staff. We implement new studies in watershed areas where the streams have been impacted by cattle grazing. This helps us make sure our management techniques are working.
Last week, my mentor and I spent a few days at the Special K Ranch in Columbus, Montana. The ranch is a non-profit where 32 residents with disabilities live and they learn different skills such as how to care for horses, sheep, cows, plants, etc. They have a massive hydroponic tomato hoop house and they sell the tomatoes to local grocery stores. They also have a large garden of vegetables they sell at market. Along with that, they have a contract with the BLM to grows out native seeds from our SOS Collections. We can then use those seeds for restoration and other purposes. It was a real treat to go to the ranch and stay the night. I got to see other fellow CLM Interns in the process and it was nice to talk about the summer.
The residents of the ranch were all so warm and sweet to us. Here is Andrew, their newest resident from California. He liked showing us tricks where he’d dance around and throw his hat in the air and try to make it land on his head. He, along with several others, helped us break the ground for a new plot of land where we will grow out plants of the seeds we collected to have a local source for coming years.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Montana. The experience of the Chicago Botanic Garden Internship has taught me so much I will bring with me to my coming experiences. I didn’t even know what a ‘Range Specialist’ was before coming here, and now I’m basically a ‘Range Technician’ myself. The issue with cattle grazing and public lands is a very heated topic with environmentalist and ranchers often battling it out. I’m grateful I got to work in a very prominent cattle ranching area to broaden my scope of how I see the issue.
Here is another sweet photo of some horses I saw while working in Horse Prairie near the Lemhi Pass, Montana.
Leah Murray- Dillon, Montana 2014