The Burk/Brandborg Award

Gary Holmquist - 2000

Gary Holmquist
Gary Holmquist

Gary Holmquist’s life showed his passion for service to both the country and the outdoors. His respect for wildlife and hunting traditions led him to question the growing practice of game farming and to build a coalition to address the impacts of that industry.

Gary was born and raised in southern Minnesota. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1972, where he rose to the rank of Sergeant before earning a commission as a second lieutenant in 1974. Gary would earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota and would later earn an M.S. in National Resource Strategy at National Defense University. A combat veteran of the Gulf War and Somalia, Gary was a well-respected Combat Engineer officer, traveling the world over during his military service.

In 1994, Gary was diagnosed with cancer and retired as a lieutenant colonel, after 24 years of military service, in 1996. Following his sudden retirement, he relocated to Lolo, Montana, where he would spend his remaining years with his wife of nearly 40 years, Mary. Motivated by his love for hunting and fishing, Gary immediately involved himself in local wildlife nonprofits, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Montana Wildlife Federation.

In the 1980s, the discovery of tuberculosis in a Montana elk farm that could spread to wild, free-ranging elk, led Gary to work with other sportsmen and conservationists to address impacts and risks of the game farm industry in Montana. He went on to co-found the Alliance for Public Wildlife and served as chairman for Montanans Against the Domestication and Commercialization of Wildlife, or MADCOW. After years of legislative struggle, the Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and Montana Bowhunters passed a landmark initiative into law that restricted canned hunts, trophy hunting and game farm activity.

Committed to building momentum for positive change, Gary earned an M.S. in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana in 2001, focusing on the negative impacts of the game farming industry and the efforts of multiple groups he worked alongside to reduce those impacts. He received the Missoula Conservation Roundtable’s Burk/Brandborg Award in 2000.

After a decade of battling cancer–while fighting battles on behalf of Montanans and wildlife–Gary passed away in 2004 at age 55. The Gary Holmquist Conservation Award, given by the Alliance for Public Wildlife to an advocate “whose efforts best reflect tenacity, courage and decency,” was named in his honor. Thanks to Gary’s earnest, effective, and unwavering efforts, Montana’s human-wildlife ecosystem remains a vital foundation for conservation today.

Gary is survived by his wife Mary; sons Todd, Troy and Tyler; daughter Tamara Peapealalo; and eleven grandchildren.

By Kalle Fox

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