Scott Christensen

Scott Christensen was named executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

After spending five months in an interim role, former Idaho Falls resident Scott Christensen was named Greater Yellowstone Coalition executive director, the organization announced Tuesday.

“I’m honored and excited about this opportunity,” Christensen said. “This is a fantastic organization with amazing history and amazing potential.”

Christensen moved to Idaho Falls in 2003 to work for the Coalition and lived here until 2007.

Christensen was conservation director for the past five years and climate change program director prior to that, among the handful of positions he’s held. He holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies from University of Utah as well as a master’s degree in public administration from Montana State.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s board of directors chose Christensen unanimously.

“Scott’s stellar track record during his 17 years at GYC and his innovative vision for protecting Greater Yellowstone into the future, as well as his leadership as interim executive director for the last five months demonstrated to the search committee that he was the clear choice,” board chair Janet Offensend said in a press release.

Christensen has led GYC’s waters, climate and private land work in Idaho and Montana. He’s played a part in helping to get federal legislation passed to protect parts of the greater Yellowstone area, developed projects to save rivers and wild trout and implemented land-use planning standards to protect wildlife.

The past five months as interim director allowed Christensen to gain a better sense of what the job entails. He’s worked closer with donors and partners and gained a better understanding of the obstacles and opportunities facing the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

“It’s been a challenging time. Its also been, for me, an inspirational time for our board and staff and partners who we work with to pull together and support each other,” Christensen said. “That support I felt throughout this interim period and I’m very appreciative of people reaching out, offering advice.”

Christensen sees potential in expanding work on people and wildlife coexisting. He mentioned grizzly bears and wolves, for example, as well as finding ways to keep the landscape “open and unfragmented” to allow wildlife to roam freely. There’s also possibility in expanding work with bison.

Whether it’s through incentive programs, working with rural land owners or marginalized communities, Christensen said he wants to engage with people regarding conservation issues.

“I’m really interested in exploring new, innovative ways to get conservation done in greater Yellowstone,” Christensen said. “... I think there’s opportunity to think big and think differently about conservation.”

GYC recently completed a $10 million fundraising campaign to support grizzly bear conservation. The organization has more than $12 million in net assets.

“This is a fantastic organization,” Christensen said. “It’s in great shape from the board to the staff to our financial resources. I’m thrilled to be in this position.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.