Jen Mohler (pictured), resource conservationist and executive director of Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance credits Leslie Ammons at Big Sky Owners Association for coming-up with the idea to have the effort benefit Peter Scherfig’s recovery. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

BIG SKY VOLUNTEERS RAISE MONEY FOR BEAR MAULING VICTIM AND ERADICATE WEEDS

On an overcast, chilly day, the hillside of the Big Sky Community Park was dotted with movement and color. Volunteers in various shades of jackets all had different motivations for digging into the earth. On the forefront for many was the effort to honor Peter Scherfig – a Big Sky resident who was mauled by a grizzly bear on Memorial Day. This year’s Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance (GISA) Big Sky Community Park weed pull was dubbed “Peter & the Park” , with a $10 donation made for every volunteer to Peter Scherfig’s recovery fund by the Big Sky Owners Association (BSOA) and Yellowstone Club Community Foundation. Big Sky Town Center also hosted the event.

Other motivations also existed: for Lisa Knorr it has been a tradition going back over 30 years – before it was such an organized effort. Nancy and Joe Woodmansee wielded shovels and placed noxious weeds into bags as a way to honor their late friend – Bill Leifur. They made a monetary donation in his honor this year, but wanted to take it a step further and actually get their hands in the dirt and participate in bettering the land.

“He introduced us to Big Sky in 1991. He introduced us to skiing and hiking. We bought his place in 2004 and so we thought in honor of him, we would do this,” Nancy said. Plant identification can be challenging, but Nancy said she believes they did more good than harm.

“We got a couple of bags of thistles and tongues,” she said.

As winners of the raffle were announced, small groups of established and newly formed friends gathered with their hard-earned beers from Bozeman Brewing Company in hand. The thirty people who participated were exuberant after spending a few hours doing manual work.

Jen Mohler, resource conservationist and executive director of GISA, smiled in her approachable way as she spoke of the official eight year history of the event – the assistance of Big Sky Community Organization and BSOA. She told of all the weeds eradicated to beautify the landscape and provide a safer habitat for humans and animals to embrace.

Any land disturbance lays the foundation for weeds to take root and take over, she explained. Some of the weeds that move in – like Hound’s Tongue – are highly toxic and can cause permanent liver damage to animals.

A couple of weeks after the weed pull, BSCO sends an applicator who spot sprays the baby weeds that are tough to remove by hand. Mohler describes the effort as a “one-two punch” – highly effective and beneficial for the community.

It has taken immense human effort – from volunteers and BSCO – to make the park what it is today.

“What a difference! This whole area used to be really bad. We made a tremendous difference around here [in the park] and are now creeping up the hillside, which is part BSOA and part forest service,” Mohler said.

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