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Western Montana Stockmen discuss property reappraisal, wolves at winter meeting

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POLSON — “Got much snow out your way?” and “When do you start calving?” were some of the questions heard at the Western Montana Stockmen’s Association (WMSA) winter meeting and social. Ranchers gathered at the KwaTaqNuk Resort and Casino on Jan. 23 for a business meeting at 2 p.m.

WMSA President Greg Gardner chaired the meeting and steered the group through many reports and topics. 

During committee reports Ken McAlpin gave a report on taxes and reappraisal. 

“The good news is ag land came out better than commercial or residential land,” McAlpin said.

Taxes on ag land increased 29 percent, residential land 55 percent, forest land 52 percent and commercial land 34 percent McAlpin said.

After McAlpin’s report, Steve Hughes brought the membership up to date on the water rights negotiations. The Flathead Reservation is the only reservation in Montana that has not been compacted. Hughes said the technical teams from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the State of Montana are sharing data and working on water claims review.

Paul Guenzler told the members the Northwestern Farm Bureau matched the $1,000 the WMSA donated to APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). The money will go toward flying time in western Montana counties.

Joey Hennes, Manager, Northwest Farm Credit previewed a radio spot for the group. The advertisement on noxious weeds will start airing on Feb. 1 and will air three times a day on Eagle 93. Farm Credit is paying for half the cost with the WMSA paying the other half. 

Montana Stockgrowers Association Executive Vice President Errol Rice spoke about priorities at the state level that surfaced at a board of directors meeting two weeks ago. 

One issue for stockgrowers, Rice said, was “interfacing with the media in a proactive manner” as well as realizing how quickly information can be transmitted through social networks, such as FaceBook, blogs and Twitter.

The wolf issue was also critical for stockgrowers. Rice said better research needs to be conducted on how wolf harassment affects conception rates and average daily gain.

Another big issue was brucellosis. Montana regained its brucellosis-free status in June of 2009. Cattle in south Park County, southeast Gallatin County and parts of Madison and Beaverhead Counties are part of action plan B and will be surveyed since those cattle interface more with elk.   

From elk and brucellosis, the subject turned to the petition the WMSA has been circulating. The petition asked the Lake County Commissioners to levy a 50-cent tax per head on cattle nine months and older in Lake County. The money would be used for predator control if the petition was successful.

Since there are approximately 12,000 cows, not counting dairy cows and feedlot animals, in Lake County, the stockmen wanted to know if the $6,000 generated would do any good.

Kraig Glazier, USDA Wildlife Services, spoke to the group about the funding. Glazier said 75 percent comes from a federal earmark and 25 percent comes from stockgrowers. 

Glazier said a lot of people in the eastern part of the state are upset about money and time being taken from hunting coyotes to controlling wolves. 

In answer to a question from the group, Glazier said 121 wolves were killed in Montana last year, 73 during the hunting season. 

The Livestock Loss and Mitigation Board paid out just shy of $140,000 for lost livestock last year Glazier said although the true cost of the livestock is closer to $1.5 million according to the Mitigation Board.

Discussion turned to challenging other stockmen’s groups to donate money.

After discussing the issue, Terry Murphy moved to drop the petition and work on fundraising in other ways. The motion passed.

A motion to have the WMSA approach the legislature about what’s happening with the wolf licensing income and sending a resolution to the Montana Stockgrowers Association also passed.

In other business Lake County Extension Agent Jack Stivers talked to the members about grasshoppers and a two-mill levy to be assessed by the Lake County Commissioners when grasshoppers become an approved disaster. Three informational meetings will be held around the county, one on Feb. 10 at 3 p.m., one on Feb. 11 at the Lone Pine Hall and one on Feb. 17 at the Joe McDonald Fitness and Physical Education Facility on the Salish Kootenai College campus.

To finish up the meeting, members elected officers.

The slate of officers was Terry Murphy, President, Ken McAlpin, 1st Vice President, Kurt McPherson, 2nd Vice President, Jeff Malinak and Scott McAllister, Sanders County Directors, and Reese Middlemist, Director at Large.

With the business taken care of, the crowd socialized during happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m. sponsored by Stan and Joy Hochalter, Triple W Equipment. 

The KwaTaqNuk Resort and Casino outdid themselves with a roast beef dinner served buffet style.

After dinner, outgoing WSGA president Gardner received a buckle with his brand on it for his work on behalf of the stockgrowers.

Two lifetime achievement awards were presented — one to Lee Herman, longtime Niarada rancher, businessman and cowboy, and one to Jack Stivers, MSU Extension Agent. 

Lee, the son of John “Coke” and Louise Herman, graduated from Flathead High School in 1947. Lee and his wife Judy celebrated their 51st anniversary in September. The couple has four children, Patti, John, Bob and Kay, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

Lee comes from a long line of ranchers and stockgrowers. Lee’s granddad, Johnny Herman, and 11 other early ranchers formed the area’s first stockgrowers association in 1928, and Johnny was elected president. Lee’s father, Coke, was also active in the stockgrowers association, and Lee was WMSA President from 1968 to 1970.

Malinak asked how many saddles Lee had worn out before presenting him with a Montana Silversmith bronze. 

Stivers received a tooled leather notebook for his 19 years serving as Executive Secretary/Treasurer with the WMSA. The notebook has Stivers’ name and the WMSA logo on the front cover and “thank you from the Board of Directors” on the back cover.

Ken McAlpin, assisted by Sean Murphy who drew the names, and Paul Guenzler handed out door prizes before Bob Dalley, Vice President and CFO of Deseret Power, spoke to the group about how cap and trade works.

After Dalley’s speech the stockmen and women danced the night away to music provided by Skunk Alley from Hot Springs.

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