We love conserving water, wildlife, and working lands, with you

Peggy Ratcheson, President

Native to suburban St. Louis, Missouri, Peggy was first introduced to the wonders of western Montana as a teenager and has cared deeply about conserving its open spaces, mountainous terrains, agricultural heritage, and natural resources ever since. She and her husband, Bob, have had a home in the Bitterroot Valley for over 35 years. With an M.A. in English and a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology, Peggy taught high school and college for many years – and pursued anthropological field research in an assortment of exotic places –  before retiring permanently to the Bitterroot in 2007. She embraced the BRLT Board as a way to help preserve in perpetuity all those things she has loved for so long about the Valley, and also serves on the Board of Bitterroot Trout Unlimited. In her spare time, she enjoys fly fishing, hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, bird watching, and cooking.

Bret Young, Vice President

Bret fell in love with Montana during fly fishing trips with his father. Living and working in Houston, Texas in the late 90’s, Bret and and his wife Susan were keen on finding a place where their boys could spend summers hiking pristine mountain trails and fishing in clean running rivers, similar to Bret’s own childhood. Hamilton became that place. After working for 35 years in the Engineering and Construction industry, Bret has recently retired and is looking forward to working with others to preserve Bitterroot resources for future generations.

Tonia Bloom, Secretary

Tonia came to the Bitterroot in 1972 and while she has witnessed many changes over the years, she continues to be sustained by the beauty of the remaining agricultural landscapes and intact ecosystems of the area. She’s always believed each of us owes it to those who will come after us to try to leave the world and our community as good as – or even a little better – than we found them. Tonia feels passionately that the work of the Bitter Root Land Trust is one way to do just that, which is why she is honored to serve on the board and make a difference in the Bitterroot Valley.

Andy Massie, Treasurer

Andy began coming to the Bitterroot Valley in 2001 and has greatly enjoyed the fishing, hiking, and cross country skiing that this special valley has to offer ever since. A “part-timer” for several years and now a year-round resident after retiring in Sonoma, California, he has experienced firsthand how the rapid change in land use has impacted the valley. With a history of non-profit involvement during his time in Sonoma, Andy feels that serving on the the Bitter Root Land Trust board is one of the ways he can best help to preserve the aspects of the Bitterroot we most love, and fulfill the rising need for its services in conservation.

Roger Gantz

After relocating with his family to enjoy the quality of life the Bitterroot has to offer, including its hiking trails, fishing rivers and streams, and hunting access, Roger is thrilled to be on the BRLT Board and help protect everything that makes the Bitterroot Valley so special. As a local realtor, he sees the value in the balance between conserved open lands and developed areas. He’s fortunate to be a part of the land trust’s mission to protect the beauty and integrity of this “last best place,” so that we can all continue to enjoy those quiet sunsets against the backdrop of the Bitterroot mountains for years to come.

Rachel Ingram

Rachel is a corporate professional who has lived in the Bitterroot for 13 years, with no intention of ever leaving.  She loves the community and the easy access to the wide variety of outdoor activities, including trail running, cross-country skiing and horseback riding.  A biology major in college, conservation has always been at the top of her list and she feels honored to serve on the Land Trust Board and help to carry out to its important and impactful mission.

Heather Menning

A true Hamilton native, Heather’s professional background has always been science related, including eight years of research at Rocky Mountain Laboratory through high school and college, political science, physical therapy, and exercise physiology, which she majored in at Pepperdine University, California. Currently, Heather she works at GlaxoSmithKline in Hamilton. After having lived all over from California and North Carolina, even across the Atlantic in Belgium, she is happy to call Montana her home. As a local who has experienced many changes to the Bitterroot Valley throughout the years, she is proud to be a part of the Bitter Root Land Trust and its efforts to conserve water, land and wildlife habitat for future generations. Heather spends much of her time in the outdoors with her daughters, McKenna and Declyn. They can often be found biking, skiing, or on a local trail with faithful doggos, Yeti and Tikka in tow.

Kathie Messer

Kathie grew up backpacking and fishing in the southern Sierra range of California, where she discovered the joy of outdoor adventures. She first saw the Bitterroot Valley in 1986 on a road trip to Canada, and was struck by its beauty as well as the grit and down-to-earth nature of the people she first met. And now 30 years after moving to the valley, she recognizes how fortunate she has been to have raised her two daughters here with her husband Ron, and now to see many of the younger generation returning. She does not take for granted the Bitterroot’s many resources of agriculture, wildlife habitat, clean water, open space, and the heritage of those who call it home. With degrees in Zoology, Chemistry and a doctorate in Pharmacy, Kathie has worked in education, biomedical research and recently retired after a long career in pharmacy. She has volunteered with many non-profit organizations, and brings to BRLT the desire to be a productive board member furthering the mission to preserve in perpetuity the richness of the landscape for future generations, while being mindful about the challenges in doing so.

Tori Nobles

Tori grew up in the heart of the valley, attending twelve years at Corvallis schools. She went out of state to college in Oregon, then California and did not return to Montana to live until 2002. She and her husband Don built their dream home next to her grandfather’s pond, land that she had purchased in the early ‘80s. Upon her return to the Bitterroot, she has become active in her community, motivated by her desire to give back to the community that helped to raise her. She is active in the Corvallis American Legion Auxiliary and enjoys raising and riding horses and fishing, hobbies that she enjoyed sharing with her dad, Terry Nobles.

John Ormiston

John is a retired wildlife biologist who worked at the Supervisor’s Office for the Bitterroot National Forest for 32 years. A graduate of the University of North Dakota and the University of Idaho, he worked for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Butte before relocating his family to the Bitterroot Valley in 1974. John is very active in the community as a member of Kiwanis, Bitterroot Audubon, the County Park Board, Canyon Creek Irrigation District Board, and the Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association. He is on the board of the Rapp Family Foundation and currently serves as treasurer for the Foundation. Always in the company of friends, John easily strikes up a conversation wherever he is. He freely shares his infinite knowledge of local wildlife—especially birds—and finds delight in life’s many adventures.

Jean Steele

Having lived in a Chicago suburb for the first fifteen years of her life, some of Jean’s most treasured memories are summer fishing trips to Montana.  Her father’s passion for trout and the mountains eventually brought both of them to this area. She has long-loved the valley’s small town atmosphere, which nevertheless provides cosmopolitan cultural opportunities. Beyond the town centers, she has hiked, fished, and backpacked the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains for most of her life. Receiving her master’s degree from the University of Montana, she taught English, speech, and theater arts at Hamilton High School for 36 years. Now retired, she continues to work for the university and also sits on the Montana Arts Council. She’s grateful to be part of the Bitter Root Land Trust’s efforts to maintain the rural, cultural character of our valley as well as sustain the beautiful natural resources we all cherish.

Lynn Thurber

Lynn is a member of the World Economic Forum Real Estate working group focused on developing sustainability principles for the real estate industry. She formerly chaired the Pension Real Estate Association, and is also a past member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate, the Board of the Toigo Foundation, and a past member of the Real Estate Information Standards Board. She is currently a member of The Chicago Network and the Wellesley College Business Leadership Council. She was the 2013 recipient of the Landauer White award from the Counselors of Real Estate.

Sari Kerslake

Sari is a family nurse practitioner at StoryBrook Medicine and a 1st generation farmer and rancher in Stevensville. She and her husband, a 3rd generation rancher, own and operate a beef cattle and hay ranch that contains a conservation easement. They are passionate about land stewardship and sustainability from growing their own food and raising honey bees to maintaining riparian areas for wildlife habitat. She enjoys painting, fly and ice fishing, gardening, backpacking, and traveling.