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On the heels of the Envirothon, a Big Sky High School wildlife biology class visited MPG.

On the heels of the Envirothon, a Big Sky High School wildlife biology class visited MPG. Their teacher, Kathleen Kennedy, came to the ranch as support staff for the Envirothon training in April and wanted to bring her own class down to MPG. We discussed the history of the ranch as a cattle operation, and how plant communities were altered for that purpose. Students looked at introduced forage grasses, and we talked about MPG’s current efforts to reestablish native plant communities. With field season already in full swing, progress was plainly evident.

We took the usual tour route clockwise from the front gate, sharing our path with the Bitterroot River until we turned off towards Baldy Mountain and the ranch’s higher elevations. After pausing to explore the fall raptor observation point, we crested Baldy and stopped for lunch on the southern slope.

The group stopped to explore the fall raptor observation area just below the summit of Baldy Mountain.

The group stopped to explore the fall raptor observation area just below the summit of Baldy Mountain.

Our lunch spot had excellent views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

Our lunch spot had excellent views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

Students had hoped to see the horses and elk, but the animal’s use of the land has changed significantly with the onset of spring. A few months ago they frequently dotted the landscape, but now they are a rare sight.

After lunch, we toured the education garden. This site illustrates several zones for native plants as well as a native seed orchard. The seeds from the orchard will provide seed stock to the ranch for revegetation projects.

After lunch, we toured the education garden. This site illustrates several zones for native plants as well as a native seed orchard. The seeds from the orchard will provide seed stock to the ranch for revegetation projects.

This trip was the first visit by a high school science class since I joined MPG as the Education & Community Outreach Manager. Hopefully this trip will be the start of more secondary school field trips to the ranch. MPG’s efforts and natural laboratory has much to offer science classes to complement their curricula. The ranch is a 9,800 acre classroom. This coming fall I will take MPG to the schools, so the schools can come to MPG.

About the Author

Joshua Lisbon

Joshua graduated from the University of Montana, Missoula, in 2009 with an M.A. in Intercultural Youth and Family Development. Joshua has designed and implemented wilderness and experiential-based education programs for various agencies since 2001. He has worked in Missoula since 2005 predominately with disadvantaged populations providing challenging and empowering programming for youth and adults alike.
At MPG, Joshua works to coordinate with local agencies and school districts as well as the university to connect students and members of the community to MPG’s work. He also recruits and mobilizes volunteers to accomplish various projects for the ranch. In his free time, Joshua enjoys exploring Montana’s wild places. As an avid outdoorsman, he enjoys any pursuit that keeps him connected to the natural world.