Montana/Dakotas

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Don Galvin – Employee and Volunteer Extraordinaire

by Ann Boucher, Montana State Office

 Don Galvin
BLM seasonal and 
volunteer Don Galvin. 
BLM photo  
 
Don Galvin first came to the Billings Field Office as a seasonal range tech in May 2002. Having retired from a 30-year career with the Marines, he was enrolled at Middle Tennessee University in Murfreesboro and wanted a summer job related to his field of study. 

He seems to like it. He has returned every year since then, holding seasonal positions related to wild horses, wildlife, and recreation. But to him, it’s more than just the job.

Galvin has found so many areas of interest that he also volunteers for BLM in his off-hours. The president of a horsemen’s association in Tennessee, he is particularly drawn to the Pryor Mountain National Wild Horse Range. He often spends his weekends there, watching for signs of travel on closed trails, estimating visitor loads, and reporting wildlife sightings to the field office biologist.

He is also very knowledgeable about the horses and the range, and often encounters visitors who are eager to talk about the issues related to them. 

“A lot of times they don’t know the whole story,” he said, “but after visiting for awhile they seem to see both sides. I tell them, ‘there’s an infinite number of horses and only a finite amount of land.’ Then they seem to understand. They say they hadn’t thought of that.”

That opportunity to talk with visitors on the range pleases Galvin as well. He is gathering information for his thesis on visitors to the wild horse range. Having earned his first degree after retirement, he is well on the way to completing his master’s in recreation and already looking forward to working on his Ph. D.

In addition to the horses, one of Don’s special interests in the Pryors is Penn’s Cabin. Because there seemed to be a lot of misinformation about the site, Don researched the cabin’s history through written records and personal interviews with relatives of Pen Cummings, the cabin’s builder. His research may lead to an interpretive effort centered on the cabin.

Despite all the time and energy dedicated to the Pryors, Galvin has still managed to make significant volunteer contributions to a number of other programs as well. Among these are helping with the annual cleanup of the 17-Mile Area, a popular target shooting area on public land near Billings; building and installing informational kiosks in BLM recreational areas; parking cars during the Clark on the Yellowstone National Signature Event; and planting and maintaining a shelterbelt at Pompeys Pillar National Monument. In addition, Don has assisted with visitor counts, monitored the trails, and acted as a BLM presence at Shepherd Ah Nei, a popular OHV-riding area.

Last year, Galvin volunteered to help trap and relocate white-tailed prairie dogs.  Working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the BLM moved the animals from a site south of Belfry, Mont., to a remote area near Elk Basin, Wyo. Galvin helped set and bait live traps early in the morning, and came back later to check the traps.  Galvin later visited the release site several times to observe the animals’ activities, which he reported to the wildlife biologist.

The Billings FO estimates that Galvin has volunteered nearly 600 hours on evenings and weekends in the last two years alone, in addition to being a full-time seasonal employee. To him, it seems only natural.

“I don’t like to sit at home,” he says. “It’s good to go out and do something constructive.”