Page 1

Table of Contents

Our Code.......................................................................5 Welcome to the Bitterroot Valley Letter from Dan Walker..................................................6 Map..................................................................................8 Letter from Ravalli County Commissioners...................9 Neighboring . ............................................................10 The Place.......................................................................12 Owning Rural Land .................................................14 Emergency Services.....................................................16 Living Near Streams......................................................18 Water Rights...................................................................20 Wetlands Protection.....................................................24 Utilities.............................................................................26 Who Owns The Road ...................................................28 Wildland-Urban Interface............................................30 Noxious Weeds..............................................................32 Dogs and Cats..............................................................34 Mother Nature...........................................................36 Living with Wildlife.........................................................38 Smoke & Fire..................................................................42 Outdoor Recreation................................................44 Hunting and Fishing.....................................................46 Agriculture................................................................48 Traditional Ag Calendar...............................................50 Horses.............................................................................52 Gardening and Landscaping.....................................54 the community of agriculture.............................56 The Fairgrounds.............................................................58 Brands.............................................................................60 Museums & Historical Sites............................................62 Ag For Youth..................................................................64 Ag Community Organizations.....................................66 The Future ....................................................................68 The Importance of Private Land.................................70 Open Lands Board Overview......................................72 The Role Of Land Trusts.................................................74 What is a Conservation Easement..............................76 Ravalli County Conservation Projects........................78 The Future Of Agriculture in the Bitterroot..................80 Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust................................82 Thanks You’s, Partners, Contacts, and Sponsors.......83


O UR co d e



n the past, when people first started to settle the West, there were very few laws or lawmen to tell people how to get along with each other in the raw society of the new frontier. To fill this void, an unwritten code of behavior evolved that was based on the simple rules of honesty, fair play, and respect towards one another, all falling under the umbrella of the Golden Rule. Zane Grey was the first to refer to this collection of unwritten rules as the “Code of the West�, in his 1934 novel by the same name, and the notion of such a code is ingrained in our thinking about life in the Old west. Fast forward to present day, where there are now a great many laws, rules and regulations which govern almost all aspects of our lives. Yet there is still a need in the West for a code of behavior to help us to be good neighbors and to live and work side-by-side with each other. Life in rural communities of the West, including Montana, presents circumstances and situations that may be unfamiliar to those who are coming from an urban background, and there are often unwritten expectations of behavior that may only be known or make sense to those who have lived here for a long time. To ease the transition for newcomers to rural living, many counties throughout the western states have put together their own versions of a Code of the West for the present day. The Ravalli County Open Lands Board and the Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust have teamed up with the Ravalli Republic to produce Our Code of the West that goes well beyond the content that is usually found in such publications. We did this because we felt that this was an excellent opportunity to really give you an understanding and appreciation for all of the many dimensions of our unique community. This publication is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and is our attempt at providing you with a comprehensive guide to rural living in the Bitterroot Valley. The target audience for this publication is anyone who is new to the Bitterroot, or has recently moved to a place outside of town, or just has a general interest in learning more about what life in our valley is like and what it means to be a good neighbor. We hope that we have been successful and that you will derive much understanding and enjoyment of life in the Bitterroot Valley from reading Our Code of the West.



Less than a generation ago, agriculture was a primary revenue source for many in the Bitterroot Valley. Neighbors worked together branding calves, picking apples and putting up bales of hay. The community was built around a lifestyle that started at sunrise and ended at sunset most days of the year. There were fewer people, fewer cars, and more open land than you see around you today. Living in the Bitterroot still offers the possibility of a small town USA lifestyle, but our community is now much different. The apple orchards of old are now commonly referred to as orchard tracts (10 acre lots). At night from a mountain ridge top, you see more yard lights in the Valley than you did just ten short years ago. Some of the vehicle traffic at certain times of the day is downright busy (although perhaps not by the standards of some cities). All that said, residents and tourists alike stay or come here for the rich history, open lands, fish, wildlife and scenic beauty that our valley still offers. The rural lifestyle, the sight of cattle grazing in a green pasture, the smell of fresh cut hay, and the pace is appealing to all of us who live here. The publication that you hold before you is intended to serve as your guide to living in this rural agriculturally based environment. If you have never lived in the country it should come as no surprise that we may see things a bit differently than you are accustomed to. For example, if you live near a local dairy farm, the rich aroma coming from the dairy farm smells like money – not cow manure. The tractor or hay wagon driving down the Eastside Highway and slowing traffic to a crawl is how we measure time and seasons. People who you pass on the road will wave for no other reason than to offer a friendly greeting. We don’t expect all the roads to be paved, and the dust usually washes off in the rain. It was our goal in assembling this publication to provide you


with an introduction to the Bitterroot lifestyle, and provide you with a friendly guide to living in the country. An important theme that runs through this booklet is the value and importance of open lands in our changing environment. To help conserve open lands that give the Bitterroot Valley its rich rural character, the citizens of Ravalli County in 2006 approved a $10 million bond to be used primarily for acquiring conservation easements on private lands. This is purely voluntary for landowners and is designed to help conserve working farms and ranches, wildlife habitat and the Bitterroot watershed. The program’s main goal is to provide landowners with another option when they are considering whether or not to develop their property or to preserve it in an open state for future generations. This “Code of the West� is the result of hard work by a great many people who all, in one way or another, support and promote the rural lifestyle we all enjoy here in the Bitterroot Valley. If you are a new resident in our Valley, we extend a heartfelt western welcome to you! While small in number, the citizens of Ravalli County are progressive and understand that change is inevitable. We hope the information contained within will help you settle into our community and understand some of our time-honored western traditions. It is our hope that, by working together, residents old and new will protect our working way of life by voluntarily supporting the conservation of working farms and ranches in Ravalli County. WELCOME! Dan Walker Executive Director, The Teller; Volunteer Chairman, Ravalli County Open Lands Board


9 Welcome to Ravalli County and the BitterRoot Valley! Our valley is beautiful. But you know that already as you have moved here or are contemplating doing so. Keeping our valley beautiful and a great place to live does not happen automatically. We have to work hard to exercise good stewardship in many areas of our community and it isn’t always easy finding a balance. Since most of our county is rural in nature – we’ve prepared this guide to help you understand what you’ll need to know to enjoy living in a rural area— rural life is different from city life. Here you’ll find fewer services and fewer rules. Even if you live in town, it’s good to understand the things you might encounter as you travel through rural areas. Citizens from several organizations, working with our Open Lands Board and the Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust and the Ravalli Republic, have gathered important advice and references about some of the aspects of rural living in the Bitterroot Valley in this publication Our Code of the West. This information is by no means exhaustive. You may encounter other issues that we have overlooked and we encourage you to explore and examine those things carefully so as to avoid any difficulties. We have offered these comments in the sincere hope that they can help you make your decision to reside in a rural area a well-informed one, and the right one for you. Once again, welcome to the Bitterroot Valley and Ravalli County. We hope you enjoy your new home as much as we do. Sincerely, Ravalli County Board of Commissioners




“Welcome to the

neighborhood!” is a greeting most of us are grateful to hear when we move into a new area. Moving into a new environment can bring uncertainty as well as excitement, especially if you are moving into the rural Bitterroot Valley from a more urban community. It’s important to know how things are done in your new neighborhood, so you can live compatibly with your neighbors.

“When a new neighbor moves in, I ride over on my horse and welcome them.” - Tom Ruffatto, Rancher, Stevensville


how to be a good neighbor • • • • • • • •

Shovel snow from your neighbor’s walk or driveway. Watch their place when they are out of town. Borrow or lend a chainsaw or an extension ladder. Lend your pickup. Stop along the road to ask how they’re doing. Give a friendly wave when you pass. Offer to pay when your neighbor does some work for you. Take a pie or plate of cookies over, for no good reason at all.

the place I

n earlier times neighbors were much more essential than they are today to a family’s survival in a rural environment. Neighboring ranchers regularly helped each other do the big jobs that an individual family couldn’t easily do by itself – cattle roundups, cattle drives, branding, haying, grain harvest, or putting up a building. A neighbor was always willing to lend a hand when one’s tractor or baler broke down and the weather was about to change. And of course, when a neighbor was sick or injured, everybody pitched in to do the chores, bring in meals, get the hay in, or whatever else needed to be done until their neighbor got back on their feet. It was “just what you did” in rural areas, including the Bitterroot Valley. How to have good neighbors? Be one. Having good neighbors, and being a good neighbor, are still important today. For example, a neighbor can fill you in on how the irrigation functions and introduce you to the ditchwalker. If you wish to raise a crop


“people move here to get away from where or run livestock on your place, he can tell they came from, and then they proceed to you what grows well there, what was tried in try to make this place just like what they left.” the past, when the best time for planting is, Listen and understand first. where to buy your heifers, and who else to “A good fence makes a good neighbor” talk to. Most of all, asking your neighbor for is as true today as it has always been. Having advice shows you are willing to listen and learn good fence helps avoid conflicts over how things work around the neighborhood, in the field and in the community. There are livestock, pets, or accidental trespass. Sharing the construction and many, many details of rural living that you won’t have “In the old days, we never knew maintenance of a fence is thought of ahead of time another good opportunity a stranger. We still feel that for cooperating with your and will need to learn from way.” - William Wetzsteon, Corvallis neighbor. As a general rule, your neighbors. Introduce yourself to responsibility for a shared fence is determined by facing the fence at your neighbors as soon as you decide to move in. Learn who they are and share who you are. the center of the fenceline. The right-hand half of the fence is yours, the left hand half is Learn a little history of the place. Learn how your neighbor’s responsibility. Often, adjoining and why things are done in your community and then offer to pitch in. A common neighbors get together to share labor and other costs. That makes good neighboring. complaint heard from longtime residents is that


owning rural land



any of our newer residents have come to the Bitterroot Valley specifically to live in the country. They are attracted to the rural landscape and by the prospect of having a few acres of elbow room. For many, owning rural land is a new experience. This section attempts to highlight some of the more important aspects of rural living a newcomer should consider when thinking about moving to the country. The following pages provide general information about such aspects as emergency services, living near water, water rights, utilities, and roads. This is only a starting point to help you gather enough information to make your life in the country a successful and enjoyable experience. Owning and managing small acreages can be very rewarding. Whether you pasture your acreage for a few animals, raise a crop, or let it “go wild� active management is essential to maintain your property as an attractive asset and pleasant home. Further guidance on managing your small acreage can be obtained at the Ravalli County Extension Service (406) 375-6611.

16 1

e m e r g e nc y services


he Bitterroot Valley is served by dedicated and professional employees and volunteers from several agencies providing services for fire suppression, medical care, search and rescue, or law enforcement. Emergency service organizations cover a broad geographical area, including some very remote areas. Sometimes emergency response times vary because of remoteness, weather conditions, and access road conditions. For example, fire response vehicles require adequate access width and turnaround area on roads serving residences. If you need emergency help, dial 911 and the Ravalli County Dispatch Center or the Missoula County 911 Center (for the Lolo area) will alert the appropriate agency.

Firefighting, rescue, and emergency medical aid: Ravalli County is served by thirteen volunteer fire/rescue agencies. Each of these consists of between ten and forty dedicated men and women who train regularly in skills such as rescue, structure firefighting, wildland firefighting, and emergency medical aid. Property taxes help support operational costs including vehicles, tools, supplies, and fire stations. Volunteers respond whenever and wherever they are needed. If you think you need help, call; don’t wait. The volunteers want to protect their communities and are there to help.

