This is not my cover letter, my biography, or my elevator speech. It is not a summary of my qualifications, my education, or my achievements. Those things are available on other pages throughout this site.
This is an invitation.
It is an invitation to understand why I do what I do, and what motivates me to do it better. It is an invitation to discourse, dialog, and collaboration. If you have made it this far, we are likely on the same team, and teamwork is necessary to tackle the challenges ahead.
I have spent much of my adult life exploring and connecting with landscapes throughout the country while gathering knowledge and experience on how I can best use my talents and skills to protect them. I spent most of my young-life a few blocks from the Mississippi river in West Central Illinois. Our family farm sits on the bank of one of its many Missouri tributaries, the North River. I spent my first night under the stars on its banks, caught some of my first fish in its holes, successfully skipped my first stone on its surface, and when I finally bought my first kayak, that is where I learned to paddle it.
My connection to North river is emotional, and it is a connection that I have since developed with many other rivers throughout the country. When I lived in Georgia, the Chattooga River was the first of Wild and Scenic designation to capture my imagination. I learned to guide a raft there, and it was there that that I first stepped-up to class IV kayaking on a true Southeast Classic. It was there I met a girl in the bow of a canoe that taught me a lot about myself, and first felt the steely stares of wading anglers waiting for us to pass. I could tell you about the river’s ecological importance, and make an honest and cogent argument about the need for its continued protection and stewardship in economic and practical terms. But I have a more personal connection to it built from the teamwork spent unpinning a raft there than anything else.
There is a stretch of I-90 west of Drummond, Montana that runs closely along the left bank of the Clark Fork River. It is one of the few places along the interstate where the river is easily visible from the passenger seat of a westbound sedan, and it is where I first laid eyes on a river that cuts through the valley I’d later call my home. It was in 2009 that I drove to Missoula for the first time on vacation from the Midwest and first felt the gravity of Western Montana.
When I returned home I took steps toward launching myself into this career following my passions at the intersection of environmental issues, education and recreation. Two years later, in 2011, I arrived back in Missoula. So much of the inspiration to dive headlong into that trajectory I can attribute to two Montana Rivers. The first was the Clark Fork that in 2009 I first viewed from the window of my friend’s Pontiac. The second was the North Fork of the Flathead that I would be awestruck by 36 hours later after nearly 100 miles of hitchhiking from Many Glacier to Polebridge, Montana. After camping on its banks, we'd begin our 62 mile hike across Glacier National Park. Milky-blue, glacier-fed waters provided the rhythm over which a lone North Fork wolf would sing that night. It was the first wolf I’d ever heard. But four years later, when I took a job at The Glacier Institute’s Big Creek children’s camp twelve miles down the road, I knew it wouldn't be my last.
Like my knowledge of the Chattooga, I can make a cogent argument against proposed mining in the North Fork valley. I can tell you about the sediment sensitivity of the river’s already endangered Bull Trout population that spawns in its tributaries. I can talk about the grizzlies that depend on millennia old rub-trees in the meadows adjacent to Camas Creek, and their densities near Red Meadow Lake and the human conflicts that would likely accompany any timber harvest. I can make an economic argument about the role of the region in statewide tourism and as a landscape that represents a bastion of the Montana-Outpost mystique. But my connections are not wholly formed through cognitive pathways and value propositions. Like many who travel to interact with these places, my connections are formed through experiences and guided by affect. They are the product of place attachment, of nostalgia, of human meanings laid upon landscapes that now solely depend upon humans to protect them. Whole ecosystems hang in the balance of human evaluation and await our decisions on what their future will be.
I have been asked many times: if you are so passionate about environmental, and particularly water issues, why not pursue an educational and career trajectory in the natural sciences? Why not become a hydrologist, or fisheries biologist? If you are so motivated to be an advocate for threatened resources and impact their futures, why not go to school for environmental law and policy?
The answer lies in a combination of my personality, my talents, and my values. I am a storyteller and a sharer of experience. From a young age I reveled in sharing my favorite stories, jokes, toys, and trees on the playground with my friends. In my teens and twenties, I planned parties and trips to share experiences with my friends. And as an adult, I have spent the last twelve years crafting projects and events to share ideas, experiences, the arts, and special landscapes with friends, family, organizations, and whole communities. I find joy in connecting people, getting people outside to interact with nature directly, and it is something that I believe I do well.
Facts, figures, projections, legislative frameworks, economic positioning and ecosystem-services certainly sway opinion on appropriate resource use and are an important component of telling a comprehensive story of any resource. But the connections to place, and meaning assigned to experiences of willful engagement with resources through fishing, kayaking, hiking, or just stopping to feel the cool air near the river, are at least equally powerful in guiding stewardship and advocacy attitudes and behaviors. It is within that domain that my talents and skills are put to best use. Leveraging that passion, and sensitivity to separating common interests from entrenched positions is where I can be most effective in positively impacting the landscapes with which we connect, disagree about, and share.
Building those connections is my objective. Directly sharing stories and experiences with stakeholders, reaching out to stakeholders and community members to share their experiences with each other, or leveraging resources together collaboratively are my methods. Separating interests from positions towards the sustainable future of watersheds and livelihoods in threatened landscapes is my goal. And the guiding reticulation of values and beliefs shaped by knowledge and extensive personal experience in direct connection with nature is my ethos.
This is my invitation to share your ethos with me: contact