Blackfoot Challenge announces new Executive Director

Ovando, MT – The Blackfoot Challenge is pleased to announce that Charles Curtin has been selected as the organization’s next Executive Director. As of February 1st, Charles assumed the position full-time and has been touring around the Blackfoot Watershed, visiting with Board members, staff and residents.

“Our Hiring Committee set out to find an individual with the vision to build upon the Challenge’s success and who could lead this now 25-year-old organization into its next stage.” says Jim Stone, Board Chair of the Blackfoot Challenge. “We have found that leader in Charles and are very excited to welcome him to our team. Charles has many years of experience in the community-based and partnership-centered approach to conservation that we have found to work so well here in the Blackfoot. “

Charles brings with him more than 20 years of experience developing collaborative conservation projects in the US, Mexico, East Africa, and the Middle East. Much of the focus of these programs has been on developing place-based, community-driven science to sustain rangelands and rural communities. This included helping develop the rancher-led Malpai Borderlands Group in southern Arizona and New Mexico that is in many respects comparable to the Blackfoot Challenge. He also coordinated science on the 700 square-mile Gray Ranch, developed sustainable agriculture programs, and has helped found a number of watershed alliances with rural communities across the country.

In addition to a doctorate in Zoology and masters in Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin, Charles helped establish academic programs in collaborative science and adaptive management at MIT and other universities. He is an established author on collaboration and conservation science with over 70 peer-reviewed articles and a number of books and monographs including, “The Science of Open Spaces,” published in 2015 and the forthcoming “Complex Ecology,” due out this spring. When not working, Charles enjoys hiking, nordic skiing, horseback riding, and is a bluegrass banjo player.

“I have long admired the work of the Blackfoot Challenge that is the premier collaborative conservation effort on the continent,” says Charles. “While most of my career I have worked on founding new programs, the work with the Challenge is a rare opportunity to help assure the future of a mature organization. It is an immense privilege to be able to live and work in this stunning landscape and have the opportunity to learn from, and interact with, a remarkable group of collaborators and partners.”

Charles plans to live in the Ovando area and welcomes visits from community members at the Blackfoot Challenge’s Ovando office. He will also spend time at the Challenge’s satellite office in Missoula. You can get in touch with him directly at or on his mobile line at 505-429-3601.