by Carol Fox
The Stevens Brothers: Forsyth Natives & Longtime PLWA Supporters
PLWA’s raffle is our biggest annual fundraiser and second major revenue source. Few PLWA members know that identical twin brothers Colonel Ronald (Ron) and Reid Stevens were the backbone of PLWA’s last two raffles. In 2019, Ron donated the grand prize, a high-grade Cooper Arms Model 57M .17HMR Jackson Squirrel Rifle with a Leupold scope. In 2020, Reid donated the grand prize, a 1952 vintage Savage M99 EG, 250-3000; a classic lever action rifle. These prized rifles were the major draw for these raffles that generated over $31,000. These proceeds will go far towards helping PLWA fight illegal closures of public access to its lands and waters. We are pleased to share some of the Stevens brothers’ life journeys and their long-lasting passion for and contributions to conservation and public access to its lands and waters.
The Stevens brothers have strong bonds to their hometown of Forsyth and fond recollections of growing up there. As Reid notes, “Ours was a genuine “American Graffiti” coming of age in Forsyth and we loved it.” Born at the end of the Great Depression, they learned early on that it was up to them to earn the money to support their growing interests in shooting, hunting, and fishing. They mowed lawns, delivered newspapers, clerked in grocery and hardware stores, pumped gas and greased cars at the “filling station,” set pins at the bowling alley and changed the marque at the Roxy theater. As Ron recalls, they spent their only time-off on Sunday afternoons “in $100 used cars cruising the countryside shooting prairie dogs, jack rabbits, and rocks.”
Ron and Reid hunted every type of wildlife they could, mostly on nearby state school trust lands and national forests. They started learning marksmanship at age 12; a lifetime skill they mastered. The same year they harvested a large bobcat, a feat that made local headlines. Participating in Boy Scouts and 4-H and reading Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Sports Afield and The American Rifleman fueled their outdoor recreation.
The Stevens’ interest in firearms, hunting and shooting led to their enlistment in the Montana National Guard at the tender age of 16. Ron soon became so proficient at firearms that he could disassemble and reassemble a Browning Automatic Rifle in five seconds blindfolded. He pursued a full-time Army career that lasted over 36 years and included several field artillery commands up to the division level and wide ranging national and international postings including Vietnam. Reid combined 21-years of National Guard service with a 40-year career in public education, primarily in labor relations.
In 1987 when Ron returned to MT after retirement from the Army, he found nearby expanses of public land less accessible than expected and desired, prompting him to join PLWA. He served as PLWA’s Board president between 1989 and 1992. During his tenure, Ron actively supported the opening of Montana’s school trust lands for public recreation and lead efforts to repair a bridge providing public fishing access and to adjudicate two prescriptive public easements (over the Old Indian Trail to Cowboy Heaven east of Ennis Lake and over the North Fork of Dupuyer Creek Road west of Dupuyer). Governor Stephens appointed Ron as the Co-Chair of the newly created Montana Landowner/Sportsmen Council in 1992.
Reid reminisces fondly about hunting, fishing, and camping on public lands for 75 years. His father-in-law from Butte was a superb fly fisherman and, together, they fished all the blue-ribbon trout waters within a 100 mile radius of Butte. Reid and his wife participated in sage-grouse population studies in Beaverhead County for fourteen years. Outdoor excursions took Reid and his family to a wide range of Montana’s state, national forest, BLM and wilderness lands. Reid considers public lands access to be, “a significant gift to my life experience.”
Over the last several years, Ron has had the vision and led the way for funding and construction of nine recreation enhancement projects at the state’s East and West Rosebud Fishing Access Sites along the Yellowstone River near Forsyth. One such project is a new, deluxe fishing pier built in 2019 at East Rosebud Park that is handicap accessible.
Reid and Ron have shared a lifetime of hunting. They now mostly enjoy spring prairie dog shoots near Forsyth. On their last deer hunt a few years ago, they each shot nearly identical 3×4 mulie bucks. Ron aptly describes this harvest as “Twins for the Twins.”
Reid says of his strong support of PLWA, “I want to help insure that future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and camping in these incredible environments as much as my family has. My cup runneth over!” PLWA’s gratitude to the Stevens brothers runneth over, too!
Postscript: We are saddened to report that Ron Stevens passed away on Oct. 14, 2020. Link to Ron Stevens Obituary