17 You should have working smoke detectors in your home to help protect your family. They are proven lifesavers. What about wildland fires? You are ultimately responsible for both fires that start on your property and for making your home safe from fires that start elsewhere. Our county has some of the best firefighters in the nation, but a fastmoving grass fire may get to your house long before the firefighters, who might have to travel several miles from their workplace or home to the fire station and then to your property. All fire agencies urge you to prepare your home for fire by reducing the amount of combustible vegetation around your home. Create defensible space by following FireWise ( recommendations. Break up the path that fire might use to reach your buildings. Make your home a refuge from smoke, heat, and flame. Even if you decide to evacuate during a wildland fire, your escape might be cut off, forcing you to stay at your home. So make it easy to defend your home by yourself or firefighters by reducing continuous fuels and defeating windborne burning embers by sealing cracks in siding, covering roof vents, and removing fine fuels next to buildings. Most homes catch fire from the tiny embers that either land on a pile of leaves or pine needles next to your building or that enter the building and land on combustible furnishings.

Check and www.wroa. org/firewise/index.htm for some excellent tips on making your home safer and for setting up your plan for fire. If you decide to evacuate, you must evacuate long before the fire can cut off your escape. When it comes to burning debris on your property, there are two main issues: safety and air quality. Check with your local fire agency for details on both; phone numbers are listed on the Ravalli County Fire Council site ( Burning is prohibited at certain times of the year and during dangerous fire conditions. Your local fire district will know when it is legal and safe to burn. When you burn, if you think it might be getting out of control, do not hesitate to call 911. Firefighters would rather be cancelled and have to

open burning

turn around than fight a largeand-growing inferno. If you are interested in helping your community, talk to your local fire chief about how you might help. Law enforcement Incorporated towns of Darby, Hamilton, Stevensville, and Pinesdale have their own police departments. Unincorporated areas of the valley are served by the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Department and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, for each county respectively. For non-emergency calls during normal business hours, the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at (406) 375-4060 and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at (406) 258-4810.

Outdoor burning is ONLY allowed between March 1 - November 30 What you can burn during outdoor burning season: Wood waste from trees, shrubs and plants. Materials illegal to burn at any time: Garbage, styrofoam, plastics, wood or wood by-products that have been coated, painted, stained or treated, poultry litter and animal waste, tire, rubber, ashpalt shingles, tar paper, oil and other petroleum products, hazardous waste and chemicals, trade waste, carpet. These items produce toxic gasses -Ravalli County Environmental Health Department


BUILDING NEAR STREAMS One of the main attractions of living in the Bitterroot Valley is the abundance of natural waterways, in the form of the beautiful Bitterroot River and its many tributaries, and the outstanding fish and wildlife habitats that these waterways provide. However, as anyone who has ever lived proximate to a stream or river can attest, such waterways tend to be constantly changing. These natural stream processes should be considered carefully when selecting a home site along the Bitterroot River or one of its tributaries, to avoid the need for future mitigation activities as a result of channel migration or flooding. Advice on home site location can be obtained from the Ravalli County Planning Department (406)375-6530. The Bitter Root Water Forum also offers free professional consultation regarding home site placement. The Forum can be reached by phone at (406) 375-2272, by email at, or by visiting their website at

living near streams F

LOODPLAINS All rivers, creeks, and streams have floodplains, and the Bitterroot River is no exception. The river is a dynamic feature within the Bitterroot Valley, literally changing channels annually. Flooding is a regular occurrence in Ravalli County, and the valley’s broad and flat floor mean that flooding in some areas can spread over substantial portions of the county. It’s the landowner’s responsibility to assure that his home is situated properly on his property. To protect landowners from the consequences of flooding, Ravalli County is one of over 20,000 communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Enrollment in the NFIP allows landowners to acquire flood insurance for their properties at much reduced rates. However, it also requires that the community oversee and regulate certain development activities within the mapped floodplain. Currently, the East Fork, West Fork, and main stem of the Bitterroot River have mapped, regulatory floodplains. The Ravalli County Planning Department administers the community’s floodplain regulations. They should be contacted before you perform any development in the floodplain. The only way to know for sure if your property is


FLOOD INSURANCE located in a floodplain is to contact the Ravalli County Planning Department, and speak with the Residents within unincorporated Ravalli floodplain administrator. County are eligible to receive flood insurance A floodplain is defined as any area of land through the National Flood Insurance Program susceptible to being inundated by water from described above. Residents living within any source. Hamilton, Stevensville, Darby or Pinesdale may Even though detailed floodplain maps are not have access to NFIP flood insurance; check available only on the Bitterroot River and its with the appropriate town official. Note that flood forks, new landowners insurance is not typically “...building and living too close to should be aware that included in a home rivers and streames in Montana can insurance policy. the numerous creeks have detrimental effects...� and streams within the If you have any questions valley are also prone about the Ravalli County to flooding. While a landowner can commission Floodplain Regulations please contact the Ravalli a detailed study through various consulting firms County Planning Department (406) 375-6530. to determine the precise location of a streams Additional information on floodplains and flood floodplain, a good rule of thumb is: the further insurance can be found at www.floodsmart. from a creek you locate your structures, the safer gov/floodsmart/ and from flooding they are likely to be. Whether you planning/land.htm live next to a mapped or unmapped floodplain, it is always recommended that homeowners obtain flood insurance.

20 1

water rights


urface Water Rights Ownership of rural property in the Bitterroot often includes a right to divert State owned surface water for beneficial uses such as irrigation, maintenance of ponds, or watering livestock. This right is documented through an adjudicated water right issued by the Montana Water Court. You cannot divert surface water to your property without a valid water right even though a stream or irrigation ditch flows through your property or the water source is on your property. A water right specifies the rate and amount that can be diverted, the source of water, the use, the place of use and the period during which water can be diverted. The water right will also indicate the date the water right was recorded, which becomes the priority date. The priority date determines your priority relative to other water users who divert water from the same source. If you have a junior water right (a more recent priority date), water might not be available to you during periods of low stream flow. This results from the doctrine of “first in time, first in right� which is the basis of water law in Montana and throughout the West. Also, downstream users who have water rights may have a legal right to enter your property to maintain irrigation ditches or other delivery systems. The Bitterroot drainage is closed to new surface water appropriation so you will not

21 be able to use surface water unless you already have a water right. In some cases, water rights may be purchased from other users. The State Water Court and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) administer water rights. Any proposed changes to a water right, such as the point of diversion or place of use, must be approved by DNRC. It’s important to know about your water rights when you purchase or own property in the Bitterroot. Make sure you are provided with a copy of any water rights included with your purchase. You also need to make sure that the transfer of water rights to you from the previous owner is recorded with DNRC and any ditch company that is responsible for delivering water to your property. Approximately 24 independent water districts operate in Ravalli County to manage the irrigation practices so vital to our economy and way of life You should find out if your property is located in a designated irrigation district, in which case you may well be charged for irrigation water whether you use it or not. The fee is usually included on your property tax assessment. You may wish to check out the water delivery system that historically conveyed water to your property. Because of development and other activities, the ditch to your property may no longer be

useable. If so, it will likely be your responsibility to repair the ditch if you wish to access your water. The DNRC office that administers water rights in the Bitterroot is located in Missoula and can be reached at (406) 721-4284. They can

also provide copies of your water right and can answer questions you may have. A copy of your water right can also be obtained from the DNRC website, http://dnrc. asp).

wells Seventy-five percent of our citizens get their water from individual wells. Since these private water systems are unregulated, it’s important for homeowners or renters to be familiar with their wells and septic systems. Individual well owners are responsible for ensuring their own water quality. We suggest people perform an annual well checkup to eliminate any obvious problems: • Test your water for coliform bacteria and nitrates -- especially if there is a change in your water’s taste, odor, or appearance. Sampling bottles and information about how to collect samples are available at the County Environmental Health Department. • Inspect your well parts to ensure they are in good repair. Look for problems such as cracked, corroded or damaged well casing or settling and cracking of the ground surface around the well casing. • Replace a broken or missing well cap. If it is, replace it with a new one. If your well does not have a sanitary cap (a two part cap with a rubber seal), replace. • Inspect your pressure tank and associated plumbing by looking for things like leaks or corrosion. • Survey the area around your well to make sure there are no hazardous materials (paint, motor oil, household chemicals, etc.) If you notice or suspect problems with your well, contact a licensed plumber or well driller for advice or service. The Bitterroot Valley is blessed with an abundant source of highquality water. The responsibility of protecting this water source is shared by everyone. If you’re on a public water system, you can be reasonably sure that your water is safe to drink.


Virtually anything you may wish to know about water rights in the State of Montana can be found on this website. Enforcement of water rights is usually the responsibility of a “ditch rider� who is hired by the ditch company or directly by water users. The ditch rider controls the headgate or pump used to divert water to your property in accordance with your water right. The ditch rider or ditch company will also explain how the ditch is maintained, including responsibility you may have, and the right of the ditch company to access the ditch and other irrigation infrastructure located on your property for maintenance and inspection purposes. There are many benefits to getting to know the people responsible for delivering water to your property. Groundwater Rights Good quality groundwater is abundant in most areas of the Bitterroot Valley so most residents rely on wells for their domestic water source. Wells that produce 35 gallons per minute or less are exempt from permit requirements. A

landowner can drill an exempt well but must report completion of the well to the DNRC after the water has been put to beneficial use. Any well intended to produce over 35 gallons per minute requires a permit from DNRC prior to drilling. In either case, the well driller will file a report after well construction has been completed. The report will include a geologic log, depth of the well, casing diameter, estimated pumping rate, date of completion and other information. This information can be found for almost all wells on the DNRC website indicated above. Additional information on wells and groundwater in the Bitterroot can be accessed through the Groundwater Information Center, which is maintained by the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology. The DNRC website includes a link to the Groundwater Information Center. The Information Center contains information on groundwater levels and groundwater quality, which may be of interest if you intend to drill a well. Private Ponds A part of your dream home may include having


pond. A change in the water right (new use) will a beautiful pond constructed on your property. also likely be required. A constructed pond can be an attractive addition, but may also become a management Alternatives to ponds include natural wetland or natural resource problem if not responsibly restoration and enhancement and stream planned, sited, constructed, and managed. restoration. Before creating a new pond on Possible problems might include: your property, contact the DNRC in Missoula to • Liability for property damage to neighboring investigate your ability to use a water source properties and possible other restrictions. The Montana • Increase in insurance rates Watercourse publication entitled A Guidebook • Weed infestation and control for Montana Ponds: What you need to know • Invasive or undesirable animal species about ponds and alternatives is available establishment (insects, mollusks, amphibians, electronically from www.montanawatercourse. fish, mammals) org. • Water pollution “In this valley, the big issue is, and from surrounding working near always will be, water. ” activities Waterways - Tom Ruffatto, Rancher, Stevensville • Reduction of water If you anticipate doing supply to natural work in or around a streams natural stream certain permits may be needed. and controlled irrigation ditches You are encouraged to contact the Bitterroot • Disruption to natural hydrology or floodplain Conservation District (BCD) office at 1709 First function Street in Hamilton, or call (406) 363-1444 or visit • Substantial time and money to build and maintain. You need a permit from DNRC as well as an existing, valid water right to construct a new


groundwater monitoring

Each year the Environmental Health Department monitors the level of the groundwater on sites all over Ravalli County which are judged by a sanitarian to be highgroundwater areas. Pipes are monitored to determine whether a site is suitable for a wastewater treatment system, and if so, what type of drainfield is necessary to protect public health. By measuring the distance between the ground water and the soil surface each week throughout the high-groundwater season, the county can determine the groundwater peak for the year. Whether a site is monitored is usually determined during a site evaluation when people are applying for a wastewater treatment permit. If a site fails groundwater monitoring, that is if the groundwater comes to within four feet of the surface, a new wastewater treatment permit cannot be issued for that parcel.

wetlands p r o t e c t i on o

ur local, wetlands are vital for flood control, groundwater recharge, erosion control, pollutant filtration, and biodiversity. The first step toward protecting wetlands is to identify and delineate wetlands on your property, a task that is not always simple or easy to accomplish. Bitterroot Valley wetlands include marshes, fens, wet meadows, riparian areas along rivers and streams, and spring seeps. In a wetland, water is often at or near the ground surface for either all or part of the year, the soil is poorly drained and grayish in color (and may smell like rotten eggs), and plants such as cottonwoods, willows, cattails, rushes, and sedges may be present. If you think you have a wetland on your property, ask a specialist who understands vegetation, soils, and hydrology. Some work for agencies like the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Army Corp of Engineers, and others are private consultants. Most land management


Wetlands are so vital to our water quality, practices, building projects, and other actions water quantity, and fish and wildlife habitat, that occur in or near wetlands require state that a number of incentive programs are and/or federal permits. available to help landowners maintain, restore, Threats to wetlands in the Bitterroot Valley and protect them. Also, activities in wetlands include: may require special permits from the Bitterroot • Draining and filling • Dredging and stream Conservation District, the MT channelization “The first step toward protecting • Diking and damming wetlands is to identify and delineate Dept of Natural to form ponds Resources and wetlands on your property.” • Diverting flow Conservation, • Adding impervious the MT Dept of Environmental Quality, or the Army Corps of surfaces • Overgrazing and trampling Engineers. A good source for understanding wetlands protection is A Landowner’s Guide to • Weed invasion Montana Wetlands published by the Montana • Native vegetation removal • Urban and agricultural runoff Watercourse and available electronically at • Plowing for crop production • Development (buildings and roads) Publications.htm.

