Duncan and Eva's Story

Duncan and Eva Patton
One Montana couple lives just a step away from wilderness on a ranch bordering Yellowstone National Park and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness area. Living so connected with wilderness has given them a nature-centered worldview.

Wilderness, a place to understand

To Duncan and Eva Patten, wilderness is less about a place to recreate than about a place to understand. As an ecologist in Montana, Duncan does his research in the backcountry, studying ecosystems to understand how they function. Eva came west from Binghamton, N.Y., in 1956 and was transformed by the landscape.

“My worldview evolved to be nature-centered. The mountains, valleys and rivers are central to my spirituality,” Eva says.

Duncan completed his Ph.D research at the ranch the couple shares, located in Bozeman, Montana. His parents bought the ranch in the '50s.

“I couldn’t have done my studies there if someone had come in and clear cut before,” Duncan says. “Wilderness gives us that opportunity — both to scientists and the public.”

Before the Patten's arrived in Montana, Eva worked in government relations for the Nature Conservancy in Arizona and chaired the Governor’s Commission on Arizona Environment, while Duncan did research at Arizona State University. When they moved to Montana, Eva chaired the board of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust and served on the Montana Outdoor Science School Board.

“It is a thrill to think in these relatively wild places, I may see a herd of elk, or a moose with her young, a pine marten, an otter, even once in a rare moment a wolverine."

Appreciating and advocating for nature

Even before moving permanently to Bozeman, Eva and Duncan spent many summers at the ranch with their four children, who spent all their waking hours outdoors. “These experiences as they were growing up have become part of their inner being,”  Eva says. The Patten’s children are now grown with their own children, for whom Eva has become the ‘adventure-nature’ grandma.

Today, Eva shares backcountry hiking and skiing with friends in the Bozeman Women Activities Group.

“It is a thrill to think in these relatively wild places, I may see a herd of elk, or a moose with her young, a pine marten, an otter, even once in a rare moment a wolverine,” she says.

Duncan is now the Director of the Montana Water Center at Montana State University, a water resource agency. There he acts as voice for water in a state that not only competes for land with oil and gas companies, but also contains the Yellowstone headwaters for three major rivers — the Columbia, the Colorado and the Missouri.

You can help protect Greater Yellowstone's wilderness. With a small donation, you can become a Wilderness Society member.