by Linda de Kort and Rosemary McKinnon
Rachel Potter was presented with Flathead Audubon’s Lifetime Conservation Achievement Recognition (CAR) at the October 9 FAS general meeting.
Rachel grew up in Berkeley, California, where her parents took the trouble to introduce her to the “great outdoors.” She migrated to Montana with her partner, Jack, in the 1970s and began a career in Glacier National Park (GNP), working with Kate Kendall on grizzly food ecology. Rachel was hired to work on native plant restoration on Logan Pass in 1981. She returned to school at the University of Montana and gained a B.A. in botany (summa cum laude) in 1983. Her career was launched. She became a charter member of the Society for Ecological Restoration and was hired by GNP to lead their native plant restoration program: monitoring protocols and sourcing plant materials. She was instrumental in hiring people to start the nursery.
Rachel went on to become a charter member of the Montana Native Plant Society in 1987 and was secretary of the state board for 6 years. In 1988 she helped found the Flathead chapter and has stuck with this leadership role for 35 years, because she loves this community of both professional and lay people and enjoys her role in engagement and education.
In addition, Rachel has been active on the board of the North Fork Preservation Society. She worked with the Flathead Coalition to restrict Canadian coal mining north of the North Fork and was active in monitoring loons on Teepee Lake as well as negotiating a successful ban on motorized watercraft.
In her role as a botanist at large and historian of our local plant “community” Rachel co-edited a book, Montana’s Pioneer Botanists (with Gertrude Norton, Morton Elrod and C. Leo Hitchcock) which was published in 2017 and is available at local and university libraries.
Rachel was certainly inspired by botanists that preceded her. But more importantly, she has influenced burgeoning botanists both professional and amateur. She is generous with both her time and her knowledge. Some of our finest local naturalists credit their initial enthusiasm and understanding of our local landscape to Rachel’s mentorship. She continues to volunteer with GNP. She offers presentations and field trips on native plants and wildflowers for FAS and Montana Native Plant Society (MNPS). She is not done yet and will always be scheming about how to get more of us fired up. If anyone can do it, it will be Rachel: dynamic, personable, approachable, motivational, determined and optimistic. Thank you, Rachel. You make us all want to try harder to conserve and celebrate our natural heritage.