26 1

utilities W

ater, sewer, electric, telephone and other services may be unavailable in many areas or may not operate to urban standards. Sewer line hook-up is usually provided by municipalities or sewer districts normally close to a town. Do not assume that your property is serviced by a sewer hook-up or district. Even if your neighbor is so serviced, your property may not be. If sewer service is not available, you will need to use an approved septic system or other treatment process. The type of soil you have available for a leach field will be very important in determining the cost and function of your system. If there is an existing septic system on the property, it should be checked by a reliable sanitation service. Ask for assistance from the Ravalli County Environmental Health Department. If you do not have access to a supply of treated domestic water, you will have to locate an alternative supply. The most common method is drilling an individual water well. The quality and quantity of well water can vary considerably from location to location and from season to season. It is strongly advised that you research this


issue very carefully. Electric service is not available to every area of Ravalli County. It is important to determine the proximity of electrical power. It can be very expensive to extend power lines to remote areas. It may be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend electric service to your property in the most cost efficient manner. Make sure that the proper easements are in place to allow lines to be built to your property. If you are purchasing land with the plan to build at a future date, check with the appropriate power company to assure yourself that electric lines (and other utilities) are large enough to accommodate you if others connect during the time you wait to build. Power outages can occur in outlying areas with more frequency than in more developed areas. A loss of electric power can also interrupt your supply of water from a well. You may also lose food in freezers or refrigerators and power outages can cause problems with computers as well. It is important to be able to survive for up to a week in severe cold with no utilities if you live in the country.

Choosing your home heating methods are important for economics and reliability reasons. Natural gas energy is not available in all areas. Electric outages can also render your natural gas or propane heaters inoperable. Check with your neighbors to see what they use. Telephone communications can be a problem, especially in the mountain areas in the Bitterroot. Landlines are not available in all outlying areas and even cellular phones will not work in all areas. Trash removal can be

top 10 causes of septic failure

#10 #9 #8 #7 #6 #5 #4 #3 #2

much more expensive in a rural area than in a city. In some cases, your trash dumpster may be quite a distance from your home. It is illegal to create your own trash dump, even on your own land. It is good to know the cost for trash removal as you make the decision to move into the country. In some cases, your only option may be to haul your trash to the transfer station yourself. Recycling is difficult because pick-up is not available anywhere in the Valley.

Driving over your drain field Tree roots Flushing foreign objects down the drain Kitchen grease Faliure to install according to local codes Not maintaining system Salts and chemicals from water softeners and washing machines Extensive use of garbage disposal Poor drainage or poor siting

#1 Overloading, both hydraulic and organic

-Ravalli County Environmental Health Department


forest roads and Access Forest Service roads are unique. • Grading on a dirt or gravel road may happen only once a year or possibly less. • The agency does not plow snow. • Any unpaved Forest Service road is unlikely ever to be paved. • Dust on unpaved roads is an ongoing problem during dry years and may result in “washboard” roads. • Improvements to or along Forest Service roads are prohibited unless permission is granted by the Ranger District office. Such improvements may include driveways, fences, mailboxes, drainage ditches or snow removal activities. Please contact your local Forest Service office for more information • Shared maintenance may be desirable if you have a homeowner’s association. Again, contact your local Ranger District office for information about construction or maintenance activities. • On narrow roads, uphill drivers have the right-of-way, and downhill drivers may be required to reverse their vehicle to use a turnout or shoulder for passing. • Flooded, washboard, or other bad sections of road are to be expected at times, and driving off road to avoid them can make the road much worse. Problem roads should be avoided both for resource quality and for your safety.

who owns the road? g

iven the variety of road management jurisdictions in the Valley, a homeowner can expect very different levels of road maintenance – either provided for them or for which they are personally responsible. Take the time to find out who owns the roads near your home and be aware of your responsibilities and restrictions. state, county and privately owned roads

If you are purchasing property in the Bitterroot Valley, you should investigate road conditions and maintenance to determine service available to your property. Ravalli County has around 1,450 miles of public roadway and many miles of private roads. These roads are typically maintained one of four ways. The Montana Department of Transportation provides maintenance for state highways, such as US Highway 93 and Eastside Highway. Approximately 550 miles are maintained by the Ravalli County Road and Bridge Department. Of these county-maintained roadways, around 300 miles are paved; the other 250 miles are gravel. An inventory of maintained roads is available at the Ravalli County Road and Bridge Department. The remaining roads are either maintained through a road


maintenance agreement or by private citizens. or county-maintained roads, and are not Road maintenance agreements have been maintained to residential standards. Although formed on some roads in the County, most often generally open and available for public use, the through subdivision approval. These agreements Forest Service may restrict or control use to meet describe how road maintenance is shared among specific management objectives. the different landowners who live on the road. To see if you are party Gaining Access to a road maintenance “Take time to find out who owns to Your Property agreement, please If your the road near your house.� contact the Ravalli County land is completely Clerk and Recorder’s surrounded by Office. If you live on a private road which is not National Forest, you will need a special use maintained by the County or party to a road permit to authorize construction or use of an maintenance agreement, you may responsible access road, and the Forest Service is required by for all maintenance of that road, including law to charge a fee for such road usage. Land snowplowing. Emergency access is critical to safety developers generally need to provide access to in the Valley. To improve emergency response times, the land they subdivide, and in all cases, access contact your local fire department to see if your road possibilities across private land must be exhausted accommodates emergency vehicles.

Forest Service Roads National Forest System Roads (NFSR) are not public roads in the same sense as state-

before the Forest Service can consider access across the Forest. If in doubt, contact your local District Ranger for specific advice on your situation.

30 1

wildlandurban interface t

here are special circumstances that can occur as more and more people make their homes in the Bitterroot Valley and come closer to previously wild areas. If your property is adjacent to or close to National Forest lands, there are some important details consider for your convenience and safety, as well as the safety of forest resources.

Property Boundaries The most valuable advice we can give you is to have property lines located and identified by an accredited surveyor. The fence you think is on the property line may not be. The site where you’d most like to build your dream home may be partially on the Forest. If existing improvements are found to be on the Forest, or if you construct new ones that encroach onto the National Forest, they will have to be removed. Avoid costly


mistakes by knowing exactly where your property lines are — don’t rely on existing fences or a non-accredited description of your property lines. Getting Utilities to Your Property You may be thinking of building a new home, or updating the services at an existing home. There are some things you need to be aware of about getting utility lines, such as power, telephone and gas, to your property. Access possibilities across adjacent private lands must be exhausted before access across the Forest can be considered. If your land is completely surrounded by National Forest, the affected utility company will need a special use permit to authorize installation of utilities lines to your property. Contact your local Forest Service office for specific advice on your situation.

Management Activities Adjacent to Your Property National Forests are managed for a multitude of uses. Some activities that may occur adjacent to your property include: timber harvest, control of insects and weeds, mineral extraction, livestock grazing, wildlife habitat management and various recreation activities. Disposal of small tracts of

National Forest land, while not common, may occur. It is possible that exchanges or sales of such land could happen adjacent to your property. Your local Forest Service office can give you an idea on what activities to expect in your area.

weather & climate A flash flood can occur, especially during the summer months, and turn a dry gully into a river. Check out this possibility when considering where to build. Extreme weather conditions can destroy roads or make them temporarily impassable or very slippery. Be sure your road is properly engineered and constructed. Also, hot dry summer weather dries out unpaved road surfaces. Dust is a fact of life for most rural residents living on unpaved roads. The Bitterroot Valley regularly has several weeks of subzero temperatures and heavy winter snows. Make sure your buildings and water/sewer lines are properly designed for these conditions.



Production of many seeds rapid spread Deep roots Not palatable to livestock and wildlife Adapted to rapidly colonize disturbed areas Allelopathy (give off chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants) Waxy leaves; herbicides do not stick to the plant

Tips for prevention practices • Wash cars, ATV’s, snowmobiles after traveling off road • Feed stock certified weed and weed seed free forage • Check your boots and clothing for unwanted hitchhikers that may spread to your property • Check animals (dogs, horses, cows, etc) for weedy materials • Regularly monitor your property for new invaders • Act quickly to eradicate new infestations For more information contact: MSU Extension: (406) 375-6611 Ravalli County Weed District: (406) 777-5842

Dalmatian Toadflax

Rush Skeleton

Sulfur Cinquefoil

Oxeye Daisy

no x i o u s w e e d s n

oxious weeds are serious problems for landowners in Ravalli County. To aid in controlling noxious weeds, the Montana County Noxious Weed Control Law made it unlawful for any person to permit noxious weeds to propagate or produce seeds on his or her land. If you think there may be noxious weeds on your property, or property you are considering purchasing, the Ravalli County Noxious Weed District can assist you with identifying noxious weeds and give you advice on their control. What Are Noxious Weeds? Noxious weeds are non-native plants that have been introduced to Ravalli County through human actions both purposely and by accident. Due to their aggressive growth and lack of natural enemies, these species can be highly destructive, competitive, or difficult to control It is important to remember that noxious weeds are everyone’s problem They not only reduce crop yields, destroy native plant communities and degrade wildlife habitat, they can also damage recreational sites, clog waterways, lower land values, and poison livestock.

33 Leafy Spurge



Common Tansy

Spotted Knapweed


Why should we care about weeds? When they invade an area, many aspects of the environment and economy are affected. Including: • Decreased forage for livestock and wildlife • Decreased biodiversity - decreased stability of the ecosystem • Increased soil erosion • Decreased water quality and fish habitat • Decreased amount of food we can produce through ranching and farming • Decreased tourism Montana farmers and ranchers spend $100 million a year just to control weeds. This money could be spent in other areas of the economy. Studies show that knapweed alone costs Montanans $42 million in lost tourism every year. This $42 million in lost dollars would support about 500 well-paying jobs in Montana.

