MEIC Board of Directors
The Board of Directors has complete legal control of MEIC and overall responsibility for its well-being and success.
Current MEIC Board of Directors
- Gary Aitken, President (Ovando)
- Bob Gentry, Vice President (Missoula)
- Tom Graff, Treasurer (Missoula)
- Kirwin Werner Secretary (Ronan)
- Joe Biby (Kalispell)
- Erin Farris Olsen (Helena)
- Greg Findley (Bozeman)
- Stephanie Kowals (Seattle)
- Dustin Leftridge (Kalispell)
- Bill Madden (Chicago & Augusta)
- Bob Ream (Helena)
- John Rundquist (Helena)
- Kim Wilson (Helena)
Gary grew up in the soggy Pacific Northwest, falling into rivers and tumbling down snowfields. He spent twenty years in Colorado raising sheep and writing computer software. A Montana resident since 1992, he began telecommuting from a trashed out mobile home with the phone outside under an antifreeze can nailed to a tree stump. Along the way he has spent a lot of time exploring crazy places by various non-motorized means.
Somewhat of a minimalist, he gets pretty pissed off at corporate and personal greed, and would love nothing more than to overturn the 1886 non-ruling by the Supreme Court which effectively granted “personhood” to corporations.
Gary has always felt that we have an obligation to leave this place in better shape than when we arrived, and is disgusted with our record in that regard. In the last forty years we have missed huge opportunities and squandered much of our natural wealth, things which have cost us dearly in the long run.
Gary would like to help MEIC and Montana citizens forcefully and without compromise reassert their right to a clean and healthy environment, one they can pass down to future generations with pride.
Shortly after accepting employment with the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program in 1996, Bob became acquainted with MEIC’s work. He quickly discovered that if there was a Montana watershed or a mountain that touched his heart, or some aspect of our natural environment essential to healthy biodiversity, MEIC had a hand in advocating for them, for him, and for all of us.
Since 1993, Bob has practiced law, focusing on environmental protection, preservation, restoration, and enforcement. In 2009 he opened his private environmental, social justice, and civil rights practice.
Bob looks forward to the opportunity of providing his assistance to MEIC’s outstanding board and staff. He says, “Together we can continue to assist our elected representatives to look before they leap, to think before they act, and thereby continue to make real and meaningful our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.”
Tom is a life-long Montanan, married, and the father of two sons. After teaching for 30 years at Hellgate High School in Missoula, he is now happily retired.
For decades he has remembered Dr. Robert Coles’ research into the extraordinary resilience shown by children living in harsh circumstances. In one such study, Coles asked children of different circumstances to draw self-portraits. Many middle-class children drew head-and-shoulder figures to represent themselves. Indigenous children of the American Southwest, however, essentially drew landscapes, i.e., bushes, rocks, ridges, and perhaps their dwellings. Many drawings didn’t even have a representation of a human figure.
Tom feels like his grandchildren, as well as all our children and grandchildren, deserve to have the grand landscapes for adventure and for solace that we’ve all enjoyed.
Tom says, “I serve on the MEIC Board of Directors to support MEIC’s inspiring and exemplary tradition of protecting our waters and our landscapes.”
Kirwin’s passion for environmental causes began in northern Michigan in the 1970’s where he was co-founder of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition – a group then, as now, contesting expansion of coal-fired power plants, iron-ore mining, and pollution issues related to Lake Superior.
Since returning to his home state of Montana in 1990, he has been instructing biology courses at Salish Kootenai College and conducting research on the amphibians and reptiles in the state. He is the senior author of the state field guide, Amphibians and Reptiles of Montana published in 2004 by Mountain Press.
A long-time member of MEIC, Kirwin’s life-long commitment is to help incorporate natural ecosystem principles into a dysfunctional economic system – be it thru example, persuasion, or litigation.
Conservation activism and the preservation of biological diversity are Joe’s strongest motivations. He has been fortunate to live in the Flathead Valley where he is surrounded by amazing landscapes and abundant clean water.
His previous experiences with citizen groups includes board involvement with Citizens for a Better Flathead and the Flathead Lakers organizations. He is currently involved on a steering committee that plays an advisory role for American Rivers, Clark Fork Coalition, Pacific Rivers Council, and American Whitewater.
Joe is a dedicated proponent of wild places, wild rivers, and connections between people and these landscapes. His seasonal work guiding multi-day river journeys from the Yukon to southern Idaho has cemented a passion in him for the preservation of these places and an appreciation for those who have achieved so much to that end.
Erin Farris Olsen
I am serving on the Board of MEIC because I strongly believe in strengthening our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. In my experience as a field surveyor, activist, and lawyer, I have observed the inequity that results from limited access to environmental information. As a board member, I would like to apply my organizational and legal skills and be actively involved in MEIC’s lobbying and litigation efforts as well as development strategies.
