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June 12 Anniversary
Celebration for Everyone

By Mike Thompson
wildlife biologist FW&P
Game Range Ramblings Column
June 3, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder

I hope you'll forgive us at Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) for being a bit preoccupied with the upcoming celebration on June 12.

By the time this long-awaited day arrives, few stones will be left unturned.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is mailing about 4,000 personal notifications of the June 12 festivities to members in western Montana and cooperators on FWP mailing lists. The Pathfinder and Missoulian newspapers are donating prime space in their newspapers. Gary Holmquist of the Five Valleys (Missoula) RMEF Chapter has seen a few sunrises on the way to appearing on local television shows in May, and I'm not sure if TV viewers have had the pleasure of watching our Pathfinder "Cover Boy" from a couple issues back (I hear he finally got out of jail). Jamie Jonkel (FWP) is covering the Public Radio beat, Bill Thomas (FWP) is working with other Missoula media, and Ryan Lutey (RMEF) is carrying the message to media in Kalispell, Helena and Great Falls.

The word is out about the Grand 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range at the Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch on June 12. Turn east off Highway 83 at mile marker 7 and follow the signs. (If you can't tell the difference between east and west, just remember not to drive into the lake!) Join us anytime between 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M.

I know the word is out because I've been giving pop quizzes to everyone I meet. And, people are passing the test. Just the other day, I met a family driving across the interior of the Game Range. I was polite enough to say, "Hi. Nice weather we're having," before surprising them with the $64,000 question: "Are you gonna join us on June 12?"

I didn't hold it against these folks that it took a few moments for them to process the question in silence before replying enthusiastically, "Oh, yes, we just read about it in the Pathfinder!" Honest, Gary, that's what they said. Don't let it go to your head!

Even our precious children are not spared from unscrupulous solicitation. Last week, Lisa Pena and Kaye Mahoney brought the Seeley Lake sixth graders out to the Game Range for a tour. After several minutes of masquerading as a professional, I exploded with, "Do you know what's going to happen here on June 12?"

I think at least half the class raised their hands and jumped around to be recognized as the foremost authorities on the 50th Anniversary Celebration, and with lots of help from Lisa and Kaye, we took the time to explain for the rest. "Twenty years from now, you'll be able to say you were here on the 50th Anniversary," Kaye told her students.

Bonus points were awarded for the correct answer to the trivia question, "What comic strip character lives on Boyd Mountain?" Again, about half the class cried out, "Snoopy!" We spent the rest of the field trip trying to show him to the others.

And, talk about sprucing up for the big day! How many of you have noticed the new archways Jamie and his friend Barry built at the main east and west gates to the Game Range? I saw Bruce Johnson, from the Seeley Lake Ranger District, in Missoula on Saturday, and he reported that the west gate arch was hooked to a tractor and perched precariously at a 45-degree angle when he drove by earlier that day.

What Bruce missed was its spectacular crash to the earth, probably only moments later, after Jamie and Barry suffered a minor miscommunication on the way up. Jamie reports that tensions were eased after much finger pointing and heated discussion, and the arch glided up very smoothly and professionally thereafter.

In case there's any possible misunderstanding, this celebration on June 12 is for EVERYONE! This is your Game Range. On June 12, we celebrate the enduring public support that keeps such a place going. This one's for YOU!

Even though there's a fair going on at the Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch all day, I hope you'll plan your day so you don't miss the midday Dedication Ceremony on the Game Range. To attend, you'll need to be at the Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch by 11:00 A.M. to be delivered to the Dedication Site. The Ceremony will begin at noon and finish at 1:00 P.M. There will be refreshments and porta-johns at the site for comfort, but you might like to bring a compact lawn chair (one that you can carry on a bus).

John Firebaugh (FWP) will be the Master of Ceremonies. Merle Rognrud, the retired FWP wildlife biologist I introduced in this column a few months back, will speak on the colorful history of the Game Range. Dr. Gary Wolfe, Executive Director of RMEF, will speak on the future of the Game Range and the role of partnership between government and the private sector. FWP Director, Pat Graham, will deliver the call to move forward and we hope to make a formal announcement regarding the proposed purchase of 856 acres of critical winter habitat from Plum Creek Timber Company. Other speakers have not yet confirmed, but will probably do so in the next few days.

One of the highlights of the Dedication Ceremony will be the unveiling of Monte Dolack's painting, inspired by the evening he spent at the Game Range last fall with John Firebaugh (FWP), Noreen Humes (Five Valleys Land Trust) and Yours Truly. I haven't seen it, but I understand that Wendy Ninteman, Executive Director of Five Valleys Land Trust, has.

"It's wonderful," she said.

So, come see for yourself. If you can't have fun with all the games, rides, displays, food, music and tours on tap, then you're not trying hard enough. Maybe combine an hour or two at the Celebration with a drive through the Game Range or a trip to Upsata Lake or Cottonwood Creek. If you've got your tickets reserved for the evening banquet of the RMEF Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter, the daytime celebration will be a great warmup.

I hope we see you at the Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch on June 12.

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