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A Missoula-headquartered nonprofit that connects kids with the natural world and conservation work has been named to Outside Magazine’s “Best Places to Work” list, based in part on a survey of employee satisfaction.

Ecology Project International, which employs 30 people in Missoula, was named No. 55 on the list. It's the sixth time the organization has been recognized on the list. The organization actually has more than 100 employees across five countries, but all of its logistics are handled here.

The educational organization works to improve and inspire science education and conservation efforts worldwide through field-based partnerships between students and scientists. It also runs field classes in Yellowstone National Park for students in Montana and across the world.

The programs involve young people from the United States and Latin America on hands-on science and conservation projects that protect species and habitat in five countries.

More than 30,000 students have participated in its field programs since 2010, with more than 70 percent of those participants being under-served local youth living in communities adjacent to the project site.

“It’s an honor to receive this recognition for our sixth year running," said EPI executive director and co-founder Scott Pankratz. "Now more than ever, our work in conservation and cross-cultural education is of paramount importance. Our employees create extraordinary impacts in the world, and that carries over to an exceptional work environment here in Missoula.”

Other Montana companies that made the list are Wisetail, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Foundant Technologies and Montana Wilderness Association, which is based in Helena but has an office in Missoula.

“Companies from across the country entered a rigorous two-part survey process to make the winning list,” said Jonah Ogles, articles editor at Outside Magazine. “The Best Companies Group evaluates each nominated company's workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. There’s also an employee survey to measure personal experience.”

He said that the winning companies are those that value productivity in combination with an active, eco-conscious lifestyle that gives workers a fulfilling experience inside and outside the office.

Rachel Caldwell, communications manager for EPI, said the nonprofit has what it affectionately calls “workflow” meetings during the hot days of summer.

“We keep inner tubes in the basement, and we have a cool technology feature that will announce if it’s a day over 90,” she said. “That reminds people to bring their swimsuits. And we’ll go for a float on the river in the afternoon when it’s hot.”

Alternatively, the company lets people call in on “powder days” to go skiing or snowboarding.

“These things keep people excited about where we live,” Caldwell said. “We have a super-flexible schedule. I work from home one day a week. And we get 50 cents every day we carpool, walk, bike, or bus to work.”

The company also offers a full benefits plan, including health insurance and a company-matched retirement program.

In 2015, EPI ranked No. 19 on the list, which was the highest ranking for a nonprofit. In 2014, Seeley Lake Elementary School was ranked No. 1 on the list, but this year that went to an architecture firm in Aspen, Colorado.

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