Rangeland improvement focus of new technician

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

Loni Blackman reviews projects at her desk Thursday morning. Blackman is the new range technician for this area, part of the Montana Rangelands Partnership.

Photo by Deb Hill

Loni Blackman is here and available to answer landowner questions about range management. That’s the primary message Blackman hopes she can broadcast the Central Montana community, as she has recently been hired to fill the Lewistown-based range technician position by the Montana Rangelands Partnership.

With an office in the NRCS building across the street from the hospital, Blackman will be working across Fergus, Petroleum, Blaine and Phillips counties to provide technical assistance, tools and education to landowners who want to improve rangeland health.

Healthy rangelands have always been of concern to Blackman, who grew up on a cattle ranch near Craig, Montana, north of Helena. In high school she was active in FFA, participating in the Montana Range Days and other competitions.

“If it was a range contest, I was in it,” she said.

Blackman attended Montana State University where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in rangeland ecology, with a minor in economics. She spent the last three summers working out of Roundup on a sage grouse project, but was anxious to get her foot in the door for a full-time position.

The position she now holds is a step in that direction, as it is full-time but is grant-funded. The funding runs out in 2019.

“I knew Emily Standley, who had this position before I did,” Blackman said. “I knew her job was coming open [Standley was hired as the Fergus County extension agent]. I think I applied within half an hour of when it opened.”

With her interest in outreach, and her education and training in range conservation, Blackman may be a perfect fit. Working with her counterpart in Miles City, the two have already begun to develop educational forums to help producers improve rangeland health. In addition, Blackman has already met with clients in what she calls, “kitchen table” discussions.

Blackman said she is looking forward to meeting new clients and she encourages anyone with rangeland questions to contact her by email at loniblckman@macdnet.org, or to drop by her desk at the NRCS office, 211 McKinley Street in Lewistown.

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