Montana Chapter Annual Conference

“Plants and Pollinators:  Conserving all of the interdependent parts”

February 13-17th, 2023

Delta Hotels Helena Colonial, Helena, MT

As Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) continues to gain traction in Congress, state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies across the nation are having conversations about jurisdictional roles for conserving plants and insects.  Whose responsibility is it?  What is the role of a fish and wildlife agency?  Do we presently have capacity in our existing organizations to meaningfully conserve plants and insects?  The topic is especially timely as Montana considers a revision of its State Wildlife Action Plan.  Our plenary panelists will include state, tribal, and federal agency representatives, a non-governmental organization representative, and scientists.   

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Reserve Your Hotel Room Now!

Delta Hotels Helena Colonial

Helena, MT 

Reserve your room by February 1 to get the state rate ($107/night).

CLICK HERE!  to book directly on the website.  OR call at (406) 443-2100 and mention the Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society to get the discount.  The hotel is full for Thursday night (February 16).  You can still book at Delta Hotels for the earlier part of the week.  

We’ve got another block of rooms held with Hampton Inn by Hilton.  They will honor the state rate until February 3.  You’ll need to call the hotel directly at (406) 443-5800 and mention the Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society.  This is located across the highway from the Delta, but comes with the bonus of complimentary breakfast!



It’s not too later to register!  Do it now! 

Conference Schedule

CLICK HERE for the overall schedule at-a-glance.

CLICK HERE for this year’s program and a detailed schedule.  

Banquet Speaker

Sam Lawry, Executive Director, Teller Wildlife Refuge

Sam Lawry grew up in Northern California where he earned a BS in Wildlife Management from Humboldt State in 1981.  After several temporary positions with the USFWS he began a career with Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) where  he held several positions over a 23 year period.  During his career with Arizona, he maintained a Law Enforcement Certification enforcing State Fish and Wildlife laws.  Sam served as Chairman of the staff for the North American Wetlands Conservation Council and Staff for the Pacific Flyway Council as well as numerous committees for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.  Following his career with AZGFD he served as the Coordinator for the Intermountain West Joint Venture , promoting bird conservation in 11 western states.  He then joined Teller Wildlife Refuge in 2006 as the Director of Conservation and Education before taking on a new role in 2010 as the Western Director for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.  After 7 years  the call to return to Teller fell upon him and in December of 2017 he returned as the Executive Director.  Sam recently published a book highlighting his wildlife law enforcement career which led to Meat Eaters Steve Rinella highlighting one of his stories in a podcast an audio book.  Sam has lectured classes about careers in wildlife as well as delivering several keynote addresses to wildlife professionals.  Sam and his wife Gwen reside in Hamilton where they have raised a family of four daughters all of which have a passion for conservation.

Plenary Speakers

Dr. Ed Arnett, Chief Executive Officer, The Wildlife Society

Ed Arnett joined The Wildlife Society staff as the Chief Executive Officer in November 2021. He also is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University and host of the public television conservation series This American Land. He holds an Associate in Applied Science degree in natural resources management from Colorado Mountain College, a B.S. in fish and wildlife management from Montana State University, an M.S. in zoology and physiology from the University of Wyoming, and a Ph.D. in forest science from Oregon State University. Prior to joining TWS, Ed served as chief scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership for nearly a decade, where he worked to integrate science into federal and state policy on greater sage grouse conservation, ungulate migration and wildlife crossings, energy development, climate change, and other key conservation issues.  He also worked for the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Weyerhaeuser Company, and Bat Conservation International as a field and research biologist earlier in his career. He has worked with numerous species of wildlife and studied bats for more than 20 years, including research on these unique mammals for his doctorate degree. He was an Associate Editor of The Wildlife Society Bulletin for 10 years and is a past-President of the Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society, serving on that chapter’s Board for 9 years. Ed also is a professional member of the Boone and Crockett Club and a member of the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group. An avid outdoor recreationist, hunter, angler, and dog trainer, Ed lives in Loveland, Colorado with his wife Glenda and their three dogs.

Dr. Bryce Maxell, Program Coordinator, Montana State Library and Montana Natural Heritage Program 

Bryce Maxell grew up surrounded by a variety of farm animals and spent many hours dogsledding in the mountains of Utah.  He completed a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Economics at the University of Puget Sound in 1994 where he studied the demography of kelp species in the Puget Sound and was an NAIA All-American swimmer.  After his undergraduate degree, he received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for a yearlong independent study of the natural history of Australia and New Zealand in 1994 and 1995.  Bryce completed his Ph.D. in Fish and Wildlife Biology in the Wildlife Biology Program at the University of Montana in 2009 where he completed a state-wide assessment of, and constructed predicted habitat suitability models for, Montana’s amphibian and reptile species and examined the population demographics of the Columbia Spotted Frog.  Between 1996 and 2015, Bryce conducted field inventories for a variety of animal species in Montana and since 2015 he has been the Program Coordinator at the Montana Natural Heritage Program.  During his time in Montana he has authored or coauthored three books, fifteen peer reviewed publications, and over 50 professional reports on amphibians, reptiles, bats, small terrestrial mammals, birds, terrestrial mollusks, and fish.  Bryce is passionate about making biological information available to resource managers and the general public so that Montana’s plants, animals, and terrestrial and aquatic communities can be appreciated by current and future generations and is excited to lead staff at the Montana Natural Heritage Program in this endeavor.  

