Meet our Guests: Karrie Kahle

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Karrie Kahle

Outreach Coordinator, Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition

Livingston, MT


Karrie Kahle sets a strong example when it comes to grassroots activism. She has been quoted in newspapers ranging from the Billings Gazette to The Guardian, spreading awareness about Lucky Minerals’ proposed mining project in Montana’s Paradise Valley. Lucky Minerals, Inc. proposed two gold mines at the top of Emigrant Gulch, a mountain about an hour north of Yellowstone National Park. While Karrie spoke with us, her voice and words were brimming with sincerity and genuine optimism, which is something we do not always get from speakers. It is hard to find an environmental success story nowadays.

In addition to her career as the special events planner at Chico Hot Springs in Emigrant, Montana, Karrie is the outreach coordinator for the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition. She and others started the environmental group when Lucky Minerals proposed the operation in an area where there are several fresh water sources on both public and private land. Other mining companies have drilled exploratorily, but Lucky proposes to dig deeper than others have, which could potentially disrupt the water table and therefore many recreational activities that would disrupt the booming tourist industry in the Valley.

Karrie’s group had the political support of Ryan Zinke while he was the US Representative of Montana’s at-large district, before he was appointed to his current job as Secretary of the Interior by President Trump. Zinke’s stance is now up in the air, however. In order to stop mining in the valley for time immemorial, Karrie has helped drive bills toward introduction in both the U.S. House and Senate, where in both houses, they are under consideration.

By Isabel McNeill

Photos by Jessie Brandt

Meet our Guests: Mark Haggerty


Mark Haggerty

Economist and Author, Headwaters Economics

Bozeman, MT


Beneath his warm smile, Mark Haggerty’s worry is apparent. With his B.A. in Economics and Masters in Geography from the University of Colorado, Mark has many years of experience interpreting the economy, especially in rural places. His prognosis doesn’t look good. “The defining characteristic of the economy in the West is becoming inequality.” As the Wild West becomes urbanized, with 90% of its residents living in metro counties, money is being siphoned out of rural communities and concentrated in urban centers. Instead of the “death of geography” that the tech industry promised us, residents of the West are finding survival incredibly difficult without connectivity to big urban centers and the global economy.

Despite the grim status of our economy, it’s nice to know that we have somebody like Mark working to get the train back on its tracks. He works alongside ten colleagues at Headwaters Economics in Bozeman, Montana. Headwaters researches everything from public lands, to energy, to economic development. They then give businesses, government officials, landowners, and others this information, providing them the ability to make informed decisions backed by quantitative data. In a world where decisions are increasingly made purely based on emotions, the information Mark acquires is invaluable.

By Luke Ratliff

Photos by Clara Hoffman

Meet our Guests: Carter Kruse

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Carter Kruse

Director of Conservation, Turner Enterprises

Bozeman, MT


            Carter Kruse, the Director of Conservation and Coordinator of the Biodiversity Divisions of Turner Enterprises, sits with us in one of the few developed areas of the Flying D Ranch. The Flying D is the flagship ranch of Ted Turner, and an iconic part of Turner’s quest for ecological restoration and rewilding of the West. Kruse has played a critical role in the Turner vision for what this property could look like. As fisheries manager, he developed and put into action the restoration of 60 miles of Cherry Creek, which flows through the center of the ranch. Once brimming with native Westslope Cutthroat trout, they were outcompeted via the introduction of Brook and Brown trout, both fish invasive to the western states. Kruse’s plan involved poisoning the water, killing all fish in Cherry Creek, then reintroducing Westslope cutthroat trout to the river. This has proved one of the most ambitious river restoration projects to date. 

            The Biodiversity Divisions of Turner Enterprises, according to Kruse, represent “the largest private effort on behalf of endangered species preservation”. But he also refers to Turner Enterprises as a “reasonable illusion” concerning their efforts in conservation. He realizes that raising bison in a landscape with fences is not ‘natural’ and would probably be looked down upon by the public, especially the ranch’s use of feedlots to raise the bison to a correct weight. Kruse also looks down on trophy hunting, both because it is a form of bragging, but also because it is an ineffective way to manage an animal population if you only kill the largest, healthiest males. Yet he admits that it brings in a lot of money for Turner Enterprises and enables their conservation work to continue.

After lunch I ask Kruse what his favorite part of his job is. With little pause, he replies that his favorite part is being able to go out to a creek on Turners property and test for fish size and health, or more simply, just going fishing.

