Over twenty years ago, Paul Hickman, at the age of 71 had a vision to develop a nonprofit organization of citizens to advocate in support of Montana’s state parks (Montana now has 55 of them) which were in need of upgrade, maintenance, expansion and promotion. This non-profit organization became Montana State Parks Association in 1994.
By 2001, Paul’s vision had evolved into Our Montana, Inc., a broader initiative designed to work collaboratively with other groups “to participate in preserving the scenic, historical, archaeological, scientific and recreational resources of Montana’s Parks, Rivers, Historic Sites and Trails.”
With the assistance of Mike Penfold, Conservation Program Director, John Pulasky, Volunteer Youth Education Director and Eileen Morris, Associate Director, many many volunteers and Paul’s vision, Our Montana now boasts a list of very valuable accomplishments covering an array of Montana’s treasures. Because of Paul’s legacy, Our Montana is an evolving venture that is dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of Montana’s cultural, recreational and economic heritage.
To promote stewardship and enjoyment of Montana’s natural, historic, and recreational resources.
Our Montana operates through and with the following principles:
- Working with stakeholders and involving the public in our programs are the most effective ways to achieve our mission.
- Education, collaboration and advocacy for Montana’s natural resources will help create the next generation of stewards to carry on the Our Montana Mission.
- Historical research and educational programs can be accomplished with specific, measurable, attainable and time-based projects.
- Personal integrity, fiscal responsibility and sound decision making, as well as comprehensive administrative practices are fundamental to achieving our mission.
Our Montana Staff
Dana Lariviere – Executive Director
Eileen Morris – Associate Director
After a 24-yr career with Treasure Trails Girl Scout Council, retiring as Executive Director, Eileen became a volunteer associate director at OM in 2001. In 2014 she was hired as part-time bookkeeper. Eileen was born in Billings and raised in a “mom & pop” grocery store where business was a 7-day week. Her passion for the outdoors and history developed during 10 summers spent on the family ranch near Bozeman and continued when she married a man from a ranch on Otter Creek in southeastern Montana. Eileen’s experience includes 35 yrs. working in the family building construction business; 10 yrs. as engineer’s assistant, and community service on several museum and environmental boards. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren keep her in tune with today’s outdoor treasures.
Mike Penfold – Volunteer Conservation Program Director
Mike Penfold passion for conservation issues has spanned his entire career. His past positions include:
• National Forest Supervisor in Virginia, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Washington D.C.
• BLM Montana, North and South Dakota State Director
• BLM Alaska State Director
• National BLM Assistant Director Land and Renewable Resources in Washington D.C.
He has been recognized for his outstanding career accomplishments numerous times. They include:
• Meritorious Award for sustained superiority accomplishment in quality and efficiency in public service.
• Secretary of the Interior Distinguished Service commendation for ability to work with diverse groups in Montana.
• Secretary of the Interior Meritorious Service commendation for leadership as State Director of Alaska.
• Secretary of the Interior Award for sustained meritorious service in public land administration.
• President Reagan commendation for contribution to greater government efficiency.
• Director’s commendation for the Resource Apprenticeship Program for minority and disadvantaged young people.
• Montana Wildlife Federation – Conservation Leaders Ship Award
In addition to working for Our Montana as the Conservation Program Director, he is the Chairman of Frontier Heritage Alliance, a member of the Governor’s Private Land Public Wildlife Committee and past member of the Governor’s Scenic Byway Commission, Private Land Public Wildlife Committee and other state wide committees.
Mike likes to hunt, fly fish, bike, camp, ski, back pack and do historical research. He lives in Billings with his wife, Donna of 56 years and has four daughters and ten grandchildren.
John Pulasky – Volunteer Youth Education Director
John is a Montana native – born in Great Falls, high school in Billings,, college in Bozeman. He grew up in an AG environment and brings with him an inbred sense of environmental stewardship.
His talents led him to the world of broadcasting where he has carved a niche with the Ag community across the state. His knowledge of not only weather, but agriculture has made him a featured speaker at numerous ag and environmental events.
He joined OM in 2006 as a K-12 Education Director. Since then he has developed several youth programs that have found favor in the community. Among them: Back to the Future with Lewis & Clark, an on-going event that introduces middle school students to how the Lewis and Clark expedition accomplished their many tasks and also how these would be accomplished today; Passport to Nature revolves around elementary students from the Lockwood school system as an outdoor adventure that exposes students to a variety of nature interactions; and Project Wet who collaborated with John in developing a grade school book about the Yellowstone River.
John also serves as a Supervisor for the Yellowstone County Conservation District and was a member of the Yellowstone River Basin Advisory Council that helped draft a State Water Plan for the state of Montana.
Our Montana Board Members
Jim Thompson – Board President
Jim Thompson, President of the Our Montana Board of Directors, is a Billings lawyer in private practice, concentrating in Estate Planning and Administration. He lives in Billings with his wife Linda and has three grown children. Jim graduated from high school in Billings, then attended the University of Montana in Missoula where he majored in Accounting and Law.
Jeff Hunnes – Secretary
Jeff Hunnes has been a board member of Our Montana since 2005. Jeff was born and raised in Miles City, Montana and attended the University of Montana graduating with a degree in English Literature. He attended the University of Montana Law School, graduating in 1983. Jeff is a shareholder with the Billings law firm of Guthals, Hunnes & Reuss where he practices general civil law. Jeff, his wife Cristi and their 3 children make Billings their home. Jeff’s family has ranching roots in the Great Porcupine Creek area east of Ingomar. Jeff is active with the Montana Wilderness Association, serving on the state council and as a past president of the Eastern Wildlands Chapter of MWA. He is devoted to the preservation of public lands and rivers in Montana.