Dr. Michael Ivie, Biodiversity Specialist and Insect Systematist, Montana State University

Michael Ivie is a biodiversity specialist and insect systematist, on the faculty of Montana State University for over 35 years.  He holds a BS in Entomology from the University of California, Davis, and MS and PhDs in Entomology from The Ohio State University.  He is the Curator of Montana’s largest natural history museum, the Montana Entomology Collection, with holding in excess of 3 million specimens and thousands of Montana species.  Mike has collected and studied insects in 69 countries, with specialties in Greater Montana and the West Indies. Fiercely proud of Montana and her wildlife, he has collected insects in every county of the state, visiting the remote and obscure places seldom mentioned by outsiders.  He directs the Wild Bees of Montana and Montana Wood-Boring Beetles Projects, and advocates for the documentation of Montana’s underrepresented invertebrate fauna. He is the author of over 150 journal papers and book chapters and has described dozens of new species and genera.  He has served as President of the Entomological Society of America and the Coleopterists Society, and is an Honorary Member of both organizations.  Forty-five new species and four genera have been named in his honor.  Mike lives in Bozeman, Montana with his wife of 49 years, Donna, and two dogs.

Lauri Hanauska-Brown, Wildlife Division Bureaus Coordinator, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Lauri is a wildlife biologist with over two decades of experience conserving wildlife and wild places for future generations. She started her professional career in 2001 as an Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist in southeast Idaho focused on conservation of trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, bats and grizzly bears. She moved to Helena in 2008 to re-energize the nongame wildlife management program for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. After more than ten years of building that program Lauri transitioned to her current role as Wildlife Division Bureaus Coordinator, aka, Chief Cat Herder. Her time with Fish, Wildlife & Parks has put her in front of unhappy constituents, concerned conservation organizations, rambunctious school kids, frustrated biologists and thrilled wildlife enthusiasts. She believes listening, empathy, and patience are key ingredients in successful relationships that result in conservation. She enjoys closing deals that benefit wildlife or habitat, hiking, horse riding and sleeping under the stars with her fishing outfitter husband and amazing teenage daughter.    

Kari Kingery, Wildlife Biologist and Program Manager, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes

Kari Kingery is a Wildlife Biologist and program manager for the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes Wildlife Management Program. She is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and started her career with CSKT as a Biologist Trainee in 2008 while studying terrestrial Wildlife Biology at the University of Montana. Kari earned both her Bachelor of Science Degree (2013) and Master’s of Science Degree (2020) from the University of Montana – Missoula.

Having been awarded the Alfred P. Sloan’s Research Fellowship in 2017, she conducted a master’s project on grizzly bear habitat selection and studied the effects of small livestock (chickens, goats, pigs, llamas) on the selection of habitat by grizzly bears in the Mission Valley on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Upon graduation, Kari continued to work with landowners and partnering agencies in reducing carnivore conflicts on the Flathead Reservation. 

Kari is an active member of The Wildlife Society, on both a national and state level. Throughout her career, she has developed Barn Owl nesting survey and dietary analysis protocol for the Mission Valley, conducted annual breeding bird; waterfowl and raptor surveys, and monitored local long-billed curlew populations. With an emphasis in Climate Change impacts on wildlife species, Kari works on the baseline monitoring of climate sensitive species and suitable habitats on the Flathead Reservation.

Hunter VanDonsel, State Coordinator for Montana and Wyoming, Pheasants Forever

Hunter VanDonsel is the State Coordinator for Montana and Wyoming for Pheasants Forever. Hunter grew up hunting and fishing in Montana which sparked a passion for wildlife conservation. He received his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana. After internship opportunities with MT FWP and MT DNRC, Hunter started his career in conservation as a Farm Bill Biologist for Pheasants Forever in Chinook, MT. During his time in that capacity Hunter led efforts to secure a $6.4 million-dollar RCPP award for big game habitat improvement work in Central Montana, he received Ducks Unlimited Montana’s Partner of the Year award in 2019, and he received Pheasants Forever’s Acre Maker award for his conservation impacts in Montana. In Hunter’s current role as State Coordinator, he is responsible for coordinating and leading new and existing landscape level habitat initiatives and partnerships that advance upland conservation in Montana and Wyoming.

