Chris Montague Will be Missed in Utah’s Conservation Community

lavarr policy insightsOne of the really good guys in the Utah conservation community recently retired, and he will be greatly missed.

Chris Montague is an unassuming guy, but he ably led the conservation programs of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Utah Chapter, for 28 years. He got along with everyone, and worked with landowners, highway builders, local and state officials, attorneys and finance people to conserve wetlands, rangelands, rare species habitat and vital riparian habitat across the state.

In recognition of his service and accomplishments, the Utah TNC board voted unanimously to name the visitor pavilion at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve The Chris Montague Visitor Pavilion “in recognition of Chris’ outstanding contribution to The Nature Conservancy and the future of our state.”

I serve on the Utah Board of TNC and always found Chris to be knowledgeable, capable and always wanting to give credit to others. TNC works collaboratively with all stakeholders and uses the free market system to preserve land and protect the environment. It is a terrific organization.

Among the projects Chris worked on are the Strawberry River, Deep Creek Basin, the Autumn Buttercup Preserve, Knudson Marsh, the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve, the Dugout Ranch, the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve and numerous other properties. 

His leadership on the Dugout Ranch, in particular, led to the protection of over 350,000 acres of public and private land at the doorstep of Canyonlands National Park and, later, the creation of the Canyonlands Research Center, and the conservation of one of the most significant conservation and ranching properties in the West.

Another signature project was the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve. He helped stitch together more than 36 tracts of land encompassing more than 4,500 acres to create the preserve.

During his tenure, Chris saw the Utah chapter grow from a few members to over 5,000, the staff expand from 2 to 20, and volunteer ranks increase from a handful to over 400. Acres protected increased from a few thousand to over 1.2 million acres of public and private land.

Here’s what the TNC staff said about him: “When we are inspired by the sounds of a marsh wren at the GSL Shorelands Preserve, a trout rising on the Strawberry River, a great blue heron on the wing at the Matheson Preserve, the spring bloom of the Bear Claw Poppy in  St. George, a desert tortoise crawling from its burrow at Red Cliffs, the magical sound of Indian Creek flowing through red rock and green cottonwoods at the Dugout Ranch, we have Chris to thank.  Through his efforts, these places and many, many more have been protected. Negotiating with landowners, working with agency partners, mastering the art of land deals, supervising a great protection staff, Chris has been the mainstay of our conservation work and key to our Utah Chapter’s results on the ground.”

A resolution passed by the TNC board noted that, “Chris has done all of this, and more, with professionalism, modesty, good cheer, personal warmth and a wonderful sense of humor which has endeared him to the Utah Staff and Board alike.”