The Don Aldrich Award

Jim Brown - 2013

Jim Brown
Jim Brown

In high school, Jim Brown studied birds when he “should have been doing schoolwork,” in his words. Hunting and fishing are lifelong passions. “Anything that lived in or on the water interested me,” he says. His family’s cabin on a Minnesota lake spawned his interest in a forestry career.

Jim earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, his master’s from Yale University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, all in Forestry. Describing his chosen career in fire research and ecology as “happenstance,” he began by researching field measurements of fuel properties and fire-danger rating systems with the U.S. Forest Service in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1965 he transferred to the Intermountain Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula where he conducted research on forest fuel properties and loads. He received the Forest Service’s Superior Science Award for his research on fuels and contributions to fire management.

Jim often flies under the radar for his extensive public service work in promoting sound land stewardship and conservation. Always steady, he identifies potential problems before they arise and engages people to address the issues at hand through education and conversation. He has focused his efforts on protecting important bird habitat by explaining its importance to people who influence land decisions, particularly landowners, county planning officials, county commissioners, city leaders, land developers, and environmentally concerned citizens.

Jim worked to establish the Clark Fork River—Grass Valley Important Bird Area, which is nationally recognized as having continental significance and is incorporated as a cornerstone area in Missoula’s Open Space Plan. His advocacy for the IBA led to a county planners’ request for Five Valleys Audubon to review all subdivision proposals in Missoula County. Jim’s work has led to increased non-disturbance buffers, reduction in home sites near riparian areas, and redesign of subdivisions to protect important bird habitat. Jim has guided Five Valleys Audubon to donate funds to influence procurement of conservation easements and has assisted other organizations in conducting research on bird migration and species of concern in the Missoula Valley.

Jim established and conducted bird surveys to assist Five Valleys Land Trust in identifying important resource values on lands of interest, which boosts the competitive standing for acquiring conservation easement grants (bird surveys also initiate landowner interest in pursuing conservation measures).

In 2010, Jim received the Montana Audubon Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2013, he received the Missoula Conservation Roundtable’s Don Aldrich Award for his long commitment to conservation and environmental protection.

He is the past president and current board member of Five Valleys Audubon Society and the Montana Audubon Society. Additionally, Jim is a past board member of Five Valleys Land Trust and the Montana Forest Stewardship Steering Committee, as well as a past faculty affiliate at the University of Montana.

By Tarn Ream and Poody McLaughlin

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