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TMC: Spring 2023

In This Issue

Montana Conservation Districts at the NACD Annual Convention

District and partner staff travelled to Washington DC for the 2023 National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) annual convention

2023 Montana Soil Health Symposium

Three days of soil health in Billings, Montana

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Inspection Stations Open Across Montana

Watercraft inspection stations are Montana’s first line of defense to prevent the movement of AIS, which can have devastating impacts on Montana waterways.

Eric Rannestad

Montana Association of Conservation Districts (MACD)

In July 2018 Bighorn CD opened an AIS inspection station along the Bighorn River as a means to help control the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Video by Montana Department of Natural Resource Conservation (DNRC)

With the exception of Eureka, watercraft inspection stations are open. All vehicles transporting any type of boat, including canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and rafts are required to stop at all inspection stations they encounter.

Watercraft inspection stations are Montana’s first line of defense to prevent the movement of AIS, which can have devastating impacts on Montana waterways.

During 2022, crews conducted more thamn 119,000 inspections and intercepted 53 mussel-fouled boats. More than 600 boats were found with aquatic weeds.

Late last year, zebra mussels were detected 70 miles from Montana in Pactola Reservoir near Rapid City, South Dakota. Watercraft inspection efforts are being adjusted to address the threat of zebra mussels moving into Montana from the Black Hills of South Dakota.

So far in 2023, more than 2,400 watercraft have been inspected. Of those, 13 boats were found to be transporting invasive mussels. Recently, a pontoon boat was intercepted at the Wibaux inspection station (operated by the Garfield Conservation District). The boat had been purchased at auction in Wisconsin and was being transported to Idaho. Inspectors preformed a decontamination, locked the boat to the trailer and notified Idaho to follow up.

ArcGIS Dashboard from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. Full dashboard here.

Data Disclaimer:  Provisional data collected by FWP and partners.

Boat owners should ensure their watercraft, trailers and gear are clean, drained and dry before transporting and need to be aware of Montana’s inspection rules:

  • All watercraft coming into Montana from out of state must be inspected prior to launching.
  • All watercraft traveling west across the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin must be inspected prior to launching.
  • Anyone transporting watercraft must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter.
  • And all boaters are reminded to always clean drain and dry their boat, live wells, anchors, boots and gear when leaving the water.

Eric Rannestad is the Communications Specialist for the Montana Association of Conservation Districts.

Fish Wildlife and Parks is a Montana state agency with the mission to steward the fish, wildlife, parks, and recreational resources for the public, now and into the future.

TMC Submissions: eric@macdnet.org

Montana Conservation Districts at the NACD Annual Convention

District and partner staff travelled to Washington DC for the 2023 National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) annual convention

Sydney Lyons

Gallatin Conservation District

Staff that attended from Montana Conservation Districts included Dean Rogge (MACD President and NACD Alternate Rep), Steve Hedstrom (NACD Rep. from MACD), Karl Christians (Lewis and Clark CD with support from MACD to work on Floodplain resolution), and staff members from Cascade, Big Horn, and Gallatin CD. These district staff and supervisors were also joined by partners from DNRC and NRCS.

In February 2023, several staff members from Conservation Districts across Montana had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting. This five-day event took place in New Orleans and provided attendees various tours, breakout sessions, board meetings, and conservation showcases. The variety of events gave attendees a great place to learn about new technologies and relevant issues impacting natural resource management. Keynote speakers included NRCS Chief Terry Crosby, Lt. General Russel L. Honoré, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, NACD President Michael Crowler, FWS Director Marsha Williams, and others. With over 1000 attendees, there was no shortage of networking opportunities. Staff from Montana had conversations with professionals from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and all over the United States. Learning from others in this field left Conservation District staff feeling inspired and ready to implement new ideas in Montana. 

Not only did staff attend the multiple-day meeting, but three members from the Gallatin CD team also presented during a breakout session about new technology in development. On Tuesday, February 14, Gallatin CD staff and the Four Corners Foundation gave a presentation about the online 310 application platform, Gilly. This software platform guides river restoration and preservation. Gilly provides a robust data collection system for inputting permits and gives ready access to this information, streamlining the permit process for Conservation Districts and illustrating the impacts that proposed and past permits have on river systems. This platform will help standardize the application process and conserve employee time and resources. Learn more about Gilly here: https://gilly.org/before-you-begin

Staff that attended from Montana Conservation Districts included Dean Rogge (MACD President and NACD Alternate Rep), Steve Hedstrom (NACD Rep. from MACD), Karl Christians (Lewis and Clark CD with support from MACD to work on Floodplain resolution), and staff members from Cascade, Big Horn, Gallatin CD.

Sydney Lyons is the Education and Outreach Director for Gallatin Conservation District.

TMC Submissions: eric@macdnet.org

2023 Montana Soil Health Symposium

Three days of Soil Health in Billings, Montana

Claudia Lyman

Big Sky Watershed Corps – Lewis & Clark CD, MACD

In February 2023, The Montana Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) welcomed participants to the third annual Montana Soil Health Symposium.

The Montana Soil Health Symposium was on February 8-9th this year in Billings. It brought together national and local speakers to discuss soil health techniques and innovations. Adding to these speakers were 15 Montana producers covering topics relevant to farmers, ranchers, and gardeners—properties of all sizes–working to produce healthy, nutritious foods using soil health principles. Over 400 people attended from all across Montana and other states.

Staff from conservation districts across Montana attended along with our NRCS partners, and I attended as a Big Sky Watershed Corps member with Lewis and Clark Conservation District. Our group enjoyed 2 days of learning all about the soil health principles and regenerative agriculture. Having the option to attend several different breakout sessions on various topics we were able to tailor the symposium to our specific interests. We tried to mix it up by each attending a different breakout session and then sharing what we learned with each other afterwards. The sessions covered all different topics but there was still the central theme of the importance of soil health.

Keynote Speakers

Jerry Doan
Black Leg Ranch McKenzie, ND

John Kempf
Advancing Eco Agriculture & KindHarvest.ag Ohio 

Brendon Rockey
Rockey Farms – Center, Colorado

One breakout sessions titled “Gardening for Soil Health” had two speakers who shared examples of their no-dig gardens and how they got started. The first speaker shared how he went from a very small outside garden to using high-tunnels and being able to share his organic produce with his community. The second speaker shared how she uses her skills and knowledge to help other gardeners switch to regenerative techniques to preserve their soil so they can continue to grow beautiful gardens. Each used the five soil health principles to maximize their garden’s productivity while also improving the soil’s health.

These principles include:

  1. Keep a living root in the soil
  2. Armor the soil
  3. Minimize disturbance
  4. Grow a diversity of plants
  5. Incorporate livestock
  6. “Knowing the context” of the land and user

These principles bring farming, ranching, and gardening all together and allows the soil to become more effective at producing healthier foods. It’s important that we start focusing more on these principles so we can conserve our soils for future generations.

TMC Submissions: eric@macdnet.org

Upcoming

Old Salt Festival

June 23-25 · Blackfoot Valley

Old Salt Festival is a Montana food and music festival celebrating ranching and wild landscapes, taking place on the Mannix Ranch in the Blackfoot valley near Helmville.

MACD is excited to partner with Old Salt Co-op in support of Old Salt Festival, which aims to celebrate the importance of livestock and ranching in Montana food and agriculture. The event will be an urban-rural relationship builder, inviting as many as 2,000 people per day to the Mannix ranch for food, music, western art, and inspiration.

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