By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – One hundred years ago, the U.S. Congress adopted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act with the intention of protecting threatened avian populations. The act outlaws the possession or sale of select migratory birds and their nests, feathers or eggs, including eagles, hawks, bluebirds, chickadees and ravens.

To celebrate the centennial anniversary of this act, National Geographic is promoting programming centered around “Year of the Bird” and is committing to protecting birds for another hundred years.

As one of National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of the World,” Big Sky’s Lone Mountain Ranch has stepped up to the plate to recognize the impact birds have in the environment.

Randy Hall, a naturalist at the ranch, is thrilled to see birds take center stage.

“The idea is to awaken people to see birds on their feeder … to educate about birds and the ecosystem,” he said.

National Geographic has tasked each unique lodge to take meaningful action each month throughout 2018, either by building programs around avian education, or taking hands-on steps to increase the number of feathered friends on the landscape.

With snow melting in Big Sky, the ranch is preparing to open a 1- to 2-mile figure-8 trail that will be open for community members or guests to spend time learning about birds. Working with Bozeman’s Wild Birds Unlimited, Lone Mountain Ranch is building different bird feeders and houses designed to attract particular species. With benches scattered along the trail, walkers will be able to simply sit and listen to the birds.

“We’re hoping to create a walk where anyone in the community can come in and just enjoy birds,” Hall said.

He added that the ranch hopes to create a photography program and is working to track migrating birds this spring. Locals are invited to send photos and sighting accounts of any birds in the area to Hall, who will compile the information as a community journal.

Birds migrating into the area this spring include red-winged blackbirds, owls, robins, mountain bluebirds and red nuthatches, while the full-time residents include Clark’s nutcrackers, chickadees, eagles, hawks and ravens.

Beyond offering supplemental feeding, Lone Mountain Ranch has decided to take an active approach to promoting birds in the environment. Hall says this is important because birds impact various aspects of the ecosystem.

“They’re so small, we don’t really think about it, but [birds] are huge in pollination, in planting seeds; they eat insects and rodents that could interfere with our own food growth,” Hall said. “It’s actually quite a large role for such a little guy.”

To keep birds healthy in Big Sky, the ranch is working with partners from Sacajawea Audubon in Bozeman, as well as many others. They are designing appropriate feeders and birdhouses, planting native plants that offer natural food and protection, and also implementing noise reduction measures. Hall hopes the ranch will move toward quieter vehicles, he said, “So the birds—and really the wildlife—will return.

“While we’re trying to attract birds, we’re trying to also create environmental improvement and lessen our footprint,” he added, saying he’d like to see increased recycling at the ranch to remove plastics, which can be mistakenly consumed and lead to various health concerns.

To learn more about Lone Mountain Ranch’s “Year of the Bird” programming, visit lonemountainranch.com, and to participate locally in the migratory bird watch, email Randy Hall at randyh70@gmail.com. For more information on National Geographic, visit nationalgeographic.org.