About 1905 or 1906 Dr. Morton J. Elrod, a University of Montana professor, founded the Missoula Audubon Society. It was the first Audubon organization in the state, and remained active into the 1940s.

In 1976 Rosemary Schultz asked Philip L. Wright, an ornithologist at the University of Montana, why there was no Audubon affiliate in Missoula. Professor Wright then gathered up some students, and a few other birders he knew, to found the Five Valleys Audubon Society as a chapter of the National Audubon Society. (There was no Montana Audubon at the time.)

The original chapter goals were:

To promote the conservation of natural resources by:
Encouraging the enjoyment of wildlife and our natural heritage.
Educating others about wildlife and the need to live in harmony with our natural resources. Advocating actions that favor wildlife and environmentally sensitive uses of resources. Supporting research on wildlife and other natural resources.

The founding Board of Directors consisted of Jim Brown, Sid Frissell, Howard McDowell, Ed Schneegas, Michael Sol, and Steve Wisner. The first President was Doug Bonham.

Five Valleys Audubon Society applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status and received that status in June 1979.

In 1980 FVAS, having proved it could carry out the duties of an Audubon chapter, received a charter from the National Audubon Society.

Fifteen years after its founding, FVAS submitted articles of incorporation to the State of Montana on 10 July 1991, under the name of FIVE VALLEYS AUDUBON, INC.. The articles of incorporation were signed on 15 July 1991 by Mike Cooney, Secretary of State.

Adapted from “Philip L. Wright Memorial Research Award and Philip L. Wright Endowment, A Brief History” by H. William Gabriel, February 3, 2015. Read the full paper here.

The Audubon Society in Montana

The Audubon Society was established in Montana shortly after the turn of the century by Dr. Morton J. Elrod, a pioneer university professor, who founded the Missoula Audubon Society. This Society was active until mid 1940. In April 1953, The Billings Audubon Society was founded as a branch of the National Audubon Society and later changed its name to the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society. It is the oldest Audubon Chapter having a continuous existence in Montana. The youngest is the Mission Mountain Chapter in Polson, founded in 1999. In all, ten Chapters are located throughout Montana centered around the communities of Kalispell, Polson, Missoula, Hamilton, Butte/Dillon, Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman, Billings, and Miles City. 

Recognizing the need to coordinate activities among the state’s chapters and speak with a united voice on certain issues, a council of state chapters organized Montana Audubon in 1976. Montana Audubon has had a lobbyist at the Montana Legislature since 1981. In 1997, Montana Audubon became an official state office of the National Audubon Society. It provides leadership and assistance to the chapters in an effort to  promote the understanding and enjoyment of wildlife and bring about a culture of conservation. 

Historic Articles from The Missoulian

Missoula Bird Club, December 18, 1927

Winter Birds, December 18, 1927

U of M Bird Sanctuary, May 30, 1929

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