U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Last February when BLM’s national office sent out a call for nominations for the annual “Making a Difference” volunteer awards, it was a no-brainer for Wild Horse Specialist Jared Bybee and Billings Field Manager Jim Sparks.
Three years ago, Matt Dillon, director of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center in Lovell, Wyo., approached the BLM about volunteering and doing some data sharing. BLM jumped at the idea that has flourished since its inception.
Working together was a natural. The center is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the Pryor Mountain mustangs, their evolution, history, habitat needs, and historical significance; the BLM manages the horses and the range they occupy just north of Lovell along the Montana-Wyoming border.
Dillon’s volunteer efforts run the gamut from the purely academic to callused hands-on field work. He has organized people to help install range projects and remove old fences on the horse range--projects that directly benefited both the horses and the rangelands. He was also instrumental in forming a partnership with environmental groups to work on a scientifically designed precipitation study in the Pryor Mountains. Data from the study’s remote precipitation collection sites provides BLM with better site-specific information.
Dillon tracks, documents, and maintains a database of every wild horse in the Pryor herd. This information helps the Billings Field Office to better understand herd dynamics, band locations, and to identify missing animals. During last September’s Pryor Mountain wild horse gather, his information helped the BLM to make sound decisions for the herd with respect to removals, retentions, and fertility control treatment.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. During the same gather, he was available for horse observation, identification and documentation, and routinely worked 16-hour days, often in adverse weather conditions and in a hostile political climate. Though he was the target of verbal abuse and heckling from gather opponents, he remained completely professional focusing on the needs of the wild horses.
On May 5, Dillon received the BLM’s “Making a Difference” Award during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. He was one of only five individual volunteers recognized nationally this year. The award was begun in 1995. Factors influencing the selection of award recipients include the caliber and extent of their service and the program needs they have filled.
Matt Dillon truly “makes a difference” by raising public awareness about the importance of conserving and protecting the public lands every time he talks to a visitor at the Lovell Center he runs. The significance of his volunteer contributions has been multiplied through new volunteers that have signed on as a result of his example. Collectively, the hours contributed, products, and equipment that he is responsible for have exceeded a value of $100,000.
And his role as an ambassador didn’t stop after the May 5 ceremony. After the awards were handed out, he accompanied Don Glenn, the head of BLM’s wild horse program, to Capitol Hill where Matt shared his views on genetics, fertility control and overall wild horse management with staff of a congressman who has been critical of the program.
While Dillon doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with the BLM on every aspect of the horse program on the Pryors, he shares the agency’s focus on the well-being of the range and the horses that live there. He continues to be a part of the solution and makes a difference day in and day out.