MSGA nominates Malta-area Ranchers Stewardship Alliance for environmental award

Mar 12, 2010
by WLJ

The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) recently nominated the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA) in Malta, MT, for the 2010 regional and national Environmental Stewardship Award sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation. This annual award recognizes the outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements of cattle ranchers across the nation. Award winners have been commended for their commitment to protecting the environment and improving fish and wildlife habitats while operating profitable cattle ranches.

“We are very proud and excited to nominate RSA for this prestigious award,” said Tom Hougen, president of MSGA. “RSA ranchers exemplify the best of ranching. They are excellent stewards of the land and animals under their care, and contribute greatly to the economy and culture of their local area. Plus, RSA, as a group, has become a strong and trusted leader through its willingness and ability to reach out to diverse interests to find common ground in implementing the conservation goals shared by ranchers and conservationists alike.”

RSA is a nonprofit group of about three dozen ranching families who have joined together to find solutions to some of the most vexing land use dilemmas facing our country today. The ranchers of RSA steward nearly 1 million acres in Phillips County, MT, an area that has been heralded by international conservation biologists as a model of land care and condition. Numerous wildlife species that are struggling elsewhere thrive on these ranchlands. Sage grouse, black-tailed prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets, burrowing and short-eared owls, mountain plovers, and long-billed curlews are among hundreds of species that call RSA’s ranches home.

RSA first began meeting in 2003 to address endangered species issues and since then, the group has shown that ranchers are the most cost-effective and timeproven conservationists by implementing on-theground conservation swiftly throughout the area. RSA has been able to do this by forging unique partnerships that draw on the strengths and knowledge of both the ranching and environmental communities.

“The on-the-ground stewardship of RSA’s ranching families is impressive and progressive enough on its own merits,” Hougen said. “What stands out most to me, though, is the way RSA has brought neighbors together, both ranchers and conservationists, and the way they work with, not against, others who have an interest in the continued stewardship of the prairie that has been under ranchers’ care for more than a century.”

RSA was named winner of the 2010 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award during MSGA’s 125th Annual Convention and Trade Show at the MetraPark in Billings, MT, in December. The Montana Environmental Stewardship Award is sponsored by MSGA with support from the Montana Beef Council. RSA is the 17th winner in the history of the award and the first group to be honored.

“No group has ever received the national award,” Hougen said. “But MSGA felt strongly that this group exemplifies a passion for the land, and a commitment to teamwork and collaboration to achieve shared goals, that sets a great example for the rest of us. We feel that it is time to honor groups like RSA, not just for their on-theground stewardship, but also for their efforts to bridge the gap between ranchers and conservationists to find solutions to even the most difficult of natural resource issues.”

Regional winners of the Environmental Stewardship Award will be notified in April with a public announcement to follow in July. The national winner will be announced at the 2011 Cattle Industry Convention in Denver, CO.

To learn more about the Montana Environmental Stewardship Award and see RSA’s application for the national award, go to cfm?show=10&mid=14. For more information on the national Environmental Stewardship Award Program, visit www.environ Learn more about RSA at www.rancherssteward — WLJ