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
- Bob Gentry, President (Missoula)
- Kim Wilson Vice President (Helena)
- Kirwin Werner Secretary (Ronan)
- John Rundquist Treasurer (Helena)
- Alexis Bonogofsky (Billings)
- Erin Farris Olsen (Helena)
- Greg Findley (Bozeman)
- Hannah Gimpel (Hamilton)
- Stephanie Kowals (Seattle)
- Dustin Leftridge (Kalispell)
- Greg Lind (Missoula)
- Bob Ream (Helena)
- Jennifer Swearingen (Bozeman)
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.”
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.
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.
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.
As a fourth generation Montanan, hunter, rancher, and outdoor recreationist, protecting Montana’s natural resources is extremely important to me. MEIC is in the top tier of most effective statewide organizations protecting our land, water, and air for future generations, and keeping Montana’s environmental laws strong. I have worked for over a decade on energy development issues with Tribes and tribal communities throughout the West, and specifically in the Powder River Basin of southeastern Montana, and understand the conservation challenges facing rural and tribal communities. As a member of MEIC’s Board, I hope to bring that experience and voice to Helena and help MEIC remain one of Montana’s strongest environmental organizations.
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.
As a native of Helena and a current resident of the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, I am thrilled to serve on the MEIC Board. I know what a special place Montana is and it is an honor to be able to help protect and restore the state’s natural environment. In my role as the associate director at the University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area, I see a lot of parallels to MEIC’s work: collaborating with community partners around the state, doing outreach to foster awareness and, perhaps most importantly, working to educate and inspire the next generation of Montanans to explore and appreciate the world around them. After all, it takes both education and forward-thinking regulation to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy this amazing place I get to call home.
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.
Dustin grew up in the Mountains of Western Montana and the Redwoods of the Pacific Northwest. Between surfing in the Pacific and skiing the slopes of Big Mountain, his passion for the outdoors inspired his academic path into policy and law.
He attended The University of Montana for his undergraduate degrees in Geology and Political Science where he served as the president of the student body and the board chair of the Montana Public Interest Research Group. Dustin received his J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law where he served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Public Land and Resources Law Review and interned for the U.S. Forest Service.
During his summers, Dustin worked as a river guide throughout Montana and Idaho, where his admiration for wild places, such as the Middle Fork of the Salmon, inspired his career in conservation and public interest law. Dustin currently serves on the board of directors for Citizens for a Better Flathead and works as a trial attorney for McGarvey, Heberling, Sullivan and Lacey P.C. in Kalispell.
I moved to Montana in 1997. The prior decade had been spent in Utah where the battle over protecting amazing landscapes distilled and defined my environmental and political views. Sometime after arrival in Missoula I asked around about active environmental organizations and was pointed to MEIC. I became a member and eventually (after a conversation or two with Jim Jensen) a board member. It was during that time, and in my four years in the Montana Senate, that I saw firsthand the effectiveness of the organization and the quality of the staff. Personally, I believe that we would all be better off if governments, corporations, and individuals were forced to capture the costs of their activities (not socialize their CO2 , mercury, and arsenic, to name a few). Sooner or later we will all realize that the supply of natural landscapes and wild places is finite and shrinking – I for one hope that realization comes very soon. Everyone loves a winner and I want to return to the MEIC Board to work on important issues with great people.
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 became acquainted with MEIC when I joined Montanans Against Toxic Burning, a group formed to fight waste incineration in our local cement kiln. MEIC became an invaluable ally, educating us about our right to participate in government permitting actions, helping us review arcane regulations, and guiding us in grassroots organization. After successfully blocking the local proposal, MATB took those crucial skills to the national level to achieve stronger emissions standards for all cement kilns in the US. I worked closely with Earthjustice and met several times with EPA officials, as part of a national coalition of advocates. The lesson for me: citizen advocacy is essential to protecting our environmental values. But you’ve got to know how to fight in order to win. MEIC empowers citizen advocates in that fight.
MEIC is bringing that same talent to the fight against climate change. Because I see our warming planet as the greatest threat to our environment, I strongly support MEIC’s commitment to challenging new coal mining and advocating for renewable energy.