The Lifetime Conservation Award

Kathy and Wayne Hadley- 2023

Kathy and Wayne Hadley
Kathy and Wayne Hadley

Kathy grew up enjoying the outdoors in western New York not far from the toxic Love Canal. Wayne, Kathy, & her sister Lois Gibbs mounted a historic cleanup campaign that led to the Superfund law.

In 1979, the Hadleys followed their dreams to Montana, and found that they had left the country’s first superfund site for what became its largest superfund site – the polluted Upper Clark Fork River (CFR).

To help the river, Kathy cofounded the Clark Fork Coalition, which won superfund designation for the river in 1985. Wayne became a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fish biologist, managing Georgetown Lake fisheries and advocating for a proper cleanup of the Clark Fork River. He also organized a key study that showed that summer fish kills were caused by runoff from mine wastes in the floodplain, resulting in action to address this problem.

Kathy served on the CFR Basin Restoration Council and CFR Technical Assistance Committee, overseeing the multimillion-dollar cleanup and restoration, including the removal of Milltown Dam and restoration of the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers. Kathy also helped negotiate a historic discharge permit for the pulp mill near Frenchtown, preventing an agency decision that could have established a precedent of allowing significant degradation of the river.

Beyond the Clark Fork basin, Kathy helped craft a law that opened 7 million acres of private land to public hunting and had leadership roles in the Montana and National Wildlife Federations and the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Now ‘retired,’ she continues to speak up for the conservation and restoration of Montana’s land and water, and enjoys hunting and fishing with family.

In 2023, Wayne, a red-headed Irishman & proud member of the Osage Nation, hung up his waders and departed for the happy hunting grounds. Upon his retirement, he had said, “We are the guardians of an international treasure—the rivers of Montana. As I got older, I came to realize that my highest calling as a biologist was to work for my grandchildren.” Wayne had taught countless Scouts to appreciate and to safeguard Montana’s wild places. All his lessons were delivered with humor.

Always looking to the future, the Hadleys protected their ranch on the Clark Fork through a conservation easement and helped establish or strengthen many organizations to carry on their work and vision.

Biography by Vicki Watson and Bert Lindler with reference by permission to the Hadley biography on the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame web site

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