To celebrate the growth of its trail maintenance, education and outreach programs — and to bolster financial support — the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation (BMWF) is hosting its annual year-end celebration and fundraiser on Friday, Nov. 10 from 6-9 p.m. at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Expo Building. The event, previously known as “Voices of the Wilderness,” will feature live music, dinner, drinks, plus silent and live auctions.
As the nonprofit that fosters wilderness stewardship and works to ensure access to Montana’s 1.5-million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, the BMWF has in recent years been building out its programming and expanding its reach, with new programs designed to reduce barriers for underserved demographics, tap into larger gateway communities and rethink how future generations should be thinking about and engaging in stewardship activities.
For Cliff Kipp, who stepped into his role as executive director of the BMWF last April, the organization’s growth trajectory is steep but sustainable, and its staff of seven year-round full-time employees is forward-thinking without losing sight of the fundamentals.
“This is by far the biggest year that the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation has ever done in terms of new programming. Even three-to-five years ago, we were still very much thought of as mainly doing trails and weeds work,” said Kipp, who, having spent two decades as regional director of the Montana Conservation Corps, possesses a firsthand understanding of the value of both trail maintenance and weed mitigation. “But now we’re able to do more to reduce barriers to underserved populations and teach leave-no-trace principles in innovative new ways, including citizen-science type stewardship initiatives as opposed to just swinging a tool.”
As the BMFW expands its curriculum, it’s also growing existing programs like its packer apprenticeship, which now includes a journeyman level.
“We also have a robust internship program that allows us to place an intern with each of the five ranger districts that manage the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex,” Kipp said, adding that three national forests gird the Bob Marshall Wilderness. “Even though we’re based here in the Flathead Valley, we can’t lose sight of the other gateway communities that engage with the Bob. We want to capitalize on the stewardship opportunities there.”
The BobFest will also feature some special four-legged guests: a few of the mules who carry in gear and supplies for the foundation’s volunteer crews will be out front for guests to meet. Moreover, two of BMWF’s longest-serving volunteers will be recognized for their dedication and contributions. There will be manty-wrapping demonstrations and competitions, as well as a crosscut-saw competition for the chance to win prizes. Local outdoor company RightOnTrek will have samples of their backpacking meals, and there will be a kid’s corner filled with activities and games for the younger generation of wilderness lovers.
Door tickets include dinner and dessert. Chef Chris DiMaio of Montana Craft Kitchen will be serving a baked potato and chili bar with all the fixings, with dessert by Ceres Bakery. Sacred Waters Brewing Company is providing the beers for the no-host bar.
The silent and live auctions will feature an array of items: art, outdoor gear, wilderness adventures and getaways, and local handcrafted goods. All proceeds raised from the evening will support the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation’s work to open trails, restore habitat, and provide wilderness education next summer in the 1.5-million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
Tickets are $40 for adults; children aged 10 and under are free. Learn more and get your tickets at bmwf.org/bobfest.
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