By David Dregallo

Meet our Guests: Todd Traucht

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Todd Traucht

Bison Manager, Flying D Ranch

Gallatin Gateway, MT


At first, Todd Traucht didn’t speak more than needed. He hid behind a beard and a cowboy hat and communicated as much in shrugs as in words. But as our time with him wore on, a gently self-effacing smile began to show, and he spoke about Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch with increasing length and enthusiasm. Todd has been at the Flying D for 37 years, working his way up from mowing the lawn to managing the 5500 American Bison which generate the bulk of the ranch’s income.

The Flying D occupies the liminal between public wildlife preserve and private ranch; at 113,000 acres, its separate pastures are larger than most ranches. There, the bison roam and browse on grass until, in the last days of their lives, Todd and his staff corral them into a feedlot and finish the grass-fed meat on corn. To ranch is to live alongside death, especially on the Flying D. This tension has given Todd a darkly pragmatic humor. He rocked back on the heels of his boots, gesturing at his collie Agate, and told us of the time she leapt from the pickup to chase a wolf. “I thought, well, she was a good dog,” he said, but not even the beard could hide his smile of relief that Agate, who returned from her chase alive and unharmed, still curled at his feet.

By Noah Dunn

Meet our Guests: Kent Woodruff


Kent Woodruff

Retired USFS Wildlife Biologist; Director, Methow Beaver Project

Twisp, WA


Kent Woodruff is no ordinary naturalist. Wildland firefighter, bat aficionado, hawk watcher, forest service biologist, and beaver believer, Kent flows over with passion for his home, the Methow Valley. He has an amazing way with words and people. He is a champion of wildlife recovery, reintroduction, and the founder of crucial environmental groups and projects. We learned that the Methow is an ecological haven for hawks, beavers, elk, wolves, bats, rattlesnakes and more. Over the weeklong crash course in ecology we learned the many interactions between species, the land, and the role that humans have taken in restoring much of these interactions. Kent brought our focus to a few critically important and/or imperiled species of the Methow including the Peregine Falcon, Western Rattlesnake, Townsend Big-eared Bat, and the Lookout and Loop Loop wolf packs. It didn’t take long for Kent to transfer his passion for the Methow to us. Kent taught us about the wonders of the beaver, what he calls the “Machinery of the Methow” for their stream damming, habitat creating, and overall transforming characteristics.

Kent is the founder of the Methow Beaver Project, designed to reintroduce beavers into degraded habitats, where streams run fast and lose their water quickly, to create healthy riparian areas, store water, and attract wildlife. Kent is a beaver believer and we quickly converted too as we waded through a series of beaver ponds, searching for indicators of transformation, succession, riparian habitat, and changes to the forest. Beavers had been introduced to this site two years prior and had quickly gotten to work. We found frogs, birds, snakes, moose, aspen, and more, nurtured by these benevolent beavers. It wasn’t hard to see that Kent holds the beaver close to his heart. The species unite the ecological diversity of the Methow in their restoration capacities and recovery as a species. Kent’s positive energy and passion for the projects he spearheads has inspired us to “dig deeper”, never settle, and to be curious of the world around us. 

By Whitney Rich

Photo by Amara Killen

Meet our Guests: Janet Millard


Janet Millard

Wildlife Biologist, Okanogan National Forest

Leavenworth, WA


On a warm morning in early September, we met up with Janet Millard on the dusty, jagged slopes of Chelan Ridge, Washington. With her aging pup Ginger at her heels, Millard took most of our group to the observatory at the Chelan Raptor Migration Project. The project, which Millard holds near and dear to her heart, was the brainchild of Kent Woodruff, a retired wildlife biologist. Woodruff saw the potential to collect valuable data on raptor migration at the ridge, where an open skyline allows for easy visibility of birds in flight. Currently Millard is the director, and oversees the management of the project.

A few of us, the biology majors, are afforded the opportunity to spend the day in the blind, where birds are caught, banded, and set free. Millard uses her radio from the observatory to let us know when a raptor is close by. “There’s a Coopers hawk headed your way!” she relays eagerly. After a couple false alarms, we manage to catch two juvenile Sharp-Shinned hawks, one male and one female. “When I saw all three of you running, I knew you caught something!” she smiles, having run half a mile from the observatory to the blind. “One of them [a researcher] didn’t believe me, but I knew.” We tuck the birds into two hole-punched soup cans, an unlikely but effective carrying method that helps keep them calm. Their scaly feet stick out from the bottoms like popsicle sticks as we gingerly carry them to the rest of our group with Millard. When we get there, a hushed chatter falls over everyone as they realize what we’re holding. Carefully, we’re allowed to hold the birds, one finger resting on their breastbone, another wrapped around their legs. Millard and Woodruff fan out the tail feathers of the female hawk, counting carefully for the twelve that should be there. Next they probe the crop, where food is stored, to see how recently the bird has eaten. Millard seems just as excited by the hawk as we are: though she encounters them every day, the light and passion in her eyes are as bright as any of ours.

