The Lifetime Conservation Award
Stewart Brandborg - 2011
Stewart Monroe “Brandy” Brandborg grew up in Idaho and Montana, where his father was a national forest supervisor. He tramped the hills near home with a rifle, rod, or binoculars. In summer, he saddled up for trips into the Salmon and Clearwater country, wild places he long admired. He earned degrees from Montana and Idaho’s universities and led mountain goat research at wildlife agencies in each state.
The National Wildlife Federation hired him to work in Washington, D.C., in 1954, and The Wilderness Society soon swooped him up as assistant executive director to Howard Zahniser. Zahnie, a revered wilderness advocate, recognized the potential of Brandy’s intelligence and hospitable nature.
Brandy campaigned for the Wilderness Act by recruiting “citizen leaders.” He developed local committees with the Montana Wildlife Federation, an idea that sparked the creation of the Montana Wilderness Association in 1958. In The Promise of Wilderness, historian James
Morton Turner describes Brandy as “a bear of a man…deep-voiced, and devilishly charismatic. He could give a busy taxi cab driver reason to care about wilderness, and he could hold the attention of a senator on a street corner.”
Zahnie, the author of The Wilderness Act of 1964, died just before the bill became law. Brandy succeeded him and was at the helm when the act became law. Smithsonian Magazine noted the achievement as the first time “…land was set-aside for the specific purpose of protecting it from the reach of mankind.” Brandy was The Wilderness Society executive director for 12 years and was a force in movements that protected more than 70 wilderness areas in 31 states. “I was pleased to pick up the banner for wilderness,” he told a University of Montana historian. “But I realized…we had to have…the awareness of everyday people [in] the arena of wilderness preservation. That stuff had to be taken to people of heart and substance who would carry the battle. I saw that as my role.”
In Montana, Brandy worked for the creation of the Anaconda-Pintler, Bob Marshall, Cabinet Mountains, Gates of the Mountains, Medicine Lake, Mission Mountains, Red Rock Lakes, Scapegoat, Selway-Bitterroot, and UL Bend wilderness areas. In 1986, he moved back to Montana to settle near Hamilton with his beloved wife, Anna Vee, where they continued work to preserve natural environments. They raised five children, Beki, Betsy, Dan, Fem, and Lisa.
“We must not give up the fight to save every acre of wildland that can be given enduring protection within the national wilderness system established by the Wilderness Act,” Brandy said in a challenge to all of us.
Recognitions include the Robert Marshall Award from the Wilderness Society, an honorary science Ph.D.from the University of Montana, and The Lifetime Conservation Award from the Missoula Conservation Roundtable.
By Tom Palmer, Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame