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Love blooms on Game Range

January 27, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

by Mike Thompson,
Wildlife Biologist
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
"Game Range Ramblings" column Seeley Swan Pathfinder

All this time, I thought Jamie had worked so hard on the 50th Anniversary Celebration because he felt a powerful connection with the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range.

But, recent and startling events have revealed the truth.

It seems we are indebted to Five Valleys Land Trust for much more than their considerable efforts in bringing a Monte Dolack commemorative poster of the Game Range into our homes. Now it can be told that Five Valleys also provided the sparknay, the flamewhich attracted Jamie's astonishing interest in preparations for the Celebration last June 12th.

Her name iswasAli Duvall.

If I'm not mistaken, Ali came to work at Five Valleys in 1998, at about the same time as this Missoula-based Land Trust joined in the partnership to acquire 7,800 acres of Plum Creek inholdings in the Game Range. Soon, Ali assumed management responsibilities for the poster project and she began attending project coordination meetings.

Come to think of it, Jamie had been avoiding our coordination meetings, as any good field man would, until that fateful intersection of bad weather and a project meeting date brought Ali and Jamie together for the first time.

"When I first saw Jamie, I thought he'd been in the mountains for three weeks," Ali confided to this reporterand my wife, Sharonat a recent gathering of The Blackfoot Challenge at Lubrecht Forest.

And, well he may have. Jamie Jonkel was hired by Region 2 of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) in the summer of 1996, on the strength of his incomparable field experience in wildlife biology, not to mention his honest, enthusiastic personality. He had worked extensively in remote locations all over the world, and is recognized as an expert with grizzly bears and mountain lions.

Suffice it to say, he hadn't accomplished all this by spending much time in an office.

We've not even tried to break him to a pressed shirt and swivel chair. It's Jamie's drive to be in the field, working on the land with wildlife and landowners, that makes him especially valuable to FWP. And, one would have to conclude it was this passion for long hours of field work that caused him to remain a very eligible bachelor for his first four decades of life.

So, it wouldn't be surprising if he might have appeared a little wild at first sight to such a lovely and well kept young lady as the former Miss Duvall.

Whether scruffy or not, Jamie's personality always shines through, as I'm sure Ali soon noticed upon further inspection. I can remember noticing the two of them enjoying what must have been one of their earliest conversations at the Rich Ranch last spring. Jamie was a regular attendee at our coordination meetings thereafter.

Not long after the June 12th Celebration it became common knowledge that Ali and Jamie were dating. But, it came as a bit of a surprise when Jamie recently informed his coworkers, one by one, that he and Ali had up and married just a few weeks ago! If they were other than mature adults, I'd have to say they eloped!

"Congratulations!" I replied from my position in front of the computer when Jamie told me the good news. "I've been looking for some fodder for my newspaper column."

From the tone of his prompt reply, I judged that the heavy responsibility of marriage did not yet rest as comfortably on Jamie's mind as in his heart. But, after Jim Stone announced their union while introducing Jamie as a speaker at the Blackfoot Challenge meeting, with Ali and many others in the audience, I decided it is now a matter of public record.

The clincher was when I received a FAX from Ali Duvall-Jonkel a few days ago.

Well, it just goes to show you that bitterroots and buttercups aren't the only things that bloom on the Game Range in spring. And, it proves that the Game Range 50th Anniversary was indeed a powerful force.

Can pressed shirts and a swivel chair be far behind?

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