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Photo by Patrick Colleran
Oct 19 2016

MWA Founders to be Inducted into Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame

Ken and Florence Baldwin dedicated their lives to Montana’s wild places and wildlife

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In 1958, husband and wife Ken and Florence Baldwin wrote a letter to 100 friends across Montana inviting them to Bozeman to discuss wildlands protection and the support they could give to a Congressional bill creating a national system of wilderness areas.

Two weeks later, 21 people from across the state met in a conference room at the Baxter Hotel, some traveling from as far away as East Glacier. The group included three local outfitters, a state fish and game biologist, and one Madison Valley rancher. That afternoon, the group agreed to form an organization dedicated to a “balanced conservation program … essential in the survival of our civilized culture.” That group is Montana Wilderness Association, the first grassroots wilderness organization in the country.

For their role in creating our organization and for their lifelong dedication to protecting wild places and wild things, Montana’s Outdoors Legacy Foundation will posthumously induct Ken and Florence into the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame at a banquet in Helena on December 3.

The Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame honors people, both living and deceased, who made significant and lasting contributions to the restoration and conservation of Montana’s wildlife and wild places. The focus of the awards is to recognize Montana’s historical and contemporary conservation leaders and to ensure their stories become part of Montana’s outdoor heritage. As Hall of Famers, the Baldwins will the join the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Senator Lee Metcalf, and former MWA presidents Doris Milner, Cecil Garland, and Gerry Jennings.

Before founding MWA, the Baldwins had already spent several years advocating on behalf of Montana’s wildlife. Avid hunters, they had trekked throughout northern and western Montana from the 1930s to the 1950s and charted a decline in the state’s wildlife populations. These experiences compelled Ken to join, and later serve as president of, fish and wildlife groups such as the Montana Wildlife Federation and the Gallatin Sportsmen’s Association.  Seeing “that it was necessary that wildlands be set aside to leave the habitat for those animals,” Ken and Florence embarked on a mission to stop the loss of wild country in Montana. That’s when they wrote the letter to 100 of their friends.

Thanks to the Baldwins’ leadership, MWA stood at the forefront of the Wilderness Act, working alongside Senators James Murray, Mike Mansfield, and Lee Metcalf, all of whom were original sponsors of the bill. Also thanks to the Baldwins’ leadership, Montana’s Bob Marshall, Cabinet Mountains, Gates of the Mountains, Anaconda-Pintler, and Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Areas were all designated with passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.

As part of their work advocating for wilderness protection, Ken and Florence set out on July 21, 1962 with a group of 40 to Table Mountain in the Spanish Peaks. Their intention was to connect people to special places that needed protection. With that trip, MWA’s Wilderness Walks program was born. Since then, thousands of people have participated in these free volunteer-led walks into some of Montana’s most precious wild places and have grow to love and advocate for their protection.

Ken and Florence were married for 77 years and everyone who knew them saw how much they loved being together. They were inseparable. Their love for Montana kept them young, vibrant, and engaged, even when they were in their 90s.

Florence passed away in January 2007 at the age of 95. Ken passed away just one month later at the age of 98.

This year’s other honorees include Margaret Adams, Great Falls (deceased); Bob Anderson, Livingston (deceased); George Darrow, Big Fork (deceased); Jim Goetz, Bozeman; Bud Lilly, Three Forks; Pat McVay, Kalispell; Bob Munson, Chinook; Jim Posewitz, Helena; Tony Schoonen, Butte; Bearhead Swaney, St. Ignatius (deceased); and Pat Williams, Missoula. Another notable inductee will be Bob Ream. (Read our profile of Bob.)

Tickets for the induction banquet are now available.

- John Gatchell, senior conservation advisor