The Don Aldrich Award
Jack Tuholske - 2001
While maintaining a passion for the outdoors, family, and handful of hobbies, Jack Tuholske cultivated a 35-year legal career focused on public interest environmental litigation that led to groundbreaking legal decisions that shape law throughout the west today. Jack’s career reflects a passion for giving everyday citizens a voice that would help them shape the future of their own communities.
Jack earned a political science degree from the University of Washington before spending his early 20’s exploring the outdoors. He later graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 1985, which kickstarted his career in public interest environmental law.
Throughout his career, Jack was the lead, or co-lead, counsel on more than 200 environmental litigation cases. Fifty of those cases became published decisions that are influential in the field today. These important cases involved natural resources management, water law, wildfire management and protection, public land management and land use, and constitutional law issues. Jack was active in the state and federal courts in Montana and across the West, appearing more than twenty times before the Montana Supreme Court.
Notably, the decisions he helped shape in environmental law had lasting impacts. For example, Jack successfully advocated for listing bull trout under the Endangered Species Act, saving the species from extinction. This listing also protects more than 19,000 miles of streams and rivers across Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Jack won decisions that stopped coal mining in the Tongue and Powder River Basins, ensuring clean water for crops and grazing for the foreseeable future. Additionally, this decision prevented thousands of tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.
Jack’s career and volunteer efforts were valued by many organizations, resulting in many awards — from the Missoula Conservation Roundtable’s Don Aldrich Award (2001) to the Sierra Club’s highest award, the William O. Douglas Award.
Jack’s legal career was not limited to the courtroom. He served on negotiation teams, such as the team that negotiated to reverse a Montana agency decision to allow the pulp mill on the Clark Fork River to increase its discharge to the river. He also taught at the University of Montana law school, then at the Vermont Law School for 17 years. While there, Jack inspired his students with his personal pursuits and his professional achievements. A former student of Jack’s notes that he “had never spent a moment with Jack that wasn’t fun.” Jack pioneered programs including a two-week backpacking trip in which students learned about public lands law.
Jack passed away on October 17, 2020, after living 18-months with liver cancer. Despite his diagnosis, Jack spent that time with his family fishing, skiing, hiking, and traveling internationally, all the while maintaining that he was the “happiest man in the universe.”
Biography by Anna Butterfield, UM Environmental Studies & Law