Bill Hodge joined the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation as Executive Director from the same position at Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, an organization he led for nine years. Bill’s passion for wild places is linked to a lifetime of exploring public lands across the country and his desire to see our National Wilderness Preservation System as relevant today as it was in 1964.
Bill is a co-founder of the Wilderness Skills Institute, and the 2013 recipient of the Bob Marshall Award as external champion of Wilderness by the United States Forest Service. In 2014 Bill was recognized at the White House as a ‘Champion of Change’ for his worked to connect a new generation to their public lands.
Bill is a graduate of the University of Evansville and spent 25 years as an executive leader in the collegiate sports and broadcasting industry.
Bill and his wife Laura love to explore on foot, and in kayaks, all the incredible public lands Montana and the country has to offer, often with their dogs in tow and way too much camera gear.
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Meg has called Montana home for over 20 years. With a degree in Recreation Resource Management from the University of Montana, she first ventured into The Bob in 2003 when she was just a newbie to Wilderness Conservation and the world of trailwork. She has remained involved in this trail world overtime, and just can't seem to shake her addiction for playing in the dirt. She spent six years leading volunteer trail crews along the Continental Divide Trail through the state of Montana. As part of the BMWF team, Meg enjoys sharing her knowledge with hard working interns, crew leaders, and of course our wonderful volunteers. She loves sharing her skills with others, and educating folks about the value of Wilderness, primitive tools, and wilderness travel. In addition to that, she makes a mean backcountry taco! When she's not running around in the woods fixing trails, you can typically find Meg adventuring with her husband and their two dogs...usually on a river, on a trail, or on a ski slope.
INTERNS AND PACKER APPRENTICES
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
HONORARY BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Smoke Elser, Honorary Board
After graduating from the University of Montana , Smoke spent the next forty-five years as a wilderness outfitter in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and has spent more than 50 years as an instructor in packing, horsemanship and minimum impact camping. Smoke is past President of the Montana Outfitter & Guides Association and Professional Wilderness Guide’s Association, Past President of Back Country Horsemen of Missoula and charter member. He is a frequent guest speaker at the University of Montana Forestry and Wildlife classes and is a member emeritus of the advisory board for the College of Forestry and Conservation. He serves on the State Board for the Montana Back Country Horsemen, the advisory Council of Elders for MWA and is currently active on the USFS Region I Pack Train Board. He is an instructor at the Nine Mile Wildlands Training Center, Region I, USFS and a certified NOLS “Master of no Trace” instructor. He has not missed traveling in the Bob Marshall each and every year for the past 54 years.
Joel Holtrop, Honorary Board
Joel Holtrop served as the Deputy Chief of the National Forest System Deputy Area at agency headquarters in Washington D.C., from March 2005 until October, 2011. In this capacity, he oversaw the strategic and national program leadership for the 193 million acre National Forest System of forests and grasslands located in 42 states and Puerto Rico. His natural resource management emphasis areas include ecosystem management, engineering, forest management, rangeland management, lands, minerals, geology management, recreation, heritage, wilderness (including the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex), wild-scenic rivers management, watersheds, fish, wildlife, air, and rare plants. Holtrop’s love for the outdoors and natural resources started at an early age—11 years old to be exact—when he chose his life’s work after he met a park ranger on a family camping trip. His distinguished Forest Service career spanned more than 34 years. He launched it on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington. He later served on the Eldorado National Forest, California, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon, and Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan. Subsequently he became deputy forest supervisor on the Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin, and forest supervisor on the Flathead National Forest, Montana. It was in this capacity that he developed a special appreciation for the wonders of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, taking multiple trips into the Bob whenever time allowed.
Dave Owen, Honorary Board
Dave was born in 1930 in Madison, Wisconsin. During high school he worked as a railroad section hand and harvested local crops. After graduating, he served two years in the Army airborne infantry. 1950 found him working seasonally for the Forest Service on the old Cabinet National Forest pulling ribes (wild gooseberry) bushes as a part of the effort to control white pine blister rust.
From 1951-1954 Dave attended the University of Montana School of Forestry. During the summers he worked as a smokejumper. Following graduation he began a career with the U.S. Forest Service. During the early years he worked on lands that would become the Selway-Bitterroot, Gospel Hump, Frank Church and Great Bear Wilderness. Work included trail and telephone line maintenance and construction, smoke chasing and substitute packing (when the regular packer was fired or quit early).
In 1958, Dave was promoted to District Ranger on the Big Prairie Ranger District on the Flathead National Forest where he served until 1963. Following that, he moved on to ranger positions on the Nine Mile and Superior Districts on the Lolo National Forest. In 1976, Dave returned to the Flathead National Forest where he served as Ranger on the Spotted Bear District until his retirement in 1985.
During his tenure on the Spotted Bear District, Dave was a key player in using the Limits of Acceptable Change process to develop a new management plan for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. He was instrumental in implementing the first fire management plan in the Complex. He also played a key role in developing the concept of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation. In spite of his administrative duties, Dave was firm advocate of getting people on the ground to do real work. As he said many times, “I want crews out there throwing dirt to the tree tops”.
Since retirement Dave has continued to do volunteer trail work with the Big Sky Bible Camp and the Bob Marshall Wilderness foundation. He and his wife, Kay, also spend a lot of time working on their tree farm in the Swan Valley.
It is interesting to note that three of Dave and Kay’s four children and one granddaughter have worked trails in the “Bob”. Son, Russell, is currently and Assistant Fire Management Officer on the Rocky Mountain Ranger District, Lewis and Clark National Forest.
