Kalispell, MT July 10, 2020– The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, the nonprofit partner that coordinates with the Forest Service in stewardship of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, was recently honored by USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen with the Chief’s 2019 “Enduring Service” award.

BMWF volunteer crew improving drainage across a trail. (Photo: Bob Marshal Wilderness Foundation)

In total, more than 73 nominations in five categories were considered nationally for the 2019 USDA Forest Service Volunteer and Service Award that recognizes public contributions to citizen stewardship & partnerships, cultural diversity, enduring service, and leadership and restoration on behalf of the agency’s mission.

 The Foundation serves five ranger districts on the Flathead, Lolo, and Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forests. In 2019, Foundation volunteers maintained 750 miles of trail, nearly 40% of all wilderness complex trails. Its 318 volunteers contributed $401,858 in value last year alone, clearing 3,389 trees and brushing 213 miles of trail. They reduced erosion by maintaining 372 trail drainage structures, and worked to improve big game habitat by spraying or hand-pulling invasive weeds on 102 acres.

BMWF volunteers maintain a popular trail. (Photo: Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation)

Established in 1996, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation (BMWF) has sustained over 2,000 miles of trail access into the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states for the last 24 years. The Foundation was created to save a world class trail network from deterioration and abandonment. In 1996, 600 miles of the original 2,500-mile trail network had already been lost.

Volunteer crew headed out on assignment (Photo: Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation)

“The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation is an outstanding partner,” said Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele. “This is a prime example of what can be accomplished through collaboration between the public sector and a great nonprofit organization that benefits and serves the American people by enhancing how our public lands are used and enjoyed.”

“This year, ‘The Bob’ turns 80,” said Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation Executive Director Bill Hodge. “I am honored to be joined by hundreds of volunteers, donors from across Montana and around the world, and an incredibly dedicated staff, to serve the public and carry on the mission of this organization in years ahead.”

This is one of two Volunteer and Service awards given to the Northern Region of the Forest Service this year. The other was for the Custer Gallatin National Forest in the Citizen Stewardship and Partnership category.

Nationally, volunteers contributed 4.8 million hours valued at $122 million - equivalent to 2,662 full time employees or nearly 10 percent of the USDA Forest Service’s permanent workforce.

- By Lauren Alley, Flathead National Forest -