Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Pat Ford, who served as ICL’s Executive Director from 1979 to 1984. Pat lives in Boise, Idaho and periodically contributes to the ICL blog. 


After 32 years in Montana that followed his decade or so in Idaho, Tim Crawford suffered a stroke in October 2022, which ended his greatly productive life. He was 82.  

Tim was vice-chair and then chair of the Idaho Conservation League board; I’ll guess the dates as 1981-83 and 1983-85, respectively. He had moved to Ketchum from California. I have a vague memory that he testified for the 2.3 million acre River of No Return Wilderness at the Salmon field hearing in late 1979. It was around then that he found ICL, and/or the women and men of the young, lively Wood River ICL chapter found him.    

Tim was a fisherman and hunter – indeed, a big game hunter with trips to Africa, animal heads on his walls, and a large gun collection. This gave him a persona rather out of the ICL norm; I think he relished that. He came to know the streams, springs, and uplands of the Wood River Valley well, with regular trips to other Idaho lands and waters. He was a personality. An articulate, well-read, clever man, whose constant humor always had bite, and could be mordant. He was not shy with his opinions and reactions, negative or positive.     

Tim became ICL’s vice-chair as the organization recovered from a near-death experience I won’t go into. By Tim’s time staff was back up to 4 or 5 (two of us, Lill Erickson and I, were at Tim’s celebration of life; Lill too moved to Montana after ICL and has forged lifelong conservation achievement).  

When he became chair, I remember pretty good board meetings from my standpoint; that he backed me when I needed him, and that we enjoyed each other. He liked the time ICL was devoting to central Idaho, with Lill based in Salmon. Tim’s final job as chair was to oversee the search to replace me as executive director in 1984 when I burned out. It was a tough process, with disagreements he was part of, but he got it done.

In these years, Tim was also on the Ketchum City Council. I think he came to feel helpless, and angry to be helpless, against the over-development of the Wood River Valley, in which he knew he was implicated. I think it triggered his decision to leave Idaho.    

He moved to Bozeman, Montana. He found love – with Kathy Hansen (soon Kathy Hansen Crawford), a professor of geography at Montana State University. It settled him, brought him joy. Together they had 32 years of life, teaching, and civic accomplishment in Montana. He received an inheritance which gave them scope for philanthropy in addition to their personal work. 

Tim and his wife, Kathy.

Tim bought a large ranch on the East Fork of the Gallatin River, and began lifelong work to restore its wounded waters and lands. He called it Pheasant Farm.  My wife, Julia and I visited once. He drove us around in a little safari-like vehicle on narrow trails, in his element. By then the riparian areas along the streams were extensive and healthy. He removed all buildings and fencing close to the river, and built their home on the uplands. He told us what we were seeing, jumping out to pull weeds as he saw them. He showed us his duck and deer blinds.  Their place is under permanent easement to remain as it is. 

He became a philanthropist to Montana conservation, and to community welfare, arts, historic preservation, and conservation in and around Bozeman. If when visiting Bozeman you see an old building downtown, odds are decent Tim had a hand in its preservation.  He was a generous supporter of the Northern Plains Resource Council.  At their meetings he met my wife Julia Page before we were married, and who, like Tim at ICL, was board member and then board chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

Sides of Tim emerged I had not seen in Idaho. Writer Todd Wilkinson told a story at the life celebration. Tim would often call Todd and say, “we’re going to xyz today, I’ll pick you up.” This time they drove to a homeless encampment behind the valley Walmart. Tim knew some of the individuals there, he’d visited them before. They talked, caught up. It was early winter, and cold was clearly a challenge. Tim bought good winter coats for everyone there.  He was a major donor to Bozeman’s Human Resources Development Council for community support of this same nature, and also delivered it person-to-person. 

Tim was a photographer, who took the craft and art seriously for decades. Some will remember the several series of cards he produced for sale – most often close ups of wildflowers, outdoors and indoors. He did a nice series of season-on-season, year-on-year photographs from the same location, of the same group of cottonwood trees on his ranch with the Bridger Mountains as background. He did volunteer photography to document events, rallies, and such. He had a dark room in his Ketchum house on River Street, which came in handy when, bound for Montana, he rented his ground floor to Lynne Stone (at a generously low rent – this was Ketchum), who developed the black-and-whites for her Sawtooth Country Adventures while living there. The new darkroom at his farm was a good step up from the serviceable one in Ketchum.

Tim was known for the bumper stickers and tags he thought up and executed. “Armed and liberal” was one.  Another “NRA member for Wilderness.” More recently he ordered some Donald Trump red hats, printed with “Make America Think Again.” He would wear the cap to events sure to have Trump supporters, watch them smile as they saw him approaching, then watch them read it, and watch them react.    

I can’t do justice to his many Montana accomplishments and life. His obituary in the local paper offers more context and history.  I know that, from the staff and board trenches, Idaho and Montana conservation often seem completely different worlds. Then at times the two are so similar.  Tim is a standout example of how that can play out in a passionate conservation-minded life. I suspect it plays out in individual fashions for many current ICL staff, and at least some board members. 

Tim’s life celebration took place at Bozeman’s Emerson Center on November 14, in an auditorium named for Kathy and Tim. The Emerson is a big old brick school on a full block near downtown Bozeman. They were the lead donors in its purchase for civic purposes; the Emerson now hosts a great variety of Bozeman life, learning, care, and fun. At the celebration, Kathy welcomed us all, and six people spoke about Tim, from different angles, including the fishing/hunting partner who built his house in Ketchum and then followed him to Montana.  Some of his photographs, and some of he and Kathy, were shown. The high point came when Chrysti Smith – aka Chrysti the Wordsmith, whose career on Montana Public Radio Tim helped support in its fragile early days – asked us all to stand, look up to Tim on the screen, and thank him. The applause of the 150 or so people there went on for a long time. 

My indelible memory of Tim Crawford is personal. At Julia’s and my wedding in Paradise Valley south of Livingston in 2013, under a threatening sky, I was walking down the aisle between chairs to the front where Sara Patton waited to marry us. A large seated crowd looked to be watching me. I saw Farwell Smith’s sweet smile (which I knew would be sweeter for Julia), a wonderful man we knew from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition board two decades before. Then I saw Tim and Kathy, also on the aisle. He kept my eye, as he merrily and loudly stage-whispered, “Pat, there’s still time to get out of this.” I was pretty keyed up, trying to remember what I had memorized to say, rather tight. But I broke up, so did others, the tightness vanished, and I was present. A few seconds later a vision came down the aisle to me. I will never forget that extended moment.  

Here’s to you, Tim Crawford. Thank you so much. I do not like to see you go.