Heather Barber, Executive Director
Heather joined the Bitter Root Water Forum in 2010. Hailing from Wisconsin, a water-wealthy state, she is acutely aware of the need to promote a healthy watershed in the Bitterroot Valley. She enjoys working with landowners to get restoration projects on the ground and partnering with educators to enhance youth exposure to natural resource education. Her love of rivers came from time spent fishing the Wisconsin River with her dad. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Sociology from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. Heather enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, camping, and fly fishing. When she's indoors she's most likely working on a new project in the craft room or in the kitchen.
Katie Vennie, Communications + Outreach Manager
Katie joined the Water Forum in January of 2014 as a Big Sky Watershed Corps member and excitedly joined the staff in March of 2015. Another Wisconsin native Katie holds a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She has pursued a career in conservation first through AmeriCorps with the Texas Conservation Corps and then with the Water Forum. She has been excited to be a part of this community and organization. If she is not out hiking she is probably curled up on the couch with her partner, Austin, watching a movie and knitting.
Andrea Price, Restoration Coordinator
Andrea joined the Water Forum team in July 2019. She learned to love rivers and lakes growing up in the Seattle area and earned a Bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Dartmouth College. After graduating, she worked overseas with NGOs in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene sectors. She’s been visiting the Bitterroot since 2008 when her grandfather retired here and is happy to be joining the community! She’s excited to be working toward conserving the valley’s beautiful rivers and taking advantage of local skiing, paddling, and climbing opportunities.
Alexander Amann, Big Sky Watershed Corps Member
Alexander joined the Water Forum in January 2022 as a Big Sky Watershed Corps Member. He grew up in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, where he learned to appreciate the importance of healthy freshwater ecosystems for wildlife, recreation, drinking water, and community identity. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in the spring of 2021 with a B.S. in Environmental Science: Ecosystems focus with a minor in forestry and a keen interest in watershed management. After spending the remainder of 2021 as a forestry research technician in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, he is excited to be putting his attention back into watershed health and restoration, which was the focus of his internships at UNH. Outside, you can find him hiking, kayaking, pursuing a hobby in photography, or perhaps playing a gig as a bassist and singer.
Board of Directors
Charlie Larson, President
Charlie is a molecular biologist at Rocky Mountain Laboratories and has served on the Bitter Root Water Forum Board of Directors since early 2018. Charlie developed an appreciation of aquatic life and reverence for the natural world during his childhood experiences fishing and exploring the Puget Sound, coastal British Columbia, and southeast Alaska. These experiences helped instill a love of science that motivated Charlie to pursue a bachelor’s in chemistry from Whitman College followed by a doctorate in biochemistry from Washington State University. Charlie moved to Hamilton in 2010 to pursue a career in infectious disease research. The Bitterroot River greatly contributes to the amazing quality of life in the Valley and Charlie joined BRWF to help ensure the future health of the watershed. As a board member, Charlie is particularly proud of how BRWF works to bring people from a variety of backgrounds together in a collaborative effort to increase Bitterroot water quality and river habitat. Consequently, he is eager to learn more about how the Bitterroot River supports different communities in the Valley. Charlie grew up in Tacoma, WA and currently lives in Hamilton. He enjoys fly fishing, backpacking, skiing, and mountain biking.
Ed Snook, Vice President
Growing up boating and fishing on the Great Lakes, Ed got frustrated when told he shouldn't eat the fish he caught due to mercury contamination. This provoked what has become a life-long interest in water and aquatic issues. After earning a B.S. degree in Resource Management at Environmental Science and Forestry in New York, Ed found himself living a dream, recreating and living amongst the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana. Ed deepened his commitment to water issues by earning a M.S. in Water Resources at the University of Wyoming and has worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a professional hydrologist for the last 17 years. He has been with the Bitterroot National Forest since 2001 and lives near Conner with his wife Lee.
Scott Ziegenfuss, Secretary
Scott was born and raised in the Midwest and happily landed in Montana after stints in the south and on the east coast. He's been drawn to Montana since his first visit and feels fortunate to finally be able to relocate here some time ago. Keen interests in science, fly fishing, and conservation make living here in the Bitterroot and participation with the Bitter Root Water Forum a natural fit. Scott is pleased to support and endorse this great organization, and associate with the outstanding people who make the Water Forum what it is.
Doug Nation, Treasurer
Doug was raised on a farm in southern Illinois and, after stints in Colorado and Washington state, moved to the Bitterroot Valley in 1998. He retired as a Principal Scientists from GSK in 2019. Since moving here, he has enjoyed the recreational benefits of the local river and been involved with its conservation by serving on the Boards of Bitter Root Trout Unlimited, Montana Trout Unlimited, and the Bitter Root Land Trust. He is excited to now be on the Bitter Root Water Forum Board and working with the incredible staff and Board of this great organization.