I founded and run a tourism business that sends travelers on sustainable adventures in Latin America. I have spent the past 35 years exploring wild places in the U.S. and overseas, and have guided numerous clients on some of the world’s best and most remote rivers and trails. Although I often travel overseas for work, I have deep roots in Montana and the
Yellowstone ecosystem, having lived in the area since 1982. My wife and I are raising two young sons in Bozeman, and keeping Montana’s rivers, lakes, forests and mountains pristine for future generations is of great importance to me.
Everywhere I go in my travels I see the impacts of environmental destruction, including climate change, and am determined to fight to protect Montana’s amazing natural resources. In particular, I am extremely concerned about global warming, as we know that we cannot allow our planet to warm much more before Montana’s natural resources are impacted forever. I strongly believe that MEIC should continue to lead the fight against global warming here in Montana, and that is why I am running for the MEIC Board of Directors.
In the summer of 1975 Stephanie came to Montana for the first time. She had never been somewhere where she felt as comfortable as in the Blackfoot Valley. After returning to Seattle and graduating from college, she related the story of her summer in Montana to her grandfather. Much to her surprise, his response was “I’m from there.” Stephanie learned that her family had homesteaded, mostly in the Ovando area, from about 1870 to 1930. Eventually the thousands of acres of ranchland were sold off, leaving just one lot in the town of Ovando.
Today Stephanie still lives in Seattle, but her forebears rest in the Ovando cemetery; the connection to the place is reinforced every visit. She feels strongly that protecting, preserving, and restoring the Blackfoot Valley and Montana is not something that can wait. It has not been an easy fight and promises to get only more difficult as corporate pressure for resource extraction escalates in the guise of economic promise. For Stephanie, that’s equivalent to trading our offspring’s legacy for a few shortsighted dollars.
As Montanans, our right to a clean and healthy environment is fundamental. To address the multifaceted challenges posed to our environment requires an approach that combines grassroots, political, and legal advocacy. Few organizations have achieved the capacity to integrate these methodologies of advocacy as seamlessly as MEIC.
It would be my pleasure to serve on the Board so I can utilize my passion and experience to assist MEIC in its continued advocacy on behalf of Montanans who love the natural beauty of their state. My love of the outdoors began while growing up in the mountains and rivers of western Montana and the Redwoods country of Northern California.
After 10 years as a river guide and a law degree from the University of Montana, I moved to the Flathead Valley to work as an attorney with McGarvey, Heberling, Sullivan and Lacey
Chicago and Augusta
I am honored to serve on the MEIC Board and help continue the thoughtful and aggressive agenda this entity has carried out for over 40 years. As a conservationist, and a native Montanan, I am concerned about the future of the climate and the impact of continued fossil fuel use not only for Montana but the entire country and the globe.
As a member of the board, I will dedicate the time necessary to become effective in protecting and restoring Montana’s natural environment, utilizing what I’ve learned in working with other boards over the last 20 years. As a designer and owner of a passive solar house on the Rocky Mountain Front, and with education as a physicist, alternative energy sources are of particular interest. I look forward to the possibility of working with the Board and staff in carrying out MEIC’s mission.
I serve on MEIC’s Board because I am very interested in the role of climate change on Montana wildlife. I am Professor Emeritus of Wildlife Biology, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, where I served for 28 years, starting in 1969. I founded the Wilderness Institute at UM and its interdisciplinary Wilderness and Civilization academic program. I initiated the Wolf Ecology Project at UM in 1973. I also served in the Montana House of Representatives from 1983 through 1997. Most recently I chaired the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission from 2009 through 2013.
In my free time I like to enjoy many of Montana’s outdoor activities, include skiing, sailing, backpacking, hunting, and canoeing
I love Montana. How lucky we are to live close to the rivers, streams, lakes, plains, mountains, wildlife, small towns, and colorful history that make Montana unique and special in the world. She deserves our protection for all generations, present and future.
Much of my professional career involved working with municipal governments to implement state and federal rules originating with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. I am recently retired, but still very committed to bringing my experience and perspective to water quality and water policy in our state.
I’ve admired MEIC and its accomplishments for many years. I feel that no other organization in Montana has done more to preserve our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. Its record of success is unprecedented. I would like to do my part to help MEIC continue strongly in its mission.
I serve on the MEIC Board because MEIC is the only state organization in Montana effectively and comprehensively focusing on the most important issue of our time, climate change. Its work on this issue over the years has been groundbreaking and effective, a breath of fresh air, so to speak, in a very dysfunctional political system dominated in Montana by forces and political parties who refuse to face the reality of climate change and their responsibilities as leaders to do something about it.
I’ve been actively involved in MEIC since I first became a board member in 1986, beginning a four-year stint on the Board and serving as president for the last two. Since then I have represented MEIC in numerous lawsuits seeking to enforce Montanans’ unique rights to a clean and healthful environment and to know about our governments’ operations. I’m always in awe of the MEIC’s staff, and their commitment to the organization and its causes. MEIC has stayed true to its vision during the past quarter-century of my involvement with the organization, and I want to work with MEIC while it continues this vital work into the future.