by Darcy Thomas
Flathead Audubon Society is pleased to present a Lifetime Achievement Recognition to longtime community activist Dave Hadden. Dave lives and works in the Flathead Valley where he has dedicated his life working as an environmental professional to change the political climate of the community set in the magnificent mountains of the Crown of the Continent. “If I have a single goal in my work, it is to restore the good name of conservation in the magnificent Flathead,” Dave is quoted as saying.
Born in rural Ohio, Dave spent time outdoors in his home state and also in Vermont where he enjoyed a love of nature. He was quite fond of the birds and the quietness of nature. This love spurred him to go west for college, enrolling at the University of Montana in 1974. He was one of those fortunate students taken under the wing of Dr. Les Pengelly and later, in grad school, of Dr. Charles Jonkel, while he earned his B.A. in Zoology and his M.S. in Wildlife Biology. These professors who were also pioneer rebel wildlife activists, instilled in Dave a sense of deep responsibility to “fight for nature and the beings that can’t talk!”
As early as 1976 Dave became involved with the Flathead Coalition that was working to protect the North Fork Flathead River and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park from the proposed Cabin Creek coal mine just six miles north of the British Columbia border. This early effort evolved to become the primary focus of his conservation career, culminating in 2010, in the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. The enactment of this Act, in conjunction with legislation in B.C., placed the entire North Fork watershed off limits to oil, gas, coal, and other energy extraction.
Dave also acted as Field Director of the Flathead-Kootenai Chapter of the Montana Wilderness Association. Concurrently, he served as a board member of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) which focuses conservation work in the Rocky Mountains with the importance of birds and bird habitat as a central theme.
In 2006, Dave, along with a few other Flathead conservationists started Headwaters Montana which focused on the water, wildlife, and wildlands of the transboundary region between Northwest Montana and B.C./Alberta. The focus of Headwaters Montana is the North Fork of the Flathead River, the unprotected wildlands of southeastern B.C., and the international Kootenay River that originates in southeastern B.C.
Through Headwaters Montana Dave enjoyed a number of conservation wins during 2006-2020. These included a new Flathead Forest Plan that maintained protections for wildlife and wildlands across the forest, the protection of the North Fork Flathead River, and the establishment of pollution limits for selenium in the Kootenai. Headwaters Montana closed its doors in 2020 when Dave retired.
Dave continues to work on conservation concerns in Flathead Valley. He is the organizer and co-chair of the Community Association for North Shore Conservation (CANSC) which has been working to remove an illegally built bridge on the north shore of Flathead Lake near Bigfork next to the Osprey View Fisheries Conservation Area.
In addition, Dave has served for 19 years as the president of the North Shore Nordic Club which is responsible for grooming the Foothills Nordic Trails in Bigfork and Blacktail Nordic Trails above Lakeside.
“Conservation success happens slowly, some might say tediously, over years and often decades,” Dave reflects. “That has been my experience. It took from 1974-2010 to protect the North Fork, for example. Conservation gets done by working cooperatively with other organizations and dedicated individuals. Every success I have been part of has come as a result of teamwork and effort, and my part has always been just a piece of the whole.”
“I am deeply honored by Flathead Audubon bestowing on me their Lifetime Achievement Award. I share the honor with all my former colleagues who worked for the achievements we shared.”