Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

For the past dozen years, Missoula County has recognized one private property owner each year for their efforts to care for the land upon which they live and the resources and wildlife that inhabits it.

This week, the 2022 Missoula County Land Stewardship Award went to Barb and Joe Raible. The couple lives on 120 acres near Conden on land homesteaded by Barb's parents.

“They've worked to create a forest management plan for their property that helps guide forest harvest and bidding projects to improve the forest condition while protecting sensitive riparian habitat,” said Kali Becher, a natural resource specialist with the county.

The county created its Land Stewardship Award in 2011 to recognize the role private landowners play in resource conservation through good stewardship.

Awards are considered by a number of factors, including overall conservation achievement and benefits to the natural resources. Other measures include stewardship techniques an the lasting benefits to the landscape.

Becher said the Raibles are well-deserving of this year's award. Among other things, they worked with the Montana Land Alliance to place a portion of the property under a conservation easement in 2013.

“They've also encouraged beavers to use that wetland area on their property,” she said. “It really helps sustain the complex riparian and wetland habitat.”

Nominees of the award are reviewed and selected by the Land Stewardship Award Selection Committee, which is comprised for rural landowners and resource professions within the county. The committee's selections are then reviewed by the Open Lands Advisory Committee and finally by county commissioners.

Past recipients included Mark Vander Meer in 2017, who was recognized for his forest management sites near Gold Creek, and Denny and Charlotte Iverson, who received the award last year.

The Iverson Ranch is located in the Potomac Valley and the family was recognized for its “active and innovative” agricultural production and conservation efforts.

“It's a program created by commissioners in 2011 to recognize the positive impacts made by private landowners through their land management practices benefiting wildlife, rivers and streams,” said Becher. “It's an opportunity to share these stories about what landowners are doing in these really innovative practices they're undertaking on their land.”

Commissioners planned to visit the Raibles on Friday in Condon to issue the award.