Glacier Conservancy taps new director

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Doug Mitchell will join the Glacier National Park Conservancy in Columbia Falls as executive director later this month. (Photo provided)

After four years serving as the deputy director of the Montana Department of Commerce, Doug Mitchell is returning to the nonprofit sector as the new executive director of Glacier National Park Conservancy.

To work toward supporting “one of America’s great treasures,” Mitchell said is a “pinch me moment.”

“It’s a dream job being able to build on the great teamwork that already exists at the conservancy. It’s an incredibly strong team with an important mission,” Mitchell said during a phone interview on the way from his Bigfork residence to Calgary, Alberta, to be at the opening day of the Calgary Stampede as one of his remaining duties as deputy director.

Mitchell will assume his new responsibilities on July 17 and replaces Mark Preiss who stepped down from the position in June 2016 after three years with the nonprofit.

Mitchell’s background in nonprofits includes serving as managing director of the nonprofit Montana Land Reliance — the state’s largest, and the nation’s second largest, land trust — from 2009 to 2013.

His background also includes working in the private sector as president and CEO of the Mitchell Group, a communications firm in Helena for 10 years. He also served as the Montana chief of staff for U.S. Senator Max Baucus for four years.

Mitchell holds a bachelor of arts in economics and political science from Stanford University.

“Doug’s experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors will ensure that the Glacier Conservancy continues to protect and preserve Glacier National Park for generations to come. Doug’s deep Montana roots and his commitment to conservation make him the right leader to expand on our recent success and position the Glacier Conservancy as an even more valuable partner to Glacier National Park. We are thrilled to welcome him to the role,” said Glacier Conservancy Board of Directors chairman Mo Stein in a press release.

As the conservancy executive director, Mitchell will work with Glacier National Park leadership to learn about priorities in the areas of preservation, education and research and cultivate partnerships with donors, businesses and other conservation groups to meet those needs while “enhancing the visitor experience,” he said.

“The conservancy is just an incredible organization,” Mitchell said, noting the employees, an active board of directors and donors make it possible.

His first goal coming into the position is to listen and learn. One of the ongoing issues Mitchell said that he looks forward to discussing with key stakeholders is balancing the desire for more visitors with the increasing burdens on preservation.

“There is so much to learn, such a vibrant history of success between the conservancy and the people of the Flathead. Reinforcing this is important. Second, is to do what I can do to give voice to the mission of the group that in a way is going to be really encouraging others to join the cause,” Mitchell said. “Philanthropy is a team sport.”

Mitchell joins the conservancy after a banner year in which the nonprofit funded a record $2.2 million in grants for projects such as trail maintenance, school field trips, and research in Glacier that might not otherwise be possible through the park’s budget. The grants are funded by private donations and proceeds from stores the conservancy operates in the park.

Mitchell said he can’t wait to start the new position.

“This is truly a great honor to be able to join a great team,” Mitchell said. “We are poised for growth on a very strong foundation they have built. We’re in a good place that’s only going to get better.”

Of course Mitchell has a favorite trail in Glacier that he takes with his wife, Julie, who hails from Kalispell, to commemorate their anniversary.

“Dawson to Pitamakan is a beautiful and amazing hike,” Mitchell said, noting that it’s 16 miles of “majesty.”

“The weight of the place just strikes you.”

For more information on the conservancy visit www.glacier.org.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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