DU Volunteers Bring Together Montana Mining Town

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The Colstrip, Montana, DU committee host two successful fundraising events each year, which draw supporters from all walks of life.

Movie star Ginger Rogers used to say she danced the same steps as Fred Astaire, just backwards and in high heels. That's a bit what it must be like to put on a successful DU event in a small Montana coal-mining town with few waterfowl hunters and a struggling economy. Nevertheless, the Colstrip chapter of Ducks Unlimited has risen to the challenge and raised almost $48,000 per year for DU's conservation work—all while having a lot of fun.

"We've had to work hard, but we are the biggest fundraiser of any kind in Colstrip," says Chapter Co-chair Steve Christian. "Local farmers and ranchers come out to our events, and the community as a whole has been very supportive."

In this town of 2,300 people, the DU chapter's annual dinner routinely brings in around 200 attendees. The committee also puts on a spring sportsman's event, which draws about 175.

"There are not a lot of duck hunters in Colstrip, but we are conservation-minded people," Steve says. "We are driven by the energy industry, mainly the mining and burning of coal, but we are also environmentally conscious. We want clean air and water for our children and grandchildren."

The Colstrip DU committee is a diverse and tightknit group, ranging in age from 16 to 75. The roster includes students, teachers, engineers, power plant operators, coal miners, and retirees. The committee also boasts Montana state chair Kathy Christian, who is Steve's wife, and their son-in-law Matt Shahan, who travels from North Dakota to volunteer. The three have been chosen as Montana volunteers of the year for the past three years and assisted other Montana chapters with their fundraising efforts as well.