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Gary Giem on the legacy of agriculture, listening & canoe racing


Gary Giem on his ranch in Twin Bridges, Montana.

Where do you live?


One of the best places I could be. My front door opens up to recreational experiences people drive miles and miles to get to. We don’t get to recreate often, but we still get to enjoy having that kind of place to live.


Describe your history with this land. How are you connected to the Ruby Valley?

Open space provided by ranches like Gary's is key habitat for deer and other wildlife.

I am the third generation on our ranch; my daughter Cari is the fourth generation to run this place. The house where my daughter lives is where I grew up. The road here, this mile or so, we’ve been here since 1917. We’ve been here a good long while.


What do you do for work?


I do the things it takes to run a ranch. It depends on the day; sometimes we irrigate, sometimes we calve cows, and sometimes we farm, spray weeds, and fix the equipment that breaks down. You have to know how to do a lot of things to run a ranch. I don’t know if we do any of it great, but we have to know how to do a lot.


What do you do for fun?


To my wife’s chagrin, I'm just happy being here on the ranch. I’m not much of a traveler. We used to canoe right here on the Big Hole River; I did a little canoe racing when I was younger. There used to be a race they had in Three Forks with a canoe race, a 6 km run, and a 10-mile bicycle ride. We got third over there one year, best we ever did. It was fun.

Gary (left) manning the stern on a float down the Big Hole River.

What is the vision and goals for the RVSA?


I think the goal is to retain a good partnership and common voice as we go forward in order to help conservation in the area — whatever it takes. The conservation groups have been really good about helping ranchers, but they are going to need help too. I think some of us ranchers are going to have to repay the favor. You can't expect something for nothing. We’ve been really lucky to have people that are willing to understand; we’ve had the same thing through the Ruby Valley Conservation District. Folks don’t necessarily agree on everything, they just know that we’re all people trying to get things done. I think that’s the main thing that comes out of this - hopefully our goals are common enough that we are able to achieve them.


What do you look forward to while working with this group?


I enjoy the personalities. Everyone's congenial, but professional and treats each other with respect. We haven’t had any blow ups over anything, which is pretty amazing, but it’s because of our commitment, the commitment to try and make the group work.


What are some lessons others could take from RVSA?


People listen. I think everybody does sit back and listen to what the other points of view are. That’s one of the most important things — if you sit back and listen, then you can communicate about tough topics. If you don’t listen, you're not really communicating. If you're thinking more about what you want to say than what someone else is saying you're not going to accomplish much. Also, the respect we have for each other. We’ve been blessed with a really great bunch of people.


"That’s one of the most important things — if you sit back and listen, then you can communicate about tough topics. If you don’t listen, you're not really communicating. "

What do you wish someone who didn’t know anything about the RVSA could understand?


We all have a common interest in making things better through conservation in the Ruby Valley, whether it be wildlife habitat or open land for us ranchers. I think too few people understand how important that is.

A bull moose strolls through Gary's front yard.

What hasbeen surprising to you about the RVSA?


For the most part, I was pleased to see that we have great people who are trying to understand our side of the story — and I hope we do that for the conservation folks. They don’t have to help, but we’ve been really lucky they have. They've been willing to look at our side of the story, and it’s important to us. Ranchers would lose our operations if we didn’t have public land, and conservation folks would lose conservation gains without private land.


"Ranchers would lose our operations if we didn’t have public land, and conservation folks would lose conservation gains without private land."

What is your hope for Ruby Valley?


I hope we can keep enough of the Valley here to have it stay somewhat like it is. It’s going to be hard as other counties grow and grow; it will be cheaper to buy over here, I'm afraid. You know, Rick Sandru’s kids are staying on his ranch and Cari is staying here — if we can keep our kids involved with ranching, and it takes commitment to want to do that, we can prevent subdivision.


Gary, chair of the Ruby Valley Conservation District's (RVCD) Board of Directors, speaking at the RVCD's annual banquet. (Photo Judy Sandru)

What is your personal theme song/walk song?


I always liked Janice Joplin and the song Mercedes Benz

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