Conservation Champion Awarded for Work Furnishing Permanent Protections on the North Fork

The North Fork Preservation Association selected Michael Jamison as this year’s Glacier National Park Stewardship Award recipient

By Tristan Scott
Michael Jamison of the National Parks Conservation Association speaks at the Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit Fireside Chat and Film Festival with Lisa Pike Sheehy of Patagonia on Dec. 5, 2018 in Whitefish. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

In the eight years since helping broker a deal to pass historic federal legislation that permanently banned new energy development along the North Fork Flathead River, which forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park, Michael Jamison has continued to furnish protections to all corners of the Crown of the Continent.

Through his wide-ranging role at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Jamison has forged powerful community-interest coalitions out of unlikely allies to improve public land management on the Flathead National Forest’s Whitefish Range while leading the charge to retire energy leases on the Badger-Two Medicine, a culturally and ecologically sacred area to the Blackfeet Nation. He’s worked closely with a generation of superintendents who oversee management of Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, ensuring that resource protection and community action remain prominent pillars in their management mission.

He’s also helped raise awareness of the Montana communities and tribal nations affected by transboundary pollution as a result of Canadian coal mines in B.C., bringing international attention to a complex jurisdictional battle that is still playing out.

In those eight years, Jamison has received plenty of awards and accolades for his work, but the most recent feather in his cap marks his proudest recognition.

Earlier this month, the North Fork Preservation Association (NFPA) announced it had selected Jamison as this year’s Glacier National Park Stewardship Award recipient.

In announcing the award, Flannery Coats Freund, president of NFPA, described Jamison as “a passionate, timeless, bold, thoughtful and fearless leader in the world of conservation in a universal sense. He literally knows no boundaries in his efforts. The North Fork wouldn’t be what it is today without him.” 

Jamison was instrumental in the passage of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act in 2014, when he helped garner bipartisan support for a measure to ban new energy development on 430,000 acres of wild and scenic river corridor. 

The Montana-made bill gained near universal esteem, even at the height of partisanship, and was hailed by conservationists, oil tycoons and politicians alike as a commonsense piece of legislation — 80 percent of energy leases in the area had been voluntarily released, and it dovetailed with an effort by British Columbia’s parliament to place similar protections north of the border, on the headwaters of the Flathead River.

Since 2010, he’s helped direct conservation planning and funding throughout the Crown of the Continent, a region that spreads across roughly 16,000 square miles of Montana, Alberta and B.C.

According to Dave Hadden, a regional conservation leader who has worked alongside Jamison and is a prior recipient of the NFPA award, Jamison’s brand of workmanlike dedication to conservation and his creative verve for problem solving is unrivaled.

“If ever there was someone as yet unsung for their efforts, intelligence, passion, and results for protecting Glacier Park and the North Fork of the Flathead River that person would be Michael,” Hadden said. “How does he do it? He shows up. He shows up again and again. He thinks creatively. He talks directly with the decision-makers. He thinks several steps ahead of everybody, including those who stand in the way of protecting this place. He also brings other people along with gentle and assured encouragement. I’ve never seen him get it ‘wrong.’ We’re all extremely grateful that his radiance has shown on Glacier and the North Fork.” 

According to Jamison’s co-strategist and colleague at NPCA, Sarah Lundstrom, “he’s definitely a big-picture thinker. If he can’t find the solution to a problem, his go-to answer is to make it bigger. His creativity in using leverage is brilliant, he has brought international attention to small regional issues, and has moved mountains of problems into a potential solution. He’s committed to the Crown in body, mind and spirit. And that commitment runs to the people of the crown as well.” 

A longtime Montana resident, Jamison earned a graduate degree in journalism from the University of Montana and worked for years at the Pulitzer-Prize winning Hungry Horse News before spending 14 years as chief of the Missoulian newspaper’s Flathead Valley bureau. He reported on Glacier National Park with an emphasis on natural resources, environmental policy and science reporting. His reporting earned him numerous national awards that recognized his contribution to writing about environmental and conservation history, as well as the interaction between people and landscapes. He is currently the campaign director for NPCA’s Crown of the Continent initiative.

According to Coats Freund, the NFPA gives out the Glacier National Park Stewardship Award every couple of years to recognize the work of local conservationists and their commitment to the Crown of the Continent. 

The award was founded by Headwaters Montana and was formerly known as the Jack Potter Stewardship Award. Former recipients include: Lisa Bates, a biologist with Glacier National Park; Tim Manley, a bear-human conflict specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Brad Blickhan, the wilderness manager of Glacier National Park; and Hadden, of Headwaters.

If you know someone who deserves this recognition, let NFPA know by visiting www.gravel.org or by contacting any of the board members listed on the website.

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