It is only just settling in for us that Stewart Brandborg has actually left the planet and the Bitterroot, two places he loved dearly. (Brandborg made his transition in April of this year.)
There are three things that stand out when we think of Brandborg: His passion for conservation of the environment, his love of all things wild and those still wild at heart, and cultivating a strong sense of community — “putting people first.” One day, Brandborg brought us flowers after the passing of a beloved pet, and we sat on the side porch and talked about what truly is important between people. Finding a way to connect.
What we know of Stewart Brandborg comes from direct experience. “Have your helmets shined and ready for battle and always have a positive, informed response ready!”-type experiences with this great soul and deeply respected friend.
We were committed and involved up to the hilt between 2006-2009 in the Bitterroot. We worked hard on commissioner elections, zoning and planning efforts, streamside setbacks and issues within the city of Hamilton.
We were around when the unconscionable dismantling of the citizen-derived growth policy happened.
Stewart Brandborg was a rare individual who inspired us to want to learn more, get involved, to stay open in spite of politically motivated mud-slinging and carry on with the vision and task at hand.
We will never forget the genuine nature of Brandborg (and his wife Anna Vee) at every step of our involvement. Meetings held at their house were based on kinship, finding a way through hard issues together, and at times, celebrating hard-won victories! There was a solidness to these times. We had cohesion and we wanted to be involved. There was an importance about it, we all felt it. Brandborg had succeeded. We were all truly connected.
Brandborg would do things like call us out of the blue and say ”Come on up, we want to take you out to Tin Cup for a drive.” We parked and walked out to an old cabin. Then we wandered into the forest among the big pondys and lodgepole, him pointing out how the fallen trees make compost for new life. He could not go very far because of his used-up ankle and knee. We stopped and just stood there; then we heard it: the distinct howl of a wolf drifting through the canyon and among the trees. It was exquisite. You have not heard it until you have heard it in the wild. I guarantee you. Brandborg said, “Well, there you go."
He showed us how to organize as citizens and to identify the important issues affecting the Bitterroot: Maintaining the viewsheds, open spaces and wildlife corridors of the valley we all loved was most important. The highest and best use of land was what nature intended and not the heavy scars of development. To keep in check the unabated drive for subdivisions to be set down in some of the most pristine fields in the valley. Planning and zoning so that communities would have cohesion and sustainability.
Even though much of what we achieved during those times has been undone, Brandborg's spirit will remain in our hearts and minds forever. A wolf howl for the ages.
His enduring achievements on the local and national level related to wilderness are forever. And forever is a looong time.