Dear Big Hole River Friends and Supporters,
In mid-May I was hip-deep in a cold pool in the Highland mountains, watching water slowly back up behind an old beaver dam after we patched a hole in it with sticks and sod. With child-like enthusiasm, a small group of accomplished professionals rearranged the resources around us—trees, grasses, and dirt— and built dozens of structures. As each pool grew, so did my sense of accomplishment, of hope, and of gratitude.
Like the water we were pooling up, our success and longevity comes from the ground up. A Butte resident identified the Highlands project site and brought us there. 2 years later, project completed. That project spawned a similar project on private land just downstream. We brought in the money and got it done at no expense to the ranch. Earlier this year, a rancher in the lower river identified a problem side-channel taking on too much water. He came to our meeting, asked for help, and within a month, BHWC funneled $41,000.00 of donations to the contractor. Problem solved. Our fisheries biologist saw a huge sediment problem on French Creek. We raised over $400,000.00 in grant funds and this fall we’ll fix it! Board members wanted to see work done on private forests. We’ve secured capacity funding and are working with agency partners and landowners to develop conifer removal projects.
Together we are affecting change on our large landscape in small but meaningful ways. With each project, we enhance nature’s capacity to provide the resources we need to live well. Taking cues from our flood irrigators, we can store water in our soils so we have it later in the year. And we have nearly $1 million of restoration projects lined up to do just that. We are also preparing to live with large predators, by removing attractants from the landscape one carcass at a time and by giving notice to wolves that our one-of-a-kind range rider is on their trail.
Thanks to the solid foundation and exemplary work built by my predecessors, we have the capacity to take on the important work you identify. But we can’t do it without you. Our ability as a staff to change opportunities into projects, and to deepen community connections, depends on your support. As you read on about all we’ve accomplished, consider where you fit in? Can you donate a cow through our livestock donation program? Can you help keep our gages running? Or do you want to support projects for forestry or water storage? Join us at our monthly meetings (see page 4) and donate online or by using the enclosed envelope. If you love the Big Hole watershed—and we know you do—come to the table. There’s much to do and we need you!
— Pedro Marques, BHWC Executive Director