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May 19 2017

Our Stewardship Program Enters a New Era

We’re expanding beyond the CDT and into an exciting future that connects people with the places we’re working to protect

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This is Montana Wilderness Association’s sixth year leading volunteer trail stewardship projects. It started back in 2012 with the creation of CDT Montana, which focused on stewardship work along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail from Yellowstone to Glacier. From 2012 to 2016, the program grew in collaboration, volunteer participation, and project accomplishments. This year, in response to the high demand for trail stewardship work across Montana, we've expanded the program to begin incorporating work in other parts of the state.

Our 2017 project season still has a high focus on the Continental Divide Trail since this is a key corridor trail that links together many important unprotected wildlands. This focus will continue into the future while we also expand our reach to implement stewardship projects that highlight MWA’s multiple partnerships, collaborative efforts, and campaigns across all of Montana’s wild landscape.

Stewardship work does not only equate to trail work. It includes a range of opportunities that (at its most basic level) place people in wild country to actively engage with our natural environment in a meaningful way – experiences that deepen our connection to not only place, but to a community as well. With guidance from Special Projects Coordinator Amanda Hagerty, MWA’s Stewardship program is set to blossom into new and exciting venues for important hands-on educational engagement. Her creative spirit and deep passion for volunteer coordination will shape and foster our citizen science efforts in the upcoming year.

Sonny Mazzullo will also play a critical role in choreographing and expanding our stewardship program. You may remember Sonny as the charismatic and knowledgeable coordinator of MWA’s volunteer trail crews from 2014-2015. He’s back in a similar role this year and brings a renewed enthusiasm to lead the lion’s share of our volunteer project work across the state. Before MWA, Sonny honed his leadership skills with the Montana Conservation Corps by heading up their youth crew program in Kalispell. His favorite part of the job is working alongside MWA’s dedicated volunteer workforce that comes out year after year. For him, the only downfall of the job is missing out on the score of the latest Oriole game while out in the backcountry.

I’m fortunate and thrilled to be working with this talented team as we set out to evolve our stewardship program. For the last two years, I headed up the trail and veteran fire corps operations as the program director for the Southwest Conservation Corps. This summer season marks my twentieth year in the realm of conservation work. The bulk of those years were spent with various non-profits, along with federal agencies, leading and working on backcountry trail crews, from Yellowstone to Alaska. Along the way, I also invested a solid four years with the Yaak Valley Forest Council as its forest-watch coordinator, collaborating with the Kootenai Stakeholders and cutting my teeth on wilderness advocacy work in Lincoln County.

As we move forward in stewardship, we’ll be placing a high degree of importance on the quality of volunteer work that we accomplish while striving to discover new opportunities that harness the talents and skillsets of our diverse volunteers.

I look forward to seeing you on the trail soon.

Check out this summer’s volunteer trail projects and get involved.

- Matt Bowser, MWA stewardship director