Debo Powers, President
Debo is a retired school principal who lives in a solar-powered cabin in the North Fork. She fell in love with the North Fork in 1979 because of its rugged scenic beauty, abundant wildlife, and remoteness guaranteed by the long, gravel North Fork Road. She has been hiking the trails in the northern part of the Whitefish Range for 36 years and is an advocate for wilderness.
Debo was a member of the Whitefish Range Partnership (WRP), a diverse citizen-initiated collaborative group that worked for 13 months to reach consensus on a proposal to the Flathead National Forest concerning the new Forest Plan. The WRP proposal included 80,000 acres of recommended wilderness in the Northern Whitefish Range that has become part of the draft Forest Plan.
Flannery Coats, Vice President
Flannery comes to the board of NFPA with a passion for the North Fork community and the valley it is situated in. She first came to the North Fork in 2009 as co-owner of the historic Polebridge Mercantile. It was at the “Merc” that she got to know and love (and feed!) all the colorful characters that choose to live in this uniquely clean and intact ecosystem. During that time, she sat on the board of the North Fork Landowners Association, organized many joy-filled community events and volunteered in Glacier National Park on both wolverine and fisher research projects.
She studied Life Sciences and Sustainability at the University of Portland and was the Program Director for the Outdoor Pursuits Program there for 2 years, working to bring people together in the name of recreation and conservation all over the Cascades, which she loves to do to this day.
She’s spent her time over the last decade cruising up and down the Crown of the Continent, living seasonally between Polebridge and Livingston, Montana. She is seasonally employed by the Park Service these days, welcoming visitors to the primitive west entrance to Glacier Park at the Polebridge Ranger Station. Serving on the board of the NFPA, alongside such stellar board members, she hopes keep the Crown jeweled for future generations.
Suzanne Daniell Hildner, Secretary
Suzanne has been a part time resident of the North Fork for over 20 years, She and her husband Richard split their time between Whitefish, MT and their small, but much loved cabin north of Polebridge. Suzanne has been involved in conservation issues for many years. When not out hiking, fishing, running or working at endless projects, she practices internal medicine with Glacier Medical Associates in Whitefish.
Steve Gniadek, Chair of Wildlife Working Group
Steve is a Certified Wildlife Biologist who retired in 2009 after working over 22 years in Glacier National Park, including oversight of wildlife research and monitoring in the North Fork. He has degrees from the Universities of Michigan and Montana, and has prior experience with the Bureau of Land Management in Eastern Montana, the US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Peace Corps. Despite retirement, Steve continues to be active in the Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society and several conservation organizations, and contributes to citizen science wildlife programs. As a member of the NFPA Board, Steve supports the protection of the wildlife and wild lands of the Whitefish Range and beyond.
Randy Kenyon, Chair of Watershed Working Group
Randy has been a Flathead Valley resident for over 40 years, actively involved in the community, highlighted by 14 years on the Kalispell City Council. After years of careful research, he determined his future was in the North Fork and purchased a small piece of property. He and his wife Donna have developed this into their off the grid “last best place”. In 2015 they sold their home in the valley and moved up to the North Fork full time, never looking back.
Randy’s community involvement did not end in Kalispell. He is vice president of the North Fork Preservation Association, after relinquishing his long term position as Secretary. His was recently elected president of the North Fork Landowners Association and is treasurer of the North Fork Trails Association. He is an avid hiker and cannot resist stumbling through the woods attempting to reestablish long forgotten trails.
Frank Vitale, Chair of Wilderness Working Group
Frank Vitale makes his living as a farrier (horseshoer), but he lives for hunting, and riding and packing his mules in the backcountry.
For more than 35years, Frank has resided, worked and recreated all over the Northern Continental Divide. His work also includes pack support for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Montana Wilderness Association’s CDT project, Montana Conservation Corps, and contract packing for the US Forest Service.
Frank’s involvement with the North Fork Preservation Association goes back to the organization’s inception in 1982. He served as Vice President of NFPA for about 25 years and has been on the Board of Directors ever since. Frank’s vision is large landscape conservation and protecting the last roadless wildlands in Montana.
Bill Walker, Media/Newsletter Editor
Bill Walker has been an NFPA member for almost 30 years, worked on the newsletter for more than 20 of those years and established the organization’s first web site. As a representative of the NFPA along with John Frederick, he participated in the negotiations leading to the Whitefish Range Partnership recommendations. This was a successful collaborative effort by a broad range of local organizations to agree on a mutually beneficial set of recommendations to the U.S. Forest Service regarding their forest planning document. An avid hiker, Bill helped establish the North Fork Trails Association and currently serves as its president.
As a North Fork full-timer and a life-long student of the natural world, Bill has a strong interest in preserving the unique character of the North Fork – both its biosphere and the singular social contract the human residents have established with their surroundings.
Kevin first visited the North Fork twenty years ago while on a cross country trip with his wife Beth. They were looking for a place that was off the beaten path, and boy did they find it!! Since then, Kevin has been visiting almost every year to enjoy all that this pristine part of America has to offer. Six years ago, Kevin and his family were able to purchase a small cabin and property north of Polebridge. Kevin is lucky enough to be able to spend the entire summer in the North Fork with his family, two horses and dog. Kevin’s plan is to retire from his career as a professional firefighter and EMT to do the things that he enjoys most full time like hunting, fishing, hiking and trail riding on his horses, all in the wilderness when possible.
Julie Nelson first came to the North Fork in 2012 from Portland, Oregon, intending to work for just that summer as a baker at the Polebridge Mercantile, but after falling in love with the land, recreation and community, decided to stay and make it her home. For the next 4 years, she continued to work at the Mercantile and the Northern Lights Saloon during the summers, and as a caretaker during the winters. In 2016, she turned her passion for hiking into a job in the backcountry department of Glacier National Park; issuing backcountry permits, educating park visitors on proper wilderness etiquette and conservation issues, as well as regularly patrolling backcountry trails, lakes and recreation areas. She continues to work for the park, now as the Supervisory Permit Program Specialist for the Backcountry and Aquatic Invasive Species Department, and is a full time resident and landowner in the North Fork with her fiancé Nick.
Rachel Peura and her husband Alan have enjoyed Whale Creek north of Polebridge for almost 10 years. She has been a full-time resident since 2015.
Rachel has been involved in land use and environmental issues for many years and is a past board member of Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC). In addition to her work with the North Fork Preservation Association, she serves on the board of the North Fork Landowners Association.
She enjoys camping, running, hiking and backpacking.
She has worked in a variety of positions as a registered nurse.
John Frederick (May 22, 1943 – November 15, 2017), Our Founder
John Frederick was one of the founders of NFPA in March of 1982 along with Jim Hale and Ron Wilhelm.
When an open-pit coal mine in southeastern British Columbia threatened the Flathead Watershed in Montana in the 1980’s he bought stock in the company and traveled to Toronto for six yearly stockholders’ meetings, making motions to end that particular coal mine which was one of the reasons NFPA was created. The mine never opened. The other threat to the new organization was the paving of the North Fork Road with all the attendant development. The North Fork Road has never been paved, although it as has been proposed many times.
John Frederick was president of NFPA for a total of about 25 years. He has lived in the North Fork since 1980. Also he was a member of Headwaters Montana (another environmental group) and a member of the Whitefish Range Partnership that recommended how the Whitefish Range be managed. He was often referred to as the Mayor of Polebridge.