TREATING NOXIOUS WEEDS ON FOREST SERVICE LAND The Forest Service has an active Noxious Weed Treatment program and while there is coordination with local counties, the Forest Service does not treat noxious weeds on private land. Land owners are responsible for the prevention and treatment of noxious weeds on their property and Ravalli County has resources to assist you in identifying, preventing and treating noxious weeds. You can help the Forest Service keep noxious weeds out of forests and the nearby wilderness areas by identifying and eradicating weeds on your own property. Please visit Montana’s Weed Awareness website to learn more: www.weedawareness. org/weed_id.html. As a private landowner, you are a front-line defender against noxious weeds on public land.

34 1

dogs and cats


amily pets usually enjoy rural living as much as their owners do. It’s important for us to manage our pets responsibly for their own safety, as well as the safety of neighbors, livestock, and wildlife.

Dogs Ravalli County has an Animal Protection Services Ordinance designed to protect and control dogs. The ordinance includes (1) the control of dangerous or vicious dogs, dogs running at large or abandoned, sick or injured dogs and dogs that are deemed nuisances; (2) the use of confinement and quarantine as means of control and protection; (3) the protection and control of domestic dogs through the use of licensing for the purpose of identification and protection. It’s the duty of every owner of any dog or anyone having any dog in his/her possession to exercise reasonable care


and to take all necessary steps and precautions to protect other people, their property and animals from injuries and/or damage which might result from his/her dog’s behavior. All dogs in Ravalli County must be licensed under this ordinance. For more information, you may contact the Ravalli County Commissioners or the Bitter Root Humane Association in Hamilton at (406)363-5311, or www. FERAL CATS – A RURAL PROBLEM WITH A HUMANE SOLUTION Historically in Ravalli County, cats were a part of rural life as they were used to keep the rodent populations in dairies, cow barns, and agricultural fields in check. These “barn cats” were generally allowed to reproduce naturally, and the only controls on their numbers, aside from the toll taken by their outdoor lifestyle, were to eliminate

them by shooting, poison, or other forms of control. Today the rural geography of the Bitterroot Valley continues to have colonies of stray and wild (feral) cats. It has become very apparent that the traditional methods of control do not work, since as the cats in a colony are removed, new cats quickly move in to take their place. To help the rural residents of the Bitterroot Valley to more effectively and humanely control feral cat populations,

a local veterinarian and a group of volunteers has begun a program to control populations using a successful Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) protocol has been shown to work in the Bitterroot Valley. Please contact the Fox Hollow Animal Project for more information at (406)3691684, or go to www.mtcan. org/FoxHollowAnimalProject. html.

roaming dogs Living in the rural countryside requires keeping your family dog under control or on your property. Roaming dogs can get into trouble chasing livestock or wildlife. The last thing any livestock owner wants to do is destroy a dog. However, to protect his or her animals, a rancher is allowed to shoot dogs that are harassing livestock.


mo t h e r nature



iving in the rural landscape

of the Bitterroot Valley can be deeply satisfying - open space, peacefulness, a little elbow room between you and your neighbors, wildlife viewing, country living at its best. Successfully living in the countryside requires knowing how to interact with Mother Nature in ways that both keep you and your family safe and also respects the natural resources that attracted you to your new neighborhood. Rural development encroaches on the traditional habitat of deer, elk, moose,coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, bears and other animals that can be dangerous and destructive to personal property. Careful planning, consulting with natural resource specialists, and talking with your neighbors can help you avoid painful mistakes such as losing a home to wildfire or flood, or losing a pet to predators.


the national forest: your backyard

We look forward to meeting you along the National Forest system trails and encourage you to get out on the area’s public lands to explore the resources the Bitterroot has to offer! There are year-round recreation opportunities such as hiking, hunting, camping, skiing, wildlife viewing, and water sports. Recreation opportunities can be explored on the Forest website at recreation/. You can also visit for more area information. Safety It is very important to know your resources and to be prepared for natural encounters with insects, weather, wildlife, and other features of the National Forest. Always let someone know your plans and make a safety plan with your traveling party. Forest News We encourage you to keep up with our Forest news on the web and on Twitter at BitterrootNF. You can get involved with volunteer programs and learn about our partner organizations in the area by contacting your local District Ranger Office. Together we make great strides in conserving and stewarding our natural resources in the Bitterroot Valley. Contact Us You can contact your nearest District Ranger office or the Forest Headquarters in Hamilton with questions about any of the above information. Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor’s Office 1801 North First Street, Hamilton, MT 59840 (406) 363-7100 Stevensville Ranger District 88 Main Street, Stevenesville, MT 59870 (406)777-5461 Darby Ranger District 712 North Main Street, Darby, MT 59820 (406) 821-3913 Sula Ranger Distirict 7338 Highway 93 South, Sula, MT 59871 (406)821-3201 West Fork Ranger District 6735 West Fork Road, Darby, MT 59820 (406) 821-3269

living with wildlife e

xpect and prevent landscape and garden damage Deer and sometimes elk can cause several types of problems in residential settings, from personal property damage to crop destruction. The most common complaint is deer damage to vegetable gardens, fruit trees and ornamentals. It is not easy or cheap to keep unwanted deer away, and often the best solution may be a greater understanding and tolerance of deer. However, you can typically decrease the impact by following a few tips.


Feeding wildlife is illegal. First, food and shelter are the most common Montana laws and regulations prohibit any attractions for wildlife, so eliminating as many of person from providing food, garbage, or other these attractions is the key to preventing wildlife feed attractant to game animals. Feeding intrusions and property damage. Remove will attract larger numbers of wildlife which in unnecessary wood, dirt and rock piles, block turn may cause property damage and health off areas under decks and keep outbuildings and safety concerns such as increased vehicle secured. Many landscape and garden plants collisions and disease. are attractants, so “It is not easy or cheap to keep unwanted Feeding animals such as eliminating preferred deer can also introduce food plants, using deer away, and often the best repellants, and solution may be a greater understanding human safety concerns surrounding plants in by increasing deer and tolerance.” concentrations which plastic netting and attract animals that fencing can help. prey on deer, such as bears and mountain lions. Gardens can be surrounded by a tall fence If one person in the neighborhood is feeding enclosure—or even electric fencing—when needed. Consult your nursery or landscape wildlife, that person is attracting wildlife to the whole neighborhood, which may cause property supply store for information on deer-resistant damage and health and safety concerns. species that thrive in the Bitterroot.


Feeding birds is allowed, but be aware that bird feeders can be an attractant for bears. Take down bird feeders in problem areas or hang them well away from the house and out of a bear’s reach, which means at least 15 feet up and four feet out from the nearest tree or building. Adding a catch plate underneath the feeder to keep bird seed from dropping to the ground is also a good idea. Or, you may simply remove the bird feeder in late March or early April, then put it back up in November. Feeding wild turkeys is an increasingly difficult issue in the valley. FWP and volunteers with the National Wild Turkey Federation are spending a good deal of time and money trapping and relocating turkeys from urban areas. The common problem is too many turkeys in a small area. This situation usually originates with well-intentioned residents feeding the turkeys. In a matter of a few years, the small group of turkeys expands to over 100 birds. Also, this concentration of birds begins to attract unwanted attention from large predators such as lions. Please do not feed turkeys. Wildlife-friendly fencing is possible and can save money and wildlife. Deer, elk, moose, sheep, and antelope are all capable of jumping fences, but certain fences can be barriers. For example, wires too low to

the ground can effectively block movement of very young deer, elk and moose. Antelope prefer to duck underneath the lowest wire, they rarely jump fences. If the wire is too low, it will block movement of antelope. We actually have three antelope that call the Bitterroot Valley home. They are often observed between Gird and Skalkaho Creeks. Landowners are saving time and money from frustrating repairs caused by elk, deer and other animals by building wildlife-friendly fences. As a result, more wildlife are surviving because they can safely negotiate wildlife-friendly fences. Many fence improvements are low-cost and designed or adapted by landowners. Contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks online at or by phone at 406-542-5500 for more information. Download or ask for a copy of the brochure: A Landowner’s Guide to Wildlife Friendly Fences. Securing garbage and other backyard wildlife attractants can make a huge difference to you and wildlife Attractants, such as dirty barbeque grills, garbage, bird feeders, pet food, fruit trees, gardens and compost piles lure wildlife into your backyard. When wildlife becomes conditioned to these foods sources, they can become a human safety concern and have to be relocated and sometimes killed.


Prevention is easy. Put away pet food, clean dirty barbeque grills, and store garbage in bearresistant garbage cans or in a secure building or vehicle until trash day. Limit compost piles to grass, leaves, and garden clippings. Kitchen scraps should be composted indoors, where they are away from a bear’s reach and smell, before adding them to garden soil. Try to keep freezers and refrigerators off the back deck or remove from open areas. Move them to a more secure location that does not allow entry by racoons and black bears. Picking all the fruit from your fruit bearing trees is very important. Fruit left on the tree is a highly desirable attractant for deer and bears. Often you can find persons or groups of folks interested in harvesting your fruit which might save you the work of harvesting unused fruit from your trees. Pets and wildlife require careful consideration Wildlife and pets can coexist in Montana backyards and open lands by following a few simple tips. Keeping pets safe from wildlife: for protection, the number one rule is to keep your dog nearby and under control. At home, keep your dog and cats inside or in a secure kennel or out-building at night. On the trail, keep dogs on leash or under voice control. Dogs running off-

trail can follow wildlife scent and trails, which can sometimes lead wildlife back to you or provoke a wildlife attack on your pet. If you see a wild animal, leash your dog and back away from the wild animal. If your dog is not trained to come, keep it leashed at all times. A dog chasing wildlife sometimes separates adult wildlife from young and can lead to the wild animal dying from stress or a direct kill. Dogs sometimes uncover wildlife that is bedded down. Wildlife, including newborn animals, should be left undisturbed and untouched. Such animals are almost always hiding, not injured or abandoned, and will be rejoined by an attending adult when the danger has passed. Expect wildlife on roadways Wildlife—especially deer and elk—venture near and cross many Montana roadways, so always be on the lookout. Be especially watchful from dusk to dawn when animals are most active, and avoid driving on cruise control during these hours. Use extra caution near posted deer crossings as these areas are traditional crossings that wildlife uses to reach food, water and shelter. Also be aware that deer and elk rarely travel alone. When one deer crosses the road, prepare to avoid those that follow.

42 1

s mo k e & f i r e i

n the Bitterroot, fire and the accompanying smoke are as natural as rain, snow and sunshine. Forest ecosystems covering much of the intermountain west are firedependent and require fire to sustain the health and vigor of the native vegetation and wildlife. Attempts to limit or exclude fire actually result in more intense and damaging fires in the long run.

Prescribed Fires and Wildland fires Managed for Resource Benefits Many forest owners and managers use prescribed fires – fires purposefully planned and lit – and some naturallyoccurring wildfires to allow fire to serve its natural role. These fires are usually low to moderate in intensity. Managed forests that have become overly dense must be mechanically thinned before fire can safely be introduced. In these cases the forest owner or manager may harvest timber and remove the cut branches and trees in order to reduce the amount of fuel and lower the


intensity of the burn. Forests that have been thinned by mechanical treatments and low-intensity fires create a much safer environment than forests with dense growth and too much fuel. Wildland Fires The Bitterroot National Forest’s fire management decisions are guided by two objectives: protecting human values and benefiting resources. Our first and greatest priority is the safety of our firefighters and the safety of the public. All fires are managed; none are simply “allowed to burn.” In-depth assessments guide decisions about how fires will be managed. While suppression may take place on one part of a fire in order to protect property or other values that are important to humans, another part of the fire may be managed to actually use the active fire for the benefit and health of the resources.

when there’s smoke, there isn’t always fire, There Can Be Smoke. Smoke can travel long distances. Even when there are no fires on the Bitterroot National Forest, the Bitterroot Valley can fill with smoke from wildfires as far away as Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and northern Nevada. The number of fires, fire behavior, weather conditions, and local topography all contribute to smoke distribution in the valley.

