This month, Jeff Laszlo ’78 and his family will accept the Environmental Law Institute’s prestigious National Wetlands Award for Landowner Stewardship in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The National Wetlands Awards are presented annually to individuals who have excelled in wetlands protection, restoration and education.
The Trust for Public Land calls the O’Dell Creek Headwaters and Wetlands Restoration Project “an ambitious multi-year effort to restore and enhance one of the most significant and important wetlands complexes in Montana.”
Laszlo’s family had settled on the land in the 1930s, when his great-grandfather began a 14,000-acre cattle ranch. O’Dell Creek, an important tributary to the Madison River, wound through it. In the 1950s, it became popular to drain wetlands, with the hope of providing farmers and ranchers increased acreage for agricultural production. On the Granger Ranch, Laszlo’s family ranch, agricultural production improved modestly but the loss of wetland habitats dealt a severe blow to the region’s wildlife.
Recognizing the need to preserve the land and wildlife of the region, in 2003, the Laszlo family partnered with PPL Montana, the hydroelectric company, to begin the ongoing multiyear effort to restore the drained O’Dell Creek Headwaters. Conservation easements with The Trust for Public Land and The Montana Land reliance were crafted to forever protect this important area. Soon many government agencies and other conservation organizations joined this effort to carry it forward through the years.
In describing the process, the Trust for Public Land site makes clear their view: “As far as good land stewards go, the Laszlo Family is truly in a league of its own.”
For further information on the restoration process, which is occurring in several stages, see Fly Fisherman magazine (Jan/Feb 2010), which contains the article “Protect, Rebuild, Restore: O’Dell Creek” by Rocci Aguirre and Nat Gillespie. Additionally, the article can be accessed from Trust for Public Land site.