C magazine

Blackfoot Challenge creates harmony with Montana grizzly bears

Man standing by fence and cattle, with a light dusting of snow on the ground

Eric Graham and Blackfoot Challenge are using a CHS Seeds for Stewardship matching grant to help protect livestock and people from Montana’s growing grizzly bear population.

Dec 13, 2023

“Landowner-led and community-driven” is how Wildlife Program Coordinator Eric Graham describes his organization, Blackfoot Challenge, and the complex situation that faces residents in beautiful northwest Montana.

Area ranching families produce essential livestock with their growing cow-calf operations. Their impressive homesteads are part of the diverse landscape, which includes clear blue rivers and dense green and gold forests.

The grizzly bear population has also grown here over the last 20 years and grizzlies are often seen on private lands across Montana. Potentially a thrilling sight from afar, these creatures threaten vulnerable calves and even humans.

“My job is to get all the parties involved and help everyone communicate their needs so we can all live and work together,” says Graham.

Solutions he and the Blackfoot Challenge provide to maintain harmony include permanent and temporary fencing, bear-proof waste receptacles and carcass collection.

“We have the best customers in the world,” says Dusty Smith, operations manager for the CHS ag retail location at Missoula, Mont. “This is another way we can support them.” Smith nominated the Blackfoot Challenge for a CHS Seeds for Stewardship matching grant to help fund the program.

In this region where community means fish, livestock, wildlife and people, Graham and the Blackfoot Challenge are building connections and strengthening communities by making the landscape safe for people and wildlife.

Check out the full fall 2023 C Magazine with this article and more.

Read more stories about the impact of CHS Seeds for Stewardship grants: