A New Season for Clark Fork Coalition

Dear Friends,

Organizations are a lot like rivers. They don’t stand still. They move and shift. They cut new channels. They have seasonal flows.

As the Clark Fork River went about its summer business of moving snowmelt through western Montana, the Clark Fork Coalition (CFC) was busy with its own transitions. This summer, I announced to CFC’s board and staff that I am retiring in May 2024, which will mark 17 years as executive director and 31 years at the CFC. This was a tough decision because I am excited about the campaigns and projects currently on CFC’s plate and the opportunities for impact on the horizon. Still, I believe the timing is right for me and for the organization.

We recently finalized an ambitious 5-year strategic plan that has CFC scaling core strategies to meet the complex challenges facing the watershed. We are making headway pressing for thorough and comprehensive cleanups in the Upper Clark Fork, we are pioneering new tools to boost flows in thirsty streams, and we are knee-deep in campaigns to restore Grant Creek and clean up the toxic Smurfit-Stone mill site. CFC’s finances are secure. New public-private partnerships are gelling and collaborations with conservation partners are bearing fruit. Our board is strong, our staff is extraordinary, and our base of support is expanding and loyal. We are making a significant impact restoring the health of our watershed.

The Board of Directors has created a Transition Committee and will launch a search process in September. The goal is to have CFC’s next executive director in place by March 2024. I will overlap with the new E.D. for several weeks to ensure continuity. Stay tuned for progress updates.

As I embark on this transition, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities that CFC gave me to do work that is meaningful, important, and based on giving back to a river that is central to everything we care about in western Montana. When I joined the team, the Clark Fork had the stigma of being a backyard dump. However, the removal of Milltown Dam, the launch of Superfund cleanups along the Upper Clark Fork, and countless CFC restoration projects and water deals have elevated the cause and delivered results that I could never have imagined possible when I hired on in 1993. Now there are boats and people on the water every day and entire communities are engaged in caring for the river.

It has been an enormous privilege to work alongside friends and supporters like you who care so deeply about the future of the watershed. Over the coming months, I will put my full effort into preparing the Coalition for the leadership transition. The cause for a clean and healthy Clark Fork is served by some of the most talented and passionate people in the West, and I have no doubt that I will be leaving this work in very capable hands.

Thank you for all you do for the river,

Karen Knudsen

Executive Director, Clark Fork Coalition