Where do you live?
I live in Bozeman, Montana.
Where do you work or what is your profession?
I work at the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. I am a conservationist – I do community organizing.
"My connections are about a place that I have fallen in love with, people who have become my friends, and a place that really is, I would say, just as special and noteworthy as Yellowstone National Park."
What do you do for fun?
I hug on my dogs, laugh with my son, do all the outside stuff – whatever the outside stuff is, I love to do it. I like to stay physically active, and I've just picked up Wordle for fun.
How are you connected to the Ruby Valley or the surrounding area?
I'm connected to the Ruby Valley through my profession – at least originally. I started at the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and through that conservation work, got connected into southwest Montana, specifically the Ruby Valley. Now I feel like those connections have deepened and it's more than just my work. My connections are about a place that I have fallen in love with, people who have become my friends, and a place that really is, I would say, just as special and noteworthy as Yellowstone National Park.
Why are you a member of the Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance?
To be real straight up about it, it was my job to be a member of the Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance as a conservation member, facilitator, and official cat herder of things – all things – done in this group. But the other reason, the more inspirational side of why I'm a part of this group is because I think what we do in the Ruby Valley is a model for how things can be done. We are working together on really important issues around community, natural resource management, partnerships, and relationships, and all of those things matter. I think that's what makes us special, but it's also why I'm there. It's why I stay.
In your mind, what are the vision and the goals for the RVSA?
The vision that brings us together is to preserve working lands and achieve our conservation goals. We protect land, water, wildlife, and communities and preserve working lands.
What do you see as some of the group’s key accomplishments?
One of the biggest accomplishments was almost a year-long discussion around grizzly bear management recommendations that we sent to the Montana Governor's Office. That was big. I feel like we set the bar in terms of how a group like ours can engage in something like that, especially with a group of people who do not agree on some things around grizzly bears. We were able to come up with a set of recommendations despite not always agreeing.
Also, working with the railroad to move cars off a main highway area, migration area, and ranching area. When we talked to the rail company, we learned the stretch of rail right in front of Rick Sandru’s ranch is storage. So, when they have a bunch of cars that are not in use, which is what happened during the pandemic, commerce shut down, those train cars went into storage – they went into storage right in front of Rick's house. That's problematic and a safety concern. We talked to the company, and we negotiated on where those cars could be moved to, and successfully got them moved!
I would say some of the other key accomplishments include submitting and providing comments and recommendations to federal laws and policy. Whether it be a NEPA process (National Environmental Policy Act Process) or the Farm Bill, there have been numerous issues where we've commented and put our opinion out there.
I would also note the Ruby Watershed Management Strategy we created together.
"I really do believe that others could learn how far you can go with a little bit of curiosity, respect, and a willingness to listen even if you don't agree. When you genuinely care about the people in the room, we all feel that, and we all know we can keep working together."
What do you look forward to while working with this group?
I look forward to really digging into the committee work that we have going. I look forward to learning more about all the ranching operations that are out there. Every year I learn something new, whether it's visiting during calving season or riding out in the grazing allotments in the summer – there's just always something that I learn. I look forward to seeing this group grow and being a part of this group as it matures and gets more dialed in and more focused as the years go on, which we've been working on.
What do you think others could learn from the RVSA?
I really do believe that others could learn how far you can go with a little bit of curiosity, respect, and a willingness to listen even if you don't agree. When you genuinely care about the people in the room, we all feel that, and we all know we can keep working together.
What do you want to be sure people know about the RVSA?
I would like people to know, just to clear up assumptions, that we're not a project group. We don't put projects together and go out there and do them. We have an eye on policy, and what kind of policy will support the kind of work and the way we want to preserve the Ruby Valley, Upper Ruby, grazing, working lands, conservation – so we really have this on the ground policy all the way up to federal policy eye.
What have you been surprised by working with this group?
I’m surprised by the friendships, the real friendships, that I've developed over the years. I didn't expect that when I first started.
What is your hope for the future of the Ruby Valley?
I hope that the lifestyle that exists in the Ruby can always be there. I hope that the ways that people recreate and engage in that landscape are always going to be there for them. I hope that the wildlife that's thriving can continue to thrive and expand and grow out there. And I hope all of this can happen in a way that doesn't overburden any one of those areas and create hardship.
That they can all coexist somehow.
What is your personal theme song and or your walk song?
Hold Up, Beyoncé