Ducks Unlimited recently recognized the Gray family for their efforts to protect some of the most important wetlands on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in northern Montana. Emery Gray, a tribal member, passed away just before the project was finished. This spring, a sign was placed on the property overlooking the restored wetland complex to pay tribute to Gray's tireless efforts.
The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is located in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region, in an area that produces large numbers of waterfowl. Teaming up with DU, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and his family, Gray secured the first Wetlands Reserve Program project on tribal lands in Montana. Working as a team, the Gray family, DU, and partner agencies drafted a plan to restore and protect these valuable lands.
The project site consists of approximately 113 acres of restored wetlands surrounded by 407 acres of mixed-grass prairie, shared by the Gray family and the Fort Belknap Indian Community. Following removal of livestock, the native vegetation has recovered and now provides nesting and brood-rearing habitat for many wetland- and grassland-dependent species. In addition, a significant number of valuable Native American cultural artifacts exist within the project boundaries, including tipi rings, stone tools, and cairns.