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A Glimpse of the Centennial Valley

Kara Maplethorpe presents on the Centennial Valley.

This post is a part of a series reviewing the stops along the 2019 Missouri Headwaters Watershed Tour.

Out of the rain and under the shelter of a pavilion at Bannack State Park, Kara Maplethorpe, the executive coordinator for the Centennial Valley Association, passed framed pictures around to Missouri Headwaters Watershed Tour attendees. With so many stops along the tour, there wasn’t enough time to dip a bit further south into the Centennial Valley, but the pictures gave a glimpse at the big and beautiful landscape of the Valley.

Credit: Sarah Malarik, CVA

The Centennial Valley, in the Red Rock Watershed, is one of the few undeveloped landscapes in the Upper Missouri and is home to iconic wildlife species including wolves, grizzly bears, elk, moose, sage-grouse, and Arctic grayling, all of which use the valley as a vital migration corridor from the Greater Yellowstone to protected landscapes in Idaho and the Crown of the Continent. The Centennial is also a productive, working landscape that has been ranched by multi-generational families for over one hundred years and is summer range for over 12,000 cattle. One-third of the landscape is private land, owned by families who share the same goal: to conserve the integrity of the land that benefits both ranching and wildlife. Landowners are stewards of this landscape and are the reason why much of it still looks like it did a century ago.

The Centennial Valley Association (CVA) formed in 2007 to preserve traditional ranching as a way of life in the valley and to maintain quality open space, wildlife habitat, water quality ,and wildlife migration corridors as they exist today for future generations. CVA creates opportunities and rallies landowners, agencies, and community members to unite and support agriculture and conservation by providing a community forum to successfully establish change in the valley. Along with its many partners, CVA has made collaborative, community-based approaches to support invasive weed management, conflict reduction, drought awareness, education and outreach programs, and community and visitor safety.

A sow and two cubs feast on a carcass in the Centennial Valley.

To preserve the ecological, functional, and traditional values of the Centennial Valley, amidst the increasing presence of predators on the landscape, CVA initiated the Range Rider program in 2014. Currently, 6 ranches and about 8,000 cattle participate in the program. The program’s main goal is to reduce the number of unconfirmed cattle losses in the Centennial Valley by increasing human presence, reducing predator attractants on the landscape, identifying landscape hazards that could create attractants, and monitoring the presence of predators and understanding how they use the landscape spatially and temporally. In cases of depredation, or suspected depredation, Range Riders assist ranchers in taking the appropriate actions. The program is critical for sustainable, traditional ranching and large predators thriving together on a shared landscape.

Beyond wildlife on the landscape, the Centennial Valley has a mosaic of healthy, native plant communities and relatively few established invasive weeds established due to years of community efforts. The Invasive Species Management Program follows the Early Detection, Rapid Response (EDRR) model, which increases the likelihood that invasive species populations will be discovered, contained, and eradicated; slows the range of expansion; and decreases the need for costly long-term control efforts. CVA coordinates and leads the EDRR practices in a collaborative effort with The Nature Conservancy, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Bureau of Land Management, Beaverhead County, Taft-Nicholson Center, Forest Service, DNRC, and dedicated landowners. Together, they work to map weed locations on public lands, organize and assist in “Spray Days” and “Weed Weeks,” and educate the public on invasive species.

To find out more about the Centennial Valley Association and the work they do, including updates on the Range Rider program, visit their website.