Seeley Swan Pathfinder
April 15, 1999
by Mike Thompson,
MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks
It was a pleasure to see them scattered across the hillside overlooking Highway 83. No cheating was required to view them. No helicopter, no airplane, no special access privilege inside the Game Range. We were simply driving on the highway toward Seeley Lake.
"The elk are out," I reported after arriving at the meeting.
"Oh, good!" Elinor Williamson replied. After a few seconds of reflection, she added, "They're applauding us."
I'm sure she's right. Elinor and the rest of the Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) are working hard to benefit elk and all wildlife in the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range, Seeley Lake Ranger District, Bob Marshall Wilderness, andas an extension of RMEF's international organizationsome of the most important wildlife habitats across North America.
Why shouldn't the elk graze contentedly, with their future held in such capable and energetic hands?
I'm glad the Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter invited me to attend their meeting last week. We, who are fortunate enough to earn our livings by representing the public trust in wildlife, are often in the pleasant position of accepting the fruits of many volunteers' efforts. Often, such gifts arrive in the form of supplemental funding for habitat improvement projects or other wildlife enhancements. We apply the funds with sincere gratitude, but all too often without a first-hand appreciation for the dedication and hard work that produced them. I know this now, after watching the Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter in action.
It's not been a free ride. You can't brush up against this group of people without having your hands pulled out of your pockets, as many of you in the local community are well aware. Through the coordinated efforts of RMEF and the Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter, the entire community of Seeley Lake and many others in western Montana have been shown how their talents can help conserve and enhance wildlife habitat in our own backyard.
And, if putting on one of the most successful RMEF fundraising banquets in the country isn't challenging enough, the Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter has agreed to support Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Blackfoot-Clearwater Citizens Advisory Council in their grand celebration to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Game Range. Both events will take place on June 12, and will originate from Wayne Heaton's Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch, near Kozy Korner.
Is there anyone out there who still hasn't marked June 12 on their calendar?
It will be a full day of games, displays, food and activities, including a dedication ceremony at high noon to recognize the achievements of those who established the Game Range before us, and to dedicate ourselves to an ambitious series of projects that will secure the Game Range for our children. A complete schedule of the day's activities and numerous attractions will be finalized and publicized in the coming weeks.
So, when you start planning your weekends and vacations for the month of June, I ask you to consider doing yourself a favor. Please consider reserving June 12 as a day to come see what all the fuss is about. Become part of the fuss. If the Game Range holds something special for you, come pay your respects. If you haven't been back for a few years, now's the ideal time to remember old times and bump into some old friends. If you've never been to the Game Range, come learn what it's all about, and what so many people are trying to accomplish for the future.
We know the Game Range can support 1,000 elk, 1,000 white-tailed deer and 1,000 mule deer in the winter. Let's see if it can support a migration of hundredsor even thousandsof appreciative humans for a once-in-a-lifetime gathering in summer. Let's stand up and be counted this year!
Wayne Heaton, chairman of the Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter, makes no apologies for his devotion to the hope of bringing 7,800 acres of Plum Creek inholdings within the Game Range into state ownership. "RMEF does a lot of work to protect the corridors elk use to travel between their summer and winter ranges across the country," Wayne told his team of volunteers recently. "That's really important. But, we're not talking about a corridor here. We're talking about the place where the elk really live, the place they're going to. And, it's in our backyard. This Game Range project is really something special."
He was preaching to the choir. Come join us on June 12 for the high point of your summer.