By Abby Hill

Meet our Guests: Kristen Kirkby


Kristen Kirby

Project Manager, Central Cascade Fisheries Enhancement Group

Twisp, WA


Whitman alumna and fellow Westie (2004) Kristen Kirkby is a passionate fisheries biologist working as a project manager for Central Cascade Fisheries Enhancement Group (CCFEG). CCFEG uses funding from Bonneville Power Administration, state government agencies, and local Public Utility Districts (PUDs) to rehabilitate fish populations in the Upper Columbia River and its tributaries. Kristen works to restore habitat for salmon by creating flood zones, taking out levies, replanting riparian zones, and adding structure in the form of stumps and log jams to help create vital salmon spawning habitat.

Kristen greeted us with a truck full of neoprene, snorkel masks, and an enthusiastic smile along the banks of the Methow River just outside of Twisp, Washington. Before we made it down the path to the river she had us stop to dissect a female hatchery steelhead. We analyzed its eggs, held its perfectly round eye lens in our fingers, and even quizzed us on anatomical features of the fish. Snorkeling in the frigid water of the Methow did not seem to faze any of us, with white fish tickling the shallow shore and large Chinook salmon and Bull trout darting through the dark depths. There was an exciting new world to explore just beneath the water’s surface, one seldom seen by recreationists, and even fishermen. One can easily see why this sort of data collection and monitoring is one of Kristen’s favorite parts of her work.

Kristen expressed the importance of salmon as a species for not only their commercial value and recreational benefits, but their ecological benefits as they bring crucial nutrients from the ocean to the valley. Kristen imparted to us the value of a holistic approach to habitat restoration and how it takes careful management and monitoring along with education to help its impact flourish into the future.

By Liam Voorhees

Meet our Guests: Sarah Bates


Sarah Bates

Senior Director, National Wildlife Federation

Missoula, MT


Sarah Bates is an expert on water laws and policies, with a degree in Wildlife Biology and Political Science from Colorado State University, and a law degree from the University of Colorado. After spending four years working as the President of the Clark Fork Coalition, Sarah now works for the National Wildlife Federation in Missoula, Montana. 

Sarah joined our group in the Methow Valley and shared her experience working with beaver restoration projects in Montana and enlightened us to the many benefits of reintroducing beavers into their original landscapes. With droughts persisting throughout the West and snowpacks overall decline and earlier melt every year, the dams beavers introduce on rivers are invaluable in keeping water flowing all year. While joining our group in the Methow, Sarah spent an immense amount of time engaging with each student individually and taking the time to answer each person’s questions in a thoughtful manner. As the group moved to Missoula, Sarah kindly offered up her home to Westies for showering and laundry making us all feel welcome in Montana!

By Kate Dolan

Meet our Guests: Ben Goldfarb


Ben Goldfarb


Spokane, WA


Ben Goldfarb talks with his hands almost as much as with the words emanating from his expressive mouth. Enthusiasm comes in many forms, and while his animated gestures and beaver-themed hat are a giveaway, Ben’s excited, curiosity-inspired storytelling about beavers in his latest book, Eager, is as infectious as his goofy laugh. When challenged to write the next beaver Bible, Ben, only a few years out of graduate school at Yale School of Forestry and still dressing like an Amherst undergrad, tracked down the most fascinating characters needed to tell and enrich the esoteric story of beavers and their ecological and political significance.

I’m not sure whether it’s because he reminds me of my brother or the fact that he remembered my name after I spoke it only once during our group introductions, but Ben feels familiar. As a journalist for High Country News and a recently published author, he naturally wants to know all about you, but goes about doing so with an ease and facility in conversation that reminds one of catching up with an old friend.

Sitting beneath ponderosas of the Methow, among 21 students hoping to one day be half as eloquent as he, Ben probably had no idea that he has humbly become one of the very individuals -- passionate, unique, obsessive, smart -- that he respects as the stars of his own stories.

By Nina Moore

Photos by Abby Hill

Meet our Guests: Tom and Sonya Campion


Tom and Sonya Campion

Founders, Campion Advocacy Fund

Methow Valley, WA


Tom and Sonya Campion are founders of the Campion Advocacy Fund. This couple has managed to combine their passion for business and public service as a tool to protect the environment, support homeless communities and advocate for civil engagement in politics. Tom, co-founder of the brand Zumiez, has spent his life in the business world, and Sonya has spent hers working in non-profits and fundraising consultancies.

