Day two of the Institute dawned sunny, and fellows gobbled up an early breakfast at the Flathead Lake Biological Station before boarding the bus for the Swan Valley and a long day of programming.
At Northwest Connections in Condon, Montana, the group heard from executive director Melanie Parker about grizzly bears, conservation, and the area's long history of natural resource extraction, especially logging and hunting. She explained how, over several years, a community at odds came together to preserve the most important parts of the landscape, ecologically, culturally, and economically. She was joined by Chris Bryant with The Nature Conservancy, who explained the Montana Legacy Project, an ambitious program to conserve 310,000 acres formerly owned by Plum Creek Timber.
The group also heard from Gordy Sanders, resource manager with Pyramid Mountain Lumber, about how a family-owned mill has survived the changing economic climate and land management policies of the past few decades.
After spending a glorious morning in the Swan Valley, the group traveled south to the Blackfoot Valley, where they heard from a number of parties invested in protecting not only the area's predators - grizzlies and wolves, specifically -but also the livelihood of the area's ranchers, many of whom run cattle on land that has spent several generations in a single family. Seth Wilson with the Blackfoot Challenge led conversations about a carcass composting program facilitated by Montana DOT, as well as new efforts among ranchers to take a more pro-active management approach to their property and livestock. Joining him were Jim Stone of Rolling Stone Ranch, Bruce Friede with MT DOT, fish and wildlife biologist Greg Neudecker, rancher Bob Rawlins, range rider Eric Graham, and wolf biologists Ed Bangs and Mike Mitchell.
Finally, the group boarded the bus for the 3 hour drive up the Front Range. Two episodes of road construction later, they arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch, where they all agreed the view from the deck was well worth the wait. Over a spectacular home-cooked dinner, they heard from Randy Gray, former mayor of Great Falls, Montana, and rancher Karl Rappold about the history of the Front Range, and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.