Great Falls Tribune: Peak to honor Alex Diekmann

I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love.”

Lisa Diekmann remembers John Steinbeck’s quote about Montana from his travelogue, “Adventures with Charley: In Search of America,” when she thinks about the state where she and her late husband Alex Diekmann raised their sons, Logan and Liam.

Before he passed away in February after a battle with cancer, Alex worked with the Trust for Public Land to head projects that conserved more than 125,000 acres of land and contributed to the conservation of hundreds of thousands more. Now, politicians are working to name a mountain peak after him to preserve his legacy in the region.

“He wanted to do a job that would be meaningful and have a lasting impact,” Lisa said. “We were married for 34 years, I really knew him. He truly cared. His work was never a burden. The only thing more important to him was his children.”

Alex was inspired by the land and made a passionate career out of defending and conserving it. He wasn’t working for recognition or praise. Alex devoted his life to protecting and conserving land because it was what he loved.

“He was one of the lucky folks who found his passion and made a career of it,” said Dick Dolan, Northern Rockies director for the Trust of Public Lands. “He was a force, for sure.”

In mid-September, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a legislative hearing to name Peak 9,765 in the Madison Range of the Rocky Mountains after Alex. The proposed “Alex Diekmann Peak” is located in one of the areas he worked to secure a conservation easement. The peak straddles the boundary between the Sun Ranch and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.

“(This) is one more step toward ensuring the life and legacy of Alex Diekmann is always remembered,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont, said. “He was a true conservationist whose impact can be felt across the state, and I can’t think of a more fitting way to honor his contribution to Montana than renaming this wild peak.”

The proposed peak looks over the Madison Valley, a place where Alex spent nearly as much time working as he did recreating. Lisa said this area had a special place in Alex’s heart. He and his sons would often head to the valley from Bozeman to fish.

Alex began his work for the Bozeman office of the Trust of Public Lands in 2000 and helped establish the region as a consistent area of work for the national organization. His work stretched from Gallatin and Madison County to lands in central and northern Idaho.

Dolan said Alex had a gift in understanding the wants, needs and constraints associated with landowners and land conservation. Alex helped facilitate conservation easements and even buying and conveying land to public agencies and communities when necessary.

“The public doesn’t know how indebted they are to him,” Dolan said. “There is so much public land that wouldn’t be without him.”

Sen. Steve Daines spoke in admiration of Alex’s work during the Sept. 22 hearing. Daines said it takes a special type of person to balance the needs of all stakeholders in land projects. Alex was successful in this endeavor, which is why so many Montanans have rallied behind honoring his legacy in naming the Madison Range peak, he continued.

“People who worked with him wanted to honor him,” Dolan said. “The (Sun Ranch) landowner thought to name the peak after him, and it just seemed perfect. Everybody was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about it.”

The naming process is still underway, but Lisa said she hopes it won’t be much longer until the peak is named.

“We’re touched,” Lisa said. “It’s nice to have some good news in the world.”