Champs & Chumps: Fall 2016

Enjoying our beautiful public land is the Montana way of life, but with more trophy-home and hobby-ranch owners piling in each year, we are slowly losing access to the places we love most. And we think you ought to know where to point the finger the next time a road is blocked off, a float is interrupted, or some hired gun tries to run you off the river. On the other hand, there are a number of committed conservationists who fight for the pristine open spaces that define our state; without them, things would be much, much worse. Here’s one of each type. 

Local Bozemanite Alex Diekmann was a passionate conservationist who worked at the Trust for Public Land for 16 years. Last February, Diekmann died of cancer at the age of 52. To honor Alex for the champ that he was, Montana’s congressional delegation has proposed a bill to name a peak in the Madison Range after him. The 9,765-foot peak is partially on U.S. Forest Service land, which is part of a land deal that Diekmann helped negotiate. Diekmann’s wife, Lisa, notes the importance of the peak to her family: “The location is awesome; it will be protected forever and that was what Alex dedicated his professional career to.”

Former NBC broadcaster Tom Brokaw owns a ranch on the Boulder River, and like many trophy-home one-percenters that move to Montana, he likes to increase his own enjoyment of the land while reducing everyone else’s. Brokaw has quarreled with hunting and fishing outfitters, going as far as taking them to court. As if that weren’t enough, he also reminds the public that they are unwelcome with his plentiful No Trespassing signs and river watchmen who harass floaters using a longstanding public easement. Thanks for the Nightly News, Tom, but maybe you should stick to television and leave the ranching to Montanans.