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Photo by Patrick Colleran
Dec 23 2016

MWA Again Makes OUTSIDE’s List of 100 Best Places to Work

Getting into Montana's wild backcountry is part of the job

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A year ago, Mike Rooney was dragging himself to work at a San Francisco-based start-up that paid him a little more than he paid his landlord at the end of each month. A soulful guy who loves to run trails, Mike began to feel that the life he had wasn't offering him what he needed. The daily grind was wearing him down. One day, he had enough.

“On a whim, I decided to check out Outside Magazine's 2015 Best Places to Work and stumbled upon Montana Wilderness Association,” he says. “I'd never even stepped foot in Montana, yet the state was always on my radar.”

His mind drifted a thousand miles to the Northern Rockies, where commutes were uncommon and big city prices were for the most part unknown. He was sold on the place, but that wasn’t quite enough. He also was looking for a sense of purpose.

“I was stuck in a job that wasn't fulfilling,” he explains. “I was stressed out and forcing myself to go through the motions without looking to see what else was out there. The more I read about MWA and researched their programs, the more I realized that this could be the job that pulls me into something bigger.”

After three interviews and a trip to Helena, where he sampled the beer and explored the town’s nationally recognized trail system, he joined the team – “all thanks to Outside Magazine.”

This fall, for the second year in a row, MWA was selected by Outside Magazine as one of the 100 best places to work in the United States. We’re pleased to share this honor with four outfits based in Montana: Ecology Project International, Wisetail, Rivertop Renewables, and Foundant Technologies.

At MWA, we like to get outside. We offer our staff paid "trail days” to explore places they’re working to protect. We hold our annual staff retreat in the backcountry. This year, we crossed the Crazy Mountains together on a three-day trek that forged stronger bonds (and bigger blisters) than any icebreaker could ever offer.

At MWA, we also believe that time outside is just one way we can help people thrive. We believe people deserve to be paid fairly while making a difference. Acting on this belief, we’ve overhauled our compensation philosophy to attract and retain the best staff members. We rely on third-party market analyses to ensure salaries are competitive in Montana and beyond. We pay full health benefits, offer paid leave to new mothers and fathers, and reward high-performing leaders with a three-month sabbatical after five years.

Protecting public lands and wild places takes time and tremendous patience. It means digging in for the long haul. That’s why we offer benefits that foster resilience and help us recruit leaders like Mike Rooney, who just completed his third month as our development coordinator, raising funds to support our mission “to protect Montana’s wilderness heritage, quiet beauty, and outdoor traditions.”

As Mike continues this important work, we hope he’ll also find time to enjoy Montana’s quiet beauty along the way. After all, it’s part of his job.

- Gabriel Furshong, MWA deputy director