The Don Aldrich Award

Bob Benson - 2007

Bob Benson
Bob Benson

Bob Benson has been one of the most hard working and successful conservation volunteers in western Montana for more than 40 years.  His extraordinary volunteer work with Montana conservation organizations resulted in Bob receiving the Don Aldrich award in 2004.

Bob was born in Blair, Wisconsin in 1931. He got his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Forestry from the University of Minnesota. He moved out west, first to Ogden, Utah then finally to Missoula in 1964, and had a long career with the Forest Service in resource analysis.  

Beginning in the late 1970’s, Bob started volunteering with the Montana Environmental Information Center. Then, in 1985, Bob joined in with a small group of people to form a new group called the Clark Fork Coalition, fighting against plans  to increase waste discharge from a paper mill in Frenchtown.  Bob continued his work with the Coalition for more than 30 years.  In the early days, Coalition staffers had Bob’s phone number on speed dial.  He helped with anything and everything from mailing newsletters to spaghetti feeds. He showed up and spoke for the river at public hearings. He was often the glue that held things together in the Coalition’s tiny, chaotic office.  Later, as a volunteer for the Coalition, Bob conducted a series of streamside management audits for timber sales on State lands, work that took him into the field throughout the Clark Fork watershed for two summers.  His work led to uncountable improvements in watershed health on the many projects he audited.

Bob’s work, over more than three decades, truly helped establish the Clark Fork Coalition as an effective and respected organization.

Bob got involved with the Milltown Dam Superfund Site in the late 1980s through the Coalition and its Milltown EPA Superfund Site (MESS) Committee.  This work led to the formation of the Milltown Technical Advisory Committee and the Clark Fork River Technical Advisory Committee.  Bob also was also a member of the Upper Clark Fork steering committee, whose work focused on water quantity and availability in the upper watershed.

Bob continued his volunteer work with these groups for many years, plowing through the laborious Superfund process, hundreds of technical documents and endless meetings.  The incredible legacy of this work is the removal of the Milltown Dam, cleanup and restoration of the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers, and the ongoing cleanup of the Upper Clark Fork River.

Thanks to Bob Benson the work of the organizations Bob supported, we can all enjoy healthy lands and clean waters for generations to come.

Biography by Peter Nielsen

Bob passed away in March 2024.

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