The Legacy of Jim “Poz” Posewitz

Jim Posewitz, a Montana conservation icon, passed away on July 3rd. Known to his many friends and colleagues simply as “Poz.” It is challenging to recount his many accomplishments without missing something. Indeed, we will feel his impact for many years to come.

In his “first” career, 32 years at the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, he helped establish the Ecological Services Division working to protect the Rocky Mountain Front as well as many other vitally important lands and waters. His work kept the waters of the Yellowstone flowing free. In fact, he helped to establish the concept that free flowing water had a value on equal footing with other needs.

Posewitz’s impacts extend well beyond Montana. He is credited with helping to establish the North American Model of Wildlife Management, the world’s most successful system of policies and laws to restore and safeguard fish and wildlife and their habitats through sound science and active management.

In 1983, Posewitz helped to found the Cinnabar Foundation, committed to preserving and conserving Montana’s waters, wildlife and wildlands. He remained active with Cinnabar the rest of his life, serving on the board, then as Executive Director and eventually as a board emeritus. 

In 1993, he founded Orion – the Hunters Institute, dedicated to putting hunters at the forefront of our nation’s conservation ethic. His first book, “Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting,” published in 1994 became the model upon which ethical hunting programs were built across the nation. 

Among his many awards, Poz has been recognized as “Conservationist of the Year” by the Montana Wildlife Federation, the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Montana Hunting Hall of Fame. He won the “Alumni Blue and Gold Award” from Montana State for “distinguished services which have contributed to the benefit of mankind.” In 2015, the National Wildlife Federation named him conservationist of the year, and in 2018, he was inducted into the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame.

Poz is more than a national Icon of wildlife management and conservation. He is a friend. A personal friend and one of the earliest and most ardent Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

I first met Poz at the 2005 Montana Wilderness Association convention in Billings. We had dinner together one night. His wife, Gayle Joslin, was still working at the MDFWP as a leading authority on mountain goats. Gayle had conducted research in 1979 on mountain goats in the West Cabinet Mountains, specifically the Scotchman Peaks. We talked all night about mountain goats, wildlife management, conservation and wilderness. It was not until well after the convention that I learned Gayle’s husband, Poz, was the Executive Director of the Cinnabar Foundation. That was the Poz way, very unassuming of any spotlight. 

Jim Posewitz shares his passion for conservation in Libby in 2018

Not long after that evening, the Cinnabar Foundation would become one of FSPW’s stalwart supporters. As they continue to be to this day. And from then on, Gayle and Poz would become a part of the FSPW family. Annie, Gayle’s daughter admired the FSPW sticker on her mother’s laptop for many years. Annie eventually came into the FSPW family fold too, doing outreach for us in Libby and Troy for 2 years.

In 2018, a few weeks after its release, we hosted Poz in Libby to talk about his 5th book, “My Best Shot: Discovering and living the Montana Conservation Ethic.” With his step-son Clayton performing an original piano composition and Annie introducing him, the knowledge and passion Poz imparted that night felt very personal and made a lasting impact on all.

In the early 1990s, a Montana Wilderness Association newsletter published Poz’s “Eight Rules on Leadership.”  See below.

The final rule sums up his legacy very well:  “Trust your intuition and don’t take yourselves too seriously. Cling to your sense of humor. Learn to laugh at troubles and you’ll never run out of things to laugh at. Humor allows you to bite the forbidden truth. Besides, it will drive your enemies nuts.” Poz, we will miss you even though you will always be with us!

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About The Author:

Phil Hough is the Executive Director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

He has hiked the "triple crown": the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest trail (twice). He has also paddled the length of the Yukon river. Phil's love of wilderness guides him as he works to save the incrediblly wild Scotchman Peaks, one of the last and largest roadless places in northern Idaho and western Montana.

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  1. Nice job on the article Phil. Hard to sum up a man like Poz. I particularly like the last paragraph! Thanks!

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