Reducing wood smoke

• • • • • • • • • •

There are a number of websites and information resources to provide you with the latest updates in fire activity, fire danger levels, and steps you can take to ensure your home and property are more resistant to wildfire. Contact the Bitterroot National Forest at (406) 363-7100 or visit the Bitterroot National Forest Fire and Aviation Management website bitterroot/fire/ to learn more.

Reduce the use of woodstoves and burn efficiently (especially during inversions) Upgrade an old woodstove into an EPA-certified woodstove or other clean burning device Take advantage of energy programs Never burn trash or treated wood Burn seasoned wood Choose a woodstove that is the right size for the space you are heating. Frequently clean ashes from your woodstove Burn small, hot fires. Don’t let the fire smolder. Keep your chimney or stovepipe clean. -Ravalli County Environmental Health Department

52 44

o u t d oo r r e c r e a t i on



he Bitterroot Valley offers

an abundant variety of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Our mountains, forests, rivers, and streams are easily accessible for family outdoor recreation. It’s important to become familiar with applicable regulations so that we all can continue to enjoy this beautiful place. Private property and public lands often intermingle and boundaries are sometimes not well marked. Careful planning and preparation can help protect public land resources and private property rights.

46 12

residency requirements Generally speaking, a person can establish residency for hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses by physically residing in Montana as the person’s principal or primary home or place of abode for 180 consecutive days immediately before making application and meeting other criteria, such as paying Montana resident income taxes and licensing motor vehicles. Check with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for a complete set of requirements. Leave wildlife where you find it Young animals are often left alone by their mothers. Do not touch or move them and their mothers will come back in due time.

hunting & fishing M

ontana is home to a variety of wildlife, and often the presence of these wild species is one of the key reasons we want to make Montana our home. Animals are not only found in open lands far from cities and towns. You can expect to see animals such as deer, elk, moose, coyotes, bears, mountain lions and many others in and near our urban environments. The key to maintaining a good relationship with our wild neighbors is enjoying them from a distance and making certain accommodations around our homes. A valid fishing license is required for all types of fishing on state waters. To fish in Montana, most anglers need two licenses: a Conservation License and a Fishing License. A Conservation License is needed before you can buy any fishing or hunting license that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) issues. Conservation license applicants are required to provide their social security number in addition to the

47 13

information usually requested. A fishing license allows a person to fish for and possess any fish or aquatic invertebrate authorized by the state’s fishing regulations. It is nontransferable and nonrefundable. The license enables one to fish from March 1 through the end of February the following year.

lands to gain access to streams. Complete rules are available at any FWP office. Certain waters on national parks, Indian reservations or wildlife refuges may have special rules. Specific information may be obtained from the headquarters of the park, reservation or refuge involved. “Permission from landowners is Permission from River & stream access needed to hunt on private land.� landowners is needed Under the Montana to hunt on private land. Stream Access Law, the Some farmers and public may use rivers and streams for recreational ranchers allow hunting privileges on their land purposes up to the ordinary high-water mark. through a Block Management Unit authorized by Although the law gives recreationists the right FWP. to use rivers and streams for water-related recreation, it does not allow them to enter posted lands bordering those streams or to cross private





he Bitterroot Valley is becoming a very diverse place to live. Many of our newcomers are attracted to our valley’s scenic beauty, our friendly small towns, and our rural agricultural landscape. However, working farms and ranches are still an important part of the valley’s economy. Many newcomers may not realize that agriculture is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week operation. If you live near a farm or ranch, you might experience dust, smoke, odors, insects, nighttime equipment noise and lights, wide equipment on roads, and cattle on roadways which often accompany farming and ranching activities. Some agricultural operations use herbicides and pesticides to control weeds and pests. Many also spread commercial fertilizers on their fields to improve crop yields. Beef cattle producers comprise a major share of livestock operators, although the valley is also home to six dairy farms, a variety of horse breeding/training ranches and several flocks of sheep. There are also several organic produce farms, one orgainc dairy farm, several plant nurseries, an agricultural research center, several apple and cherry orchards and numerous gardens.

50 1

t r a d i t i on a l ag calendar


arming and ranching activities typically occur seasonally in the Bitterroot Valley:

Irrigation Season Begins about the 1st of May. The beautiful Bitterroot Valley receives only about 12 inches of rainfall annually making irrigation an important component of most agricultural production. Irrigation water delivery systems of various types are used throughout the valley. Some delivery systems require memberships, and charge fees for the delivery of irrigation water. If you plan to buy property please carefully check the water rights, and delivery system details associated with the property. Harvest Season Hay harvesting occurs in many different forms, the First cutting will begin about June 1st and the harvest will be continual in the valley until late September. Grain harvest begins mid August and will last through the fall. These are often day and night operations. During this time you will encounter LARGE and SLOW equipment on the roadways. This activity is essential to get the crops and produce harvested from valley fields and transported to their intended market. Moving Livestock It is still common to encounter a cattle, sheep or horse drive

51 using all or part of the road or highway. This occurs when moving livestock from one pasture to another. Please be watchful and patient when you encounter a drive on the roadway. Take a few minutes to watch the horses, dogs and cowboys do their jobs. It is part of the charm of Big Sky Country.

the clock in order to get the plowing, disking, packing, and seeding done on time. Land preparation can cause dust during dry and windy weather. During this time you will encounter operators moving their SLOW and LARGE equipment from field to field. Please use caution and give them a “brake”.

Weaning Season Calves are weaned from their mothers during October and November. This activity is another unique ranching activity. The calves are processed giving them needed vaccinations and ultimately weaning them from the cow’s milk to hay and feed. There are usually a few days of protest from both cows and calves, signified by mooing and bawling. Don’t worry it will pass.

Calving Season January through May is calving time. Calving season is a time of intense activity for valley ranchers. This is an around the clock operation and you will see people outside at night using spot lights, ATV’s etc. Don’t be alarmed, they need to keep a close watch on the mother cows and their newborn calves during this critical time.

Open Burning Begins March 1st, farmers and ranchers often burn the irrigation ditches to keep them clean of debris, weeds and other obstructions. Burning causes smoke that may temporarily obstruct visibility on roadways. If you encounter this please slow down until you are clear of the poor visibility. Spring Farming Land preparation begins when the frost leaves the ground, usually in April. Sometimes farmers need to work their fields around

ravalli county extension service

For many rural residents, living next to a ranching or farming operation is an important amenity. They enjoy watching the seasonal agricultural activities – the new calves, planting and harvesting crops, and the open space around them. The Bitterroot Valley’s population will continue to grow and new homes will likely be built in what is now open space. Agricultural properties will probably not remain as they are indefinitely. If you are considering buying a property with surrounding open space, you can check with the Ravalli County Planning Department to see what future developments may be in the planning stages. The view from your property may change.

The Montana State University Extension Service is an educational resource dedicated to improving the quality of people’s lives by providing research-based knowledge to strengthen the social, economic and environmental well-being of families, communities, and agricultural enterprises. MSU Extension offer university resources for all Montanans to explore, even if they never set foot on campus. We provide access to useful information and expert knowledge via workshops, demonstrations, community meetings, publications, videos and the Web. Extension links a network of MSU faculty, topic specialists on the MSU-Bozeman campus and our Ravalli County agents, to the people.

52 1

horses n

othing represents the spirit of the West better than a horse gracefully running across an open landscape. Horses have a long and interesting history in the Bitterroot. The Salish Indians had horses long before the Europeans showed up, since they used horses to hunt bison east of the mountains. Horses made it possible to have wider trade opportunities over much larger distances and to develop friendships with other, more distant, tribes. Salish Chief “Plenty of Horses� Victor called the Bitterroot Valley home. The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery came into the Bitterroot on September 4, 1805 where they met Salish Indians who helped them with badly needed horses and provisions. Early European settlers used teams of workhorses to till fields and harvest and transport farm products to market. Pack horses and mules hauled supplies to miners. Saddle horses were indispensible tools for running a cattle ranch and providing general transportation for a growing population. Marcus Daly in the late 1880’s developed 22,000 lush acres, the Bitter Root Stock Farm, into one of the grandest racehorse nurseries America has ever seen, encompassing three training tracks and upwards of 1,200 horses. He


raced his stock at tracks he built at Butte and Anaconda, and sent his best runners east to capture numerous rich stakes. In1897 his Scottish Chieftain became the only Montana bred to win the Belmont Stakes. For many people moving to western Montana, rural living includes having a piece of land and a horse or two. Horses are as much a part of the Bitterroot Valley today as they have always been, although few of them still earn their keep by herding cattle, plowing fields, pulling buggies, or hauling freight. Today, most horses are owned for pleasure riding or as companion animals. If owning a horse will be a new experience for you, here are a few things to consider. Horses need a good deal of food, fresh water, exercise, regular veterinary care, and human contact in order to remain happy and healthy. They need quite a bit of space for exercise or for pasturing, if grazing is their major source of feed. Horses can often find what they need grazing a pasture, if the pasture is kept healthy and productive. Feeding hay is another common feeding option. Nutritional value of hay can vary widely depending on the species and how it is harvested and handled. Avoid dusty or moldy hay. Horses also need a

mineral salt block, especially in the summer. Horses need regular maintenance and veterinary care. Every couple of months they should be “dewormed� and have routine hoof care and trimming. If they are ridden frequently over hard or rocky ground they will need to be shod. Horses need to be vaccinated annually against tetanus and other common horse diseases. Your veterinarian is your best source of advice for overall care of your animal. Also, your local feed store or ranch supply store will usually have whatever supplies your horse will need. They are usually staffed by local folks who have horses themselves. The Bitterroot Valley offers abundant opportunities for horseback riding and other equine activities. If you want to enjoy riding trails on the Bitterroot National Forest or

weed seed free forage

other public lands, make sure you first check with the applicable office for trail conditions and regulations for items such as grazing, camping, weed-free feed, tethering, and group sizes. There are several indoor and outdoor riding arenas in the valley – check your phone book. The valley has several organizations of riders who may share your equestrian passions and can help you enjoy using your animal.

If you trailer your horses to ride in the mountains, be sure to carry weed seed free forage hay to help minimize the spread of noxious weeds. Also, spray wash the tires on your horse trailer and truck to avoid transporting weed seeds to the mountains.


western agricultural research center The Western Agricultural Research Center (WARC) is located in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. It is one of seven research centers comprising the Department of Research Centers in the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station of Montana State University. Each center addresses agricultural needs for its unique area of the state. Western Montana has a varied agricultural community, with small to mid-sized acreages which are conventionally and organically farmed. Research at the Western Agricultural Research Center involves irrigated agriculture and rangeland weeds. Program areas include Soil Science and Agronomy, and Biological Weed Control (http://ag.montana. edu/warc/)

gardening T

he Bitterroot Valley has long been regarded as a great place for growing crops and gardens. Newcomers will find the general climate in the valley will support a wide variety of plants.

Gardening Gardening is a popular pastime in the Bitterroot Valley. There are many avid gardeners who enjoy growing their own produce, orchard crops, and flowers. The valley has numerous microclimates depending on elevation, location, and aspect (the direction sloping land faces). Different plants do well in some parts of the valley and not others. For example, in Hamilton is at 3,575 feet above sea level and averages 5.8 inches of precipitation (mostly rain, some snow) from April to September. According to the Western Regional Climate Center, there is a 50% chance a Hamilton area gardener will have a 119 day growing season (between frosts). Many gardeners and commercial produce growers use greenhouses to extend growing seasons for particular crops. As in other parts of the country, many Bitterroot residents are becoming more interested in eating locally grown food.


