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56 Counties: Fergus County

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courtesy Bob Lee and Emily Standley
Bob Lee (left), Emily Standley

Fergus County was one of the pleasant surprises when I was going my tour of Montana for 56 Counties. I had never been to Lewistown before, and was surprised to find a town of nearly 6000 people, with some of the most beautiful sandstone buildings in the state. I eventually learned that Lewistown was originally founded by the Metis Indians, but that it was soon taken over by white business owners when there was a gold rush in the 1860s. Today Lewistown relies almost exclusively on agriculture, but it’s one of the towns I found charming for its lack of pretentiousness. It’s a town that feels very comfortable with itself exactly as it is.

Bob and Kathy Lee moved to their mountain ranch in 1969. The Lee Ranch operation is diversifying; raising cattle, hay, and wheat, plus good kids and Grandkids. Bob has served Montana as Chairman of the Department of Livestock, Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, and the Governors Rangeland Resource Committee. Serving agriculture through leadership roles has been a way of life for Bob. He is the past National Cattlemen's Beef Association Environmental Enhancement/ Property Rights Committee chairman, and at present, he serves on Steering Committees for the National Grazing Lands Coalition Committee., Montana's Technical Committee for NRCS, Montana GLC, and State FSA Board.

Bob and Kathy were presented the National Environmental Stewardship Award by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in 1997. Most recently, Bob was awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree in Animal and Range Science from Montana State University. It is his philosophy that, "Agriculture is an attitude as well as a way of life. Agriculture is the life-blood of America and without it, no one can survive."

Emily Standley was born and raised in Montana. She spent most of her childhood in Missoula, then moved to Bozeman to pursue a degree in Rangeland Ecology and Management. Her passion for grasslands and agriculture eventually brought her to central Montana, where she fell in love with the people and pace of life in Lewistown. Emily enjoys stargazing, cooking with her husband, hiking, and identifying wildflowers.

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