Sometimes all the presents won’t fit under the tree. In the case of the Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation, $300,000 worth of improvements got delivered in 2015.
“We’re trying to do whatever it takes to help manage wildlife, open trails, maintain block management and get kids introduced to the outdoors,” said Jane Ratzlaff, interim director of the nonprofit organization that’s been around since 1999. “We want to be a place where Montanans feel they can make a difference.”
Over the past 12 months, MOLF underwrote education programs at Lone Pine State Park and the Teller Wildlife Refuge and supported the programs of others like Becoming and Outdoors Woman, Bear Fair and Watershed Days. It also paid for interns to teach or lead presentations for local community groups on living with grizzly bears. And it funded research in harlequin ducks, peregrine falcons, mountain lions, elk and native fisheries.
The foundation used to be the direct private arm of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. Recent legislative changes have allowed it to broaden its mission, Ratzlaff said from her office in Columbia Falls.
“One of our exciting projects is studying a more conducive way to implement electric fences to keep target wildlife at bay while allowing free flow of other wildlife,” Ratzlaff said.
Electric fences are becoming more prominent as a way of keeping grizzly and black bears out of human food sources like barns and chicken coops. But they can be bulky, expensive and hard to maintain, especially around other livestock or animals that don’t need to be excluded.
Donations to the foundation have ranged from $10 to $50,000. Grants in 2015 ranged from $1,000 to $100,000. Ratzlaff said the foundation’s main goal is to expand access to Montana resources, whether that means new roads and trails for people or better habitat and survival for wildlife.
“We’ve been a best-kept secret, but more and more people are saying ‘We want to be engaged,’ ” she said. “Our access to the outdoors is getting more limited, and people are starting to pay attention. They want to make sure it is a legacy we can pass on to our grandkids.”
For more information, check out mtoutdoorlegacy.org.