The Campions are based in Seattle, but they welcomed our group at their mountain home in the Methow Valley. Within their property near Mazama, WA, they showed us a developed preserve for Townsend’s big-eared bats in a century-old wooden house and a more modern replica of the house right next to it. Additionally, the Campions talked about their experience in their business and philanthropic worlds and their story of combining those two in their foundation’s work. They explained the link of their role in politics and the importance of civic engagement. The Campions believe that civic engagement goes further than voting and recognize the need for advocacy and dialogues in different communities. Tom and Sonya represent an example of committed professionals advocating for social change, economic growth, and passion, together.

By: Juan Pablo Liendo

Meet our Guests: Zoë Hanley and Gabe Spence

Zoë Hanley

Institutional Researcher, Whitman College


Gabe Spence

Wolf Expert

Methow Valley, WA


After winding our way through the charred spruce of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and up a rocky forest road above the Methow Valley, we began our day with wolf biologists Zoë Hanley and Gabe Spence, two strong-willed minds with sharp eyes and a weariness for ranchers. Crouching over tracks, we learned how to read a wolf’s gait, and discussed the complex family structure and specifics of wolf behavior regarding their predation on livestock. Along with sharing her “risk” maps—that is, a generated topography of where wolves are most likely to kill cattle—Zoë posed the idea that the rancher versus wolf debate is at its core a societal question: “Who gets the right of way?” A political more than a science-driven issue, both researchers admitted the undeniable bias on each side of the value-divide.

The rest of the afternoon we strode toward a pocket of forest frequented by the “Lookout” wolf pack, stopping along the way to examine scat and practice our tracking eye. Stepping quietly off the overgrown road and into a saddle, we searched our peripheral for movement and ached for a response as Gabe let out a long set of howls. In the evening, we listened below the Douglas Firs of camp as Zoë and Gabe grappled with questions that left my peers and me unsure of where we stand, talking into the night of sacrifice and who belongs: What, if not science, should be the facilitator between the opposition? How do we create a baseline of trust and respect? To what degree do we need wolves? Ultimately, what do we want?

By: Jessie Brandt

Photos by: David Dregallo

Meet our Guests: Brian Kelly


Brian Kelly

Restoration Director, Greater Hells Canyon Council

Wallowa County, OR


Brian Kelly, the Restoration Director for the Greater Hells Canyon Council is polite, open to cooperation, but also a man of great conviction – one who is unlikely to back down from a fight.

As the Restoration Director of GHCC, Brian is primarily concerned with the relative ecological health and composition of the greater Hells Canyon area, extending from eastern Oregon across the Idaho border. Currently, Brian and his organization are involved in litigation proceedings against the United States Forest Service over the proposed “Lostine Corridor” project – a commercial timber harvest on the Lostine River Canyon in Wallowa County, a heavily trafficked, dense, wet forest area adjacent to the Eagle Cap Wilderness. They are arguing that the Forest Service illegally circumvented proceedings outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) through a loophole known as a categorical exclusion (CE).

Aside from the striking beauty of the Lostine, Brian understands its importance more holistically, as an essential connectivity corridor, critical wildlife habitat, and a place that deserves careful consideration and analysis before management. Although Brian is a proponent of carefully managed public lands, he believes that the recreational and ecological status of this land is too great to concede to commercial timber interests.

In his parting statements, Brian reminded the group that although litigation should never come before cooperation, one must also do what is necessary to defend our public lands from mismanagement. 

By: James Baker

Photos by: Hannah Morel

Meet our Guests: Nils Christoffersen


Nils Christoffersen

Executive Director, Wallowa Resources

Wallowa County, OR


Nils Christoffersen’s smile comprises over half of his face. His frequent gesticulations and laughter make him gentle and approachable. His overall demeanor elevates his role as Executive Director of Wallowa Resources to one of an honest and genuinely passionate steward.  Nils is a jack-of-all-trades and an expert on the intersection between natural resource management and rural life.

Nils challenged the argumentation of strict conservation environmentalism. He changed the way students perceive the timber industry by describing the advantages of thinning forests. This thinning prevents more severe wildfires and provides material for Integrated Biomass Resources (IBR), a Wallowa Resources timber products subsidiary for small-diameter trees.

Nils’s ultimate goal is to see Wallowa County become a “robust and resilient” place in terms of economy and community. In other words, he would like to see this county be able to manage its recreational and natural resources in a manner that builds insulation from outside factors to the community that lasts for generations to come.

