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A Thanksgiving To
Remember Habitat Partners

November 25, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

by Mike Thompson,
Wildlife Biologist
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
"Game Range Ramblings" column Seeley Swan Pathfinder

A little more than a year ago, I came home glowing from a special meeting with the Blackfoot-Clearwater Citizens Advisory Council and Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioner, Charlie Decker.

"How'd it go?" Sharon asked.

"It's gonna happen this time!" I answered, revving up to deliver the blow by blow commentary. "The 50th Anniversary is the difference. We'll have a big celebration at the Game Range on June 12th. We've got an angle on funding up front to get the land acquisition project started. Looks like the new Seeley Lake Chapter of the Elk Foundation is gearing up for it."

Of course, I was talking about the fledgling 50th Anniversary Project to acquire Plum Creek inholdings on the Game Range. And, I was just warming up when I noticed my favorite audience beginning to cry. "What's the matter?" I asked, dumbfounded.

Well, Sharon didn't like being caught crying. This made her cry a little harder. Eventually, she offered a brief explanation, heavily punctuated with sobs and gasps, which I won't attempt to quote here.

You see, my wife knew just exactly what was coming for us, now that the Game Range project might amount to more than hot air. It would mean long days, long nights, lost weekends, lost time. It would be a siege with a series of critical deadlines and minor emergencies that would span at least one year, and maybe two or three. She'd been down this road a few times before. I hadn't stopped to realize we were going there again. So, she cried.

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for Sharon Rose. Among her other attributes I treasure, she helps me understand that I am accountable personally as well as professionally. (She's been telling me this for years, but I think the message is sinking in better with age.) She keeps me alert for opportunities to steal off with her and have fun, or stay home and catch up on chores. As a result, I'm enjoying the work more this time around, and once again, Sharon is a big part of it. We've made new friends in Seeley Lake and Missoula while working together on the 50th Anniversary Project. So, helping to keep the Game Range intact has become a family thing for Sharon and me, just as it has for many other families we've met over the past year.

Take Fred and Pat Hartman, for instance. We first met these folks last winter at a meeting of the Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter of RMEF Volunteers in Seeley Lake. Sharon and I were impressed at this and subsequent meetings with everyone's energy and willingness to work, week after week. You would think that hundreds of donated hours of effort would be enough for these folks. But, as winter turned to spring, I learned of the depth of their connection to the land and FWP's mission in managing it when Fred and Pat joined others in the Blackfoot-Clearwater Chapter to become Habitat Partners with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF).

"Habitat Partner" is RMEF's designation that recognizes gifts of $2,500 or more. Whereas most monetary contributions to RMEF may be used in a wide array of projects to protect wildlife habitat across North America, the Habitat Partnership is a means by which donors can specify which project every penny of their money will be used for. Fred and Pat chose the Blackfoot-Clearwater 50th Anniversary Project. I know the Hartmans are reading this (or they'll have to answer to me), and I want to offer a heartfelt Thank You.

Over the past few months of my association with RMEF, I've come to understand that the Habitat Partnership is something special. It's easy to unknowingly dismiss someone who contributes $2,500 as someone who has $2,500 to throw away. But, the people I've seen come forward to become Habitat Partners for the Blackfoot-Clearwater Project are people like you and me, who have to think long and hard about how they're going to budget for a $2,500 gift. They include people who would seldom, if ever, spend $2,500 on themselves unless they needed to replace a vehicle. They are the people who gave something extra to this project, not because they have lots of money to spare, but because the Game Range is where they want to leave their mark in this world.

We at Fish, Wildlife & Parks feel an obligation to every one of them. Thank you, Habitat Partners. And, Happy Thanksgiving to so many other supporters of the Blackfoot-Clearwater Project, and to all of you who appreciate the fish, wildlife and parks resources we manage.

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