Wealthy newcomers a dilemma for rural Montana Culture clash: A state promotional film seeks to ease the frictions with locals

Roger Lang says he was an ”absolute novice” about what it truly meant to be a Montana ranch owner when he used some of his Silicon Valley millions to buy an 18,000-acre spread here.

Now, seven years later, Lang has advice for others desiring a big slice of Big Sky Country, where owning a ranch has gained a certain cachet from celebrity buyers such as Ted Turner, Tom Brokaw and David Letterman.

”I think when you come as an outsider, the most important thing is to admit what you are and admit what you aren’t,” Lang says in a new, short film produced by the state wildlife agency and a cattlemen’s group. ”I’m not a rancher by background, and I’m learning how to be a rancher from my friends here in the community.”

The film, ”Owning Eden,” is an attempt to help wealthy outsiders shopping for ranches understand the big picture of life in rural Montana.

By Susan Gallagher
The Associated Press

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Montana Stockgrowers Assn.


A West that works
Ranching with wolves

A rancher in Montana’s wildlife-rich Madison Valley puts wildlife first
and creates a healthier ecosystem for wolves, elk and cattle

By Courtney White
for Headwaters News

When Todd Graham took over as manager of the Sun Ranch he didn’t realize that camping with cattle was part of the job description.

But that’s exactly where Graham found himself less than a month after starting work – sleeping in a tent in a pasture amidst a herd of yearling cattle. And he was there for a good reason.

He had a den of gray wolves as neighbors.

He decided to place himself between the den and the cattle. If the wolves came for the livestock, they would encounter him first.

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New Mexicans by now are well aware that our neck of the woods isn’t the only one being bought up, for better, worse or somewhere in between, by ricos.

And it isn’t just the Santa Fes, the Taoses, the Apens and the Jacksons; up and down the Rockies, aging ranch and farm familes, short of kids to take over the place, are selling their spreads — often to ilustres or others who’ve made their fortune among the city lights and hanker for a large helping of rustic.

Some take to their new surroundings like, well, like long-time Westerners. Others, who come from lands of doormen, valet parking and personal security guards, put up big gates — with strong locks.

So we read with delight a recent story from the Associated Press out of Montana, a state even bigger than ours, where, little by little, working ranches are giving way to part-time retreats for corporate big-shots and entertainment-world eminences.

The Treasure State stockgrowers’ association, along with its game, fish and parks department, has produced a short movie showing newly arrived ranch buyers how to get along with the locals.

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