Landscape Stewardship Awards - 2012

Photo (l to r): Gary Burnett, Executive Director, Blackfoot Challenge Rich Torquemada, Field Manager, BLM Missoula District Office Jamie Connell, BLM Montana/Dakotas State Director Jim Stone, Rolling Stone Ranch & President of Blackfoot Challenge Kemp Conn, Public Lands Foundation Montana Representative

The Public Lands Foundation presents The Blackfoot Challenge with its 2012 Landscape Stewardship Award and this Citation.  The Foundation grants this recognition to honor private citizens and organizations that work to advance and sustain community-based stewardship on landscapes that include, in whole or in part, public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Blackfoot Challenge (Challenge) was established nearly 20 years ago.  In 1994, the group hired an executive director and became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Over the years, members of the Challenge, through individual and committee involvement, have played a key role in finding collaborative solutions to often complex, multi-jurisdictional natural resource stewardship issues such as land acquisitions and exchanges, noxious weed eradication, drought mitigation, predator management, endangered species recovery, forest health and fire prevention. The Challenge is a model for the nation, often cited nationally as an example of true community-based collaboration.

Its mission is to “coordinate efforts that will enhance, conserve and protect the natural resources and rural lifestyle of the Blackfoot River Valley for present and future generations.”  The results of the Challenge’s initiative and efforts to enhance stewardship of public resources are numerous.  One prime example is in the area of noxious weed management.  The Challenge, with support from various agencies such as the BLM and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has leveraged over $1 million in cost-share for weed management and fire management on private lands in coordination with public land stewardship.

The Blackfoot Challenge is directed through a variety of committees and supporting work groups, each of which is chaired by a community Board member. In addition to local citizen involvement, committee involvement includes participation from the BLM, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service.  This volunteer effort is essential to providing effective long-term solutions and programs that benefit Agencies, the Blackfoot and its communities.

Using a cooperative approach, the Challenge addresses issues using what they term the 80/20 rule: they spend their time working on issues where roughly 80 percent of the participants are in agreement.  Issues are resolved, building trust and relationships that are crucial to eventually make progress on the other 20 percent of the issues where there is strong disagreement or conflict. This consensus-based approach is effective because everyone is at the table, voicing their concerns and listening to the concerns of others. It is a time-intensive process, but this deliberate approach ensures partners do not get ahead of one another, that everyone is invited to participate, and more is accomplished on the ground.  The positive atmosphere fostered, camaraderie among participants, and accomplishments make this group a very worthy recipient of this award.

The Public Lands Foundation is pleased to present The Blackfoot Challenge with its 2012 Landscape Stewardship Award and this Citation for invaluable contributions to the stewardship of America’s public landscapes.

Henri Bisson
September 15, 2012