Board of Directors
Chairman: As a nationally prominent nature and environmental writer (at last count, he has authored twenty-nine books) who has lived in the Yaak Valley for over twenty years, Rick is one of the founders of the YVFC and could be considered our organizational backbone and ideological compass. His experience as board member and trustee of the Montana Wilderness Association, the Cabinet Resources Group, and Round River Conservation Studies has been invaluable toward the development of YVFC. Rick’s numerous books and articles devoted specifically to Yaak’s wildlands and the need to protect the remaining roadless cores have brought national attention to the organization. His accomplishments for our group include overseeing our annual community presentations and editing two anthologies on the Yaak: Archipelago and The Roadless Yaak. In addition, Rick offers countless hours of volunteer field support to our Forest Watch program and writes numerous articles and op-ed pieces yearly, which bring the need to protect the Yaak to a national audience.
Ed. D., YVFC Secretary/Treasurer: David is currently assistant professor of educational leadership for the graduate school at the Montana State University. He is a Courage To Teach/Lead facilitator and is co-founder of Montana Courage To Teach, a professional development program for educators and leaders that focuses on helping educators/leaders reconnect who they are with what they do. David’s professional experience has been elemental in structuring the YVFC Conservation Education program, now in its third year. Prior to his Montana State appointment, he was an adjunct professor at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he also taught leadership classes, and has taught college and high school English and the sciences and served as the high school principal in Troy, Montana. For four years he taught 5th-8th grade in the K-8 Yaak school, the last “one room” school in Montana which still meets in its original log cabin. After an extended stint as a professor at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, David and his family have returned to Montana full-time; they are now able to spend many more days at their spiritual home—a modest A-frame on the South Fork of the Yaak River. David has been with the Yaak Valley Forest Council since its inception and gives the Board over two decades’ worth of perspective on both the land and local culture.
Caroline Stephens was raised in the bluegrass hills of Kentucky, and is the seventh generation in her family to live on a small farm in the city of Louisville.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, studying creative writing and environmental science. In Kentucky, she worked on a small organic vegetable farms and began her study of food and agriculture. After college, she moved west, and in 2015 received a Master of Science degree from the University of Montana in Environmental Studies with a focus in sustainable food and farming, as well as creative non-fiction writing. Her master’s thesis addressed the history of drought management on grain farms in north central Montana. She is fascinated by stories of climate, stories of place, and the relationships individuals and communities cultivate with the land. She currently manages five acres of vegetables and garlic seed at Foothill Farm in the Mission Valley. An easterner and a southerner, she is glad to spend time in places more wild than her homeland–and in the Yaak in particular, which with its rolling hills and narrow hollows more closely resembles her home than any other place in Montana.
I grew up where the tall grass prairie of the Flint Hills meets the eastern woodlands of Kansas. Although I was building on roots in Kansas, the mountains kept whispering to me. I have a B.A. in English Literature from Washburn University. I am proud to be the first person with a minor from the Kansas studies program. The wind blew hard the summer of ’99 and like a tumbleweed in the wind waiting for the mountains to stop me; I rode the current north-west to the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. In 2008, I graduated with a M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. I have assisted and served on numerous boards in Western Montana, two of which are TroutUnlimited and The Bitterroot Land Trust. I hope to bring my background as a business owner, marketer and banker, combined with my education and experience to help preserve the wild places in the Yaak.
Tara grew up spending as much time as possible in the woods or on the prairie surrounding her grandparents’ farm in Minnesota, utterly fascinated by everything to do with nature. She has a B.A. in Anthropology from Luther College, and worked on archaeological digs on a Mississippi River floodplain. She was a long-time volunteer Minnesota’s Wildlife Science Center, helping with animal care for wolves, bears, coyotes, cougars, and raptors.
She also has coordinated events and volunteers and taught educational programs for schools and groups. The years and experiences she spent at WSC shaped her understanding of predators and prey and reinforced her feelings about the need for wildlands for wildlife habitat.
For several years she headed the International Wolf Center, an outreach program dedicated to teaching facts about wolves while acknowledging the problems that can arise between people and wolves trying to coexist, and addressing the truths and fallacies regarding myths about wolves.
Tara is presently setting up a traveling environmental education business and is the proud mom of three children (her daughter now lives in Missoula) and a pack of dogs, two of them rescued strays from Montana.
She spends as much time as possible hiking and camping in the wilds of Montana and Wyoming. She initially visited the Yaak in 1996 and helped Board Chair Rick Bass with the first website dedicated to obtaining protection for the Yaak’s roadless areas. She reveres the Yaak’s wildness and diversity, and returns as often as she can.