The second annual field tour of the Grassland Resilience Working Group focused on community stewardship and development projects in Central Montana. We had the incredible fortune of assembling a group of 24 MSU faculty and graduate students (and friends) who took time away from classes, writing and family to travel 724 miles in 3 days. In those three days, we visited five exemplary sites thanks to the generosity and hospitality of hosts from the Kilby Butte Colony, Lower Musselshell Conservation District, Winnett ACES, The Nature Conservancy Matador Ranch, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, and the American Prairie Reserve. We are especially humbled by the residents of the region who opened their ranches and homes to feed and shelter us, and made space in their schedules for long, genuine exchanges in the spirit of shared learning and understanding.
We take these tours so that we can be better interdisciplinary scholars of range and grassland issues in our region. To me, being better means striving to be more creative and critical in our thinking at the same time we push ourselves to be relevant and useful to stakeholders. To get better, we have to nurture comaraderie, inspiration from the landscape and its people, and time to think and discuss. There is no better vehicle for all of these things than hitting the road for three days in central Montana.
Our conversations and visits covered lots of ground (literally!)—too much to summarize here—but it struck me looking at our photos that our visiting expert, Dr. Nathan Sayre of the University of California Berkeley Geography Program, provided a useful summary, not only of his talk, but of key takeaways from our trip with this slide:
This trip affirmed my belief that when respect, humor and humility are ground rules for engagement, this context increases the opportunities for the creativity and collaboration that we know are essential to the long-term resilience of regions like the Northern Great Plains. This is true not just for community enterprise, but scholarship as well.
Please enjoy the photos below, the better ones taken by Kelli Roemer and Eric Sproles. Clicking on the photo will open it in a standalone window.