Sportsman hosts bighorns to benefit Wild Horse

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Folks turned out in tall order to help an iconic Flathead Valley business celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Sportsman & Ski Haus pulled out all the stops by offering big sales, free food and drink, and special events on two consecutive weekends in June.

But the employee-owned business wasn’t satisfied with just generating foot traffic, it marked the celebration by raising money for the Montana State Parks Foundation, an entirely appropriate beneficiary for a company whose merchandise and mission cater to those who love and live in the great outdoors.

Both Sportsman & Ski Haus Kalispell and Whitefish stores sold commemorative 50th anniversary cups. For a $5 donation, customers could have their cups filled with the beverage of their choice. Together the two locations raised $3,000 for the Parks Foundation.

The Foundation has earmarked the funds for a project in 2019 in conjunction with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to improve the wild sheep habitat improvement on Wild Horse Island. The Foundation also hopes to enlist the help of the Montana Conservation Corps.

Representatives from FWP were on hand at Sportsman during the anniversary celebration, drawing crowds with its display of a Boone & Crockett world record Rocky Mountain bighorn ram skull along with two other top-10 ram skulls from Wild Horse Island State Park on Flathead Lake.

“I thought it was a fantastic idea to host a fundraiser in the Flathead Valley where we could showcase the world record ram skull and the others from Wild Horse Island,” Coby Gierke, executive director of the Parks Foundation said in a press release. “Folks in the Flathead really seem to appreciate their parks and this was a great opportunity to share a great story from a local park with a big audience.”

Discovered on the island in 2016, the rams included a 9-year old that died of natural causes and shattered the previous Boone & Crockett record for horns by nearly seven inches.

The island is well known for its bighorn sheep herds and has played an integral role in the recovery of the bighorns in the Western U.S. and Canada. Through the years, FWP has transplanted its sheep to places where populations have suffered from disease outbreaks and disappearing habitat.

A three-mile loop hike to the top of the island from Skeeko Bay on the island’s northwest side often rewards hikers with a close look at the sheep, which can often be found resting in the shade or cross the wide-ranging Palouse prairie.

Milltown State Park in Missoula celebrated its grand opening June 23. The land at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers was Montana’s first Superfund site, Gierke said, and now it is its newest state park.

River Design Group of Whitefish was contracted to plan and engineer the streambed restoration process. After they completed that work the business voluntarily contributed $5,000 for the purchase of visitor and landscaping amenities.

Founded in 2015, the Montana Park Foundation’s mission is to bridge the gap between limited government funding through private fundraising and capacity building to protect and enhance Montana’s state parks and recreation heritage. To find out more, visit www.montanastateparksfoundation.org

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