Wendy Velman, Montana/Dakotas Botany Program Lead, Bureau of Land Management

Wendy graduated with a B.S. in Botany from Idaho State University. The Summer of 1999, she started her career in federal service as a Biological Technician (Plants) for the Bureau of Land Management. In 2011, Wendy moved to MT/DKs State Office as the Botany Program Lead, which included pollinator habitat management. In 2017, Wendy and a team of BLM biologists started a pollinator inventory and monitoring partnership with USGS, that partnership is leading the BLM efforts to understand distribution and habitat needs. In 2019, a partnership working to include tribal communities in bringing science and culture together to heal the public lands and surrounding areas.  In 2019 Wendy also became the Invasive Species Lead for BLM. She has been working to increase knowledge about native plants and pollinator when planning invasive species management, restoration efforts, and overall BLM management. Wendy lives on the Plains of Montana with her husband, three kids, one dog, nine chickens, and a large population of cats.



Structured Decision Making.  Tuesday, February 14th, 1PM-5PM. 

Sarah Sells, Assistant Unit Leader, USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit and University of Montana and Justin Gude, Research and Technical Services Bureau Chief, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.  This workshop will introduce participants to the field of Structured Decision Making (SDM).  SDM is a formal process for making decisions and is used widely in the field of wildlife management.  Participants will learn the basic steps of the SDM process and hear about several case studies of its application in Montana.  

Cost $25 for professional, $15 for student & retiree.  Limit:  35 participants


Navigating a Multi-generational Workplace.  Tuesday, February 14th, 2PM-4PM. 

Adam Jespersen, Montana Nonprofit Association.  Participants will learn about current and future demographic trends in the workplace, generational differences in work styles and approaches, and organizational strategies to build strong intergenerational teams. 

Cost $25 for professional, $15 for student & retiree.  Limit:  40 participants

Partnering with Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) for Conservation.  Tuesday, February 14th, 8:00AM-12:30PM, breakfast refreshments provided. 

Hunter VanDonsel, Pheasants Forever and Heather Brower, NRCS.  Learn about the EQIP Targeted Implementation Plans and how to partner with NRCS.  You’ll also learn how partners have helped with NRCS’s Montana Focused Conservation and how we can build better habitat together in the future.  

Cost $35 for professional, $15 for student & retiree.  Limit: 35 participants

Legislative Policy.  Wednesday, February 15th, 8AM-12PM. 

Amy Seaman, Montana Audubon.  The Montana State Legislature will be in session in 2023.  With this workshop participants will learn the basics of the legislative process (i.e. how a bill becomes a law, etc.) and what bills are currently being proposed that may impact wildlife conservation in MT. 

Cost $25 for professional, $15 for student & retiree.  Limit: 35 participants


Art Contest 

Congratulations Carly Segal!!  The artwork for the program cover is thanks to Carly! 

(Artwork is at the top of the website) 

Small Grants

Deadline has passed.

Award Nominations

Deadline has passed

President-Elect Candidates

Katie Benzel, Wildlife Biologist, Bureau of Land Management

Katie Benzel is a Wildlife Biologist for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Dillon Field Office.  Growing up in Dillon, she spent her free time in the mountains where she cultivated respect and appreciation for the outdoors and wildlife.  She attended Colorado State University for 2 ½ years before transferring to the University of Montana and graduating with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology in 2004.  To diversify her knowledge of range management and wildlife habitat, she completed a M.S. in Range Science from Montana State University in 2008.   Throughout undergrad and grad school she worked as a seasonal wildlife technician for the Forest Service and BLM.  She has been in her current position since 2008.

Katie believes that public lands are essential, and she is grateful to work on the landscape that is deeply important to her.  As a Wildlife Biologist for the BLM, she advocates for wildlife and habitat while navigating the complexities of managing multiple use public lands.  Communication and willingness to hear all perspectives is required.  Over the years she has worked with several agencies, groups, and private landowners covering a variety of species including amphibians, carnivores, big game, pygmy rabbits, raptors, sage grouse, migratory birds, and pollinators.  Katie would enjoy the opportunity to be MT TWS President to work with new wildlife colleagues in the state and expand her experience and knowledge.  She continues to spend her free time in the mountains hiking, skiing, running, hunting, and camping.

Andy Boyce, Research Ecologist, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Andy Boyce is a research ecologist with the Smithsonian Great Plains Science Program and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. He received his BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado and his PhD in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana. His work focuses on two major topics; 1) understanding how keystone species and grazing systems impact biodiversity and imperiled species in grassland ecosystems and 2) using animal tracking to identify factors regulating populations of imperiled birds and inform conservation efforts. This work, in partnership with NGOs, state and federal agencies, and academic institutions, is focused on the Northern Great Plains and anywhere in the world where it’s breeding birds spend time. Andy is a faculty affiliate with the Wildlife Biology Program at the University of Montana and resides in Missoula.