Heather Barber, Executive Director
Heather joined BRWF 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, Program Coordinator
Katie joined BRWF 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. in Genetics from University of Wisconsin at Madison. She then went on to work for the state of Wisconsin for three years in the Vital Records Department before deciding to pursue a career in conservation. With that goal in mind she got a position with the Texas Conservation Corps as a crewmember on one of their Emergency Response Teams where she worked on disasters in New Jersey, Texas, and Alaska along with doing conservation work in Texas. Now she is excited to bring her experience to the Bitterroot Valley. If she is not out hiking she is probably curled up on the couch watching a movie and knitting.
Andrea Price, Restoration Coordinator
Andrea joined the BRWF 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’s worked overseas with NGOs in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector. 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 to take advantage of local skiing, paddling, and climbing opportunities.
Emilie Lahneman, Big Sky Watershed Corps Member
Emilie joined BRWF in January of 2019 as a Big Sky Watershed Corps member. She graduated from the University of Maryland, earning a B.S. in Geographical Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Systems and Natural Resources. Having grown up on a horse farm minutes from the Chesapeake Bay, her excitement for the outdoors blossomed from a young age. She is extremely excited to be working in conservation, and looking forward to learning more about the Bitterroot. If she’s not in the office, you’ll find Emilie outside camping, fishing, running, horseback riding, climbing, or hiking with her dog Rosie. If she’s not outside, you might find her reading, drinking coffee, or trying the local cuisine.
Board of Directors
Sharon Dedmon, President
Sharon is a Real Estate Broker with Berkshire Hathaway Montana Properties. That work provides for unique opportunities to view land and water in the Bitterroot and Missoula Valleys. Realtors are often the first person a newcomer meets. Sharon delights in the prospect of showing the beauty of the valley and educating folks about the watershed and the land. Sharon joined the Bitterroot Water Forum in 2015 knowing what a precious resource the Bitterroot River and it’s tributaries really are to the economy, farming/ranching, recreation and real estate. Sharon lives in Stevensville with her cat Martin.
Charlie Larson, Vice 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, MT with his wife Kelsi and two black labs Wally and Emmi. Together they enjoy fly fishing, backpacking, skiing, and mountain biking.
Sherry Ritter, Secretary
Sherry had a long career as a wildlife ecologist with Wyoming Game and Fish and Idaho Fish and Game, as a research/management coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service, and as a researcher and educator for the Biomimicry Institute. She also authored numerous magazine articles about nature and a natural history book. Throughout her career and in her volunteer activities, she helped young and old appreciate the natural world in the hope that through appreciation, people will understand the need to not only prevent its degradation, but help in its restoration. It’s this that brought her to the Bitterroot Water Forum first as a volunteer on restoration projects and student field trips, and now as a board member. She and her husband Dan live in Stevensville. Their two grown sons, Dylan and Torrey, also live in Montana where they enjoy epic fishing adventures.
Don McGourty, Treasurer
Don is a Western Montana native, born in the Bitterroot Valley but raised on a cattle ranch in the Mission Valley near Ronan. He is a graduate of the University of Montana with a degree in Business Management. Don moved back to the Bitterroot in 1997 after working in both Ronan and Missoula in the financial industry and is currently employed as a real estate lender for First Security Bank in Hamilton. Don has also spent time as a hunting and fishing guide in the Bitterroot and Bob Marshal Wilderness. He was first introduced to BRWF in 2010 when he helped organize the annual Bitterroot River Cleanup with the Fly Fishers of the Bitterroot which the BRWF has since incorporated into the annual Riverfest. Don joined the board in 2015 knowing the importance of water as a major resource in the valley for both recreation, farming/ranching and the real estate industry.
Donna first visited the Bitterroot with a friend in 2002 via a road trip from Los Angeles. Surprised at the beauty, simplicity, and availability of rivers and streams, she visited as many times as possible during the next 3 years, always hiking and fishing. She moved here permanently in 2005, bought a house in Victor and spent the next 2 years remodeling the house, making new friends, and fly fishing. Then a chance meeting at the Missoula Airport introduced her to a man here for the summer to fly fish; one thing lead to another and they were married in 2007. Together their focus has always been the health of the fish and waters. Donna has been involved with the Bitter Root Water Forum for years and was happy to join the board of directors in January of 2019.
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.
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.
Megan was born and raised on a registered cattle ranch in the Stevensville, Montana area. She went to college at Montana State University and obtained a B.S. in Pre-Veterinary Science. After graduation Megan developed a successful construction business, which she operated over the next decade in the Bozeman and Ennis areas. In 2014, she moved back to the Bitterroot Valley to attend the University of Montana School of Law. In law school, Megan was a member of the Jessop International Moot Court team, Representative for the Environmental Law Group, and Co-President of the Rural Advocacy League. Megan now practices law at Markette & Chouinard, P.C. where she focuses on real estate transactions, property and easement law, water rights, business law, and civil matters. In her spare time, Megan enjoys working on the family ranch, fly fishing, training horses, showing cattle, hiking, and generally being outdoors. Megan joined the BRWF Board in 2017 and is passionate about water availability and water quality in the Bitterroot Valley.
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.