In the rolling foothills of the madison range in southwestern Montana, a cabin-style house sits beside a washboard dirt road. A few horses loiter in a corral outside, and spotted ranch dogs bark and jump at the fence. James Stuart, manager of Sun Ranch, lives here with his wife and three kids. Christian, the oldest at four years, just got his first pony.
Stuart, who comes from a long line of rugged Scots who settled this region, has auburn hair and eyes lined from squinting—or smiling—in bright sunlight. He loves this land. You can hear it in his voice as he rattles off the creeks and canyons of the 26,000 acres he’s surveying from the cab of his silver Dodge pickup. We’re parked on an overlook in the middle of the ranch as Stuart’s gloved hand traces the outlines of the landscape around us. “We have Wolf Creek to the north, we have Moose Creek coming down out of this big canyon....” His voice trails off as our line of vision ends at the hilly horizon.