Articles written by Rob Rich

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  • Talkin' trash: Making an impact with Leave No Trace

    Rob Rich, Swan Valley Connections|Aug 12, 2021

    Twelve years ago, while backpacking in broad daylight, I came around a shady bend in the trail, only to find a full moon beaming against a tree. "Oh, I'm sorry," the woman exclaimed, shuffling up her pants and waddling into the brush. "I'm sorry too," I replied, and not merely for the awkward encounter or the unmistakably human stench. Her business was clearly not done, and her side-eyed grimace urged me on. But as I think back on it now, I'm sorry I never circled back to talk about $#!&ing in t...

  • Thinking like a beaver: A BDA primer

    Rob Rich, Swan Valley Connections|Feb 18, 2021

    In the first snow of October 2018, along Basin Creek outside of Butte, Montana, I volunteered to be a beaver. Or, lacking all the right anatomy, I at least tried to think and act how nature's best woodworkers might. In this restoration project – using simple cutting and digging tools, plus a dose of aquatic ingenuity – I worked with colleagues to mimic the masters and build a series of beaver dam analogues (BDAs). Such low-tech earth-shaping seemed shallow next to the chasm at the nearby Ber...

  • Our hours: SVC's legacy of Volunteer stewardship

    Rob Rich, Conservation and Education Associate- Swan Valley Connections|Aug 20, 2020

    While five-gallon buckets brimmed with sloshing water may be a close challenger, t-posts are some of the most awkward things to be carried. At just over 10 pounds apiece, with studded, irregular edges and sharp anchoring wings, schlepping one of these eight-foot steel specimens to a fence project is an unwieldy affair. Add in some uneven floodplain terrain, and the fact that most of us underestimate pinched fingers and balance points while trying to carry more posts than we should, and you have...

  • What happens when the elk cross the road?

    Rob Rich, Conservation and Education Associate- Swan Valley Connections|Mar 5, 2020

    The young driver was not hurt. At least not physically. She had only looked down for a second as her check engine light came on and, in that moment, her Jeep hit the elk. Hitting the 600-pound animal at 70 miles per hour, the light – and the animal's life – flickered out. Last year, when two of my co-workers got word of this accident, they printed off a Vehicle-Killed Wildlife Salvage Permit from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website, and within 30 minutes from impact, the three of us wer...

  • Living up to our name in the Swan Valley

    Rob Rich, Conservation & Education Associate - Swan Valley Connections|Oct 31, 2019

    A wetland in a valley with a swan swimming by would have looked pretty enticing for a westward settler on the heels of Lewis and Clark, and not just because it was beautiful scene. The habitat's maker could likely be guessed, and at the time, the real value seen in a wetland was in the beaver pelts it could offer, or, once the industrious rodents were removed, in the pasture it could promise. Although wetlands were buggy, fickle, and, well...wet, few homesteaders would have passed up a flat...

  • Learning together: 22 years of Swan Valley Connections' college field programs and counting

    Rob Rich, Swan Valley Connections|May 16, 2019

    It's May, and universities across the nation are growing quiet and empty. But in four days, college students will arrive in the Swan Valley for their first day of class. Since 1997, Swan Valley Connections' college field programs have welcomed over 200 students who come eager to learn through experiences unmatched by their typical classes, labs and lecture halls. Some come hungry for hands-on training in conservation field techniques. Others want a broader, deeper immersion in the tangled social...

  • Insects with impact: Helping manage bark beetles for healthy forests

    Rob Rich, Swan Valley Connections|Feb 28, 2019

    SWAN VALLEY – Winter is typically a quiet time of year, but come February, the phone at Swan Valley Connections (SVC) starts ringing. "Yes, the date is still April 15," I hear Leanna Grubaugh say down the hall. Leanna may be our longtime Office Manager but everyone in earshot knows she's not talking about tax day. She's talking about another kind of deadline, determined by the time when Douglas-fir beetles take flight. Douglas-fir beetles, along with the mountain pine beetles, are creatures w...

  • Working together with beavers is the answer

    Rob Rich, Condon, Mont.|Sep 13, 2018

    I’d like to thank the Pathfinder and Biologist Scott Eggeman for last week’s excellent column exploring the history, ecology and growing importance of beavers. As we increasingly face the unpredictable stresses of fires, droughts and floods, I appreciate Eggeman’s nod to the rodent’s keystone role in a resilient ecosystem. I’m thrilled to know that Torrey Ritter will be helping FWP to integrate beavers into the agency’s goals for watershed health and native fish recovery. Since much beaver habitat is currently unoccupied in our region, I c...

  • Montana's Most Unwanted: A New Monitoring Season Begins for Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

    Rob Rich, Swan Valley Connections|Jun 28, 2018

    Our Wildlife in the West students recently went fishing at Upsata Lake but they didn't want to catch anything, except maybe some plankton, aquatic insects or algae. Motored gently about in a small skiff by volunteer Barry Gordon, and led by Blackfoot Challenge's Caitlin Mitchell, we hand-reeled in a white, three-foot net on a hundred-foot rope. Shaped like a wizard's hat, our net yielded just a little draft of fluid the color of weak green tea, which we promptly conveyed into a 250mL plastic...

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