What's New at the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance?
It's autumn on the prairie, and the endless tawny grassland teems with wildlife as well as with our livestock. We give thanks for our loved ones and our work as the full-time caretakers of this wildland we call home. At the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, we feed the world, preserve our prairie neighborhood, and nurture the next generation: This is conservation, done right!
The mission of the Ranchers Stewardship
Alliance is to promote the ecological, social and economic conditions
that will sustain the biodiversity and integrity of America’s northern
mixed-grass prairie for present and future generations.
We support cost-effective, sustainable conservation that features
private and public cooperation in a working landscape stewarded
by profitable family ranches and thriving rural communities. We
employ collaboration, education, innovation and sound science to
conserve and enhance the natural resources and pastoral heritage
of the northern Great Plains.
Compared to the rest of the lower US, the vast prairies of northern
Montana have been little changed over the last millennium. Much
as chronicled by Lewis and Clark 200 years ago, this immensity of
grass and sky is a stronghold for pronghorn, mule deer, elk, prairie
dogs, burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, mountain plovers and a
dozen more grassland bird species that are disappearing elsewhere.
Photo © Anne Sherwood
For over a hundred years, ranching has been the foundation of our
local economy, culture and conservation. Today, third, fourth and
fifth generation ranchers care for the land with ethics and skills
that would delight Aldo Leopold.
In 2003, about 30 ranching families in northern Montana came together
to resolve problems they faced. Since then, the group – the Ranchers
Stewardship Alliance (RSA) – has improved communication and relationships
with government agencies and conservation groups while protecting
Photo © Linda Poole
RSA members worry that economic instability and
the continued loss of young people from our area threaten the
long-term viability of agriculture here. Because both our rural
communities and the abundant wildlife of the area are sustained
in large part by ranching, our challenge is to create a vibrant,
profitable and sustainable future for this region.
Photo © Richard Utt
And so we make wise use of the pivot point where
we now stand. Encouraged by exciting accomplishments of partnerships
like the Malpai Borderlands Group, the Sandhills Task Force and
the Blackfoot Challenge, our community is pioneering unlikely
alliances to maintain our ranching heritage while building synergistic
solutions for prairie conservation. We seek ways to turn the table
so that conservation becomes an economic engine for agriculture,
and we imagine future generations wondering, “Did ranchers save
the prairie birds, or did birds save the prairie ranchers?”
Photo © Kathe LeSage
While we are still working to craft lasting solutions, this website
shares with you how our community is building a beautiful future
we previously only hoped could be true. We invite you to ride
along with us for the journey.
Photo © Vision Quest Photography