Friday, January 29, 2010

Yogo Inn Joins Travelers for Open Land

Travelers for Open Land is pleased to welcome the Yogo Inn of Lewistown to the Travelers for Open Land family of participating businesses. Yogo sales manager Kathy Aery and the Yogo signed up for Travelers this week and will be fully up and running with the program in March. Welcome aboard, Yogo. We look forward to working with you and thank you for your participation.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Travelers for Open Land Awards Four Grants

The Travelers for Open Land Grant Review Panel met on Jan. 13, 2010,
and made the decision to award four $2,500 grants. Travelers is
announcing the grants through the press release attached here. This
press release is being sent to the major newspapers in Bozeman,
Missoula, Kalispell and Glasgow, to the Montana Associated Press, to
all Travelers program participants, will be posted on the TFOL and
MALT websites, and will be posted on the TFOL Facebook page.

Land trusts are being encouraged as well to help "spread the word" by
promoting the program internally and externally, within your
organization and to area news outlets, area organizations and others.

Travelers for Open Land extends a sincere thank you to Mike Scholz,
MacKenzie River Pizza, the Montana Community Foundation, the El
Western in Ennis, Best Western Grant Creek Inn in Missoula and all
the participating properties for making these grants possible. Thanks
also to the Montana Office of Tourism, Mercury CSC and the Western
Conservation Foundation for their help with and support of the
Travelers program.

Directors of a new program created in 2009 awarded four Montana land trusts a total of $10,000 on Jan. 13 to help protect open lands, improve wildlife habitat, provide recreational access and protect riparian areas in places like Valley County, on the Flathead River, along Rock Creek east of Missoula and on ranchland near the lower slopes of the Bridger Mountains.

Travelers for Open Land, launched in April 2009, is a partnership among the Montana Innkeepers Association, Montana Association of Land Trusts, the Montana Community Foundation, Montana Office of Tourism and other tourist-related businesses. The program seeks donations from travelers in Montana, which are collected by businesses participating in the program and used to fund competitive grants among land trusts for land conservation projects. In 2009, Travelers for Open Land raised $10,000, and four $2,500 grants were awarded through the program.

“We had outstanding grant applications that truly demonstrate the quality and diversity of land trust conservation projects across the state,” said Mike Scholz, owner of Buck’s T-4 Lodge and founder of the Travelers program. “Funds donated by Montana travelers and others are protecting the reasons we live here and why most people travel to Montana – to experience the open lands, view wildlife and recreate on private and public lands.”

“These grant awards are impressive accomplishments, considering we’re talking about a new program that was created in a down economy and depends on small donations,” said Stuart Doggett, executive director of the Montana Innkeepers Association. “Travelers has a ways to go to reach its potential, but the grants are proof the program’s off to a great start.”

The four grant awards, each for $2,500, are received by:

* Gallatin Valley Land Trust in Bozeman, for the 400-acre Half Circle Ranch project. The Half Circle Ranch conservation easement will protect a historical ranch that neighbors the Gallatin National Forest and will create a permanent trail across private land into the national forest. The Half Circle Ranch project has been approved for Gallatin County Open Land program funds, and is supported by a wide variety of conservation groups, state and federal agencies and others.

* The Nature Conservancy of Montana, for the 12,192-acre Cornwell Ranch project in northeastern Montana’s Valley County. The Cornwell conservation easement will help protect habitat for a variety of grassland birds in Montana, many of which have been designated highly imperiled or species of concern. The ranch currently provides recreational access through the Block Management Program and the project protects agriculture lands identified as Priority One for habitat protection by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

* Five Valleys Land Trust of Missoula, for the 157-acre Madsen-Rock Creek project. The Madsen-Rock Creek conservation easement will help protect a biologically rich Blue Ribbon trout stream less than one mile upstream from Rock Creek’s confluence with the Clark Fork River. The 157-acre parcel is the land trust’s highest priority for conservation on the lower Rock Creek and key partners in the project include Trout Unlimited, the Upper Clark Fork Restoration Program and the Missoula County Open Lands program.

* Flathead Land Trust in Kalispell, for the 837-acre Louden Family Farm/Church Slough project. The Louden Family Farm/Church Slough project is part of the Flathead River to Lake Initiative, a comprehensive effort to protect critical lands along the main stem of the Flathead River and the north shore of Flathead Lake. The Louden Family Farm/Church Slough project will help protect water quality, preserve critical habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, protect a productive family farm and enhance an already popular fishing, birding and recreational area.

“The grants demonstrate the potential importance of the Travelers program, and also highlight the need for increased donations through the program,” said Kris Hauck, owner of the El Western Cabins & Lodges in Ennis. “People come to Montana and come to Ennis to enjoy the open lands, and it’s the open lands that will keep bringing people back. Travelers for Open Land is good for the landscape and it’s also good for business.”

