Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has named Beth R. Shumate the new state parks administrator following a nearly year-long vacancy at the post.
Shumate has served as manager of Hell Creek State Park and most recently as FWP’s state trails program manager. She lives near Clancy.
“Beth has a forward-looking vision for Montana State Parks and the demonstrated ability to coalesce interests and build partnerships,” said FWP director Martha Williams in a press release. “Beth is passionate about trails and public land access for all.”
Shumate will take over for Chas Van Genderen who was unexpectedly dismissed last December by then FWP director Jeff Hagener. Van Genderen held the position for eight years. The terms of the dismissal have remained undisclosed.
Then in August, Gov. Steve Bullock dismissed two Montana State Parks and Recreation Board members. One of those dismissed was Billings attorney Tom Towe, who contentiously questioned the governor's authority to remove him.
So Shumate steps into a leadership role at a department that has weathered some recent storms and has often been suggested should be separated from FWP to pursue its own goals.
Shumate will begin work on Dec. 4.
Shumate grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota. She has a bachelor’s degree in health management from Luther College in Iowa and a master’s degree in recreation management from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. She first fell in love with the West as a wildland fire fighter. She’s lived in Montana for 15 years.
“During the past 20 years, I’ve had the pleasure of living, working and becoming keenly aware of the vital role that our parks and trail systems play in our well-being, our economy and our communities,” Shumate said in an FWP press release. “I’m extremely honored and humbled to accept this opportunity because I strongly desire to continue my commitment to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Montanans and our tourists by improving the parks’ programs through positive momentum and innovative strategies.”
The hiring of an administrator for the FWP’s parks division is important as the state looks toward the future of the parks and recreation program.
“This is obviously a key leadership role for state parks and recreation," said Angie Grove, the new chair of the park’s board, in the press release. "The administrator position is critical for moving forward with the governor's Parks In Focus Initiative and implementing our strategic plan. We look forward to the energy Beth will bring in addressing those critical areas, as well as managing overall operations. The board is looking forward to working with Beth on those two key pieces of direction for the state.”
Montana has 55 state parks and five outdoor recreation programs. Shumate sees connecting Montana residents and visitors with experiences outdoors as a vital role for the division to play. How to fund those parks and programs continues to be a problem for the state. Attempts to reduce the number of parks has been fought by locals.
“With our state parks and trails systems, FWP provides meaningful and satisfying outdoor experiences for all users, regardless of their age or ability,” Shumate said. “These experiences reaffirm a sense of connection with the natural environment and provide opportunities for an appreciation of Montana’s natural and cultural heritage.”
“We’re pleased to have Beth’s leadership ability in place now with our parks division,” Williams said. “Montana has a truly remarkable state parks system, and Beth’s commitment to engaging the public in the wonderful outdoor opportunities our parks have to offer is the direction we need now.”