Following a courageous battle with cancer, Alex Diekmann passed away peacefully at his Bozeman home on February 1
. He was 52 years old. He is survived by his beloved family, sons Logan and Liam and his wife Lisa. Likely most reading this will not have known Alex, yet his life was inextricably connected to the Madison and greater Yellowstone area. Alex was Senior Projects Manager at The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit specializing in the protection of places critical to people, communities and wildlife. In this role he worked diligently to conserve the Madison's working ranches, natural resources and access to its cherished areas.
Alex's association with the Madison Valley began 16 years ago. Local efforts were ongoing to ensure continued public access to the Madison River's famed Three Dollar Bridge area but the challenge was formidable. Alex became engaged with this dream and found a way to help make it a reality. Doing so required Alex's knack for bringing together diverse interests including landowners, elected officials, government agencies, and nonprofits. It also called for his talents in finance and fundraising. When I recently asked Rick Reese, one of the participating landowners, about Alex's role in this effort he answered unequivocally, "Without Alex it never would have happened". This answer resonated with me because I felt exactly the same after working with Alex for several years to structure the conservation easements now placed on our ranch. Alex was instrumental in overseeing a complex process that resulted in the preservation of our lands, agricultural operations, and the O'Dell Creek headwaters. The latter set the stage for a decade of stream and wetland restoration which transformed an important but degraded landscape into an ecological treasure. But without Alex's involvement, dedication and creativity none of the above would have been realized.
Through our association, Alex and I developed a close friendship which was a true gift. Simply stated Alex was one of the most unique and inspiring people I have ever known. Whether it was his work or family, running or Nordic skiing, Alex gave it his all. After graduating from Yale University and receiving a business degree from UCLA, Alex worked on Wall Street and in the commercial real estate industry. While on this lucrative career path, Alex felt a calling to use his unique abilities towards a different end. He wanted to do something that would have lasting impact and leave the world a better place. His love of nature, all manner of outdoor activities and his fellow man led Alex to the Trust for Public Land (TPL) whose motto is "Conserving Land for People." While pursuing this new mission Alex achieved more than most could imagine. From one end of the Madison Valley to the other, Alex's scorecard includes protections of The Olliffe Ranch, The Sun Ranch, The Granger Ranches, The Boltz Ranch, The Gecho Ranch and The Crumley Ranch. These perpetual easements, comprising 23,000 acres, not only safeguard open space and working lands but also wildlife habitat, water resources and migratory corridors. When added to the Three Dollar Bridge Project with its 4 miles of public river access AND accompanying easement to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Alex's legacy is immeasurable. He took quiet pride in these accomplishments but never elected to bask in their glory. Achieving the goal was good enough. Doing something enduring was enough. To use Alex's own words, "It is unbelievable how proud people are of being involved in this (conservation) and that's something you can't put a price tag on. The rewards are entirely different. It is all about the heartfelt connection we have with the places we help conserve."
Alex was loved for his enthusiastic and generous spirit. He made one feel good about the world, always offering a kind word of encouragement and a big smile. He was honest to the core. What you saw is what you got. As Rick Reese told me, "When we first met I took an instant liking to Alex's warm personality but more importantly by the end of that meeting I trusted him." Successful conservation starts with conversation and Alex was a great listener. He took people's interests and concerns to heart and put those ahead of any desire to get a deal done just to chalk up another victory. Developing friendships with partners and stakeholders was clearly as important to him as the conservation values his work sought to protect.
Alex's astonishing career at The Trust for Public Land was summarized by Dick Dolan, TPL's Northern Rockies Director as follows, "Between 2001 and 2015, Alex completed 55 land protection efforts across the Northern Rockies from the Gallatin Valley (32,000 acres) to the Taylor Fork to the stunning Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho. His preservation efforts total more than 100,000 acres of agricultural lands, restored spring creeks, forests with access for fisherman and sportsmen, and even an historic homestead within the confines of Glacier National Park. Additionally Alex retired 772 acres of mining claims near Yellowstone National Park which threatened the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Stillwater Rivers."
Despite fighting a vicious disease, Alex continued to work on what would be his last projects, conserving 23,000 acres of forested lands surrounding Whitefish, Montana. These projects include the 3,020 acre Haskill Basin Conservation Easement. The code to Alex's exemplary life will permanently secure the municipal water supply for the City of Whitefish, support sustainable timber management, and provide recreational public access to lands that are prized by the Whitefish community.
If the night sky should appear slightly different it is because a very bright star is gone. Alex Diekmann will be dearly missed but his conservation triumphs will be with us forever.