Monday, May 18, 2009

Gayle is a founding board member of Orion- The Hunter's Institute. This article is from the Woman's Outdoor Wire:

First Lady of Montana Wildlife Management - Gayle Joslin

Gayle Joslin, of Helena, Montana, became a wildlife biologist in the early '70s when women were uncommon in the wildlife management field.
By Tammy Sapp

Hunting, fishing and camping all came natural to Gayle Joslin, who grew up in an outdoorsy family around Helena, Montana. As a young woman, she added a new dimension to her outdoor experiences by becoming a cook at an outfitters camp where her father guided in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

"That allowed me to experience backcountry camps with the horses and wall tents," Gayle reminisced. "It was a precious, special time."

While Gayle said she was content being camp cook, her parents encouraged her to go to college.

"I flipped through the university catalog and found biology, ornithology, and all the other "ologies" listed. I signed up to study fish and wildlife and was the one and only girl coming into the curriculum.

"Some professors didn't think it was appropriate for women to be in this field. They wanted me to find a more appropriate curriculum."

While it wasn't always easy, Gayle did find the experience to be a bit of an adventure. The following year, two other women opted to study fish and wildlife and the threesome became a source of support for each other.

"All the women stuck with the curriculum," Gayle recalled. "The dropout rate was high. It was a boot camp washout program. The professors really gave a discouraging picture of what the opportunities would be. So many dropped out. However, the women were an independent sort and stuck with it."

Gayle graduated from college and immediately began working on a grizzly bear project for the University of Montana. For the next two years, she worked on evaluating grizzly habitat and population dynamics.

In 1977, Gayle accepted a job with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and became the first female in a biologist position at that department.

"I was happy to get the position. I was hired by the ecological services division to do baseline research on the effects of dams, mining, and oil and gas exploration and development."

Her specific research focus was evaluating the effects of oil and gas exploration on mountain goats. Ultimately she was absorbed from the mountain goat project into the wildlife division, a part of the agency Gayle described as a "very staid, traditional boy's club." The project she was assigned to was studying the effects of energy development on the Rocky Mountain front along the Continental Divide.

"They needed the experience I had gained through my work on mining and dam development related to mountain goats, mountain lions and osprey."

Gayle's work moved her around western Montana before settling in the Helena area as a regional wildlife biologist. Beyond breaking the glass ceiling for women wanting to pursue a career in fish and wildlife, Gayle achieved many other milestones.

She produced a document outlining guidelines for mountain lion management along the Rocky Mountain front that was adopted in several US Forest Service plans. In addition, she worked with The Wildlife Society coordinating the efforts of 35 other biologists to look at the effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife.

"I coordinated all the biologists to put together benchmark information for wildlife regarding the impacts from recreation during a time when the use of off-road vehicles was exploding. This information was used by a variety of agencies and elevated the concerns and issues and connected people to data so they could understand the problems and develop solutions."

The resulting report, "Effects of Recreation on Rocky Mountain Wildlife: A Review for Montana" which Gayle co-authored with Heidi Youmans, earned the Montana Chapter's Wildlife Society Communications Award in 2000. The effort also won the prestigious Touchstone Award presented by the Wildlife Management Institute in recognition of advanced sound science for wildlife management in North America.

During her career, Joslin also fought hard for elk regulations that allocated branch-antlered bulls and a quota of cows on a permit basis while allowing any hunter to harvest an un-branched spike bull. As is the case with nearly any hunting regulation, a storm of controversy broke out with some outfitters claiming the uncertainty of drawing branch-antlered bull permits would ruin their business. Gayle stuck to her guns, though, and ultimately prevailed.

"It was always an uphill push but I'm stubborn," Gayle said. "It was important to me to do something for wildlife on my watch. It allowed elk to achieve a natural population diversity which they don't otherwise do in a hunted population. And this regulation meant that nobody got an unfair advantage."

Retired from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Gayle is now using her experience and go get 'em attitude as a board member for Orion-The Hunter's Institute. Gayle was actually a founding board member for Orion, which was established in 1993, to sustain hunting by developing programs that address the hunter's tradition as conservationist, hunter ethics, and the preservation of resources essential to an ethical hunting environment.

"One of the things I'm invested in now is having the public - both hunter and non hunter - understand the North American model. The foundation and history of wildlife conservation comes from the concept that wildlife belongs to the people. A lot of folks are lined up to get privileges or fringe benefits. However, wildlife is to be shared by all and has needs that we should all work together to assure."

Gayle is also working to protect a linkage corridor used by wolverines, wolves and grizzly bears on the crest of the Continental Divide. The Army National Guard has proposed converting this area into a training facility complete with roads, parking lots and other developments. Gayle and Orion firmly believe a better spot should be found.

"One of the things I feel strongly about is if we don't have wild lands, we will all suffer. Montana hasn't had a new designation for wilderness in 24 years. We need to take steps to assure designation of roadless lands. If we don't keep the status quo, tomorrow you could have a ski development there.

"The process is as onerous as it can be, but it's a privilege to be involved, and we have an obligation to participate. The North American model is something we've been building on for decades. It's our turn to step up to that evolutionary history and do something proactive to benefit the landscape."

To learn more about Gayle's work with Orion, visit

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