“What’s your definition of success?”

Kevin Suzuki honored with Barb Mullin Lifetime Achievement Award

Recently, Kevin Suzuki was honored with the Barb Mullin Lifetime Achievement Award at the Montana Weed Control Association (MWCA) Annual Convention. “For all the years that I've been going to (MWCA) Annual Conventions, I've been touched by the excitement and ‘prestige’ of this award,” wrote Melissa Griffiths, project coordinator MVRG Weed Committee.

“In addition to a career spanning over 35 years, this individual [Kevin] has helped build and lead a grassroots organization from inception 25 years ago to today, guiding it to become one of the most active and passionately supported non-profits in the region, their work focused on noxious weed issues,” Griffiths said at the awards ceremony.

“Evidenced by the amazing letters of support I received, many feel the same way I do. Kevin embodies the spirit of the award and not only has contributed so much, but continues to support these efforts to this day!”

When asked about how he first became involved in range management, Kevin referenced his early childhood. His grandfather was a nurseryman in California and the family grew up in the hills, with a passion for plants. “We were always that way,” he said. “I just call myself a plant nerd.” 

Kevin’s knowledge and impact are well known. Another who has worked with Kevin said, “Throughout their [his] career they [he] demonstrated an unwavering commitment to weed management, not only on the public lands that they helped manage, but also extending outreach and education efforts to the general public, private landowners and schoolchildren of southwest Montana.”

Kevin highlighted the importance of ongoing stewardship education for all paired with  continually going back to the basics with weed management and range management messaging so new landowners can develop ownership and an understanding of managing the precious land in their possession. 

“I feel we’ve done a really good job with the weed message, with the noxious weeds and the invasive aquatic message,” he said. “But, it’s a lifelong effort. We can’t be telling people that we can finally eradicate.” 

“Kevin brings so much learned wisdom and knowledge to Madison Valley Ranchlands Group (MVRG.)  His previous work in the USFS here in the Madison gave him on the ground experience that he shares through his work with MVRG and the general community.  We are so lucky to have Kevin working in the MVRG and serving on the general MVRG board along with chairing the Weed Committee,” said Linda Owens MVRG director. 

“What’s your definition of success?” is a line many landowners and managers have heard and considered, with Kevin’s coaching. 

“I’ve always felt that all the activities, at least within the area here, have been very successful. We don’t have any of these new ones [weeds] yet that are just inundating the surrounding states,” said Kevin. “The community, the landowners out here for the most part, are very cognizant of the problem that really could occur. The ranchers know their livelihood is tied on making sure these weeds don’t get crazy.” 

In addition to his work in weed management and education, Kevin has been, and continues to be, an active member of the Madison Valley community. He was an EMT on the Madison Valley ambulance service for 28 years. He was a Boy Scout leader while his son was involved. He is a familiar face at the annual Gravelly Range Wildflower Tour (over 20 years!), Bear Creek Days  and he and his wife, Kaye, help with Jack Creek Preserve flower walk.

Perhaps the most succinct explanation of Kevins’ impact over the years read, “This individual has always had an intense interest in weed management. Their involvement has been extensive, their depth of knowledge notable, their willingness to help professional and private weed managers inexhaustible. They are a keeper. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the Barb Mullin Lifetime Achievement Award,” wrote a supporter for this winning nomination.

Kevin’s advice for a new landowner in the area learning to be a good steward of the land includes, “Be out on your property. Get to know it. Don’t rip up the ground, just because.” He went on, “There’s a reason why weeds do what they do and ripping up the ground, even if you think you’re going to plant some great little shrubberies or enjoyable flowers, you’re going to bring in other things and you’re probably not going to like it.” 

“Don’t expect this ground here to look anything like where you came from. We look the way we look. We don’t have trees in this valley because of our local climate. And wind,” he continued.

Also, “Ask a lot of questions. There’s a lot of people that know plants and know what should be on there.” 

For more information on weed management, contact MVRG Weed Committee at 406.682.3731 or or the Madison County Weed District at 406.842.5595.

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65 N. MT Hwy 287
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