Al Christopherson, Honorary Board
Al is a native Montanan and received a BS in Forestry from the University of Montana,’71, and a MS in silviculture from Utah State University in ’73. Al’s career with the U. S. Forest Service covered 33 years in 2 two regions and five forests and a 2 year position as the national liaison with the Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
His career work involved presale forester, silviculture and resource management and 18 years in line officer positions. He was a member of the task force for the Frank Church of No Return Wilderness administrative study team which was also useful in furthering the coordinated management of the Bob Marshal complex.
While District Ranger on the Hungry Horse Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest, he was involved with the establishment of the first Bob Marshall Foundation, it’s work projects and subsequent annual projects and support. His interest remained as he transferred to the Helena National Forest as Resource Staff Officer and Deputy Forest Supervisor. He retired in 2005 and became Director of Habitat Stewardship Services for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Al recently retired from RMEF to enjoy time hunting, fishing, and volunteering with the Elkhorn Restoration Committee for the Elkhorn Wildlife Management Area.
Al believes strongly in the role of volunteerism and partnerships with agencies to help get mutually agreed upon mission work accomplished.
Joe Franchini, Honorary Board
*People love the backcountry wilderness for many reasons. For Joe Franchini, it's the people he meets in the woods.
"Some of the nicest people I've met in this world I've met in the backcountry," he said last week. A successful businessman, Franchini grew up in New Jersey but always had a love for horses and cattle. He rode horses in endurance races and raised Scottish Highlanders. In the early 1980s, he read a story in the Smithsonian magazine about a foundation being formed to support and complete projects in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
About 30 people nationwide showed interest in coming to Montana, but when push came to shove, only Franchini, a friend and another couple showed up at the Hungry Horse Ranger Station that summer to actually do any work. Franchini eventually gave up life in New Jersey and moved permanently to Montana, where he has business interests in Columbia Falls, including a partnership in the Nite Owl Restaurant. He continued to volunteer with the Forest Service and the Bob Marshall Foundation, working on dozens of projects over the years, from trail crew grunt work to packing in supplies by mule train.
He says he lives his life by a simple motto: Do something good and someone will know you were here.
The Franchini Family Foundation continues to provide financial support to the Bob Marshall Foundation, and Joe, at age 77, hopes to work on some projects this summer after a few years away from the woods.
*Franchini photo and Bio from a 2012 Hungry Horse News article written by Chris Peterson
Ray Mills, Honorary Board
Ray’s fascination with the mountains began when he was 10 years old. His grandfather took him fishing on the Blackfoot Reservation. Fishing wasn’t that good so they drove up to Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. There Ray saw two Park Service pack strings winding their way up to the pass. He remembers telling Grandfather Mills, “That is what I’m going to do when I grow up”. Ray kept his promise to himself. As soon as he graduated from high school he went to work for the Forest Service on the Rocky Mountain District of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. His career spanned 45 years, from 1955-2000, all on the same district. He was always involved in trail management, much of which was in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. His favorite part of the job was the last 20 years when he combined trail and wilderness supervision and animal packing. During his career, Ray worked with a variety of volunteer groups including the Sierra Club, the East Slope Backcountry Horsemen and the Wilderness Treatment Center.
Following retirement, Ray began working with his brothers, Ron and Tucker, in their outfitting business, Mills Wilderness Adventures of Montana. It keeps him active in the “Bob” summer and fall.
Ken Ausk, (9/16/1934- 12/2/2014) Honorary Board
Ken started traveling and hunting in the Bob in the late 60's and says it was love at first sight. For many years he tried to get 40 days under canvas every year but never quite made it - 38 was the best he could do while still trying to make a living. He's seen a lot of the Bob and there's a lot he probably will never see, but he claims all of his travels were good. In 1973 he and three friends became worried about the direction the regulations and management policies might be headed and the fact there was no money to administer Wilderness, so they founded Back Country Horsemen. The purpose of the organization was to serve as a sounding board for the Forest Service, provide logistical support for work projects, represent horsemen concerning horse issues, teach responsible low impact horse methods, and to protect the resource. BCH continues today and has grown to include chapters in 25 states, with over 13,000 members carrying on the tradition, and providing volunteer trail work and packing support for other volunteer groups, including the BMWF. Years ago Ken was extensively involved in the formation of the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) concept for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Management Plan which has helped protect the resource. Ken is retired from Bonneville Power Administration and says he is honored to be placed on our Board with Smoke Elser and Dave Owen who he has known and respected for many years.
Rebecca has lived on the fringe of the Bob Marshall Wilderness since 1998. After receiving her degree in Recreation Management from the University of Montana in 2004, she moved north and settled in the great town of Columbia Falls. As a past raft guide turned manager for Glacier Guides/Montana Raft Company she has logged many miles in Glacier National Park. When it is a true wilderness experience she is looking for she heads into the Bob. From backcountry ski trips to backpacking trips and extended river trips, Rebecca loves the Bob Marshall. As Program Director for the BMWF she greets each day with excitment knowing she will help create lasting relationships and love of wilderness with people from all walks of life.
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Susie retired from the Forest Service after 30 years of working in the Spotted Bear Ranger District. The BMWF has been lucky enough to have her in the office for the spring, summer and fall. Susie not only knows more about the Bob Marshall, but she also knows everybody who has ever worked in the Bob. A great resource! She spent her formative years in Browning, now lives in Columbia Falls, but can be spotted in the winter on a secluded beach in Mexico.
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