blackfoot challenge (Ovando, MT)


  • Name:gary burnett
  • Title:executive director

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:blackfoot challenge
  • Address:405 main street
    pob 103
    Ovando, MT 59854
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:4067935830

Organization Web

User Email


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  • Mission:
  • The Blackfoot Challenge’s mission is to coordinate efforts to conserve and enhance the natural resources and rural way of life in the Blackfoot Watershed of
    Western Montana.

  • Overview:
  • In the 1970s, a few Blackfoot Watershed residents began to realize the need for collaboration as conflicts brewed between private landowners and recreation enthusiasts attracted to the region’s wealth of fish, wildlife, natural resources and scenic beauty. In 1992, the Blackfoot River was listed as one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the United States due to a century of unsustainable practices including mining, livestock grazing and timber harvest. Housing development, increased recreational use and the spread of noxious weeds were also beginning to impact the overall health of the river. The impacts to Blackfoot water quality and fisheries associated with these land uses generated interest in river management and enforcement via top-down, agency-led planning and decision-making.

    Today, the legacy of many of these issues lingers, although our approach to solving problems has changed dramatically. From ranchers to fishing outfitters, the diverse stakeholders who share this watershed are working to balance their water needs with each other. Because of the river’s native fisheries, including threatened bull trout, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks holds an in-stream flow right on the Blackfoot that sets minimum flow targets. The need to protect this important fishery led to the development of the Blackfoot Drought Response Plan, in an effort to balance the sacrifice made by all competing water users. In the last 15 years, low flows have triggered drought response measures nine times, demonstrating the new reality for river flows with changing climate patterns. At the same time as ranchers and fishing outfitters deal with the economic impacts of drought, local municipalities have their own water concerns.

    Adding to the water quantity challenges, water quality has also become a priority in conjunction with a decade-long process of developing TMDLs. TMDLs have been written for the Blackfoot River proper as well as most tributaries, with sediment, temperature, nutrients and metals all identified as problems that require a response. The Blackfoot Challenge has made a commitment to find voluntary, incentive-based solutions rather than regulation to solve water quality concerns and to help motivate community participation in the restoration process.

    While aquatic resources are a driving priority of the Blackfoot Watershed, it is important to note that the region is also home to terrestrial threatened and endangered species. Grizzly bears, lynx and wolves wander the landscape among small communities, croplands and grazing cattle. The Challenge has invested in innovative approaches to minimizing wildlife-human conflicts to ensure we can maintain the full complement of wildlife alongside sustainable traditional farming and ranching activities.

  • History:
  • The Blackfoot Challenge formed in 1993 to follow an inclusive, consensus‐based approach to coordinate efforts that conserve and enhance the natural resources and rural way of life in the Blackfoot Watershed. Today, the group remains a cooperative of local landowners, federal and state land managers, local government officials, community leaders and corporate landowners. Work is driven by stakeholder committees who operate on a consensus basis that has led to tangible results that include:

    Committees and Outcomes

    Conservation Strategies Committee - Keeping Landscapes Working
    o 83% of watershed in conserved status
    o 41,000 acres of public and private land managed by a community council

    Education Committee - Connecting Classrooms & Communities through Place‐Based Education
    o Educating 500 youth each year since 1993
    o Reaching 2,000 adults each year since 2004

    Forestry Committee - Making Communities Safe and Maintaining Forest Health
    o Treating an average of 500 acres of forest at risk of severe wildfire each year since 2009

    Outreach Committee - Transferring the Lessons Learned through Cooperative Conservation
    o Approval for private landowner advisory group to Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture
    o Formation of Partners for Conservation as national voice for community ‐based approach
    o Model for National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Landscape Conservation Stewardship
    o Partner with The Nature Conservancy for community‐based solutions with land ownership change

    Water Resources Committee - Water for Agriculture and Fish
    o Conserving 50 cfs water during Drought Response since 2002; 32 million gallons in 2013
    o 80% of major irrigation systems participating in the irrigation/energy efficiency program
    o Nearly 100 fishing outfitters engaged in education on voluntary fishing technique restrictions to protect native fish

    Weeds Committee - Managing Noxious Weeds across Fence Lines
    o Managing an average of 15,000 acres of invasive weed treatment each year since 2000

    Wildlife Committee - Reducing Conflicts between Predators and Livestock
    o Reducing grizzly bear conflicts by 94% since 2003
    o Reducing wolf conflicts since 2008

    We value working landscapes that enrich our lives and drive the economy of our communities. Our landscape level conservation has drawn attention to our approach. And although this approach has received national attention as the 21st century solution to conservation, we realize that we must increase relationship building with funders and decision‐makers if we are to develop lasting, landscape solutions. This relationship building will be in collaboration with others that share our values of consensus, developing trust, and creating durable solutions supported with good science.

  • Year established:1993
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:21
  • Advisory board size:
  • Staff size:11


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:None
  • Tax ID: