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Apr 08 2020

Give Back: Western Montana

Join us in supporting local businesses in the Blackfoot Clearwater that support public lands and wild places

Partners in Conservation

Montana’s outdoor way of life depends on our public lands and waters. So does our economy. Montana’s outdoor recreation economy generates $7.1 billion in consumer spending, $2.2 billion in wages and salaries, and $286 million in state and local tax revenue. It also supports 71,000 jobs. 

As the coronavirus takes its toll on business in Montana and everywhere else, we aim to pay tribute in this series of blog posts to the business owners who contribute to our outdoor recreation economy and help MWA protect public lands and waters across the state. 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. 

Here are a few businesses in western Montana that play key roles in the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project and were instrumental in the creation of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, a bill that will add 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains Wilderness areas and will help permanently protect the health of the Blackfoot and Clearwater valleys, as well as the fish and wildlife populations that thrive within them.

Rich’s Montana Guest Ranch

Rich’s Montana Guest Ranch started with  C.B. Rich, who returned from World War II to his family ranch in southwest Montana, which needed to find supplemental income to continue operating.

That income came from C.B. taking guests at the ranch into the Beartooth Mountains, where he found a passion for helping people experience the wilderness. C.B. later opened a guest ranch business in the Blackfoot Valley in 1958.

Today Jack Rich follows in his father’s footsteps guiding people from all over the world into the Swan Mountains and the Bob Marshall Wilderness, where he often reads the wilderness poetry his father wrote. As a wilderness outfitter and the owner of a snowmobile guiding business, Jack has brought invaluable insight to how the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act could benefit both quiet and motorized recreationists and sustain the community his family has called home for generations. 

Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters

Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters


Also wilderness outfitters and guides, Connie and Mack Long were mentored by legendary horse packer, Smoke Elser. They now operate Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters. As a former wildlife biologist and regional supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Mack helped inform the decisions about wildlife habitat and security that went into the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. This is no small thing either, as the passage of the BCSA will protect what has been recognized as the single most productive lynx breeding area in the Lower 48. At the BCSA reintroduction in June 2019 their grandson stood beside them while Connie talked about the power wilderness has to transform lives, both personally and professionally.

Rolling Stone Ranch and
Stray Bullet Cafe

Montana roots also run deep in Jim Stone, whose great-grandfather arrived in the Blackfoot Valley in 1911.

Jim continues to build on that legacy running cattle on the Rolling Stone Ranch in Ovando. His wife Colleen operates Stray Bullet Café in Ovando.


And if that isn’t enough to keep them busy, Jim also has held a variety of roles at the Blackfoot Challenge over the years, accomplishing public-private partnership conservation up and down the valley.

When he does have a free day, you might find him snowmobiling with his son or enjoying a delicious steak at 1889, a restaurant in Missoula that serves Rolling Stone Ranch beef. He keeps the BCSA steering committee firmly grounded in the ranching history of the valley.

How you can help

Jack, Connie, Mack, and Jim have put in countless unpaid hours contributing to the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project. They’ve built community support around their vision and made the necessary trips to D.C. to get the legislation to where it is today – awaiting a hearing and mark-up in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Here’s how you can help stabilize the future of their businesses: 

  • Book a wilderness pack or hunting trip with Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters or Rich’s Montana Guest Ranch for later this summer or the fall. Better yet, convince some of your friends to join you in booking a trip or hunt.
  • Once we can freely travel, stop by the Stray Bullet Café in Ovando for a meal. If you live in the area, they’re offering to take and bake casseroles or you can call to arrange to purchase some of the beef produced by the ranch. If you’re a Missoulian, stop in at 1889 for a steak when they reopen.
  • Endorse the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act at blackfootclearwater.org/openletter.

Businesses all over our state have given their support to the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. They all could use our help now too. Here are some of the ways you can support BCSA endorsing businesses from Seeley Lake to Billings.

Folks near Seeley Lake can leave the cooking to the professionals by ordering to-go service from Lindey’s Prime Steak House, while those in Helena looking for a sweet treat can message Hub Coffee on Facebook to order whole pies, coffee beans, and gift cards. Even breweries, like Thirsty Street Brewing Co. in Billings, are offering pick-up and delivery options. If you’re using this time to research new outdoor gear or make a purchase, many local retailers, such as Great Divide Cyclery, Lary’s Fly Shop, and The Trail Head are offering shopping and product advice both online and over the phone. If you’d prefer to shop online and need new hiking boots, definitely visit Oboz. 

Finally, consider booking a future trip to fish our incredible Montana rivers with one of the many outfitters or guides that have endorsed the BCSA.

You can visit the full list of supporting businesses at blackfootclearwater.org. Even a little bit goes a long way during this time. Once we re-emerge from this challenging time, we look forward to your support as we move the BCSA through the Senate and House of Representatives.  

Erin Clark
Western Montana Field Director

Erin builds community support for the protection of western Montana's wild mountains and valleys, from the Bob Marshall to the Bitterroot to the Great Burn. She's a lifelong winter seeker and skier. When snow is hard to come by, she enjoys trail running and botanizing.
Email Erin