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Dec 19 2019

2019 Volunteer Awards

Congrats to the winners of our annual awards for outstanding volunteer work

It’s that time of year when we look back at the year’s accomplishments, take stock of our successes, and honor all the volunteers who power our work protecting Montana’s wild public lands.

Without further ado, I’m proud to share the recipients of the 2019 Brass Lantern, Stewardship Volunteer of the Year, and newly minted Dirtbag Awards.

2019 Brass Lantern Awards

Each year, seven Brass Lantern Awards honor MWA volunteers for their leadership and action promoting wilderness and wildlands protection. 

Helen Stevens (Ekalaka) – Eastern Wildlands Chapter 
Helen has been a tireless and thoughtful advocate for the Chalk Buttes for many years. During the spring's Custer Gallatin National Forest Plan revision process, Helen was profoundly helpful in shaping MWA's advocacy for the Buttes by sharing her personal knowledge of the on-the-ground conditions, history, and cultural importance of the Buttes.

Katie Kotynski (Great Falls) – Island Range Chapter 
Katie Kotynski is a longtime member of MWA and the Island Range Chapter. She has a positive influence on every group in which she participates and has made an impact by introducing others to the outdoors and the importance of protecting public lands. Beginning in 2019, Katie volunteered her experience and expertise to set up and maintain online sign-ups for Wilderness Walks and Winter Adventures in her region. 

Katie Kotynski accepting her Brass Lantern Award.


John Repke (Whitefish) – Flathead-Kootenai Chapter 
John Repke stepped into the role as president of the Flathead-Kootenai Chapter in 2016 at an important time. As a new group of wilderness advocates came together to form a new MWA chapter board in the Flathead, John provided the leadership, consistency, and humor the nascent chapter needed. He organized and participated in hikes to help the chapter board members learn more about the places in which MWA works, and he encouraged the chapter to pursue new ideas, such as granting scholarships to recent high school graduates.

Roxanna McLaughlin (Bozeman) – Madison-Gallatin Chapter 
Two years ago, Roxanna helped create the Madison-Gallatin Chapter’s Trail Ambassador program, and she has continued to provide the enthusiasm, leadership, and dedication necessary to grow that program into an integral part of the chapter’s overall trail stewardship efforts. Known as Wilderness Stewards to MWA and the Forest Service, these ambassadors work in pairs or larger groups to greet hikers, provide trail and terrain information, and share knowledge about wilderness and Leave No Trace principles. Their presence on trails within the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and other popular hiking areas in southern Montana continues to grow in visibility and importance. 

Lee Boman (Missoula) – Shining Mountains Chapter
Lee Boman has tirelessly dedicated himself to MWA since returning to Montana nearly two decades ago. He has served  on the board of his local chapter, been the president of the state board between 2016 and 2018, and led numerous Wilderness Walks. Lee is currently creating change and inspiring others as Shining Mountains Chapter president and Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project steering committee member. 

Jill Kolb (Butte) – Southwest Wildlands Chapter 
Jill has tirelessly dedicated herself to the Southwest Wildlands chapter since joining three years ago. She has volunteered her time as a representative to the chapter collaborative, a volunteer on stewardship projects, and a variety of other activities that have helped to strengthen and grow the chapter's presence in southwest Montana. Whether it's organizing the next Backcountry Film Fest or coordinating the chapter’s annual meeting, Jill consistently steps up when volunteers are needed and demonstrates her devotion to protecting Montana's wild places.

Charlotte Sanddal (Helena) – Wild Divide Chapter
Charlotte has been an MWA member for over three decades. As a steadfast and committed grassroots volunteer, Charlotte has supplied cookies for gatherings, stuffed envelopes, volunteered at events, called and written elected officials, and continues to offer a warm and welcoming smile to everyone she meets.

2019 Golden Spatula Award

After a long day’s work on the trail, it’s hard to muster the energy to cook a meal for a team of hungry volunteers, but someone has to do it. This award is for a talented camp chef who cooks up tasty grub for the team to keep spirits and energy levels high.

Jan Jamruszka-Wilson (Helena, MT)
Jan first volunteered as a camp cook in 2014 and she’s been back on various trail projects since then, cooking up hearty meals for hungry trail crew volunteers. Her signature backcountry kitchen, adorned with Tibetan prayer flags, has fueled thousands of hours of volunteer labor for projects at the Chinese Wall, in the Badger-Two Medicine and the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness. She has shared countless stories of her world travels and mountain adventures over meals, and we look forward to having her back on many more trail projects.

2019 Dirtbag Awards

This year, the stewardship team created the Dirtbag Award to honor volunteers who come out on one or more Volunteer Trail Crew trips year after year. Congratulations to the first-ever recipients of the Dirtbag Award!

Roger Gordon (Butte)
Roger has volunteered every year since 2015, helping on a total of seven trail projects in the Centennial Mountains Wilderness Study Area, Big Snowies Wilderness Study Area, Anaconda Pintler Wilderness and on the Continental Divide Trail. He is a military veteran originally from Iowa, of which he likes to say “The only public land is the parking lot at the Post Office.” He’s contributed nearly 340 volunteer hours and an unquantifiable amount of good humor over the years. 

Robert Rasmussen (Helena)
Robert is another avid volunteer, having volunteered for 450 hours since 2013. His 12 trail projects have included work in or on the Badger-Two Medicine, Glacier National Park, Continental Divide Trail, Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, Scapegoat Wilderness, Centennial Mountains Wilderness Study Area, Big Snowies Wilderness Study Area, and the Granite Butte Lookout Restoration. Robert loves camp cooking – he’s always the first in line for food and the first in line for seconds.

2019 Stewardship Volunteer of the Year

As you’d expect, we give this award each year to one (or a few) volunteers who are not only generous with their time but also represent the values of our program. Last year, the award was given to Karen & Mark Sheets. In 2017, the Schram-Duggan Family won the award for the stock support they have provided on backcountry projects over the years.Congratulations to the 2019 Stewardship Volunteer of the Year!

Jennifer Kauffman (Great Falls)
Jennifer is new to our trail crew, having first volunteered in 2019 after learning about MWA’s trail stewardship work while attending last year’s volunteer appreciation dinner as a plus-one. In her first trail stewardship season, she joined us for three trail project in the Crazy Mountains, at Green Mountain, and at Mystic Lake. Jen is a military veteran, now retired, and drives a school bus just for fun – a gig that has resulted in many entertaining stories that she has shared over the campfire.


Thanks to all our volunteers who make our work possible. You inspire us all. 

- Keely Damara, MWA communications coordinator

Keely Damara