By: Isabel McNeill

Photo by: Mitch Cutter

Meet our Guests: Joe McCormack


Joe McCormack

Nez Perce Tribal Fisherman

Wallowa County, OR


Joe McCormack is a rancher, a Vietnam veteran, a fisherman, a watershed expert, and the only Nez Perce tribe member to still reside full-time in Wallowa County. He speaks with a slow, steady voice as his eyes move between each of us in the circle. The emotion not conveyed in his tone is communicated when his face cracks into a brilliant grin. Pausing mid sentence, to select from his plethora of stories and experiences, he shares the story of the Nez Perce on this land, the forced treaties, and dislocation that drove out his ancestors. Through this, he dismisses the notion that treaties “granted” the Nez Perce the right to the fish in these waters. Rather, Joe makes it clear that his people “reserved” a right that had always been theirs. He speaks of the abundance that these watersheds once held, and is dedicated to restoring those fish populations by collaboratively working with tribal and governmental agencies in order to manage the watersheds. The importance of this work is to increase the populations, even through the use of hatchery-raised fish. For Joe, the issue is not where the fish come from, but whether there are enough fish in the watershed for the Nez Perce to do as they always have.

By: Aliza Anderson-Diepenbrock

Meet our Guests: Todd Nash, Rod Childers, and John Williams


Todd Nash

Rancher, Wallowa County Commissioner


Rod Childers



John Williams

OSU Extension Officer

Wallowa County, Oregon


Todd Nash and Rod Childers are both cattle ranchers who have struggled to maintain their lifestyle after the reintroduction of wolves into Oregon, and Todd was elected in 2016 as a Wallowa County commissioner. John Williams is a recently retired Oregon State University Extension agent, and has conducted research on the impacts of wolves on cattle.

Todd and Rod have both experienced cattle losses due to wolf attacks, yet they remain committed to finding a civil and creative solution to the problem of wolf depredation on cattle. While the ranchers expressed their frustrations with the management of the species, they have accepted the wolves’ presence, but desire permission from the state and federal government to defend their own property. John’s research sheds light on how wolves impact cattle in ways other than plain depredation: an encounter between the two species can cause PTSD and create long-term behavior problems in cattle. John adds another dimension to the ranchers’ solution: he wants to normalize the killing of “problem wolves” by expanding wolf populations. This would allow ranchers like Todd and Rod to eliminate wolves that threaten their cattle and purge the wolf population of behaviors that bring them into conflict with humans.

By: Cindy Abrams

Photos by: Ethan Thomas and Mitch Cutter

Meet our Guests: Jenny Reinheardt


Jenny Reinheardt

Retired USFS Fuels Specialist, Wallowa Whitman National Forest

Wallowa County, Oregon


Jenny Reinheardt has been a fire specialist for much of her working life. She has both a professional and personal relationship to fire and is an extremely passionate public service steward. She recently wrote the Wallowa County Wildfire Protection Plan, which details the local history of fire and climate, and assesses fire risk across the county. Jenny has lit dozens of prescribed burns throughout her career, and is a testament to the power of humility, transparency and dedication when approaching controversial issues.

Jenny understands nuance and respects the complexity of the 21st century fire conversation. She explained how 1900’s fire suppression—which arose from the misguided notion that fire is only detrimental and would cripple the growing timber industry—has resulted in the massive fuel buildup we see today. Jenny believes “we have actually eliminated nature’s ability to clean up her floor,” and she identifies prescribed fire as the necessary step in a larger hands-on approach to forest recovery. She recognizes there lies ahead a long process of clearing forest floors and thinning overcrowded stands to decrease the intensity of future wildfires. However, she remains committed to reducing threats posed to wildland-urban interfaces one prescribed burn at a time.

By Amara Killen

Photo by James Baker

Meet our Guests: Doug McDaniel


Doug McDaniel


Wallowa County, OR


Standing with arms crossed over a shirt that faded seamlessly into the backdrop of blue Oregon sky while his border collie Hawk nuzzled his boots, octogenarian Doug McDaniel looked every part the rancher. Doug was born and raised in Wallowa County, and after a career in road construction, he now devotes his considerable passion and energy to a venture close to his heart: restoring the natural meanders of the Wallowa River where it flows through his ranch. As he walked us along its banks, we learned how Doug’s resources and vision enabled the rehabilitation of the riparian areas he recalls from his childhood, even if, while navigating a myriad of bureaucracies, that meant absorbing tens of thousands of dollars in losses to his own pocket. Said Doug while looking lovingly out over his river, “Everybody needs a-piece-uh land they can take care of . . . The only good belief is one you’ve got some conviction in.”

By Noah Dunn

Photo by James Baker