Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) announced this week that the LaSalle Ranch of Havre has been nominated for the Region V Environmental Stewardship Award (ESAP), sponsored by DOW AgroSciences, funded by National Beef Checkoff dollars. LaSalle Ranch is a cow/calf and yearling operation mostly located within the boundaries of the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation. The LaSalles are members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and are the first Native American winners of Montana’s ESAP state-level award, which was announced in December 2013.
Each year, MSGA honors a Montana ranch that exemplifies environmental stewardship and demonstrates a commitment toward improved sustainability within the beef industry. This award recognizes Montana ranchers who are at the forefront in conservation and stewardship and are willing to serve as examples for other ranchers. Each year the state ESAP winner from Montana works with MSGA for the Regional, and eventual National, application process.
“The whole LaSalle family is very proud to be nominated for the regional and national recognition,” said Leon LaSalle, president of LaSalle Ranch. “We understand that if we take care of the land it will take care of us. Our ancestors lived in harmony with their environment and we try to do the same. This award means a lot to me personally, not for myself, but for my father who has spent a lifetime improving the environment—not only for us, but for numerous other farmers and ranchers throughout North Central Montana.”
LaSalle Ranch is operated by the LaSalle family: Leon and his wife Shannon, his father Robert L. and mother Jenny, and brother Robert W. and his wife Susie are all involved in the operation. Leon and Robert W. represent the third generation to ranch in the area. Their grandfather, Frank Billy, was one of the first Chippewa Cree Tribal members to enter the livestock industry after World War II.
LaSalle Ranch has partnered with the Montana Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Natural Resource Department, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to implement conservation practices and a planned grazing system to protect environmentally sensitive areas on the ranch. They have installed over seven miles of stock water pipelines, 25 wildlife-friendly watering facilities, and 10 miles of cross fences.
A major focus of the LaSalle family’s efforts has been Beaver Creek, which flows into Beaver Creek County Park, the largest county park in the U.S. This park is a very popular summer recreation area for Hill County and surrounding county residents who enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, and picnicking. The park is located on the downstream border of the LaSalle’s grazing allotment. The LaSalles have worked to keep cattle off the sensitive riparian areas of the creek by developing eight off-stream water developments, utilizing solar energy to pump livestock water to higher elevations to take grazing pressure off riparian areas and allow even grazing use of the pastures, and installing 3.5 miles of riparian area protection fences. These efforts have resulted in improved water quality in the headwaters of this watershed and a more pleasant environment for recreationalists.
The Regional ESAP winners will be announced in July at the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver, Colorado. Regional winners will be nominated for the National award, which will be announced February 2015 at the Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio, Texas. Since 1992, MSGA has honored 21 state winners, ten of whom went on to win the regional award and two named national award winners. To learn more, visit www.mtbeef.org/mesap.