Yaak Valley Forest Council  announces new Executive Director

Submitted by Ashley South, YVFC


Yaak Valley Forest Council, a private nonprofit that works to protect grizzly bears and restore the landscape of the Yaak Valley in northwest Montana, has named Aaron Peterson as its new Executive Director.

Originally from a farm in southwest Minnesota, Peterson worked as a hydrologic technician for the Kootenai National Forest in the mid-1990s before going on to serve three terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives from a rural district.  He brings 25 years of experience in policy and project leadership to his new role as a former legislator, nonprofit manager, and wind and solar energy project developer.  Peterson has also worked as congressional staff in Washington, D.C. on agriculture, rural development, and environmental issues. His latest experience brings him to Montana from Olympia, Wash. where he worked on salmon habitat restoration policy and programs. He holds a BS in geology and watershed science from Colorado State University and an MPA in environmental policy from the University of Washington.

“The opportunity to work in the wild Yaak will be a rewarding challenge. I’m glad to be back in rural Montana. I’m eager to start work for a well established group that has led on issues and will continue to influence grizzly bear and forest management policy, lead on climate change, and work with committed partners,” said Peterson.

Rick Bass, co-founder, author, and Board Chair stated, “This is a time of great ecological stress but also opportunity. Our grizzly bear populations remain in need, climate work needs to be done locally, and we believe Aaron’s deep and diverse background will be an asset for a wild Yaak.”

Peterson replaces co-founder Robyn King, who is retiring after 20 years as Executive Director.

“I’ve led awe-inspiring staff to keep our last wild places wild, protect inland rainforests, lead on grizzly bear protection, and restoration-based forest management. I’ll also be helping out through the end of the year with the transition and look forward to seeing what the next 20 years of community conservation will be for the YVFC.” said King.

For media inquiries contact:  Aaron Peterson |  aaron@yaakvalley.org | 295-9736 |  www.yaakvalley.org


Shawna Kelsey, local hero for her
dedication to her hometown of Troy

Shawna Kelsey was born and raised in the Lake Creek area south of Troy.  She graduated from Troy High School in 2001 and later earned a bachelors degree in Anthropology with a minor in International Development from the University of Montana.  With plans to travel the world and do good deeds upon graduation, Shawna and her boyfriend Ben Valentine, who grew up in the Yaak, had second thoughts.  Maybe it would be worthwhile to head home and see if there was good work available in Troy.

Shawna started out helping Troy’s after school program get off the ground.  She later landed a job with the Yaak Valley Forest Council in Conservation Education and Community Development and hit the ground running.  This kind of work may not sound as exciting as fighting fire or serving in the military, but Shawna’s accomplishments have been and continue to be truly heroic.  While teaching outdoor education classes, she created the Troy Elementary School garden which helps students know where food comes from as well as filling their bellies with delicious, nutritious food.  She started the Troy Farmer’s Market in 2011, a great event for the town every Friday afternoon in the spring, summer and fall.  Shawna spearheaded several leadership training sessions in Troy which helped to organize things like the school backpack program that sends students home with healthy food for the weekend.

Shawna continued to step up for the Troy community by becoming a city council member about three years ago.  A mostly thankless volunteer position, the council has made a lot of progress in Troy lately.  The Main Street Montana program is one of her areas of focus and it has shown promise in bringing better internet access and other business prospects to Troy as well as the Troy Community Review process in partnership with Montana Economic Developers Association.  She also secured funds that created handicapped access to the fishing pond at Roosevelt Park.  In the meantime, Shawna, Ben and their neighbors are instrumental in refurbishing their neighborhood on Kalispell Avenue in Troy.

Submitted by Peter Leusch


Ben Graham Memorial

Ryggs Johnson and Bobbie Lacklen pose for a photo. Johnson was the Mens Champion and Lacklen was the womens champion. Photo courtesy of Jeff Dooley