The Don Aldrich Award
Michael Kustudia - 2018
With a background in communications and environmental studies, Michael Kustudia’s career reflects a commitment to public service and a passion and skill for connecting people to their surrounding landscapes and natural resources. While he was born in Germany and raised in California, most of his career flourished in Western Montana, where his family roots go all the way back to the 1880s. His experience includes being a weekly newspaper reporter, a river rafting guide, a Peace Corps volunteer, an ecological restoration technician for the National Park Service and environmental consultant. He is most notably among the vital group of individuals who fought tirelessly for the remediation and restoration of the Clark Fork watershed, along with the eventual removal of the Milltown Dam.
Mike earned both a B.A. in Journalism and M.S. in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. After working several years for the National Center for Appropriate Technology as a Sustainable Communities Program Specialist, Mike joined the efforts to restore the Clark Fork watershed in the early 2000’s. First serving as the volunteer board president, he later became the coordinator of the Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee. His work there focused on communicating the complex clean-up effort through the Dam News newsletter, local radio commentaries, and digital media. He also was a member of the Milltown Superfund Site Redevelopment Group, where he worked collaboratively to envision future uses at the site and co-wrote grants that successfully secured a multi-million-dollar funding package for the initial park development and management.
Mike’s involvement and contributions in the Superfund cleanup led him in 2010 to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, where he became the first Milltown State Park Manager. The new park is the final product of the decades of efforts to clean up the watershed and restore the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers. As a park manager, he helped oversee the design and construction of park facilities, led development of the park’s interpretive programming and to this day manages daily operations. More recently, his duties with FWP have expanded to include managing four state parks, 18 fishing access sites (including the Alberton Gorge), and the Fish Creek Wildlife Management area in the region. Mike’s greatest work satisfaction is telling the story of the river’s restoration and the deep human history found at the confluence to countless audiences.
In 2018, Mike’s efforts to restore the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot were recognized with the Roundtable’s Don Aldrich Award and MT FWP’s Director’s Award. His career is a shining example of understanding the power of outdoor recreation, heritage and community in our existing landscapes and building a collaborative effort to restore, protect and celebrate what makes Montana as special as it is.
Biography by Kalle Fox