Bob Walker Receives Montana Trails Coalition Lifetime Achievement Award

Bob Walker receives the Montana Trails Coalitions' Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 Montana Outdoor Recreation Summit in Butte, Montana.

by American Trails Staff

Bob Walker is the current Chair of the Montana Trails Coalition, comprised of a wide range of individuals and organizations working to protect and enhance access to our backcountry and to community opportunities. Bob's entire personal and professional life has revolved around an appreciation of our natural surroundings and a dedication to protect and enhance those surroundings for people to enjoy and appreciate. Those surroundings include our wild and beautiful backcountry, our state and community parks and recreation opportunities, and our valuable agricultural resources.

Bob was presented this award by Beth Shumate, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, State Trails Administrator. The following is an excerpt from the presentation:

"Hello, my name is Beth Shumate and I had the fine honor of serving as the State Trails Administrator for nearly a decade and learned much of what I know due to one individual. I am here today to present to you this visionary leader who is and always has been undaunted by the enormity of the task ahead. Always had a grand vision of trails and how to fund all of the various needs of trail systems, not only in Montana but nationally as well. He is no stranger to the complexity of politics in the Midwest or the West and his list of achievements is so lengthy, it would take me a couple of hours to go through them all so I’ll spare some of the details and focus on the key highlights (view Bob's bio here).

  • Back in the Eighties, he helped draft the federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) legislation and spoke before Congress to get the bill passed. Can any of us even imagine a life without this key funding source for trail systems and trailside amenities all across the U.S.? The RTP has funded approximately $28 million in trail projects since the inception of the program in Montana alone.
  • Served in two states as the State Trails Coordinator that spans two and one-half decades in two different states, Iowa and Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, State Trails Programs Coordinator, 1991 – 2007.
  • Organized numerous state trail and outdoor recreation conferences! That’s where the real connections were always made. And still are!
  • 2022-current. Member, State Trails Advisory Committee (STAC)
  • 2017-2022. Member, USDA Forest Service, Missouri River Resource Advisory Council
  • 2018-2023. Montana Outdoor Heritage Project
  • 2010-2017. Chair, Western Montana Resource Advisory Council, Bureau of Land Management
  • 2003-2007. Chair, National Association of Off-Highway Vehicle Program Managers
  • 1992-1996. Chair, American Trails
  • 1989-1992. Member, Legislative Committee, American Trails
  • 1988-1990. Chair, International Association of Snowmobile Administrators

This man made it all happen by bringing together motorized and non-motorized users. He has a unique skill set and approach and is the real deal trail user who truly does all of the activities but also respects all types and their desires. There is no judgment..…ever.

Bob Walker receiving award

Bob Walker receiving award

I’m honored to call him a longtime dear friend and mentor who has literally taught me just about everything. The phone calls were daily after I accepted the State Trails Coordinator position in his footsteps and then decreased to weekly and monthly once I got my feet under me. He was always, always willing to answer even the stupidest questions, such as 'How many subcategories can there be to the Diversified Category??' The support and guidance was consistent and endearing. He has continued to provide this advice and support to all of the green program managers and is quick to help us realize that 'there is no perfect Program'…you can only do your best and listen to the user groups. Never become too much of a bureaucrat and make sure you remain connected to the resources and the people on the ground, in the mountains, and in the field.

He has an inordinate ability to coalesce and bring groups together to find common values and interests. He is truly one of the most respected and highly regarded individuals in this great state and yet remains humble and modest. He never gloats and he has an ability to de-escalate intense situations before people say things they wish they could take back later. In the 2015 days, I specifically recall a coffee meeting about expanding the role of the STAC to become more of a statewide trails advocacy and fundraising group. He and others immediately encouraged me to take this concept to the next level, hence the rather successful Montana Trails Coalition that we know today. Again, always with the intention of bringing together all types of user groups to work in a strategic way. In the early days of the Montana Trails Coalition, it struggled to get off the ground. It wasn’t until this individual became the President that allowed it to flourish and gain momentum over the course of the next eight years.

Although he worked a 30-year career in state government serving the recreating public, his most significant impact was made during his non-conventional working years in retirement. He has worked tirelessly and strategically to secure approximately $2 million annually for Montana trails by establishing the Montana Trails Stewardship Program via the passage of SB 24 in the 2021 session and subsequently secured an additional $700K-$1 Million more in the 2023 session with the passage of HB 701. We will never know how many hours this effort entailed, how many phone calls, capitol hallway conversations, emails, bill drafts, sweat, tears, and the coffee and beers in between it all.

Without this man’s good work over the past few decades, we wouldn’t have such amazing and well-maintained trail systems to enjoy by any mode of travel that suits you.

We have never had more people show up to legislative hearings to discuss trail-related topics than when this man was able to rally the troops. To reiterate that this included every type of user group and special interest group is an understatement. It has been a successful marriage of conservation and recreation groups all working together towards one common goal—to get people outdoors on the landscape, to better appreciate and care for the resource while having fun and enjoying one another’s company via a trail system! I’ve lost track of how many millions of dollars this man is responsible for behind the scenes but without his unique strategies and calm demeanor, we wouldn’t have what we enjoy across this gorgeous place we call home, Montana!

And now he’s working nationwide, again (it’s all full circle), and quite the evolution in which he is helping people build legislative caucuses and trail coalition groups in their respective states - to replicate all of the good work that has been accomplished here in Montana. We have a lot to celebrate and we owe it to this man otherwise known as Trails King, Trails God, by the name of the one and only, Bob Walker. I am honored to present this Lifetime Achievement Award along with the Montana Trails Coalition, Montana Trails, Recreation and Park Association, Montana Access Project, Our Montana, STAC, and so many other groups and individuals."

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