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For Immediate Release:
June 6, 2003

Tina Bernd-Cohen
Phone: (406) 442-4002
           (406) 459-7459
photo of USFWS Director Steve Williams presenting Jim Stone with a Watershed Stewardship Award


Seeley Lake, MT – Steve Williams, Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, presented a Watershed Stewardship Award for outstanding leadership in conservation to Ovando rancher Jim Stone, Chairman of the Blackfoot Challenge.

Williams, who flew to Montana to present the award, was also attending a workshop held by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Blackfoot watershed. Using the Blackfoot Challenge as an example, the workshop focused on building conservation partnerships.

"The Blackfoot Challenge is doing the kind of landowner-led conservation we need to be promoting nationwide," said Williams. "Leaders in government and non-profit organizations must work in partnership with private landowners to ensure that healthy habitats and wildlife populations are here for future generations."

"It’s all about partnerships," Stone said. "This is the best thing we can do for our ranch and it’s the best thing we can do for the valley."

The National Conservation Partnerships in Practice Workshop was hosted by the Blackfoot Challenge at Double Arrow Resort in Seeley Lake. Participants from around the country gathered in the Blackfoot Valley to learn first-hand about the success of the Blackfoot Challenge partnerships and how the Blackfoot River watershed effort could be duplicated throughout the nation.

"The Blackfoot Challenge is a shining example of how partnerships can and should work," Williams added.

Participants in the workshop learned how the Blackfoot Challenge was founded, the successes and failures of the Blackfoot Challenge, and reasons for its continued success.

"Local leadership is such an integral part of the Blackfoot Challenge and one of the main reasons for our continuing success," said Tina Bernd-Cohen, Executive Director of the Blackfoot Challenge.

The Blackfoot Challenge is a grassroots organization that was formally chartered in 1993. It was organized to coordinate management of the Blackfoot River, its tributaries and adjacent lands. Its membership consists of private landowners, representatives from federal and state agencies, local government officials and corporate landowners.

The mission of the Blackfoot Challenge is to coordinate efforts to protect the natural resources and rural lifestyle of the Blackfoot River Valley for present and future generations. This grassroots effort provides a forum for landowners, agencies, and conservation groups to sit together at the same table, exchange ideas, and share experiences. Since 1990, successful projects have included 196 habitat restoration projects, noxious weed eradication, river recreation projects and thousands of acres of conservation easements on private property important to the Blackfoot River Watershed. 

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Blackfoot Challenge
"Better Communities Through Cooperation"
Tina Bernd-Cohen, Executive Director
PO Box 563, Helena, MT 59624
Ph: (406) 442-4002; Fax: (406) 442-4114