Give Back: Southwestern Montana
In challenging times, join us in supporting local businesses that support public lands and wild places
Partners in Conservation
As the coronavirus takes its toll on the economy in Montana and everywhere else, we aim to pay tribute in this series of blog posts to the businesses that help MWA protect public lands and waters across the state and play an important role in our outdoor recreation economy. We encourage you to support these businesses in any way you can – now and after the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.
After all, our work would not be possible without these businesses, and we can never thank them enough for everything they do to safeguard our wildlands and make Montana’s quality of life so rich. Their contributions are essential to Montana’s outdoor recreation economy, which supports 71,000 jobs and generates $7.1 billion in consumer spending, $2.2 billion in wages and salaries, and $286 million in state and local tax revenue.
Here are a few businesses in southwestern Montana that play key roles in helping us protect the Snowcrest, Ruby, Madison, and Gallatin Ranges. Now it’s our turn to help them.
Ranching is one of the most interdisciplinary livelihoods there is. Ranchers have to be entrepreneurs, laborers, geneticists, innovators, tradesmen, and gamblers. They wear many hats, and no one exemplifies this more than John Helle, the third-generation proprietor of the Helle Rambouillet ranch, co-founder of Duckworth wool products, and member of the Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance (RVSA) steering committee. The RVSA is a collaborative group of landowners, conservationists, business owners, elected officials, and local natural resource advocates that are working together to conserve wildlife, clean water, wild places, and working lands in southwest Montana’s Ruby Valley.
Using his degrees in economics and animal science from Montana State University, John and his sons have developed this fourth-generation ranching operation into a leading producer of a uniquely soft and durable wool. Helle Rambouillet wool is the result of careful breeding and the high-elevation rangelands where the sheep graze in the summer. The yarn spun from Helle’s sheep is ideal for creating clothing that’s breathable, warm, and soft. Duckworth, which uses Helle wool, reduces its impacts by managing its entire supply and manufacturing chain “from sheep to shelf”—a process that begins with the Helle’s stewardship of their livestock and the lands of the Ruby Valley.
John has been involved with the Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance since its founding, and is committed to working with partners to maintain and enhance the stewardship of the public lands that support local grazing operations, provide critical wildlife connectivity, and protect open space. Maintaining the wild character of the Upper Ruby landscape is important not only for his business, but also to ensure that his kids and grandkids can experience these places like his family has for generations.
You can help support the Helle family’s business by shopping at duckworthco.com. With retail stores around the country temporarily closed, their business is now limited to online sales only. In addition to seeing the quality products Duckworth offers on their website, you might also catch a glimpse of the wild and working lands the Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance is working together to protect.
Donna and George Trischman are 4th and 5th generation Montanans with roots that extend deep into the soil of southwest Montana. In the late 1800s, the U.S. Army sent George’s great grandfather west, eventually stationing him at Fort Yellowstone in what is today Yellowstone National Park. The next two generations of Trischmans were born and raised in Yellowstone. George’s grandfather worked as a Yellowstone Scout for the army and later as one of the first rangers after the Park Service took over management from the army. His father worked in the family-run stores which later became Hamilton Stores and then on a bison ranch in the Lamar Valley. George was raised in Gallatin Valley and cut his teeth cowboying on the spectacular Flying D Ranch, now owned by Ted Turner.
George and Donna moved from the Gallatin Gateway area in 1989 when George took on the management of the Hamilton Ranch near Twin Bridges. His wife Donna started a quilting business out of an old cabin on the ranch and now sells quilts online. George managed the Hamilton Ranch for 25 years, and he and Donna raised their five children there. In the wake of a horse accident, George and Donna started running Sheridan Liquor and Fine Wine. Though George no longer works on a ranch, he brings a wealth of knowledge about the land and a genuine desire to ensure that the livelihoods and outdoor way of life in the Ruby Valley can be enjoyed by future generations.
In 2013, George was one of the community members who spent long hours around a table with MWA and others to forge the Snowcrest Agreement. That agreement proposed 80,000 acres of new wilderness and 21,000 acres of conservation protections in the Snowcrest Mountains, which form the western side of the Ruby Valley. Those conversations were the beginning of the RVSA.
So consider stopping into Sheridan Liquor and Fine Wine on Main St. next time you’re in Sheridan. You can thank George for his commitment to the RVSA and pick up a bottle of wine or a greeting card from their impressive selection.
You might have already met Sally Kelsey. You’ll probably remember if you did— Sally’s big smile and friendly nature makes her a natural at making connections with people around her. She’s the former southwest Montana field director at MWA, and in her time here, she represented the organization through the negotiation of the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement, among much else. Her contributions helped shape the agreement, and it was while sitting around the table discussing the Gallatin and Madison Ranges that Sally (then Cathey) met her future husband, Kameron Kelsey.
Kameron grew up here, and it was always his hope to be the third generation of Kelseys to run the family ranch. Kameron’s grandfather purchased the Nine Quarter Circle in 1945, and every summer since, the Kelseys have been welcoming people to the border of Yellowstone to experience a unique slice of Montana. They have been breeding and training horses since the 1950s and offer their guests the opportunity to experience spectacular views on horseback, enjoy premier fly fishing on the Taylor Fork, and soak in the simple pleasures of staying at a ranch with 100 years of history.
These days, Kameron and Sally run the ranch together and raise the fourth generation of Nine Quarter Circle Kelseys. It’s tranquil for the guests, but guest ranching is a stressful operation in the best of times. It does, however, provide the Kelseys with a life they couldn’t live in any other job.
As Sally puts it, “We get to live in a beautiful place and see elk, moose, and grizzlies walk across our property. We have the best access to beautiful backcountry, and we can get into it almost everyday of the year by foot, ski, or horse. We get to go on pack trips and long horseback rides as part of our job. Sharing these experiences with guests and helping them understand why the remote west is special is also a treat for me. Our access to public lands supports our business, our way of life, and all the reasons we are here. We want more than anything to have our children grow up experiencing open spaces and the beauty of this country, and protecting public lands is critical to that.”
You can hear more about Sally and Kameron’s connection to the Gallatin Range by watching the new Gallatin Forest Partnership video. You can also support their business by referring friends or experiencing the Nine Quarter Circle for yourself. This summer, they’ve increased flexibility for guests concerned about COVID-19 by providing the opportunity to cancel within 14 days of your stay and apply the deposit to a future visit through 2023. Check out their website to learn more about their operation and ways you can support their family business.
Senior Field Director
Emily works on developing collaborative land management efforts and building grassroots support and partnerships in the Gallatin and Madison Ranges, the Snowcrest Mountains, the Ruby Valley, the Crazy Mountains, and the Beaverheads. She enjoys skiing, hiking, biking, camping and exploring new places.