Tom Towe – Treasurer
Tom Towe is an active attorney in Billings and a former state legislator serving four years in the House and sixteen years in the Senate. He was a leader in taxation issues having introduced and passed many pieces of legislation regarding taxes, including the Montana 30% coal tax. He was also active in legislation involving youth corrections, mental health, assistance to the mentally retarded, alternative energy, economic development, utility reform and the environment. He established the Coal Board and funded it with coal tax dollars to take care of economic impacts caused by coal development and was instrumental in creating Montana Constitutional Coal Trust to help future generations with a permanent trust fund. He was a founding member of Our Montana beginning in 1981 and he was recently appointed by Governor Steve Bullock as Chairman to the new Montana State Parks and Recreation Board, a five member group
Don is a retired CPA that has been active with “OUR MONTANA” for the past 15 years. His experience with nonprofit organizations has included the BLM Resource Advisory Council, State Library Commission, Billings Parmly Library Board and Foundation, MSUB Foundation board, as well as numerous civic and local sportsman organizations.
Dale Anderson has always been interested in the out of doors, especially the Yellowstone River and Pryor Mountains. He likes to fish, hike and advocate for environmental issues which is why he was attracted to the work of Our Montana two years ago. He is a retired teacher who taught social studies at the high school level for 10 years, followed by 20 years of working with children who suffer from emotional problems. After his teaching career Dale was a consultant for fourteen years for the Montana Office of Public Instruction for school districts with students with behavior/emotional issues. He fully retried two years ago and lives in Billings with his wife, Kaye Mitchell.
David spent many years as a planner and environmental official with the Bureau of Land Management, much of it in Montana. He also served as the Deputy Director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and as Montana’s State Budget Director. Since 1995 he has worked as a senior official for the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Agency for International Development advising governments in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union on establishing and operating national budget systems meeting best international practice. He is an avid backpacker and hiker and an outdoor enthusiast generally. David and his wife, Mary Lee, divide their time between a residence in Seattle, Washington, and a home in Billings.
Robert Pumphrey was born and raised in Virginia and attended the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University. He retired from the Department of the Interior and has been a resident of Montana for over twenty years. He served on the boards of Montana Conservation Voters and Beartooth Paddlers Society. Currently, he serves on the Billings Animal Control Board and has been active in conservation and environmental issues, including Saving the East Rosebud. His hobbies include hiking, kayaking, canoeing, reading history, and exploring the back roads and rivers of Montana.
Barbara Scheppele is owner of Cooper Creative Advertising and Design and has been a part of Our Montana for nearly 20 years. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Advertising from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. She and her retired husband, Mike, have lived in Billings for 27 years. They have three children and five grandchildren.
Ralph Saunders is aerial photogrammetrist, hydrographic surveyor, and water rights expert witness. He is a board member of Rochejhone Chapter of Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, board member of Stillwater Historical Society, and past board member of Yellowstone Historical Society, and past president of the Montana Rifle and Pistol Association. He was born and raised in Columbus, Montana and graduated from MSU Bozeman with a degree in Agriculture. He was in the U.S. Air Force and held various position in the Montana Department of Natural Resources including Assistant Direct of Water planning Division, First regional office manager of DNRC in Billings, Field Officer of New Appropriation and Adjudication. Since 1978 he has worked as a Hydrographic surveyor for HKM Engineering.
Marlene Saunders was raised in Lewistown, MT and graduated from MSU Bozeman with degree in Education. She taught for over 20 years in elementary schools in San Antonio, Texas and Billings Public Schools. She has held various leadership positions since living in Billings including President of Montana Rifle and Pistol Association and President of Yellowstone Historical Society.
Howard Boggess is a Crow Indian and member of the Crow Tribe of Indians. He grew up on a ranch near Lodge Grass, Montana and was a free spirit going in the front door of school and out the back to explore the Crow Reservation on horseback. Always interested in history, Howard would sit at the feet of elders listening to stories told about the old days. Before joining the Navy he worked as a ranch hand on the Paddle Lock Ranch. After his tour in the Navy, Howard was a jack of all trades, ranch work, diesel mechanic and ran a concrete plan. After a serious injury, he was in the hospital for long periods of time. While healing, he finished his GED. Howard’s interest in history landed him the job as manager of the Big Horn County Museum where he made major improvements. Another injury caused him to lose much of his eyesight but that has not slowed Howard down. He is the founding member of the Frontier Heritage Alliance, past board member of the Montana Museum Association, Board of the Yellowstone County Museum. Howard has been recognized by many organizations for his work in preserving history.
Jim Court was born in Alliance Ohio and graduated from Colorado State University Forest Recreation in 1961. He then became a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador from 1962-64.
He was a National Park Service Ranger/Superintendent from1960-19 with his most recent position as Superintendent of Custer Battlefield. From 1981 to 2004, he was the owner of Action Travel/Custer Battlefield tours. Jim currently serves on the Governor’s Travel Advisory Council and is a Montana Historical Society Trustee. Married 49 years, he has five children and seven grandchildren.
Matt Duray grew up in Billings but after high school he moved to Southern California where he graduated with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Business Management. He moved back to Billings and started the Connect Group in 1991, a business where “they help businesses achieve their mission with the proper deployment of technology.” He and his three children enjoy the outdoors of Montana and spend all their free time boating, fishing, and camping.