Karen Knudsen — Executive Director
Karen was hired as director in April 2007. She has worked with the Coalition for 20 years in a variety of capacities, including director of its River Smart Growth program, communications director, business manager, and education and outreach coordinator. Karen is part of the Healthy Headwaters Working Group for Carpe Diem West, an organization that engages diverse stakeholders in developing strategies for addressing climate change impacts on water in the American West. She also serves on the board of the Watershed Restoration Coalition, a landowner-driven nonprofit working to conserve natural resources through stream restoration in the Upper Clark Fork basin. Prior to joining the Coalition in 1993, Karen worked as a research associate for a forestry/economics research firm in Portland, where she conducted economic, policy and financial research on national forest management issues. She holds a B.A. in economics from Colorado College and a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University. In her spare time, she’s outdoors as much as possible, enjoying Montana rivers and mountains with her husband and two children. Contact her at or call 406-542-0539, ext. 203.
Holly Biehl – Outreach & Marketing Director
Holly creates and implements outreach, public relations, and marketing strategies that increase awareness of CFC’s work in the Clark Fork watershed. Prior to joining CFC in 2015, Holly worked for Five Valleys Land Trust as its Communications Manager. Holly was a double major in Art History and Dance at the University of Colorado. She spent her early career in the San Francisco Bay Area working in sales and marketing for Dance Magazine and Lonely Planet Publications. She moved to Missoula to earn a Masters of Business at the University of Montana and never left. In her free time, Holly tries to get outside as much as possible, by hiking, backpacking, skiing, and floating on rivers.
Chris Brick, Ph.D. — Science Director
Chris started with the Coalition as a board member, serving for four years until we tapped her in 2001 for the job as science director. A hydrogeologist and water quality specialist by training, Chris knows metals and arsenic and what they do to rivers and groundwater. She’s our go-to for gauging the health of the mining waste-plagued Clark Fork and figuring out restoration solutions. Her career odyssey started with a B.A. in geology at Carleton College, followed by a stint as an exploration geologist in the mining industry. A desire to study impacts from mining landed her at University of Montana for a master’s degree in environmental studies, a doctoral degree in geology, and a post-doctoral focus on science education, including teaching for several years at the University. Whenever she gets the chance, she heads to the hills for running, climbing, biking or skiing. Contact her at or call 406-542-0539, ext. 202.
Barbara Chillcott — Legal Director
Barbara has developed streamflow restoration projects in Montana for nearly 10 years. Since 2010, she’s worked with the Coalition on the legal nuts and bolts of instream flow and habitat restoration projects. Barbara also tracks local, state, and national policies related to streamflow, water conservation, and water resource management. In 2013, Barbara was appointed by Governor Bullock to serve on the Water Pollution Control Advisory Council, which advises the MT Dept. of Environmental Quality on water quality policy. Prior to joining the Coalition, she worked for the Montana Water Trust as a project manager and later as the executive director. Barbara holds a B.A. in economics from the University of North Carolina and a J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law. When she’s not in the office, you’ll find Barbara happily traipsing up and down hills around western Montana and trying to keep up with her young daughter. Contact Barbara at or call 406-542-0539, ext. 211.
Andy Fischer — Project Manager
Andy works to restore streamflows to creeks and rivers in Western Montana. He partners with water right holders and irrigation groups on projects that benefit both fish and farmers. These types of projects include water conservation measures such as canal piping, water leasing and diversion reduction agreements. He works closely with water users and other stakeholder groups applying for grants, researching water rights, negotiating water purchase agreements, hiring and overseeing contractors and engineers, managing budgets and monitoring project effectiveness. Andy was born and raised in Missoula and has an intimate knowledge of the waterways of Western Montana. He holds an M.S. in resource conservation with an emphasis in water resource management from the University of Montana and a B.A. in environmental studies from Whitman College. Andy’s past experience includes working for the Deschutes River Conservancy in Central Oregon managing large-scale irrigation canal piping projects that conserved and pressurized irrigation water. In his free time, Andy enjoys exploring Montana through hunting, fishing, biking and skiing. Contact him at or call 406-542-0539, ext. 210.
Julie Hiett — Bookkeeper and Grants Administrator
Julie applies her 2+ decades of experience in accounting, business operations, administrative support, office procedures, and computer systems to CFC’s financial operations. Her primary focus is on day-to-day accounting and assuring administrative compliance on grants and contracts. She holds a degree in Business Administration from Western Montana College and has worked in both the private sector and for mission-driven nonpfofits. Contact Julie at or call 542-0539, ext. 208.
Ben Horan — Stream Restoration Specialist
Ben provides technical support for flow restoration projects through monitoring, permitting, and project development throughout the Upper Clark Fork and Bitterroot river basins. He graduated from the Univ. of Montana in 2008 with a B.S. in geology and ancillary master’s coursework with an emphasis on hydrogeology. During his time there he assisted with the monitoring and groundwater modeling aspects of the Milltown Dam removal project. Ben worked for three years prior to CFC as a hydrogeologist and water right specialist at a consulting firm where he acted as a liaison between land managers and the state and federal regulatory agencies. When he’s off the clock, Ben prefers to spend his time running with his hound, “cheffing” around the kitchen, or skiing bottomless powder. Contact Ben at or 406-542-0539, ext. 208.
