Treadwell reflects on tenure at wilderness foundation

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During Carol Treadwell's tenure with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, the nonprofit foundation's revenue more than doubled. Invested assets increase by 500 percent and the foundation's endowment fund grew significantly. (Duncan Adams/Daily Inter Lake)

Carol Treadwell knows what she won’t miss about her job.

“Sitting at the computer for hours on end,” she said.

At first blush, the job title — executive director of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation — engenders fantasies of endeavors awash in adventure: grizzly encounters, wolf sightings, whitewater kayaking, backpacking, blizzards and, as Marshall himself described, “scaling some jagged pinnacle.”

Although Treadwell notched some quality time in The Bob during her seven years as the foundation’s executive director, she spent more time working on grant proposals than hiking the trails in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

Her skills at grant writing paid off.

Sara Boilen, chairwoman of the board of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, recently reported that during Treadwell’s tenure the nonprofit foundation’s revenue more than doubled. Invested assets increased by 500 percent and the foundation’s endowment fund grew significantly.

Treadwell’s last day as executive director is Dec. 31.

She knows what she will miss about her job.

“I’ve been many beautiful places in The Bob,” Treadwell said. “My favorites are the Chinese Wall, Welcome Creek, Scapegoat Wall and Sunburst Lake.”

The 1.5 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex includes the Bob Marshall Wilderness, established in 1964; the Scapegoat Wilderness, established in 1972; and, the Great Bear Wilderness, established in 1978.

The late Bob Marshall, a forester, a fervent outdoorsman, a prolific writer and wilderness activist, was a principal founder of The Wilderness Society in 1935.

The Bob includes about 1,700 miles of trails and a key function of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation is arranging for volunteers to do trail maintenance — a role that has become more crucial as related funding for the U.S. Forest Service continues to slide.

During the 2018 season, the foundation deployed 347 volunteers to tackle 40 projects and nine interns handled 27 projects. Their work improved roughly 607 miles of trail.

Treadwell’s first introduction to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, incorporated in May 1996 as a nonprofit, occurred when selecting license plates in late 2011 as a new resident of Montana.

She and her husband, who had retired, had moved to Whitefish. She was jobless.

Treadwell, who has a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from the University of New Mexico, had previously left academia to work in non-profit conservation.

She said she liked the wilderness foundation’s license plate and appreciated that selecting it would support the organization’s work.

“Little did I know, because it was sort of karmic, that I would be working as executive director about six months later.” Treadwell said.

The long, winding path to the job began in Syracuse, New York, where Treadwell was born. When she was 6 months old, Treadwell’s family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and she grew up there.

Her academic career included stints at the Plattsburgh Campus of the State University of New York, as well as Middlebury College and Green Mountain College in Vermont.

Before moving to Montana and taking the foundation job, Treadwell worked as executive director for the Ausable River Association in Wilmington, New York. The Ausable River begins in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains and empties into Lake Champlain.

The South Fork of the Flathead River, with headwaters in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, flows not far from the Hungry Horse Ranger Station, the building that houses the wilderness foundation.

The bookshelf in Treadwell’s small office includes a host of field guides and other titles, including “Mules and Mountains” by Margie Hahn, and “A Wilderness Original: The Life of Bob Marshall,” by James Glover.

She shares the office, too, with T-shirts and commemorative mugs the foundation sells, along with other merchandise, as one small revenue source.

The leading revenue sources have been grants, memberships and donations, and fundraisers. License plate sales help.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation spends the bulk of the money it raises on boots-on-the-ground projects, including trail work and fighting noxious weeds, with the latter described by the foundation as the greatest ecological threat to the wilderness complex.

Treadwell said she is proud of the internship program she helped develop during her seven-year tenure. The program started with one intern in 2012. There were 11 participants this year, including nine interns and two packer apprentices.

On the cusp of leaving the foundation job, Treadwell said she will likely continue to work as a grant writer while also getting into the outdoors more.

Her seven years with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation yielded some indelible memories. She described one.

“It was a crew-led, end-of-the-year trip, and we were working out of the Welcome Creek cabin,” Treadwell said. “And waking up early one morning, the sun was rising and reflecting off the Scapegoat Wall and the light was an amazing color of pink. It lasted only a few moments and it was the most beautiful thing.”

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