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Conservation on Montana's Fort Belknap Indian Reservation

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  • L to R: Blake Stiffarm (NRCS), Robert Sanders (DU), Abby Dresser (DU), Brett Dorak (DU), Charles "Jack" Plumage, Hallie Gray, Richard Longfox, Judy Gray, Josh Schrecenghost (NRCS), and (sitting in front) Scott Morton (NRCS)
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Ducks Unlimited recently recognized the work of the Gray family for their efforts to protect some of the most beneficial wetlands on Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Emery Gray, a tribal member, passed away just before the project was finalized. This spring, a sign was placed on the property overlooking the restored wetland complex to pay tribute to his efforts.

The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region of northern Montana, with high numbers of waterfowl production occurring on these lands. Teaming up with DU, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and his family, Emery Gray dedicated himself to putting the first Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) project on tribal lands in Montana. Since this was a first for the state, there were many new ideas and challenges. Working as a team, the Gray family, DU and the other agencies drafted a plan to restore and protect the land.

The project consists of roughly 113 acres of wetlands surrounded by 407 acres of mixed grass prairie, shared between the Gray family and Fort Belknap Indian Community. The wetlands were previously altered and after the renovations were complete, the wetlands filled to natural levels. With livestock removed, vegetation recovered and provides essential nesting and brood rearing cover for many wetland and grassland species.

Within the boundaries of this WRP are a significant amount of cultural resources such as tipi rings and cairn sites.
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