Long project

Mark and Sheila Machler, left, talk to Clint Smith, a FWP fish biologist, in the restoration area along Big Spring Creek.

A farmer from Lewistown and ranchers from Dillon have been recognized as the recipients of the 2018 Montana Neighbor Awards.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock presented Mark Machler of Lewistown and Jim and Laurie Hagenbarth of Dillon with the awards.

“These awards offer an opportunity to reflect on the tremendous value of our state’s working lands to our economy, our natural resources and our way of life,” Bullock said. “Too often we take for granted the remarkable contributions our state’s working landowners make to help sustain the landscapes and values we care deeply about as Montanans.”

Machler was nominated by the Snowy Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Machler is a fourth generation Montanan who grew up farming near Lewistown; the family property contains roughly one-half mile of Big Spring Creek. An additional 2,700-acre family property is north of Roy. Machler worked with the city of Lewistown, Fergus County, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Natural Resources Conservation Service of Montana, Fergus County Conservation District, and local conservation groups to correct a mistake his uncle and father made when they channelized a section of the creek decades before.

In addition, Machler donated a half-mile easement across his land to help with completion of a needed public water and sewer system upgrade. He also allows neighborly fishing access to Big Spring Creek and takes special pleasure in seeing young people fish. Both family properties are in FWP’s easement program, enabling public access in perpetuity. The larger property protects sage grouse habitat.

The Hagenbarths, who have lived in southwest Montana for more than 50 years, were nominated by the Skyline Sportsmen Association of Butte. Laurie spent many years as the choral director of Beaverhead County High School. Jim is a founding member of the Big Hole Watershed Committee, which was launched in 1964, and is currently vice chair and serves on the steering committee.

BHWC played a key role in developing a rancher-led water management plan that has enabled sufficient water flows to prevent the necessity of listing riverine grayling as an endangered species and protecting the quality of the Big Hole River’s great fishery.

In addition, the Hagenbarth family has long allowed walk-in hunting, fishing and other recreation on their land. They use advanced grazing systems to protect riparian areas and native grasses.

The Montana Neighbor Awards is a working group made up of conservation organizations from around the state including FWP, Montana Association of Land Trusts, Montana Farm Bureau, Artemis Common Ground, The Nature Conservancy of Montana and Montana Council of Trout Unlimited.

“The Machlers and Hagenbarths not only show a great commitment to maintaining and enhancing the natural resources of Montana, but they take it a step further and share access to those resources,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “They truly show what it is to be a good Montana neighbor.”

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