Western Montana Stockman’s Association awards 2021 Heifer Scholarships

2021 WMSA Heifer Scholarship recipients prepare to greet their bovines in Ronan on Saturday, January 30.  Photo Courtesy of Svetlana Harper


by Stacy Bender

The Western Montana Stockman Association (WMSA) met with seventeen young 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) members on Saturday, January 30, to award this year’s Scholarship Heifers to those who had shown through letters of intent both their interest and potential ability to thrive within its program specifically designed to mentor youth on breeding and raising cattle.
“WMSA is making available a herd building heifer program to develop youth in the cattle business by awarding a yearling heifer to youth chosen by our Board of Directors through our application process,” read the announcement which went out to young farm-minded students across Lincoln, Flathead, Sanders, Lake, Mineral and Missoula counties this past Fall. “This program is designed to encourage members of 4-H and FFA to start and develop their own herd of cattle.”
Applications were open to those between the ages of 10 and 16 who were willing to accept the commitment that goes along with receiving a WMSA scholarship heifer.  Heifers must be enrolled in a 4-H or FFA beef project and then exhibited at respective County Fairs this year.
An additional appearance at the 2021 WMSA futurity event is optional but highly recommended.  Each recipient must keep a detailed records book on the care and management for their heifer.  Periodic check-ins throughout the year with Stockmen committee members will transpire to be certain the heifers are properly cared for and in good health.
Once each recipient reaches the 1-year milestone with their heifer, they will then be required to present a full display in both pictures and detailed record books at the 2022 Annual Meeting for WMSA, to be held next January.  Provided all expectations have been met for the scholarship program, each 4-H or FFA member will then receive full ownership of their animal.  During the first year, the heifers are jointly owned with the WMSA.
Among the seventeen youth awarded the opportunity to work with the heifer program in coming months were two members of the Kootenai Kids and Critters 4-H Club of Troy.  Zeeannah Reid, 15, and Nick Harper, 13.  Both are active members in the local 4-H chapter who have between them worked with and/or raised just about any farm animal one could likely list.


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Good Neighbor Authority Timber Sale in Libby to begin operations

Press Release

Monday, February 1



HELENA, Montana – Governor Greg Gianforte announced today that the first Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) Timber Sale in Lincoln County is scheduled to begin operations this month.

“The Good Neighbor Authority Timber Sale in Libby is a promising step forward as we work to more actively manage our federal lands. I’m committed to increasing our use of the Good Neighbor Authority so we can have healthier forests, prevent catastrophic wildfires, improve wildlife habitat, increase recreational opportunities, and bring back good-paying Montana timber jobs,” Governor Gianforte said.

The GNA project named “Skidale” is located approximately one mile southwest of the intersection of US Hwy 2 and MT 37, on the Parmenter Creek Road. The project was analyzed by the U.S. Forest Service under the Skidale Wildfire Resiliency Project and signed in October 2019 by Libby District Ranger, Nathan Gassmann.

“The Skidale Good Neighbor Authority project is a significant success story! While small in acreage it has been one of our most critical areas in our community wildfire protection plan,” Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck said.

The Good Neighbor Authority was permanently established under the 2014 Farm Bill. It allows states, counties, and tribes to enter into agreements to work as agents of the federal government and conduct authorized restoration services on National Forest System Lands. Using GNA, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation entered into an agreement with the Kootenai National Forest to prepare, award, and administer harvest activities for the GNA Skidale project.

“The Skidale project is a great example of how agencies working together can get more work done,” Libby District Ranger Nathan Gassmann said.

The state contract was awarded to Kneller Logging, Inc., of Libby for $45.71 per ton. Operations are expected to start this month. During this period of activity, the trail system will be put on a closure order for public safety due to felling, skidding and processing activities while the sale is underway. Trail closure signs will be posted at all access points.


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A stump with a story!

This spring board stump is a natural monument to history with its fire scarred trunk, mossy base, red-shafted flicker hole and springboard notch. When this tree was logged it was essential practice to cut larger trees above the swell of the trunk and eliminate less desirable portions of the log, usually with ring shake. For the higher cut, a springboard was used. Notches were chopped into the tree using an axe, then a board was wedged into the notch to accommodate the standing sawyer while using a cross-cut saw or axe to fall the tree.  Photo by Brian Baxter, The Montanian

  1. Neil’s Park historic gem for community

by Brian Baxter


Less than a mile northeast from Libby as the Bald eagle flies, on a terrace that was created as the Kootenai River was reestablishing itself after the last glacial period, lies J. Neil’s Park. Even prior to that glacial period, the river had flowed through this area and deposited glacial till in lower topographical areas. Rock deposited here came from as far away as Canada.

As the glacial ice melted and retreated around 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, the river started moving through the original channel if followed before the glacial period. Parts of the river course have now eroded all the way down to bedrock, leaving high terraces of reworked glacial silts, clays, and gravels.

Several Kootenai National Forest (KNF) geologists have contributed to information now known. As recent as several hundred to several thousand years ago, Native Peoples occupied benches and riverside locations along the Kootenai River.

Archaeologists working for KNF, including Becky Timmons and Mark White, were privileged to research sites of such encampments, pictographs, digs and finds, and even suspected locations of David Thompsons Party trading posts of the early 1800’s. Aaberg Cultural Resource Consulting Service also found evidence of Indian artifacts and trading posts near modern day Libby, Rainy Creek and along the big bend where the Fisher River and Kootenai River confluence occurs.

Prior to becoming Lincoln County property, the land where J. Neils park is now located had various owners including the Anaconda Mining Company, J. Neils Lumber Company, and Northern Pacific Railroad. During the early 1900’s, J. Neils and the Anaconda outfit logged the area.

Around 1933, the U.S. Forest Service acquired the land and employed a group of Civilian Conservation Corps workers to build a landing strip. Clearing and construction took over a year to complete and an airstrip was in service from approximately 1934 to 1966.

The aviation hub was utilized as a firebase, aerial reconnaissance center, and a transport point for firefighting from one of the original Libby Forest Service Headquarters building just north of the strip. When the new and still current Libby airport was built, the former landing field was converted to a park.

Fast forward to more modern times, J. Neil’s Park was officially named and dedicated in 2001after Julius Neils, founder of the J. Neil’s Lumber Company which played a vital role in the local economy from 1911 to 1957. Members of the Libby Chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF) often gather for workdays in the park as it is a forested county park that is largely under the stewardship of chapter volunteers.


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