The “Intrepid Advocate” is Retiring
Mark Good leaves a legacy in central and eastern Montana after 26 years with MWA
Years ago, Mark Good used to bristle a little while watching his colleagues give presentations about the work they were doing in western Montana. They used big, fancy maps and beautiful photos, reminding Mark that funding for his work was paltry in comparison to the funding his colleagues received working in the much more glamorous western third of the state.
At the time, Mark was not just focused on central Montana. His work addressed public lands in the eastern two-thirds of the state, an area bigger than most states, stretching between the Rocky Mountain Front and the Dakotas’ borders. Many of the public lands on Mark’s radar were obscure, even within MWA’s circles.
“We hadn’t even heard of some of the places Mark was working to protect,” remembers John Gatchell, former MWA conservation director and current senior conservation advisor.
To make his point about the funding discrepancy between western Montana and the rest of the state, Mark drew his own maps, sometimes on the back of matchbooks, and used those drawings in his presentations.
“I was being a smart aleck, basically,” Mark admits today.
Thanks to the smart aleck and his leadership, MWA has become a champion for public lands in central and eastern Montana.
Mark is retiring on June 1, 2020 after 26 years as MWA’s central Montana field director and, in recent years, as one of two senior conservation advisers.
In his time with MWA, Mark has created a network of public land supporters stretching from Great Falls to Glasgow and led a grassroots conservation movement for prairie wildlands across central and eastern Montana.
“He found wilderness supporters in the unlikeliest of places,” Gatchell says.
That network is one MWA relies on today.
“The work we’re currently doing in central and eastern Montana would not be possible without that network Mark built traveling thousands of miles around the state and cultivating supporters in just about every speck of a town between Havre and Ekalaka,” says John Todd, MWA’s deputy director. “He found people who shared his love of central and eastern Montana’s prairie wildlands, and that love has already left an indelible legacy at MWA.”
When Mark went to work for MWA in 1994, the most pressing threat was oil and gas development along the Rocky Mountain Front. “At the time, it wasn’t a question of if there was going to be oil and gas development along the Front, but a question of when and how,” Mark says.
Mark attended one contentious Bureau of Land Management meeting after another and spoke up for keeping the Front intact. At one meeting, an angry rancher who supported oil and gas development on the Front let Mark know his position by jabbing his finger in Mark’s chest. (It wouldn’t be the last time Mark would find himself in a less-than-congenial situation at a public meeting.)
The grassroots support Mark helped build for the Rocky Mountain Front, especially in Great Falls, provided the cover that Lewis and Clark Forest Supervisor Gloria Flora needed to rule out oil and gas development on the Front. That support would, years later, also buttress a campaign that convinced Sen. Max Baucus to introduce the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act and led to the bill’s passage in 2014, permanently protecting almost 300,000 acres along Front.
In the late 1990s, Mark’s work largely focused on the Missouri River Breaks, a contender for national monument status in the later years of the Clinton administration. Mark rallied MWA’s members and supporters to the cause and took part in a series of meetings held by the BLM’s Resource Advisory Council (RAC). Composed of north-central Montana ranchers and other residents with a stake in nearby public lands, the council provided a list of recommendations to the BLM for managing the Missouri River Breaks. Though never explicitly endorsing a national monument in the Breaks, that list nonetheless called for a number of protections that a monument would provide.
“Mark helped steer the RAC towards those recommendations,” Gatchell says. “His behind-the-scenes work was critical for the creation of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.”
Until MWA hired a field director in 2013 focused on eastern Montana, Mark was in charge of managing not just one, but two MWA chapters – the Island Range and the Eastern Wildlands Chapters. That meant he organized Wilderness Walks for both parts of the state, a mammoth job that Mark carried out every year for five years. Many of the people he recruited to lead the Walks are now some of MWA’s most eloquent spokespeople.
Among them are Karen Aspevig Stevenson of Miles City and Dave Byerly of Lewistown.
Stevenson calls Mark an “intrepid advocate for wildlands” and “a bridge-builder.”
“What really sticks out in my mind about Mark is how hard he’s worked at building relationships with landowners, county commissioners, and others, and he did it through gentle persuasion,” Stevenson says.
Both Stevenson and Byerly served as spokespeople for MWA’s Our Land, Our Legacy campaign, launched in early 2018 after Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte introduced legislation that would have eliminated 29 WSAs across the state, including Stevenson’s beloved Terry Badlands and Byerly’s beloved Big Snowies WSA. Thanks largely to Stevenson and Byerly’s eloquent defense of WSAs, MWA was able to defeat the legislation. (Watch video featuring Stevenson and her love of the Terry Badlands and another featuring Byerly and his love of the Big Snowies.)
A place that has been a focus of Mark’s work for almost the entirety of his career with MWA is the Middle Fork of the Judith River in the Little Belt Mountains. Over the last few decades, the once-blue ribbon fishery has become degraded because of a road that provides access to a number of cabins on nearby private inholdings and crosses the creek multiple times. Ten years ago, Mark helped convinced the Forest Service to plan a reroute of the road so it doesn’t cross the creek anymore, but the Forest Service has yet to implement the plan.
Mark hasn’t given up, and has recently led an eleventh-hour push that has motivated the Forest Service to find the funding it needs to reroute the road. Even though Mark is retiring from MWA, he plans on keeping the Forest Service’s feet to the fire until it completes the job.
In his quintessentially understated way, Mark says, “I hope in some small way that I have inspired people and increased support for wildlands in central and eastern Montana.”
As anyone at MWA will tell you, Mark has done exactly that, over and over again.
From everyone at MWA, see you on down the trail, Mark, or at the next Forest Service or BLM meeting.
Celebrate Mark by making a donation to central and eastern Montana's wild places.
Ted develops and implements MWA's communications and manages its media relations. He and his wife Beth enjoy hiking with their two dogs, backpacking, Nordic skiing, and fly fishing.