Northwest Connections engages in community based projects which assist land managers and private land owners in better understanding, conserving, and restoring critical habitats and habitat connections in the Swan Valley and surrounding areas. We are exploring new ways to integrate local knowledge and conventional scientific processes in the conservation of Montana's rural forest lands.
Northwest Connections conducts long term ecological monitoring efforts which 1) provide important levels of information on wildlife and habitat linkages within and across the Swan Valley, 2) employ local people, 3) provide field-based learning opportunities for students and visitors, and 4) promote an ethic of land stewardship and the conservation of natural resources for future generations.
With our assistance, land owners and managers have current site specific information on how their properties connect to surrounding acreages; community members have functional ways to contribute their knowledge, ideas and energy to the task of ecosystem based management; students get into the field and learn about ecology and environmental issues first hand; and a diversity of citizens have the opportunity to explore their own connection to natural processes.
NwC was initiated and is staffed by local community members. As an organization we believe that local knowledge adds depth and breadth to our scientific and educational work.
We are attempting to pioneer a 'new' way of looking at ecosystems: one that recognizes and appreciates the variability in nature and therefore the importance of information which is site specific and which is collected over an ample period of time.
We also believe that by including our rural community in the long term conservation of this place, we will build bridges between state and federal level conservation policies and the rural people who live, work and depend upon these lands.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What's the difference between NwC and Swan Ecosystem Center (SEC)?
Northwest Connections is located in the Swan Valley, but unlike SEC, we work beyond the geography of this watershed. NwC conducts ecological monitoring projects and field ecology courses in rural valleys all over Western Montana. We host university students and interns from all over the United States.
Why is NwC a non-profit?
Where markets exist for the products we produce, Northwest Connections seeks contracts and/or fees-for-service to cover our costs. There are, however, a number of services which we provide for which there is no current market. As a not-for-profit business we can provide science and education for charitable purposes, under the IRS code 501 (c) 3, using donations from individuals and private foundations.
How does NwC fund itself?
It varies depending upon the year. In 2004, we were supported over 50% with a contract for the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear DNA project. In 2006, our income breaks out as follows:
45% - Course Fees
25% - Foundation Grants
20% - Contracts
10% - Individual Donations
Do you have job positions open?
We are a small business, but we do look for strategic opportunities to grow. If you have a background in natural resource management, education and/or community conservation, you are welcome to send us your resume. We’ll contact you the next time we are looking to hire.
What is your connection to UM?
We maintain a ‘cultural’ connection to the University of Montana. It is our closest university and one from which many of our staff have graduated. All of our courses are offered for credit through UM’s Department of Extended Studies and Continuing Education. We have always maintained at least one board member from the University of Montana.
Is NwC an advocacy group?
No. Northwest Connections takes no positions on controversial environmental issues. We believe that good information and full participation are the best avenues to environmental decision making.
Tom has been an environmentally minded outfitter and guide in the Swan Valley and surrounding wilderness areas for 25 years. He has worked several years as a research assistant for the Hornocker Wildlife Research Institute in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. Tom has an intimate knowledge of the landscape and ecology of the Swan for which he is well respected by a wide array of citizens, scientists and activists in the region, the state and the country. Tom directs Northwest Connections' research and monitoring programs.
Andrea Stephens is a science teacher and environmental educator with fifteen years of experience involving students in hands-on monitoring and restoration projects. Her particular expertise is in watershed function and stream restoration. Andrea has a Master's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana where her thesis focused on teaching ecology through habitat restoration. Andrea has worked for Northwest Connections for seven years. Currently she teaches the Watershed Dynamics course for Landscape and Livelihood. Andrea is also a full time mother of two Anna, 7, and Maria, 3.
Melanie has taught high school and university level Environmental Studies for sixteen years. Melanie has a graduate degree in Education and a Master's degree in Environmental Studies from University of Montana. Her Master's Thesis was titled, "The Ecological Basis for Community Participation in Land and Resource Conservation". Melanie co-founded Northwest Connections and currently serves as the executive director.
Steve is Northwest Connection's program manager. He has a B.S. in Outdoor Recreation from Murray State University. Steve has worked for the Forest Service for 17 seasons as a forestry technician and backcountry ranger. He has also worked as an outdoor instructor and guide for 12 seasons and is a rustic furniture craftsman. Steve has worked for Northwest Connections as an instructor and field assistant on grizzly bear DNA and whitebark pine research projects.
TIGER AND DEB HULETT
Tiger is a third generation logger from the Swan Valley who has an intimate understanding of wildlife and habitat linkages. Tiger, and his wife Deb, both work with Northwest Connections in the Winter and Spring, tracking carnivores and setting up remote camera sets for grizzly bears. When they're not working, they enjoy spending time with their three boys, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling and horse packing in the mountains.
