MISSOULA, Mont. -

One of the country's most reputable outdoor magazines is spot lighting a Missoula wildlife conservationist.

Field and Stream's April issue calls Bert Lindler a "hero of conservation."

He's a volunteer caretaker for about 450 elk. Seven years ago, Lindler adopted the North Hills Evaro Elk Herd.

The herd spends the winter season from Rattlesnake Creek all the way west to Evaro Hill. The animals forage on a hillside owned by the Prospect Meadows Homeowners Association in Grant Creek. The elk are thriving.

Lindler scoops to pick up a handful of bunchgrass. "This is native food for elk," he said. "This is ice cream for elk."

Lindler has worked hard to keep and regenerate native grasses.

He's worked with government agencies and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to control weeds. "If you use a combination of techniques you can hold your own and get a little bit ahead," said Lindler.

That's with chemical sprays, biological control and old fashioned weed pulling.

Lindler has worked with ranchers and other landowners to build more elk friendly fences.

He points to a traditional five-strand barbed wire ranch fence. "This is very challenging for elk and deer to jump," he said. Lindler's homeowners association bought materials to rebuild a portion of a cattle ranch fence. The state reimbursed it.

The more "elk friendly" fence's top wire is barbless. The highest strands are lower so wildlife can get over it easier. The lowest strand is higher for fawns and calves to scoot under.

"When the elk don't have to hit the fence they do a lot less damage," said the conservationist. That's good for the rancher.

Elk managers are concerned the herd in this area is becoming too accustomed to suburban life and aren't migrating as much.

Lendler is trying to widen the range for growing herds. He's working with landowners so elk can move more freely across their winter range.

For his work, Field and Stream has honored Lindler. "I feel a special privilege to live in an area as beautiful and rich as the North Hills of Missoula," he said.

When he was a kid, Lindler used to skip school to read "Field and Stream." Now, he's in its pages.