The land trust has grown over many years and initially was an all-volunteer staff.  Today, we have a group of wonderful, professional staff who work hard to get conservation done.

Gavin Ricklefs

Executive Director

Gavin has been a Hamilton resident for nearly 20 years and with BRLT, in various capacities, since 2006 – initially, as a member of the Board, eventually becoming Executive Director in 2008. He is a graduate of Whitman College and earned his J.D. at the University of Montana. A passion for cooperative, landowner-driven approaches to conservation, a fascination with the details of complex land transactions, and above all else a love for the Bitterroot Valley have been the forces driving Gavin’s work at BRLT.

Gavin and his wife, Stacy, are the proud parents of three Montana natives: Andrew, Tatum, and Cate who have the great fortune to grow up in our incredible community.

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Kori Anderson

Operations Director

Kori joined the BRLT staff in 2019. She is a lifelong Montanan, raised on her family’s ranch in the heart of the Ruby Valley. A graduate of Montana State University, she first found her way to private land conservation by serving on Montana Land Reliance’s Future Montana Committee. Her previous work includes working with ranchers at the state level and lobbying on their behalf. Kori is committed to keeping working lands intact and preserving Montana’s legacy of open space.

When not at the office, you can usually find Kori outdoors–camping, fishing, hiking, skiing, and exploring new areas with her husband and their two dogs.

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Lauren Rennaker

Development Director

Lauren has been a Bitter Root Land Trust team member since late 2017. She graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a B.A. in both International Studies and Spanish. A college internship at a non-profit organization galvanized her resolve to find a mission-driven career.

Lauren traveled extensively internationally before fulfilling a lifelong dream to move out west. The Bitterroot Valley, with its vast mountains, postcard-worthy views, clear-to-the-bottom river, and boundless opportunities to play out the back door made Lauren never want to leave. So she put down roots in the southern part of the Bitterroot in 2006 and has since been devoted to conserving the stunning land and wildlife that make it so special, and inspiring others to do the same.

You can find Lauren loving the Bitterroot way of life by reveling in the one-of-a-kind fly fishing, horseback riding, and camping experiences, while living on a cattle ranch with her husband and their young twins – fifth-generation Bitterrooters.

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Melissa Odell

Lands Director

Melissa joined the BRLT lands team in 2020, where she has the pleasure of working directly with the Bitterroot families who choose to conserve their farms and ranches.

She grew up in a small rural town in the Sierra Nevada mountains, exploring the outdoors on foot and horseback, spurring her love for all things wildlife and open space. Melissa holds a B.S. from Humboldt State University in Wildlife Biology with a minor in Zoology, as well as a M.S. in Avian Science from University of California, Davis, where she studied waterfowl populations in relation to wetland management. She later worked extensively with amphibians, turtles, and songbirds, focusing on meadow restoration and rangeland management practices with ranchers. She comes from a diverse background of previous positions, including private lands conservation organizations, non-profits, state and federal agencies, and private consulting.

Melissa is thrilled to call the Bitterroot Valley home and is grateful to be able to take part in conserving the heritage, wildlife, and way of life in this beautiful place. In her spare time, she can be found gardening or exploring trails and open space with her dogs.

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Rhiannon Klingonsmith

Stewardship Director

Rhiannon fell in love with the Bitterroot Valley landscapes, community, and peaceful way of life. She joined BRLT Stewardship team in July 2023, and has a passion for conservation, working with landowners to improve habitats, and education.

She has a B.S. from Humboldt State University in Wildlife Management and Conservation. She has lived and worked all over California, gaining an understanding of diverse habitats and the species that utilize them. During this time, she worked in state, conservation lands monitoring, and private consulting. She has a strong background in wetlands and land management, in addition to extensive experience with numerous avian species, small and large mammals, amphibian and reptiles, and plants and invasive weeds.

She enjoys spending time with her dog Jack and friends in the area. She can be found exploring hot springs, bird watching, kayaking, fishing, and hunting. She also spends lots of time gardening and working on home projects.

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Jake Blessing

Conservation Project Manager

Jake joined BRLT as a project manager in March 2024. In his role, he relishes working with private landowners to meet their conservation goals. He feels fortunate to be part of a team committed to a collaborative approach to protecting the working lands and wildlife habitat of the beautiful Bitterroot Valley.

Jake’s career in private land conservation started as an intern with the stewardship team at BRLT in 2017. In the years after that he worked at an education nonprofit in western Montana and at land trusts Michigan and Tennessee.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Williams College and a master’s degree in Ecology from Cornell University. When he is not at his desk or visiting landowners, he enjoys gardening, home improvement, and learning about natural history. He and his wife, McCullough, have three young boys who love reading and digging in the dirt.

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Dylan Ritter

Conservation Project Manager


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Stephanie Sipe

Communications and Outreach Manager

Stephanie is a key player in the organization’s content creation, marketing, website, social media and special event departments. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in animal science from the University of Arizona.

Inspired by the natural wonders of the west, Stephanie first recognized the importance of land conservation while working as a guide for her family’s outfitter business in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of northeastern Oregon. Her passion to protect special areas that are near to her heart motivated her to pursue a career with BRLT in helping to keep special places the way they’ve been, for years to come.

Prior to joining the BRLT team in 2021, Stephanie was the development assistant for a child abuse intervention center in Oregon. Before that, she was an account executive for one of San Diego’s oldest public relations firms that specialized in the education sector. These days, Stephanie enjoys backpacking with her husky-mix Shadow, fly fishing, and listening to live music. Cold beverages, good barbecue and the great outdoors help fuel her creativity.

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Laura DeRocher

Development Coordinator

Laura first became involved with BRLT as a volunteer and a member of the organization’s Next Gen committee, before joining the team as Development Coordinator. Raised in a Forest Service family, Laura grew up splitting her time between Missoula and a small rural town in Northern California where she developed her passion for conservation and public recreation. After a 15-year career in finance in western Washington, where she attended the University of Washington, she heard her Montana roots calling and moved to the Bitterroot to be close to her family where she has lived happily for the past decade.

Today, Laura enjoys the balanced quality of life that comes from living that “Montana Way” she so deeply values. She spends her free time traveling, visiting her family’s memorial forest in the Bitterroot National Forest, on the river kayaking and fly fishing, hiking, camping, or cross-country skiing with her significant other, David, and her scruffy dog, Sweet Pea.


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Jenny West

Jenny West


Jenny has been BRLT’s bookkeeper for over a decade. She not only punches numbers, but also spends most of her time on the Bitterroot River as a fly fishing outfitter and guide. Growing up in this valley, she has much respect for the landscape and recreates often on the trails and rivers.