Community gardens are popular in Stevensville and Hamilton. The Bitterroot has several apple orchards and organic farms. Farmers markets in Darby, Hamilton, and Stevensville feature local produce throughout the growing season. The best source for essential information on successfully growing food from your garden and orchard is the Ravalli County Extension Office. They can be contacted at (406) 375-6565 and can also provide other contacts such as garden clubs, master gardeners, and nurseries. conserving water The lush green fields that cover much of the Bitterroot Valley floor may give newcomers the illusion that the valley enjoys abundant rainfall. If fact, the average annual precipitation in the valley is a bit over 12 inches per year. The farm and ranch lands are watered by extensive irrigation systems fed by mountain streams and reservoirs. Landscaping can account for as much as

half of all the water used at a residence. So good landscape planning can save a significant amount of water and money. A wide variety of native plants can be used to create a landscape that is hardy, beautiful, and possibly less tasty to deer and other wildlife. In addition, native plant landscaping will likely use much less water, require less maintenance, and make it less likely that an exotic plant species would be introduced into the valley. To learn more about using native plants, contact the Ravalli County Extension Service (406) 375-6611, the Clark Fork Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society, at researchym@, or any of the valley’s plant nurseries.


the community of agriculture



he agricultural community has

changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Folks who’ve been around the Bitterroot since then tell stories of community dances where children fell asleep on coats under benches along the wall and parents danced until three in the morning. Before there was such good transportation and so many activities pulling families in all directions, neighbors often gathered to socialize, celebrate, and plan for the needs of their small communities. These days we do things a little differently. You know, come to think of it, we could use a few good dances around here!

12 58

fair facts • • • • • • • • • •

There are between 2-3000 exhibits at the fair each year. A total of 2000 ribbons for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place are awarded. 28 Grand Champion ribbons are awarded in open class. In 4-H classes, a Grand champion and Reserve Champion are awarded in each department. There are over 200 contestants in the rodeo. About 2500 folks attend the grandstand show. In 1910, the $200 Best at the Fair Prize went to a box of McIntosh apples. In the early 1900’s, businesses in town were closed on the first day of fair to enable everyone to attend. In 1914, the cost of putting on the fair was $2000. The fair used to be held in October when the valley was harvesting beets and apples. The Ravalli County Fair began in 1893 and has only been cancelled twice, once during wartime and once during the fires of 2000.

the fairgrounds s

ince the first Ravalli County Fair in 1893 many things have changed – we have progressed from hundreds of handwritten entry cards to computer print outs, but what remains constant is the celebration of a bountiful harvest, the golden days of summer, and the positive community values that bind all of us who call the Bitterroot home. County fairs began as a well earned time for rural communities to come together after a long season of hard work to compare crop notes, show off a prize animal or unique floral specimen, and to socialize with neighbors. The Ravalli County Fair has grown to become the largest community event of the year; showcasing not only agricultural products but art and sculpture, photography, ceramics, and crafts as well. Our local fair is well known and loved for its family atmosphere and its cultural and historical significance in the agricultural landscape of the Bitterroot Valley. Exhibit halls feature the best of the Bitterroot’s bounty and our definitive work ethic – here you will find displays of grains and grasses, dairy products and eggs, baked goods and canned foods, vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers, all of which thrive in the

59 13

special climate of the Bitterroot. Proud winners take home Grand Champion, Reserve and Best of Show Ribbons and Rosettes, along with cash prizes known as premiums. Contests, demonstrations and entertainment abound; don’t miss the pie auction, the free stage featuring entertainment from all around our area, the parade of classic antique machinery, little people’s rodeo or the most adorable baby judging. In our historic barns and arenas you can watch livestock showmanship classes in everything from rabbits to beef cattle, along with the eventual sale of market animals. Saying good bye to an animal raised by loving hands sometimes brings tears, other times big smiles as the price per pound exceeds a youth’s conservative estimate of what a summer’s work may bring. The agricultural heritage of the Bitterroot Valley would not be complete without the annual

rodeo contests between cowboys, cowgirls and their four-legged friends. Community members flock to the grandstand for arena events ranging from barrel racing to calf roping; bull-riding to steer wrestling. Down home traditional western entertainment rounds out the fair along with carnival rides, a downtown parade, and some of the best food around. The Ravalli County Fair has become the biggest fundraiser of the year for many of our local service organizations and non profit groups. All food vendors fall into this category, raising monies for their local giving goals. In the western landscape where the ‘new’ sometimes clashes with the ‘established’, the Ravalli County Fair is a place where the entire community is welcome and comes together to pay homage to this special place, the Bitterroot Valley, and our way of life. As we say in the Bitterroot – ‘Everyone loves the fair – see you there!’

60 1

brands a

s cattle ranching grew in Territorial Montana it became necessary to identify ownership of cattle running free in mixed herds on open ranges. Further, as vast herds grew over thousands of acres cattle rustling became an easy and lucrative business albeit with considerable risk, since “necktie parties” were often used for sure and quick justice. It thus became routine to brand all cattle with the owner’s mark, a permanent searing by a hot iron on an animal’s hide.

St. Mary’s Mission Brand



n the Old West many livestock brands were not unique, easily modified by rustlers with a “running iron.” The fascinating and true exploits of cattle rustling have been captured by many writers and artists, forming a lot of the myths and romance of the Old West. Since the olden days brands have multiplied in great numbers and become more unique with innovative use of symbols, numbers and letters, so many in fact that cataloging became imperative. Lists of brands and information are available from the Montana Historical Society. Although the hot branding iron is still used on “branding days” with neighbors helping neighbors, a real community get together, it is now common to mark livestock with such things as ear tags, tattoos and implanted microchips. The real Old West is sure not to return.

12 62

montana state flower Bitterroot Lewisia rediviva Long before explorers Lewis and Clark wrote about the beautiful purplish-pink flower of the bitterroot, Native Americans were using its roots for food and trade. Tribes dug up the roots and dried them so they could be kept and used for months. The root was too bitter to eat unless it was cooked, and it was usually mixed with berries or meat. An Indian story tells how the bitterroot came to be. It says the sun heard a mother crying because she couldn’t find food for her family. The sun changed her tears into the bitterroot so she would always have food for her children. You can find the bitterroot growing near the mountains and boulders of western Montana in spring and summer. Mice love its leaves and seeds.

museums & historic sites t

he history of agriculture in our past lives in stories and artifacts. Many families have stories and objects saved down the generations. The following museums and historic sites keep stories and artifacts and interpret them to the public. Each museum or site has a different focus but each has a piece of the story of agriculture in the Bitterroot. Make a point to visit each and see what they have to offer. Most of these organizations are open seasonally, so give a call or visit their website before you drop by.

63 13

Historic St. Mary’s Mission West End of the 4th Street Stevensville, MT 59870 (406) 777-5734

Daly Mansion Eastside Highway (406) 363-6004 • Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum Darby, MT 59829 (406) 821-4503

Stevensville Historical Museum 517 Main Street Stevensville, MT 59870 (406) 777-1007

Darby Historic Center Darby, MT 59829 (406) 821-1774 Fort Owen State Park Highway 269 between Highway 93 and the Eastside Highway (406) 542-5500 Ravalli County Museum 2050 Bedford Hamilton, MT 59840 (406) 363-3338 •

Victor Heritage Museum Main and Black Victor, MT 59875 (406) 642-3997

“In order to fit into a community, you need to learn the ways of that community. Come to the meetings to listen and learn before you try to change things.” -Don Dobberstein, Rancher, Victor

64 1

ag for youth Stevensville FFA (Future Farmers of America) What Is FFA? The FFA is a national organization dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The FFA operates on local, state and national levels. Student members belong to chapters organized at the local school level. Agricultural education instructors serve as chapter advisors. Chapters are organized

under state associations headed by a state advisor and, often employees of the state department of education. Founded in 1928, the former “Future Farmers of America� brought together students, teachers and agribusiness to solidify support for agricultural education. The Montana FFA Association was founded in 1930. The


Stevensville FFA was chartered on January 27th, 1939. Stevensville is one of 78 chapters in the state of Montana and one of 7,439 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Stevensville currently has 34 FFA Members and 98 students in the Ag-Ed program. Nationally there are 507,763 FFA members. Our local Stevensville chapter undertakes a number of fun and exciting community service projects. Members are committed to being positive influences within our valley, and thus help out local organizations and families who share this common goal. The chapter also partakes in numerous recreational activities to build relationships within our own group such as various trips, tours, camping, water sports, and summer camps. FFA also provides for competitions in which members exhibit their skills pertaining to agricultural knowledge and careers. Our chapter members enjoy traveling to these events, and have been very successful at all levels of competition. New members and friends are always welcome. Contact Josh Perkins, Stevensville FFA/Ag Education Instructor at (406) 777-5481 x141. MSU/Ravalli County Extension: 4-H/Youth Development Montana 4-H is the MSU Extension youth development program and the state’s largest out-of school program. 4-H reaches over 27,000 youth (ages 6-19 years) each year through more than 200 projects and educational activities. Nearly 1 out of 6 Montana youth choose to participate in and benefit from 4-H programming. Montana 4-H helps give kids the extra edge for life success, by teaching leadership, citizenship, and other life skills. 4-H is a program

you can trust to help kids learn through fun, hands-on experiences. As 4-Hers, today’s young people become tomorrow’s leaders, creating a positive vision for the future. The MSU/Ravalli County Extension Office is your connection to the 4-H program. The 4-H program years runs October 1 through September 30. To be a 4-H member, a youth must be 8 years old on October 1 of the 4-H year. They are eligible to enroll in over 200 educational projects. Any youth who turns 6 years of age during the 4-H program year is able to be a Cloverbud. Cloverbud is the ONLY project in which youth 6-8 years can enroll. There are 22 existing 4-H clubs in Ravalli County. If you are interested in starting your own club, all you need is 5 or more youth who have an adult willing to be their leader. For more information, contact: Ravalli County Extension, 215 S. 4th St, Suite G, Hamilton, MT 59840, (406) 375-6611, or at

support your local 4-h kids

Montana 4-H projects are designed to help you: • Get along with other people • Make wise decisions and take responsibility for your choices • Foster a positive sense of self • Acquire a concern for your community - local and global

12 66

informal gathering places Much of the social fabric in the ag community is now woven at coffee shops, ranch headquarters, buildings, at the feed store, and through the window of a pickup. Wherever farmers and ranchers meet and gather the culture lives, adapts, and move forward. Next time you see ag folks talking informally why not introduce yourself and thank them for keeping ag on the Bitterroot landscape.

“We live in a unique neighborhood here. We put the coffee pot on in my shop every morning, 7 days a week and neighbors drop in. We roll the dice to see who pays.� -Wally Weber, Rancher, Corvallis

ag community organizations T

he Corvallis Grange The Corvallis Grange welcomes families to participate in their monthly meetings held at 130 Dutch Road (Just west of Woodside Crossing.) Meetings include literary programs, betterment contest, grass roots lobbying discussions, activities for youth, and maybe a potluck supper. Contact, President, Scott Nicholson, (406) 369-0749 (cell) for more information.

Rocky Mountain Grange The Rocky Mountain Grange owns and maintains the building and stockyards south of Hamilton. Contact Les Cooley, 3633651, for more information Bitterroot Stockgrowers Association The Bitterroot Stockgrowers offers continuing education to their members. Members include more than just cattle growers. All stock producers are welcome. Contact Marlene Bolin, Secretary, at (406) 777-0329 for more information on meetings and activities.