Mike, a native Montanan and long time trapper in the Swan Valley and Bob Marshall Wilderness, also has a firm grasp of the site specific ecology of several of our threatened and endangered species. Mike works as a master woodworker and building contractor, and contributes to NwC monitoring and education programs part time. Mike enjoys journeying across the mountains to the Blackfoot Indian Reservation where both he and his wife spend time with family and old friends.
MAUREEN (MO) HARTMANN
Maureen graduated with an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana in 2004. Her graduate work focused on the divestment of corporate timberlands and the conservation strategies being utilized to maintain rural landscapes and working forests. Prior to her graduate work, she spent 5 years working for various government agencies (USGS, USFS, NPS) doing wildlife and forestry related fieldwork. She has been working for Northwest Connections for the past 2 years as a field assistant on grizzly bear DNA research and as an instructor for Landscape and Livelihood. She is an avid trail runner and enjoys any outdoor activity that helps her to explore the wonders of the natural world.
Adam Lieberg has spent the last 6 years sharing his time between the Swan Valley, Blackfoot Valley, and Missoula. While completing his undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, Adam was also busy taking courses, interning, and eventually instructing for Northwest Connection. Both a Winter Field Studies and Landscape and Livelihood alumni, he currently teaches the Winter Field Studies and the Animal Tracking Clinic courses. Adam also spends a good deal of time working for the University of Montana’s Division of Biological Studies as the lead field technician on a long-term predator, small mammal, and vegetation research project in the Blackfoot Valley. Adam has a passion for studying the natural world and enjoys teaching natural history to people of all ages.
Grace is the administrative assistant for Northwest Connections. She was born in North Carolina and lived in Virginia until she moved to Condon with her husband in May of 2005. She has three grown children and a grandson. She enjoys her church, spending time with friends and gardening.
Jessie is the outreach coordinator and has contributed to NwC field projects since 2001. Jessie has a B.S. in biology, and a B.A. in philosophy from Rocky Mountain College. When she is not working, she is likely to be found outside, hiking, biking, or horseback riding. Jessie volunteers with the local ambulance as an NR-EMT, and is a member of Missoula County Search and Rescue. One of her greatest undertakings has been the training of two Search and Rescue dogs.
Susan is Northwest Connections' marketing coordinator. She traded in her high-paced corporate career for an idyllic life in the Swan Valley with her husband, Jack and Siberian huskies.
Swan Valley resident
George was raised on the Swan Valley homestead where NwC is located and has vivid memories of the primitive "good old days" when he had to haul water, milk the cows, separate the cream by hand, feed the chickens, put up the hay by horse and pitchfork all by the light of day. George retired from a 25 year teaching career in 2002. He and his wife Emily, enjoy spending Spring and Fall in Montana and Summer and Winter in Alaska. They have four children and five grandsons. They enjoy the natural environment wherever they are by hiking, camping, canoeing, skiing, traveling, and watching wildlife.
|Katie (Kit) Johnston
Undergraduate Student, University of Montana
Kit was a Landscape and Livelihood student in the fall of 2006. She is currently a student at the University of Montana, where she is majoring in Environmental Studies and Communication Studies with a focus on Rhetoric and Public Discourse. Her main interests include conservation, conflict resolution, and community collaboration. Kit loves the mountains and rivers of Western Montana and being outdoors. She is an avid backpacker and biker.
Tom has been a hunting guide in the Swan Valley and surrounding wilderness areas for 32 years. In 1978, he started his own outfitting business called Buck Creek Guide Service. He still offers big game hunts during the fall general season. Tom grew up in western Pennsylvania and lived as a young man in northern Maine. He moved to the Swan Valley in 1974. In addition to guiding he has made his living trapping, mule packing, building log homes, doing forest management and for the past 15 years, increasingly in the wildlife research and conservation field. Tom and his wife Melanie founded Northwest Connections in 1996. Tom has been on the board of directors for ten years.
Ben is the Board Secretary. His passion is working in the woods with nature. He is part owner of RBM Lumber, a family owned and operated sawmill and logging operation located in Columbia Falls, MT. The mill, founded by Ben and his brother Roy in the 1970’s, has grown from a 3-man show to a business that now employs more then 25 people. RBM uses creative market approaches as part of a solution oriented way to maintain a sustainable future for Montana’s wood products industry. Ben says he has “never been a follower of trends and cares deeply about all living things and the awesome network they create.”
Sarah Van de Wetering
Breakdown of Annual Funding Sources:
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