Ray Marxer, manager of the historic 250,000-acre Matador Cattle Co. south of Dillon, along with his wife Sue, have won the first National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award.
The award is sponsored by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Wildlife Management Institute, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Wildlife Society, and the American Fisheries Society
This is the second national award the Marxers have won this year. Last month, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association presented the Matador Cattle Co. with its National Environmental Stewardship Award.
Nominations for the first National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award came from Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Each nominee was chosen by professional fish and wildlife managers.
"The Matador is a showcase of environmentally sound management practices, and the Marxers use the ranch and their work to teach others about caring for the land for the long term," said FWP Director Pat Graham, who nominated the Marxers for the award. "Whether they are working with agency biologists to explore better ways to manage the resource, or conducting ranch tours to help educate the public about real-world land management, the Marxers display leadership through both work and deed."
The award will be presented by Roger Holmes, president of International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, on Tuesday, March 30 during the 64th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Burlingame, Calif.
The Matador Cattle Company, one of the earliest established ranches in Montana, was founded in 1865 by Poindexter & Orr. Since 1951, the ranch has been under the ownership of Koch Industries, Inc. of Wichita, Kansas. Ray Marxer has worked for the ranch for 24 years, hiring on as a cowboy in 1974 and being appointed ranch manager in 1990.
The Matador's attention to environmental ranching practices dates to the early 1970s with the installation of rest-rotation grazing on the 80,000-acre Sage Creek Ranch. The new grazing system not only improved the land for livestock but also increased the elk population from a low of 56 to 400 head of resident elk. The ranch now has a winter population of more than 1,500 elk.
"We've learned through the different things we've done that in order for a biological system to be healthy, it requires periodic rest and periodic harvest, " Ray Marxer said. " We've worked hard to find a balance, and try to apply the most beneficial practices that benefit not only wildlife and resources, but our business and economy as well. By taking a proactive approach to life, business, and towards environmental issues, you are more likely to be able to direct change rather than react to it."
The Marxers have directed the Matador's endeavors in selective timber harvests, fish habitat improvements, additional grazing experiments in stream-side areas, water-use efficiency measures, and a feedlot runoff containment system to protect water quality. The ranch is now working on a joint project with FWP and the federal Bureau of Land Management to reestablish the westslope cutthroat trout in more than two miles of Bear Creek.
The Matador ranch is located in southwestern Montana. It borders Idaho and includes some lands within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Matador also borders the Blacktail Wildlife Management Area and Red Rocks Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, and utilizes grazing allotments in Wilderness Study Areas.