Norane Freidstadt: Building citizen and conservation power for decades

Norane Friedstadt is no stranger to nonprofit and community work. She and her husband, Rob, moved to Helena at the age of 22, and have been “slowly moving their way up the mountain ever since. We keep buying houses closer and closer to the hills, and now that we’re on the side of a hill, we can’t go any further!” For forty years, she’s been working in her community of Helena to advocate for conservation and Montana’s open spaces.

Wilderness drew Norane to Montana and has kept her here ever since. She grew up in Spokane, but always knew that Montana would be her place. She has always loved big landscapes, such as the Rocky Mountain Front, and working to preserve large-scale wilderness. Early in her career, she helped start the Prickly Pear Land Trust.

Today, Prickly Pear is a thriving nonprofit that works to preserve and protect the open spaces of the Prickly Pear Valley and adjoining lands in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, Broadwater and Powell counties. It began, however, as a small local effort among Norane and her neighbors to protect and conserve Helena’s rugged Mount Ascension from a proposal that would place a subdivision with 300 houses on the side of the mountain. Norane was only Prickly Pear’s second staff person and their first development director. She spent six years helping Prickly Pear Land Trust get off the ground in its earliest days.

Norane has also worked for Wild Montana, Montana Audubon, and, most recently, at the Myrna Loy, an arts and independent movie venue in Helena. When the space finally opened up in her life where she wasn’t volunteering with other organizations, she got involved with Northern Plains, which was “waiting in the wings.”

Norane’s work began with her local affiliate, Sleeping Giant Citizens Council. Recently, she has been a stalwart leader in Northern Plains’ larger democracy work and our efforts to preserve the Montana Constitution during this legislative session, testifying on multiple bills that have sought to diminish our rights. Norane has been a big part of our success in preserving Montana’s democracy during a challenging session. In the past, Norane helped manage multiple city and statewide political campaigns, and she says it’s been interesting to see the end result of those campaigns in action during the session.

When asked about why she stays involved, Norane says she’s “just in love with Northern Plains. Democratic principles are at the heart of how the organization works, which is really important. Northern Plains values members in an exceptional way, doing a wide breadth of work that is not just single focused.” She’s always felt the need to be part of a movement that’s going forward, and feels that Northern Plains does the best job of inviting people into that movement and appreciating their work.

Norane wants to see a future for Montana that values agriculture and open spaces, and feels some apprehension about how the next few decades will look. This is “one of the things that fuels the desire to be part of the legislative work and working toward a place more aligned with [my] thoughts,” she says. Norane’s commitment to Helena, and to a wild and just Montana, is unceasing.

Stand up with us to protect this place we all call home.

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