67 13

Tired Iron Tired Iron members meet monthly to discuss their interest in ‘tired iron’ or old iron. From an anvil, to a tractor, to a spoon, if it’s iron, it counts. Tired Ironed members are especially keen on farm machinery and tools from times past Contact Secretary, Clark Carpenter at 363-3827, The Montana Farm Bureau Federation Montana Farm Bureau is the state’s largest agriculture organization. Here in the Bitterroot, the grass roots Farm Bureau organization holds an annual meeting and also occasionally meets around issues as they emerge. Contact the state office for more information: Montana Farm Bureau Federation, (406) 587-3153, or at, www.mtbf. org

WIFE (Women Involved in Farm Economics) WIFE is primarily an informal social organization for women involved in farming and ranching. The 4th Grade Farm Fair is their biggest project of the year. Make sure you child’s class attends – it’s wonderful. 4th Grade Farm Fair All public and private fourth grade students in Ravalli County are invited to spend a day at the Fourth Grade Farm Fair. Students have a hands-on, interactive experience with various ag activities. Some, like Rope Making, Tin Can Ice Cream, Wheat Milling and Butter Churning, all look back to a time when resources were scarce and electricity was a far-off luxury reserved for city folks. Other activities include Apple Production, Beef, Cowboy, Dairy, 4-H, Horse Shoeing, Machinery, Sheep, Small Animals, and Swine.


the future



ost of us appreciate the

pastoral aspect of our agricultural landscape. Whether it’s calves and colts gamboling on a warm spring day, or the smell and sight of freshly mown grass hay in the fields of an even warmer evening, or the sun sparkling just through the spray from a wheel line on an upland slope on a very hot day just so, our spirits are renewed when we experience these lovely products of the land. Even as we experience the sights, sounds and smells of the agricultural landscape we must realize how fragile they are and learn what each of us can do to help ensure that productive agriculture land remains the backdrop for our valley for generations to come.

70 1

t h e i m p o r t a nc e of private land t

he Bitterroot Valley is truly a spectacular place to live, work, and play. The Valley offers the opportunity to live among working farms and ranches, to enjoy stunning views of the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains, and to recreate in the abundant public lands and waterways in the valley. The conservation and stewardship provided by private landowners in the Bitterroot plays an important role in preserving those features of the valley which we all value so highly.


Private lands account for approximately 25% of all lands in Ravalli County, but these lands contribute disproportionately to the quality of life in the Bitterroot Valley. Nearly all of the Valley’s working agricultural lands are privately owned. These farms and ranches represent a critical element of the Bitterroot’s economy and embody the Valley’s cultural heritage. In addition, many of the scenic vistas which we all enjoy on a daily basis are enhanced by the presence of the open lands found on the Valley’s farms and ranches. Similarly, private lands encompass many of the most important wildlife and fisheries habitats in the Bitterroot watershed. The health of these habitats contributes significantly to the overall

health of the Bitterroot ecosystem, which in turn translates into the outstanding recreational opportunities which we are so fortunate to be able to enjoy on our public lands and waterways. Private land ownership is therefore a very important factor in making the Bitterroot Valley the very special place that it is. The commitment of landowners to preserving their open lands and to conserve the habitats that these lands contain will help to maintain the beauty and the quality of life for future generations of Bitterrooters to enjoy.

72 12

open lands board program overview


ecognizing the county’s uniqueness--from its striking mountain vistas, agricultural farms and ranches, to fish-filled streams and abundant wildlife—and the pressures put on open lands by rapid growth the Ravalli County Board of County Commissioners, following a unanimous request by the Right to Farm and Ranch Board, placed before the voters of the County

in November 2006 a ballot question to issue $10,000,000 of general obligation bonds to preserve the open lands of the county. The primary purpose of the Bonds is to identify and provide funds for conservation easements on open private lands in Ravalli County in order to: manage growth, preserve open lands, protect water quality of streams

73 13

and the Bitterroot River, maintain wildlife habitat, protect drinking water sources, pay landowner costs and related transaction costs associated with an approved project, and pay costs associated with the sale and issuance of the bond.� The program also funds the costs associated with the sale and issuance of the bonds and the related transaction costs (otherwise borne

by a landowner) associated with an approved project. Information about the Open Lands Board, its activities, and project application forms are available on the Ravalli County website at: OpenLandsBoard.htm or can be picked up at the Ravalli County Planning Department.

74 1

the role of land trusts l

and trusts are private, independent nonprofit organizations that have been protecting private lands in the Bitterroot Valley, the State of Montana, and throughout the United States for over 30 years. There are over 1,500 land trusts operating in all portions of America. Several land trusts actively partner with landowners in Ravalli County. Land trusts are not a branch of any governmental entity. Land trusts have one primary mission: To conserve private lands. Land trusts work with private landowners to protect private lands through voluntary agreements called conservation easements. Land trusts are not environmental advocacy groups. Land trusts work closely with farmers and ranchers and a large group of partners that includes the Ravalli County Open Lands Program, the Right to Farm and Ranch Board, state and federal land and wildlife management agencies, local citizens groups, and others to protect open lands. Land trusts and landowners work voluntarily to negotiate an agreement that protects


the land from future industrial, commercial or residential development. That agreement is called a conservation easement. Land trusts work to conserve valuable open lands, wildlife habitat, recreational lands, scenic properties, historical lands and work to keep working landscapes in the hands of farmers and ranchers.

easements, covenants, deed, cizds & hoas

There may be existing easements, covenants, or deed restrictions on your property. Easements may require you to allow construction of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, etc., across your land. These existing easements may also prevent you from building your residence, accessory buildings, or fences where you want to locate them. Also, you will want to research if there is a Home Owners Association (HOA) in your neighborhood. Home Owners Associations are generally formed if common property is deeded to a property owners’ association, such as a park or irrigation facilities that need to be maintained. HOA may include a private road maintenance agreements. Please contact the Planning Department. Citizen-Initiated Zoning Districts (CIZD) give local landowners the opportunity to guide future development in their area. They allow neighbors to work together to make a land use plan that can enhance their neighborhood. In order to create a CIZD, at least 60% of the freeholders within the proposed district must sign a petition, which is presented to the County. The district size must be at least 40 acres. If adopted, the zoning district is enforceable by the County. Planning Department staff is available to work with landowners who are interested in establishing CIZDs. CitizenInitiated Zoning Districts are authorized under Section 76-2-101, Montana Code Annotated. To see if your property has any easements, covenants, deed restrictions, or is part of a Home Owners Association or Citizen Inititated Zoning District please contact the Ravalli County Planning Department or the Ravalli County Clerk and Recorders Office.

76 12

what is a conservation easeme nt? a

conservation easement, simply put, protects private lands from unsuitable development. Conservation easements are voluntary, negotiated agreements between a landowner and a land trust that establish the landowner’s commitment for retaining his or her property as open lands. In essence, a conservation agreement is a voluntary legal agreement that limits the landowner’s ability to develop the land, and calls for conservation of the property’s natural values. A conservation easement is negotiated between the landowner and a land trust based

on the landowner’s conservation vision for his or her land, so easements vary in intent and purpose. But easements typically restrict these land developments: subdivision for residential or commercial activities, dumping of toxic waste, and surface mining. It is important to note that under the terms of a conservation easement the landowner continues to own, and manage, the property. The property still produces crops, hay, livestock, timber and other commodities. The landowner still makes all the farm/ranch decisions, still pays property taxes, and because the goal of the easement is to conserve open

77 13

public. The conservation agreement protects lands, the goal of the easement is to preserve the the lands in perpetuity, and the easement is elements of a working farm or ranch. What the recorded at the county courthouse with the property cannot produce, under the terms of the county clerk and recorder. The easement is also easement, are subdivisions or industrial activities. monitored (on an annual basis) by the land trust By state law, conservation easements must holding the easement, accomplish at “under the terms of a conservation and if a violation least one of these three conservation easement the landowner continues to occurs, the land trust enforces the terms of purposes: preservation own, and manage, the property� the easement. of open space There are over 60 conservation easements (including farmland, ranchland and forestland), in Ravalli County today, protecting over 30,000 preservation of a relatively natural habitat for acres of the Bitterroot’s important working lands, fish, wildlife or plants, or preservation of lands for wildlife habitat, and scenic open spaces forever. education or outdoor recreation of the general

78 1

recent r a v a l l i co u n t y con s e r v a t i on projects r

ecently, two Bitterroot families partnered with the Bitter Root Land Trust and the Ravalli County Open Lands Program to protect their unique private lands forever. Wood Family Ranch The Wood Family Ranch is a 265-acre working cattle ranch located among other working farms and ranches between Corvallis and Stevensville. The conservation easement ensures that the fertile soils of the Wood Family Ranch will remain in agricultural production forever. “As the owners of this historical and productive ranch, we believe that preserving the family heritage and protecting the agricultural way of life in the Bitterroot Valley is the best legacy that we can leave to the Valley and the memories of those who believed in the value of the land a source of food and a grand environment in which to raise a family.� -Laurie Wood-Gundlach


Skalkaho Confluence & Bell Family Ranch Marvin and Agnes Bell, their children, and their grandchildren partnered with the Bitter Root Land Trust to protect 145 acres of working agricultural land and critical fish and wildlife habitat along the banks of the Bitterroot River, Skalkaho Creek, and Sleeping Child. The two conservation easements resulting from this successful project (100 acres at the confluence of Skalkaho Creek and the Bitterroot River, and 45 acres in the Sleeping Child drainage) will preserve the Bell Family’s conservation vision, and the unique coldwater fish habitat, cottonwood galleries, and agricultural uses of these properties for future generations to enjoy.

sawtooth ranch The Sawtooth Ranch project is the third – and the largest – to be funded under the county’s Open Lands program. Ravalli County voters approved the $10 million bond program to help preserve open land through the purchase of conservation easements in 2006. The county is one of four – including Missoula, Gallatin and Lewis and Clark – in Montana with similar open lands bond programs. Gavin Ricklefs, executive director of the Bitter Root Land Trust, said protecting the Sawtooth Ranch from future development “was a unique opportunity in the Bitterroot Valley. There aren’t that many parcels of that size left on the west side.” The ranch is adjacent to another 160 acres already protected under a Montana Land Reliance conservation easement. There are two other landowners considering easements on their adjacent properties. “We could end up protecting about 1,200 acres from the Forest Service boundary to the West Side Road of contiguous elk winter range and over two miles of Sawtooth Creek,” Ricklefs said. Ricklefs said there are other projects in the works. “I think it’s quite reasonable that we’ll be able to conserve 2,000 acres in 2009 alone,” he said. “It’s really been thrilling for me to see that people are willing to help landowners conserve these important areas in the valley.” -Exerpt from July 17, 2009 article by Perry Backus for the Ravalli Republic

12 80

the future of agriculture in the bitterroot a

gricultural production in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana officially began in the 1840’s, when priests encouraged the planting and harvesting of crops near present-day Stevensville. Indians dug Bitter Roots the state flower], picked berries, fished and hunted game, but probably did not plant corn, squash or beans as in other regions. Father DeSmet encouraged the cultivation of oats, wheat and potatoes in 1842 and brought cattle from Fort Colville in Washington Territory the same year. When Marcus Daly decided to establish ranches in the valley, he acquired bare land as well as working farms and ranches and by 1890 expanded the production of hay for racehorses, as well as planting grain and fruit trees. In the last 130 years the Bitterroot Valley has seen many agricultural product booms and busts, including apples, peas, potatoes, sugar beets, sheep, and dairy. The “Big Ditch� on the east side of the valley was developed in conjunction with the sale of apple orchard tracts. Some people estimate that at one time, Montana provided for its people nearly all the food

they needed. There was a substantial infrastructure of processing facilities. As nearly as anyone could recall, in the period before 1900, there were at least 250 processing plants in Montana, with about 80 breweries, nearly as many flour mills and packing plants, dozens of creameries and cheese plants, as well as a substantial vegetable canning industry. The Cheese Factory in Corvallis, now a vehicle repair garage, once shipped more cheese than any plant in the nation. It is estimated now that only 10% or less of the food consumed in Montana is grown in Montana. The emergence of supermarkets steered most customers away from small, local outlets and the buyers for large markets have little patience to deal with anyone who cannot guarantee large, uniform lots of food consistently. Increased population and waves of subdividing make it challenging to carry on traditional agriculture in the Bitterroot Valley. The cost of land, invasive suburban dwellers and their habits and preferences, high operational costs, fluctuating market returns, and competition from other agricultural areas make continued farming difficult. Beef cattle are still the largest source of farm income in the valley since a large percentage of the

