Handmade canoe to be centerpiece of conservation auction


A single gift, born out of personal tragedy, will be the centerpiece of an upcoming fundraiser for the environmental conservation organization Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument.

Since 2001, FMB’s mission has been to protect and preserve the unspoiled landscapes and tranquility of Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in central Montana through education, advocacy and stewardship, whether planting poplars along the Missouri River, to hold adult education workshops or to advocate for specific management goals within the monument.

Fundraising for any nonprofit organization is always a challenge; however, in recent weeks, the Friends of the Missouri Breaks have received a special gift that the organization hopes will significantly advance their cause – a handcrafted cedar canoe from one of its longtime supporters. , who built the canoe in memory of his late grandson and the Breaks’ childhood love.

“In the summer of 2020, we had a wonderful family trip down the river through the Missouri Breaks Monument,” said Augusta’s Len Kopec, an experienced crafter and frequent Breaks visitor. “We were all thrilled and excited by the incredible views and challenges of the trip, but none of us were more thrilled than my 4-year-old grandson, Abel. After traversing the slot canyon and climbing to the top of Neat Coulee, he said he felt like he was walking on the moon.

“We all commented on how lucky he was to start these kinds of adventures at such a young age, and how lucky we all were to be able to enjoy this unspoiled landscape essentially for free,” Kopec added. “I silently thanked the wise men who saw that places like this were protected and open to all, and to the defenders and stewards who ensure that future generations can do the same.”

“Unfortunately, a few months later, Abel passed away,” Kopec said. “I built this canoe in his memory so others can share with one another the wonder and awe the monument has to give, and to give back to the Friends of Missouri Breaks Monument so they can continue to defend and protect Breaks.

The canoe was made with a cedar pole inlay that came straight from the monument during a Friends volunteer event in 2021. As the group removed an old barbed wire fence from the landscape to improve wildlife habitat, Kopec saw the potential of old cedar posts for a special addition. After stripping the wood, he was able to embed the strips into the canoe as a sign of the monument the boat can carry on all its future journeys.

“This canoe means a lot to our organization,” said Friends chief executive Mikayla Moss. “Breaks can touch people in ways unimaginable, and knowing how much joy Abel found in them is exactly why we continue to work to protect him. We want to thank Len and his family and join us in them to celebrate Abel’s life and the boundless wonder that breaks can provide.

A few of the other items up for auction are a multi-day guided river trip with the Upper Missouri River Guides, a discovery flight over the Breaks donated by the Montana Pilots Association, and a canvas print by photographer Helena Kevin. League. Many other individuals, businesses and organizations donated items for the event.

“Through this auction, we hope to celebrate not only the monument, Abel, and our organization, but also local Montana businesses, its artists, and some of the other incredible organizations who fight every day to ensure that public lands of our state are cared for, protected and celebrated,” said Moss. “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm shown by our donors.

The auction will go live at 8:00 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time on April 15, 2022, and will continue until 5:00 p.m. MDT on April 30. People can view auction items and bid on their favorites by visiting https://us.givergy.com/missouribreaks.

Kopec’s canoe is on display at the Lewis & Clark Tap Room in Helena until the end of April. All proceeds from the auction will go to Friends and support the organization’s work on the monument.


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