By Siri Fossel Jack Creek Preserve Foundation
BIG SKY–The Jack Creek Preserve
took a number of major steps toward
its mission of wildlife conservation and
youth education this past year.
The seventh annual youth camp taught
56 attendees outdoor skills ranging
from archery to outdoor photography.
The preserve also sponsored a wildlife
after-school program and an archery
day camp for young people from Big
Sky, and provided instruction for a
summer day camp in Ennis. Altogether,
a total of 353 people utilized the
preserve and its services in 2011, up 89
percent from 2010.
A group of Duke University graduate
students are creating a strategic plan
to guide the preserve in achieving the
proper balance between expanding
educational activities and protecting
wildlife and its habitat.
The preserve provided college scholarships
to Ryan Hamilton and Madison
Traucht from Harrison High School,
and also awarded a number of science
fair prizes to students from the Ennis
and Big Sky schools who presented outstanding
projects relating to conservation.
Architectural plans for the Conservation
Education Center have been
completed, and fundraising has started.
Designed as an outdoor classroom for
up to 50 people, the center will serve
students and teachers from around the
country. There will be an indoor classroom
area, overnight accommodations
and cooking facilities. A wide variety of
conservation and wildlife exhibits will
feature topics like wolves, forest fires,
hunting and logging.
The center will serve as the nucleus
for an interpretive nature trail system,
which will connect the north and south
sections of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.
Construction of these trails started this
year, with help from Big Sky and Ennis
high school students. In addition, Ennis
Eagle Scout Matt Skillman built a
handicapped accessible footbridge over
East Hammond Creek to connect the
Conservation Center to the 3D archery
range and other portions of the trail system.
To help meet operating expenses, the
preserve auctions off six archery and
one rifle elk hunt each year. The hunts
are auctioned through the Rocky
Mountain Elk Foundation, the Pope
and Young Club, and the Montana
Bowhunters Association. Joanie Spears,
from Wyoming, shot a bull scoring 320
points. Horace Smith, from Florida,
shot a bull scoring 344 points. Due to
September’s unseasonably hot weather
the archery season was difficult and
climbs into the high country were essential.
Nonetheless, two bow hunters
were successful. 15-year-old Katie
Dunn, who never drew her recurve
bow but came close several times,
described her hunt as a “memorable experience.”
Each year, the preserve also offers a
bear or elk hunt to severely wounded
veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars.
This year’s bear hunter was an army
soldier from Georgia, Josh Holubz,
who’d suffered such serious machine
gun injuries that he was originally
pronounced dead. He shot a beautiful
cinnamon bear on the second day of his
hunt and was a patriotic inspiration to
those of us who met him.
The preserve added a full-time Executive
Director, Katie Alvin, to work
with Alde Feskanin to help achieve its
mission. Additionally, four new members
were elected to the Board. They included:
Mike Baugh, western regional
chairman for the Rocky Mountain Elk
Foundation; Robert Garrott, Professor
of Ecology at MSU, Kevin Germain,
Director of Planning and Development
at Moonlight Basin, and Dan Metzger,
CEO and Chairman of OppSource, Inc.
Many organizations and individuals
helped support activities on the
preserve, making it an exciting and