The Emerging Conservationist Award
Travis Ross - 2017
For two decades, Travis Ross has tackled some of Missoula’s toughest problems — ranging from hazardous wastes and polluted stormwater to degraded riverfront areas. All of which he does with a tenacity and passion that infects everyone he works with.
Travis grew up in rural Alabama, and studied biology, environmental science and geography at Samford University. After graduation, he worked in environmental monitoring and education in Birmingham.
Travis joined the Missoula Water Quality District as an Environmental Health Specialist in 2003. For 14 years, he helped protect Missoula’s Sole Source Aquifer by organizing the Missoula household hazardous waste collection program, coordinating logistics and site safety and helping design a year-round collection facility. To further his pollution prevention work, he studied pollutant sources in local watersheds, including stormwater outfalls to the Clark Fork and Bitterroot Rivers, identifying highly contaminated outfalls at Caras Park and Buckhouse Bridge. He collaborated with City and State officials to address this pollution, writing grant proposals and obtaining matching funds to design treatment systems. He also worked with the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology to evaluate surface and groundwater use in the Lolo Creek watershed. In 2017 he joined the Lolo Watershed Group and served for a time as President.
Travis was also a key player and advocate in Missoula’s urban riverfront access improvement project, which redesigned river access to reduce bank erosion and protect riparian vegetation. In a study of City and County riparian areas, he found that riparian areas in riverfront subdivisions that were protected as a common area or with a conservation easement, were in better shape than those chopped up into individual parcels. He created a website where subdivisions can be reviewed interactively and helped create outreach materials for property owners and homeowner associations to improve management of these critical areas. Both Missoula City and County amended subdivision regulations, requiring that all subdivisions of 5 or more parcels protect riparian areas under common ownership.
Travis is also passionate about public education and community cleanup. He worked with the Watershed Education Network, teaching kids to survey aquatic insects, assess pollution and learn about groundwater and surface water protection. He helped initiate the Groundwater Academy project in Greenough Park, which teaches high school students about groundwater, using monitoring wells along Rattlesnake Creek.
In 2021 Travis transferred to Missoula County’s Parks, Trails & Open Lands program to serve as its Operations Administrator, where he worked to plan, acquire, and maintain existing and future parks and trails around Missoula.
Travis earned the Emerging Conservationist award in 2017, nominated by his friend and mentor Peter Nielsen who described Travis as “the kind of leader people want to work with”. Missoula’s growing conservation challenges will benefit from having such a leader in years to come.
By Kalle Fox