MISSOULA – Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has appointed University of Montana Assistant Professor Martha Williams to serve as director of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Bullock made the Cabinet announcement Jan. 6.
Williams has taught natural resource law, public land and resources law, and wildlife law at UM’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law. She also co-directed UM’s Land Use and Natural Resources Clinic. Williams said she is thrilled and honored to serve the state in this new role.
“Along with fellow Montanans, I share a passion for our fish, wildlife, parks and recreational resources,” she said. “It feels like a critical time with increasing pressures from invasive species, disease and habitat fragmentation, coupled with the need to get more and more people outdoors and ensure recreational opportunities and access are available – while at the same time supporting landowners.”
Williams said she plans to listen, and she hopes to be inclusive, transparent and fair.
“There is a super team in place, and I can’t wait to breathe life into and implement the vision that the agency and its constituents worked hard to develop,” she said.
Previous Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener retired in December after 12 years in the role.
“Jeff Hagener left the agency and the resources in a better place,” Williams said. “With a commitment to what makes Montana so special – its people, heritage and places – I’m excited to take the agency’s vision and guide forward in tangible ways.”
Williams has spent her career learning and teaching about fish, wildlife, parks, natural resources and conservation. Before coming to UM, she served as the deputy solicitor for parks and wildlife at the U.S. Department of Interior, where she oversaw legal issues and litigation for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, Williams served as legal counsel for the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks from 1998 to 2011.
“Through that experience it has been crucial to understand the science and translate it to decision makers and courts,” Williams said. “I also understand how important the context of place is, those who live on the land, the history of its use, interaction with sportsmen and women, and the need for inclusivity.”
Williams received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and her Juris Doctor with honors from UM’s law school. She plans to continue to stay engaged with UM and its students.
“I have learned so much from my students, and they inspire me to make a difference and build depth in leadership to allow their capabilities to flourish,” Williams said.