Will McDowell — Restoration Director
Will heads up our integrated stream restoration projects in the Upper Clark Fork. He builds and maintains strong relationships with key partners, including agricultural landowners, conservation districts, local governments, state agencies and nonprofits like the Watershed Restoration Coalition and Trout Unlimited to achieve landscape-level stream conservation. CFC’s efforts integrate stream flow restoration, fish passage improvements and habitat restoration, so that water quality and aquatic life benefit from a healthy, reconnected watershed from “ridge to river.” This approach will maximize the benefit of the Superfund cleanup in the Clark Fork River floodplain by rewatering, reconnecting and restoring the tributaries that provide the river with its vitality. Will arrived at the Coalition with a wealth of experience in watershed restoration. Most recently, he worked for the Tri-State Water Quality Council, coordinating efforts to reduce nutrient pollution and noxious algae in the Clark Fork. He also worked in watershed restoration internationally for many years, including stints in Bolivia, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Panama, Armenia and China. He lives with his family and a few too many dogs in Missoula. Contact him at or call 406-542-0539, ext. 204.
Liz joined the CFC team in 2010 to support our fundraising and special event efforts. Liz comes to us from the Chicago area, where she had experience in fundraising, communications, and administration. She graduated in 2003 from St. Lawrence University with a B.A. in government. Liz is thoroughly enjoying all that living and recreating have to offer in Montana, and in her off time she enjoys hiking, music, animals, football and getting out to enjoy the local rivers and culture in Missoula. Contact Liz at 406-542-0539, ext. 213, or .
Pat Ortmeyer — Communications/Development Director
Pat joined the CFC staff in January 2013. She directs CFC’s fundraising and communications efforts, assists with strategic plan implementation, and oversees grants administration and compliance. Pat brings nearly 30 years of nonprofit programming, budgeting, development, and strategic planning experience to CFC at both the local and national levels. Her environmental and community advocacy work has taken her from Russia, to Central America, to Washington, D.C., to contaminated nuclear waste sites in the deep South. Over the last decade Pat has helped raise tens of millions of dollars for land and water conservation working with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and most recently the American Land Conservancy. Pat holds a B.A. in liberal arts/environmental studies from the University of Montana and completed master’s work in public administration at the University of Washington. When she’s not playing ice hockey, you can find Pat out hiking, cross-country skiing, rock-hounding, birding, or trying once again to learn how to fly-fish. Contact her at or call 406-542-0539, ext. 205.
Katie Racette — Big Sky Watershed Coordinator
Katie is the 2015 Big Sky Watershed Corps Member at the Clark Fork Coalition. Hailing from northern New York, Katie has been slowly working her way west for the past several years. Katie is a recent graduate from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and earned her degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Biology. While in school, Katie spent her summer vacations taking advantage of internships and jobs across the country that kept her busy working outdoors in beautiful places like Alaska, California, and Colorado. She is thrilled to be in Missoula, and is looking forward to coordinating the 2015 Volunteer River Corps. Feel free to contact Katie at .
Ellie Rial — Outreach and Learning Coordinator
Ellie joined the Clark For Coalition as a Big Sky Watershed Corps (AmeriCorps) member in the fall of 2011 and has stayed on to coordinate our growing educational opportunities for youth and adults in the Clark Fork basin. Specifically, Ellie is developing workshops and courses for youth and adults in the form of the annual “Kids River Expo” learning event, “Hands on the Ranch” stream assessment curriculum for high school students, “Walks and Talks” adult learning sessions, and our new Volunteer River Corps. She’s also helping craft volunteer learning opportunities, river cleanups and weed pulls for the basin’s students and citizens. Ellie graduated with a B.A. from the University of Montana’s Environmental Studies Program with a focus in sustainable water resources and watersheds in 2011 and is pursing a master’s degree in environmental education at the University of Montana. In her free time, she enjoys wildlife photography, biking, swimming and exploring all of Montana’s great recreational opportunities with her husband and two dogs. Contact her at or 406-542-0539, ext. 200.
Maggie Schmidt — Ranch Manager
Maggie first teamed up with the Clark Fork Coalition in 2011 as an intern on our 2,300-acre working ranch in Deer Lodge, Montana. In 2012, she officially joined the Coalition to run the ranch as the Ranch Manager. Maggie earned a B.A. in environmental studies with an emphasis in sustainable food and farming from the University of Montana. Before joining the Coalition, Maggie spent two summers in the Teton valley working to enhance rangelands through integrated weed management practices, specifically, prescribed grazing. Through this experience, she gained a deep passion and commitment to improving the human relationship with the environment, as well as a genuine love for agriculture and open space, places where people connect to nature and animals. When she’s not tending to the everyday needs of ranch life, Maggie can be found rafting, skiing, gardening, hiking or cooking with friends. Contact her at .
Jed Whiteley — Project Manager and Monitoring Coordinator
Jed joined the Coalition in 2013 as part of our Restore team, which works in the field to develop and implement restoration solutions for impaired tributary streams throughout the Clark Fork. Jed specializes in the development of flow and instream restoration projects in the Bitterroot Valley and the Middle Clark Fork. He is also responsible for the monitoring strategies that guide the way we manage project-area creeks and streams. Jed comes to the CFC with 19 years of experience in the field of river and ecological restoration, working in positions from field technician to company president. Most notably, he ran S&K Environmental from 2007-12 and was instrumental in growing the company. Jed is an avid fisherman, boater, hunter and backpacker, with a B.S. in natural resource management and forestry with a concentration in environmental management from California Polytechnic State University. Contact Jed at 406-542-0539, ext. 209, or email him at .