“The great thing about Travelers for Open Land is that it gives people an opportunity to help protect what makes Montana such a great place to live in and visit,” said Scholz. “It’s the only statewide program of its type in the nation, it’s completely voluntary and the donations can add up to have a tremendously positive impact.”

When visitors stay at a property participating in Travelers for Open Land, they are asked to make a small $1 or $2 donation in support of the program. Member properties for the voluntary program include hotels, dude ranches, bed and breakfasts, outfitters with lodging, fly fishing shops, rafting companies and other tourism-related properties and businesses. The funds are collected and sent to the Montana Community Foundation, the fiscal officer for the program. The funds are then awarded as grants to land trusts through a competitive grant program.

During 2009 the Travelers for Open Land program received a $2,000 contribution from the MacKenzie River Pizza Company as part of MacKenzie River’s High Plains promotion, which sought to promote tourism opportunities in eastern Montana.

Over 120 business properties in Montana are participating in the Travelers for Open Land program. For more information about Travelers for Open Land, visit the program’s website at

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We learned that if you ask, they will give

"We learned that if you ask, they will give"

NOTE: This is the first in a periodical series of interviews with people involved in the Travelers for Open Land program. We want to showcase the creativity, commitment and professionalism of the people who are implementing and improving the Travelers for Open Land program.

Lucy Weeder's career in the hospitality industry started in 1984, working at the Heritage Inn in Great Falls, Montana. She soon become front desk manager at the Heritage, then was promoted to assistant general manager. In 2001, she moved to Missoula and assumed duties as general manager of the Best Western Grant Creek Inn. Two years ago she became a partner in the business, and is currently on the Montana Innkeepers Association board of directors. Lucy (below) and the staff at the Best Western Grant Creek Inn are among Travelers for Open Land's most enthusiastic supporters.

Q: Why has the Best Western Grant Creek Inn been such a vocal advocate for the Travelers for Open Land program?

A: Well, at first, I didn't even know what the program was, or did. But then I learned more about the program's focus on private land conservation. As a native Montanan, I've seen the growth in Montana, especially here in the Missoula area and the Bitterroot Valley.

In our own hearts, I think we'd like to keep Montana's open lands the way they are. We can accommodate growth and economic development, but it shouldn't come at the expense of what's important to us and makes Montana so special. We'd like to keep our open lands so people can come back again and enjoy them now and in the future.

Being in tourism, I think we have to offer people something special that will bring them - and their kids - back here to visit.

Q: What kind of training did you and your staff have to better understand the Travelers for Open Land program?

A: We started out with the video (a three-minute video that is available for viewing on the Travelers for Open Land website at and the staff and I talked about what Montana meant to them. We talked about the people who come to our hotel who ask us what there is to see and what there is to do, and will that be available for them in the future. We have a lot people who stay here who want to do day trips, and they want maps of what to do and where to, hiking, the best route to the park. We want to help protect that for them.

So mainly, we talked about what we wanted Montana to look like 20 years from now. We've seen Missoula change, and like most Montanans, the staff here values open lands.

Q: What has been the staff's response to implementing Travelers for Open Land here at the Grant Creek Inn?

A: First, they had to get more comfortable and confident communicating with guests about the Travelers program (at check-in or check-out, the front desk staff at the Grant Creek Inn asks the guest if they'd like to make a small donation to Travelers for Open Land). The staff is more comfortable talking about it now than in the beginning, and like other new things, it takes a little time, and it starts with training and our commitment to be our best.

The staff knows it's a good program, and we have a modest rewards program for the desk staff that collects the most funds for the program.

Q: How is Travelers for Open Land working here at the Best Western Grant Creek Inn?

A: I think it's working, but it's still new, and I'd like to see us do better. The program makes sense, it's good for Montana and good for the hospitality industry, and I like being a part of it.
Q: What has been the customer response to the program?

A: It's funny, some people quickly say things like, "Put me down for $25." Support for the program comes from people you wouldn't necessarily think would support it.

Overall, people are interested in the program and interested in protecting open lands. I think they understand the premise and purpose of the program, and they like the voluntary aspects of the program.

We've learned that if you ask, they will give.

Q: Do you have any advice or insights for participating properties who are not as engaged in the program as you folks are at the Grant Creek Inn?

A: When people - guests - understand their small donation helps protect important open lands, they say yes. But it takes some training and commitment from the front desk staff to ask that question and engage with the guest.

In fact, I think it would be a good idea for you all at Travelers for Open Land to personally meet with front desk staff and front desk managers, and maybe the staff and management at other businesses participating in the program, to explain the benefits of the program. That interaction from you with the program might really help.

This is a great program. I think we can go a long way with it.