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This year’s Montana Land Reliance fundraiser, “Artists & Authors for Open Space,” gives eloquent and poetic testimony to the importance of their work to preserve important Montana landscapes.

More than 45 authors with Montana connections signed more than 50 first-edition books that will be auctioned as a complete collection at the Aug. 9 fundraiser in Kalispell.

Many of the books include personal messages about MLR’s work to protect Montana’s landscapes.

Now gracing the front window of the Montana Book & Toy Company, the collection is a “who’s who” of authors inspired by Montana’s landscapes. They either live in Montana, own land here or spend time enjoying its open spaces, said Doug Mitchell, MLR managing director. Many of the authors also have conservation easements with Montana Land Reliance.

A book lover, Mitchell was the force behind the idea for this year’s event.

“For 18 years, we’ve been doing fundraisers,” said Mitchell, “mostly related to landscape artists,” so this year, he decided it was time for a new idea.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind collection,” he said, and “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And each (book) is inscribed specifically for this purpose.”

The unique collection is displayed in Montana Book & Toy Company’s front window until mid-July.

And it’s growing daily.

Some of the authors will also be attending the Aug. 9 gala at Flathead Community College in Kalispell.

Mitchell’s been deeply moved by the authors’ generosity and eagerness to help with the project, often recommending other Montana writers to join the cause.

A brief sample of the inscriptions include:

-- From poet Paul Zarzyski’s “Tracks”: “First came the land—and then tracks”; and also his

“Wolf Tracks on the Welcome Mat”: “With a wild poetic howl—in praise of the Montana Land Reliance—out into the farthest reaches of the musical universe, the ol’cowpoke cosmos! With gratitude, Paul Zarzyski.”

-- From Judy Blunt’s “Breaking Clean”: “Thanks for helping Montana stay real.”

-- From Mountain climber and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s “Climbing Ice”: “Let’s do our best to assure there will be ice to climb in Montana.”

-- From Ivan Doig, who inscribed the title page: “For a worthy soul who loves Montana the way my characters do, in” and drew an arrow to the title, “Ride With Me, Mariah Montana.”

Among other well-known authors represented in the collection are Maile Meloy, Pete Fromm, Thomas McGuane, Richard Ford, James Lee Burke, Hugh Ambrose, Rick Bass, Carl Hiaasen, Tom Brokaw, Brian Kahn and astronaut and Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman.

The collection is limited to living authors, said Mitchell, because it ensures the authenticity of their signatures and inscriptions.

Gathering the inscriptions took Mitchell to ranch kitchens, campus offices and even an auto repair shop to catch up with authors.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “I’ve rediscovered some authors, and it’s been fun to meet some authors of whom I was not familiar.”

It’s only fitting that this year’s guest speaker is author Charlotte Caldwell who with, her husband, holds two MLR easements in the Shields River Valley. She will talk about her new book, “Visions and Voices: Montana’s One Room Schoolhouses” and share some of its iconic photo images.

“So many Montana authors reference a sense of place in their works,” said Montana Book & Toy Company owner Jan Peccia, who’s happy to promote Montana authors and MLR: “We see serving the community as a primary goal of our bookstore.”

The MLR auction also offers unique trips in Montana and Costa Rica, as well as original artwork. Those wanting to bid on the collection, but unable to attend the auction, can sign up at the Montana Book & Toy Company for online bidding.

Since 1978, MLR has worked with private landowners to create 773 easements that protect 898,916 acres in 39 Montana counties, Mitchell said. The easements protect significant agricultural land, forests, fish and wildlife habitat and open space.

For more information, call 443-7027 or visit www.mtlandreliance.org.

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