Range Days Rocks Red Lodge!


Submitted by Carla Lawrence, Carbon County Range Committee

Every year at the start of the third week in June they arrive alone or in carpools and caravans, in campers, cars and trucks and they converge on one location to learn about and to celebrate Montana’s largest natural resource…Rangelands.  This is Montana Range Days.  This annual pilgrimage welcomes kids, students, 4-H and FFA, adults, instructors and families who come to learn about rangeland and natural resources in the great outdoor classroom that is Montana. 

The setting could not be have been more beautiful, with the backdrop of the Beartooth Mountains and the town of Red Lodge welcoming around 270 folks, including participates and/or volunteers, who committed their time and energy to ensure the 41st Annual Montana Range Days went off without a hitch.

The Carbon Conservation District will be hosting the event for two years, 2017 and 2018. Along with assistance from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), the state and local planning committees and the many amazing sponsors who provided funding and in-kind time and donations, Montana Range Days was a great success.

Divisions include: Buckaroos (age 4-6), Ecosystem Explorers (age 7-8), Superstarters (age 9-11), Wranglers (age 12-13), FFA Youth/Open Youth (age 14-19, not graduated from high school) and Rancher/Open Adult.  Workshops in an outdoor setting include plant anatomy, plant identification, range and soil sites, inventory and monitoring, stocking rates and utilization and ranch planning.

Monday began with the arrival of the planning committee members and the instructors who drove miles across the state to teach and to help set up the training and testing sites.  Later, the participants started to flow in and this continued throughout the day.  The registration area quickly became the center of activity. Darlene Schwend, Carbon Conservation District and Tanya Lester, Stillwater Conservation District handled the registration for the event.  After getting registered, the participants headed over to the practice site to hone their skills on plant identification. 

Later that evening, the illustrated talks began at the Red Lodge High School. Participants in this event can be from 4-19 years old.  Each person chose a range related topic and presented an illustrated (PowerPoint) talk, which lasted 6-8 minutes.  After the talk, each participant answered questions from a panel of three judges. Jean Blackman, Cascade, MT was the winner of the illustrated talk’s event.

Tuesday morning after breakfast, the participants were loaded in buses and driven out to the training site. The Ellis Cattle Company graciously hosted the day.  The lunch of BBQ lamb donated and prepared by the Montana Woolgrowers was served at the ranch.  The Ellis Cattle Company also hosted the testing site on Wednesday.  “We cannot do this event without the ranchers, like Alvin and Maureen Ellis and family, who provided the land for the competition,” said Scott Blain, chairman of the local planning committee. 

Montana Range Days is not all work and no play. The Tuesday evening banquet provided an opportunity for participants to unwind and enjoy a delicious meal.  All meals were catered by the Carbon County 4-H Interstate Exchange, with Nikki Bailey and Sheri Hatten from the Carbon County Extension Office heading up the team.  The beef for the supper was provided by The Montana Beef Council along with Sysco.

 Three $1000 scholarships were awarded during the banquet.  The Montana Range Days scholarship was awarded to Daniel Levy, Bridger, MT; the Harold and Lillian Jensen Scholarship was awarded to Amanda Williams, Miles City, MT and the Bob and Donna Sitz Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Cache Younkin, Glasgow, MT.  

The Montana Range Days Hall of Fame inductee was Mike Sjostrom.  Mike was hired as an Associate Loan Officer by Montana Livestock Ag Credit (MLACI) in 1981 and served as Vice President from 1986 until his retirement.  Prior to working for Montana Livestock, Mike was employed by the Farmers Home Administration.  He is a third generation Montanan, raised on a cow/calf/wheat operation near Malta in Phillips County.  In 2006, Mike moved his family to Malta and continued to work for MLACI serving customers in the northeastern part of Montana through his retirement in February 2017.  Mike and his wife, Deb, have two daughters.  Mike enjoys fishing, boating, local history, attending sporting events and activities in which his daughters are involved.

The banquet was followed by music by Dan Kosel and the Acoustic Waterfall where dancing was encouraged.

Wednesday morning found the competitors ready to go, albeit a bit tired, after the previous day and evening activities. They were loaded onto the buses and headed back to a new location at the Ellis Cattle Company to take the exam.  The winners of all divisions can be found at the website: www.montanarangedays.org.

Tours were provided for the adults, not completing in the event.  Tuesday, the participants were welcomed at the Bridger Plant Materials Center, Wetstein Ag, where they learned about cutter bees and a final stop at the Red Lodge Ales for a tour and sampling of the brewery in Red Lodge, MT.   The Wednesday morning tour meandered up the scenic Beartooth Highway and mountain range.  Joe Lefebvre provided a historic perspective of the vegetation and geology of the area.


For more information: check out the Montana Range Days website at www.montanarangedays.org.

Submitted by Carla Lawrence, Carbon County Range Committee

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