Patagonia Dillon Gives Local Pronghorn a Little More Freedom to Roam
Today's post is from the staff of our Outlet Store in Dillon, Montana, who were among the first to take part in a developing program called Witness for Wildlife, a new initiative from Patagonia and the Freedom to Roam Coalition designed to bring together the experiences of everyday Americans who are documenting wildlife activity and threats in their own backyards and speaking out on behalf of the migration corridors those animals depend on for survival. Read on for a first-hand account from our Dillon friends, as authored by Patagonia employee and Dillon-area environmental activist, Kenda Herman.
Living in Dillon, Montana we take for granted seeing American Pronghorn speckle the landscape and have the luxury of witnessing these animals zoom across open ranges. We are charmed with the high desert backdrops of our home that allow a view of not just big sky, but large-scale mountain ranges and valleys. With an understanding of the local wildlifes’ perspective on usable countryside in mind, we brake on I-15 for whatever animal from the foothills that might cross the highway to visit the river.[A view of lower Centennial Valley. Pam Neumeyer]
Dillon’s Patagonia Outlet staff gained some “Freedom to Roam” this summer when we were funded for an environmental internship. We kicked off crisp work clothes in exchange for . . .
. . . leather boots and gloves and headed to the high country where, literally, the deer and the antelope play. We chose to link up with American Wildlands (AWL), a Bozeman-based non-profit that works locally to identify and prioritize wildlife corridors, so that our staff could be a part of Freedom to Roam’s Witness for Wildlife program and be part of the physical process of linking crucial wildlife habitats. We believed that an internship with AWL was the best way to inform ourselves about the wildlife connectivity challenges in our region.
At the top of AWL’s priority list, and rated by the Montana Natural Heritage Program as one of the most significant natural landscapes in the state, the Centennial Valley stretches over 380,000 acres north and east of the Continental Divide. Within the valley, the Red Rock Wildlife Refuge and adjacent or nearby areas combine to create to the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This special valley is a crucial migration corridor for grizzly bear as well other migratory land animals and hundreds of bird species. With tough gloves and fencing pliers we removed miles of barbed wire from the bottoms of livestock fencing, installed garden hose over bottom string barbs, installed smooth wire as a replacement, or otherwise modified the distance between strands of wire to accommodate more frequent and widespread wildlife crossings at identified corridors.
“Unlike typical field work in my life, this has an immediate positive impact. What we did in one day impacted migratory animals the next day . . . [it's] instant gratification,” said store merchandiser, Bucky Ballou.
Mail Order Manager, Summer Miller adds, "When we arrived on-site, there were elk tracks and scat all along the fence. Modifying the fence was such a simple solution [with an] immediate impact.”
At one point someone spotted the remains of a failed fence crossing, a limb from a young antelope. Despite our location, and this feeling of place and connection to wildness, the evidence of impassable obstacles drove a message home. Clocked at speeds in excess of fifty miles an hour the American pronghorn is an impressive species without predators - other than fences. In a sense, we removed that last vector that might rob a pronghorn of its freedom to be.
Stay tuned for more on how you too can participate in Witness for Wildlife. If your curiosity is piqued, visit their site and sign-up for an informational newsletter. To contact the staff of Patagonia Dillon for more information about their work in the Centennial Valley, visit their store page. Out thanks go out to American Wildlands for their assistance and continued efforts.
[Middle, left - Antelope in Centennial valley. Middle, right - Store Merchandiser Bucky Ballou rolling removed barbed wire. Bottom - Store manager Beth Sullivan and sales associate Kenda Herman admiring the fruits of a hard day's labor. Photos: Pam Neumeyer]