Laura is originally from upstate New York, she moved to the Bitterroot Valley to enjoy all the outdoor recreation the valley has to offer. As an avid skier, backpacker, hiker, and biker there is plenty to keep her busy. She began teaching at Corvallis High School in 1994, and aside from a 6-year excursion to Kodiak, Alaska, she has lived here since. Back in those early days at Corvallis High School, Laura was part of a team of teachers that began the Classroom Without Walls program. Almost 10 years ago she began another experiential science program called the Yellowstone Winter Ecology Project and became the high school Science Olympiad coach. After 27 years teaching in our local public schools, Laura continues to love her job; especially when she is engaging kids with real-world science that ignites a passion for conservation and stewardship of wild spaces.
Debbie was raised in southern Oregon and loved her life in the beautiful state until she and her husband decided to start a new adventure in Montana. Debbie and Roger, with their two kids, moved to Hamilton in 2014. One of the first community events they attended was the Bitter Root Water Forum’s Riverfest. Debbie was so impressed by the all-inclusive atmosphere and loved learning about the important work of the Water Forum. Debbie believes water is our most precious natural resource. She's motivated to help raise awareness of the Water Forum's incredible impact and how the community can help. Debbie is a licensed Financial Advisor and a graduate of Portland State University. When she's not working or volunteering, Debbie is playing on the river with her family or running the kids (Greta and Otto) to soccer practice.
Alex was raised in the foothills of Colorado and has been a Montana flyfishing guide since 2006. Since graduating from the University Of Montana in 2013 he has spent his summers guiding on the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, Big Hole, and Missouri Rivers. In the off-season he works for a nursery growing native plants for riparian reclamation. An avid flyfisherman he has followed trout and steelhead throughout Montana, the PNW and British Colombia. Passion for these fish has fostered a deep understanding of the importance of protecting the clean connected systems that support them. Alex joined the BRWF to better support preservation of the unique fishery that is the Bitterroot River as well as fostering understanding between the different communities that rely on it. Protection of the habitat that underlies the valleys watershed is fundamental to what makes it such a special place to live.
Andy Maki is a 4th generation farmer/rancher. His great-grandparents immigrated to the Bitter Root Valley in the late 1800’s from Finland. He worked for the Forest Service in the summers during college and holds a BS in Ag Business with a Minor in Economics from Montana State University. Andy worked 7 years as an Ag Credit Officer before returning to the family ranch. He holds a deep love for the open spaces in this valley and is disturbed by the changes he has seen in his lifetime. He feels keeping working farms/ranches intact benefits our economy, our environment, our wildlife, and our culture. Andy views the Water Forum as a platform for the members of this community to foster a greater understanding of the watershed that we all use and depend on, and to come together with Win/Win solutions where all stakeholders benefit. He looks forward to being part of this organization and learning new ideas and new perspectives as well as sharing his own.
Estelle hails from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. When she was three her family moved to the United States, where she became a naturalized citizen at the age of eight. Estelle grew up on the East Coast but spent her summers in the Midwest on Lake Huron. Her family returned to the Detroit area for her final year of high school, and she received a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University in 1976. After a satisfying and successful career in her chosen profession, she retired to the Bitterroot Valley in 2011. It was a place that had stolen her heart the first time she visited in 1988 and she knew someday she would return.
These days Estelle spends as much time outside in the Valley as she can, either hiking, fishing, gardening or - most often - with her camera. She is excited to be part of an organization that recognizes the importance of preserving the river that runs through it all. Estelle maintains that without water, nothing survives. She looks forward to doing her part in supporting this great organization’s goals, which benefit all aspects of the community.
Jim works as a microbiologist at Rocky Mountain Laboratories and as an adjunct professor of microbiology at the Bitterroot College – University of Montana, but he first came to the Bitterroot Valley in 1992 to teach Biology and Chemistry at Corvallis High School. As an educator, he developed experiential education programs which engaged students in the study of local watersheds, public lands, and wilderness. His interest in water and wilderness started at a young age on visits to his grandparents in rural Montana, fishing small streams and lakes with his grandfather. He believes the work of BRWF is essential to the health and use of all Bitterroot water, especially as the valley population grows. He holds a B.S. in Biology/Chemistry/Secondary-Education from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and a M.S. from Montana State University – Bozeman. When not working he enjoys hanging out with his family - traveling, making music, skiing, biking, hiking, and boating of all kinds.