Personal Stories : Individual Story
 
Steve Charter

 
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Steve Charter

 
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The Story

People who work with Beth Kaeding know her as someone who does not – and will not – give up. “The only way we’re going to make a difference,” she says, “is to stay in the fight.”

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Beth Kaeding speaks at press conference in front of Montana Capitol

Beth grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and visited Montana for the first time as a teenager. The West – especially the Beartooth Highway and Yellowstone – made a big impression on her, and she aimed herself toward it as soon as she could.

Starting the summer after high school, Beth worked four summers as a maid/housekeeper in Yellowstone National Park. After two years of college in Missouri, she transferred to Montana State University to study fish and wildlife management. This was in the early 1970s, and the “old guard” didn’t much care to have women in that field. But she persisted, and became the first woman to earn a Master’s degree in MSU’s fish and wildlife management program.

Her first job after that was studying plants and animals in the Canadian Arctic prior to large-scale gas development there. Then it was on to Colstrip, Montana, conducting biological studies of pre- and post-stripmined lands.

After her marriage to Lynn in the mid-1970s, she followed him as he pursued his fishery biologist career, first to Utah (where she did genetics research at the University of Utah), and then on to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and finally to western Colorado. Beth started her career with the National Park Service at Colorado National Monument and worked seasonally as a park naturalist and resource management specialist.

In 1990, she and Lynn moved to Gardiner where Lynn managed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Yellowstone National Park. Beth began work in Yellowstone’s Planning Office where she wrote environmental “compliance” documents, ensuring that the Park followed all the laws applying to its activities and involved the public in its decisions. In 1996, she undertook a special assignment in the Public Affairs Office managing numerous public events for the year-long celebration of Yellowstone’s 125thanniversary. For the next ten years Beth worked in the Division of Interpretation, managing a number of long-range planning projects as well as developing wayside exhibits and trail guides. She left the NPS in 2006 following the opening of her last project, the Canyon Visitor Education Center, and joined Lynn in Bozeman where he had transferred in 1996.

Not long after coming to Gardiner, Beth joined the local affiliate of the Northern Plains Resource Council and, from that start, became a citizen leader on a range of important work. While through the years Beth has belonged to several conservation organizations, she totally connected with Northern Plains’ values and its grassroots organizational structure that is democratically member-run. Beth is invigorated by being part of efforts that right wrongs and injustices and that challenge corporate power.

While Beth loves Montana’s mountains and wilderness, she understands the value of all types of ecosystems. She appreciates and values the prairie and breaks and low, rough hills of eastern Montana – places often not regarded as “pretty” in the traditional sense.

Meeting and working with the ranchers and farmers who are members of Northern Plains underscored to Beth that, “You can’t paint all people with the same brush; people can raise cattle and farm and be good stewards of the land.” She is convinced that preserving family farms and ranches does more for preserving important landscapes and critical habitat than almost anything else.

Beth doesn’t much like being in the public eye. But she isn’t afraid of it, either. She has appeared on television and in radio interviews, spoken at public events, and testified before the Montana legislature as well as state and federal agencies many times.

For years, Beth has been involved in Northern Plains’ campaigns to defend southeast Montana from destructive schemes like coal bed methane drilling, the proposed Otter Creek strip mine, the Tongue River Railroad, and the plan to export coal to Asia. Her loyalty is deep… “I will do as much as possible – anything I can – to support Northern Plains and its critical work”

Contact Information

Northern Plains Resource Council

220 South 27th Street

Suite A

BIllings, MT 59101

Phone: 406-248-1154

Fax: 406-248-2110

www.northernplains.org

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