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Jun 25, 2012 9:30 PM by Christina Lysacek

Nonprofit group opens up 4,600 acres of land to MSU students and faculty

A large piece of private land between Ennis and Big Sky is being turned into a giant outdoor classroom for students of all ages, including MSU students.

We tagged along as some of the MSU professors who will be teaching field classes on the property got a peak at the land for the first time. Nearly 25 faculty members from six different departments showed interest in integrating field work at the preserve into their classrooms.

The Jack Creek Preserve Foundation, the nonprofit organization which owns the land, has been hosting youth camps for eight years on their property, but recently decided they wanted to extend their land to more students. The foundation just broke ground for an education center which will house up to 40 students for overnight stays quipped with a classroom which will accommodate 50 students.

"Getting the students in the field in a place like this, where we have instructional facilities and a nice natural laboratory to introduce them to the technique that will help with retention is wonderful. It will help with enthusiasm in the students and it will help them be competitive in the job market when the graduate," said Bob Garrott, MSU's Fish and Wildlife Ecology Department Director.

Students will have the opportunity to explore more than 4,600 areas of private land with elevations varying from 6,000 feet to 8,500 feet. The foundation's focus will be on habitat, wildlife, and hunting. "We have diversity in land and in elevation; there really is no limit, it is just what the professors and the students want to study," said Scott Fossel, Jack Creek Preserve Foundation's Treasurer.

Seventy-five MSU students were asked if they would be interested in a taking a week long field course at the facility and 70 of them showed interest in studying the wide variety of areas the land has to offer.

"We're anxious to get them out here where they can actually see elk and tag them or do plots of plants and identification," said Katie Alvin, the Jack Creek Preserve Foundation Executive Director.

The foundation is about half way to their fundraising goal to pay for the $350 thousand center they hope to open next spring.

Click here to find out how to donate and to read more about the foundation.

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