13 81

gardens have evolved in Hamilton and Stevensville private land is made up of poor soils which cannot as well. Two USDA inspected slaughterhouses and be plowed or planted. There is limited production several small butchering plants in the valley are and sale of lambs and sheep, mainly through the processing livestock and wild game. Local citizens Western Montana Sheep Association, which also are actively working on farm-to-school and farm-tomarkets wool. institution programs and developing a sustainable While dairy cow numbers have decreased, local food system that supports local agriculture. increased horse ownership has created a market Bitterroot agriculture in the future will likely for high-quality hay, which at today’s prices is an continue to be a diverse important source of combination of traditional income for farmers who agriculture, small produce have access to enough farms, and emerging land and equipment. niche agriculture. Big The recent surge - Steve Vogt, Rancher, Hamilton market economics will, of in interest for local course, play a major role production and in determining the continued viability of our farms consumption of agricultural products has occurred and ranches. But so can county residents play a role when people became more conscious of their - by buying local agricultural products, supporting own health and nutrition, and high fuel costs open space by voluntary or purchased easements alerted people to the high cost of moving food on agricultural land, and finding other creative ways long distances. The Valley is home to an organic to help keep working farms and ranches going for dairy and several organic produce farms. Weekly years to come. farmers markets are popular in Darby, Hamilton, and Stevensville. Several farm stands offer produce during summer and fall seasons. Community

“The key to good neighboring is communication.�


Dear Neighbor, The Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust (BRCHT) is honored to have been a partner in the development of this first issue of Our Code of the West. The Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust works to keep our agricultural heritage and traditions vibrant even as we create new traditions. We believe that this work helps build community. We believe that when folks understand ‘how—and most importantly, why—we do things around here’ they are more likely to adapt their ways to this place. We also believe that nothing substitutes for a warm welcome… new people generally want to become a part of place they move and Our Code provides an essential primer, guide, and link. We will naturally better steward our natural resources, open lands, and communities if we feel a part of this place. This Code differs from those found in other communities in several ways and we are proud that Our Code includes information on the history, social fabric, and agriculture traditions in the Bitterroot. If we are to protect our rural landscape and open spaces, one of our strongest tools is to help all understanding and appreciation of the traditions and stories embedded in it. Many good folks stepped up during a busy summer and a short deadline to help prepare information for this first edition of Our Code. We thank you for caring so much. We hope you will have many additions and improvements to suggest for the next edition - we want to hear them all. We look forward to working with many of you on future issues of Our Code, honing it to be the ‘go to’ source of information for newcomers, those considering moving to the Valley, and those of us who just need to know a little more about the agricultural heritage of the Bitterroot Valley. Lastly, it is important to recognize Kristen Bounds, publisher of the Ravalli Republic. Without her sense of adventure, innovative style, interest in service to the community, leadership, and her inexhaustible sense of humor Our Code simply would not exist. Dara Saltzman, Ravalli Republic graphic designer, is responsible for creating such a beautiful publication. Other talented staff at the Ravalli Republic also contributed to the Code… we are indeed fortunate to have such a dedicated and creative local newspaper. Kudos to all of you! Very truly yours,

Kristine Komar President

Dave Schultz Vice President

P.O. Box 2216, Hamilton, Montana, 59840 •

Vicky Bohlig Secretary/Treasurer

83 A big THANK YOU to the many organizations and individuals who have contributed to this edition of Our Code Of The West.

Ravalli County Departments Board of County Commissioners Planning Department Environmental Health Department Extension Office Road Department Weed Department Ravalli County Advisory Committees Right To Farm and Ranch Board Open Lands Board Animal Protection and Control Board Photographs throughout the publication courtesy of Alan Applebury, Perry Backus, Will Moss, Ravalli County Fairgrounds and the Ravalli County Museum

Partners The Ravalli Republic Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust Bitter Root Land Trust Bitter Root Water Forum Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks USDA Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest Bitter Root Conservation District Fox Hollow Animal Project Historic St. Mary’s Mission Ravalli County Museum Ravalli County Fairgrounds Open Lands Education and Outreach Committee

Individuals Allen Bjergo Don Dobberstein Production and Design by Tom Dobberstein Dara Saltzman and Jodi Wright Betty Wetzsteon William Wetzsteon Our Code of the West is published by Tom Ruffatto the Ravalli Republic Newspaper, a Wally Weber divsion of Lee Enterprises. All contents Willy Christ are copyright 2009. Phyllis Bookbinder Steve Vogt Kristen Bounds, Publisher Rob Johnson Perry Backus, Editor Jay Meyer Jim Ellingson


85 E Mail: • Web:

C U RT R AY R E A LT Y, I N C Donald J. Ray Broker / Owner

Office Phone: 821-3151 • Home Phone: 821-4735 • Fax: 821-3204 P.O. Box 597 211 North Main Darby, Montana 59829

Bitter Root Water Forum OUR MISSION:

The Bitter Root Water Forum helps people restore, preserve and enhance healthy waters for all users in our growing valley.

375-2272 P.O. Box 1247, Hamilton, MT 59840


We look toward the day when: • The Bitterroot River system continues to provide for diverse uses while achieving its potential as a fishery and top-quality aquatic habitat. • The watershed’s residents and visitors appreciate how integral the Bitterroot River is to the Valley’s social, ecological, and economic well-being. • Bitterroot communities regard their river as an irreplaceable community asset, and make its care and protection a top priority. • Farms and ranches in the valley find reliable and stable local markets and are positioned to survive the region’s intensifying development pressures. • Informed and caring policy-makers work to sustain this diverse and valuable resource.

Vicky Bohlig, Broker and Owner of GreenPath Properties is a passionate advocate for land protection.

• Bitter Root Land Trust Board 1999-2003 • Establishing Member of Ravalli County Right to Farm and Ranch Board • Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust Board • Green Realtor

363-5063 • 109 N. 4th Suite 101 • Hamilton


CONSERVATION ORGANIZATIONS Bitter Root Water Forum The Bitter Root Water Forum is our Valley’s watershed group working with businesses, groups, agencies and citizens at the grassroots level to promote clean abundant water for a healthy watershed.


Water, Wildlife and Working Lands for All Generations 406.375.0956




Home of the fast, friendly, full service


FREE pick up and delivery in the Hamilton area No appointment necessary Transmission and radiator service available WE WILL DISPOSE OF YOUR USED OIL. In exchange we request you donate to Haven House.

TWO LOCATIONS IN HAMILTON: 1000 North First, Hwy 93

523 South First, Hwy 93



Just south of Pizza Hut

Across from the Coffee Cup Cafe



antiques to art to boat shows • auctions • barbeques • birthday parties civic and community activities • class reunions • concerts • dances dog training classes • exhibitions • family reunions • fundraisers • horse sales horse stalling • meetings • open riding • pet shows • picnics • private parties rodeos • trade shows • workshops • worship services & more

For pricing, reservations and policies call 363-3411 Check us out on the web at


(QMR\RXUIXOOEDUZLWKWKH³%(67´0DUJDULWDVÂ&#x2021;2XWGRRU3DWLR 1),56767+$0,/721 ,17$00$1<648$5( Â&#x2021;




For All Your Fencing & Welding Needs


Chain Link • Vinyl Fence • Post, Rails & Farm Fence • Hi-Tensile & Dog Kennels Installation & Supplies • Privacy Fencing


Ornamental Iron • Custom Welding Hand Railings • Staircases Truck Racks


8am - 5pm M-F •1008 U.S. Hwy 93



Hours: Tues. - Fri. 10-4 / Sat. 9-1 Closed Sun. & Mon. / 406.363.3338


Where Montana Began!

Established in 1841, by Fr. Pierre DeSmet.


April 15th through October 15th P. O. Box 211 West End of 4th Street, Stevensville, MT 59870 406-777-5734 The goal of the Victor Heritage Museum is to preserve the proud and noble heritage of the community, which includes mining, railroads, Native Americans, schools, churches, businesses, ranching, and natural resources. 2009 SCHEDULE Memorial Day through Labor Day Tuesday – Saturday • 1 – 4pm 125 Blake Street, Victor • (406) 642-3997

The beautiful home of Copper King Marcus Daly and his Family

Once the showplace of a 22,000 acre Thoroughbred Horse ranch and boarded up for over 40 years, the home is now open to the public for tours.


from Mothers Day until mid October Tours on the hour starting at 10am Last tour at 3pm Off season Tours available by appointment

251 Eastside Hwy,Hamilton, MT For more information call 406 363-6004

The Bitterroot Conservation District is a sponsor of the Ravalli County Open Lands Bond Program. The role of the BCD:

• Administrator of the Montana Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act (310-Law) Permits are required for any private nongovernmental individual, or entity proposing to work in or near a natural perennial-flowing streams. • Offers cost-share programs to landowners living in Ravalli County, interested in doing on the ground projects that address resource concerns. • Provides watershed education.

MEETINGS ARE HELD ON THE 2ND AND LAST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH AT 8 P.M. 1709 N. 1st ST, Hamilton, MT. 406-363-5010x101



ravalli republic

SINCE 1889 • 232 West Main Street, Hamilton, MT 59840 • (406) 363-3300 •


The Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust works in partnership with families, neighborhoods, and communities to restore historic structures, bring back traditional events and celebrations, encourage interpretation, and affirm cultural values.

406.375.9953 D 406.381.2355


Contact Information

for governmental agencies and organizations County Agencies:

Federal Agencies

Ravalli County Commissioners (406) 375-6500 Ravalli County Planning Department 406) 375-6530 Ravalli County Environmental Health Department (406) 375-6565 Ravalli County Weed District (406) 777-5842 Ravalli County Office of Disaster & Emergency services (406) 375-6655 Ravalli County Extension Service (406) 375-6611 Ravalli County Road Department (406) 363-2733 Ravalli County Sheriff (Administrative Office) (406) 375-4060 Missoula County Sheriffâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Department (406) 258-4810

USDI, Bureau of Land Management, Missoula Area Office (406) 329-3914 USDA, Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest (406) 363-7100 USDA, Forest Service, Lolo National Forest (406) 329-3750

State Agencies and Organizations: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) (406) 542-5500 Montana FWP Hamilton Area Wildlife Biologist (406) 375-2273 Montana Natural Resources and Conservation (406) 375-0412 Montana Farm Bureau (406) 587-3153

Local Organizations: Bitter Root Water Forum (406) 375-2272 Bitter Root Land Trust (406) 375-0956 Board of Realtors (406) 363-2000 Bitterroot Building Industry Association (406) 375-9411 Bitter Root Conservation District (406) 363-1444 Bitterroot Stockgrowers Association (406) 442-3420 Bitter Root Humane Association (406) 363-5311 Fox Hollow Animal Project (406) 369-1684 Bitter Root Irrigation District (BRID) (406) 961-1182 Daly Ditches Irrigation District (406) 363-1130 Montana Native Plant Society, Clark Fork Chapter (406) 721-7615 r Bitterroot Backcountry Horsemen Selway-Pintler Wilderness Backcountry Horsemen

Our Code of the West 2009  
Our Code of the West 2009  

Rural Living in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana. A Ravalli Republic Publication in cooperation with Bitterroot Valley Community Organization...