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Clinton E. "Clint" Carlson

July 27, 1942 ~ March 11, 2024 (age 81) 81 Years Old
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Clinton Carlson Obituary

Florence - Clint Carlson passed away peacefully at his home and tree farm in Florence on March 11, 2024, surrounded by family. Born on July 27, 1942, in Tacoma, Washington, Clint spent his formative years in Missoula and remained in Western Montana throughout his life. At age two, he lost his mother; he was raised by his father, Clarence, and his loving stepmother, Claris. Clint began downhill skiing in high school and soon excelled, earning a full scholarship to the University of Montana. Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry, Clint embarked on a career with the Forest Service. In 1962, he married Lorna Lehtola, who gave birth to two children, Kimberly in 1963, and Ladd in 1965. Tragically, Lorna passed away when the children were young, leaving Clint a single father. While raising his children, he pursued higher education, obtaining a Master’s degree in Forest Science and Genetics, while coaching ski racers at Snow Bowl and tending to his career. In 1968, Clint married Sally Knickel, who adopted Kim and Ladd as her own, and gave birth to a daughter, Charlene, in 1972. Ladd’s death in 1985 was a profound sorrow in Clint’s life. Throughout his career, Clint’s passion for both skiing and ecological stewardship shone brightly. He often recalled his time coaching and serving as president of the Professional Ski Instructors Association as his most rewarding years of service. He led his racers to victories at Junior National ski events across the nation. Clint also served as a role model for members of his team—as much a life coach as a ski coach—challenging them to pursue their passions while demonstrating an honorable, wholesome, and scholarly life. He later became a fully certified ski instructor and examiner. Clint’s dedication to the environment was unwavering. After receiving his PhD in Forest Ecology in 1976, he became a research pathologist with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula. Clint’s early research involved studying the natural hybridization of Western and Subalpine Larch, determining that the two species naturally crossed in a unique landscape known as the Carlton Ridge Research Natural Area. His later research included studying the effects of fluoride in the soil around the Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant, heavy metals around the copper smelter in Anaconda, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur oxide around the paper mill in Missoula, and hydrogen sulfide and other heavy metals around the smelter in Kellogg, Idaho; Clint’s scientific reports contributed to the awareness of pollution surrounding these industrial sites. He was president and later on the board of the Academy of Scientists and was responsible for initiating the Bitterroot Ecosystem Management Research Project in 1993. Later, with his deep knowledge of skiing and his ecological expertise in the area, Clint was instrumental in preventing the unsuitable development of a ski resort near Lolo Peak. Beyond his professional endeavors, Clint embraced life with grit and gusto. An accomplished athlete, he ran 14 marathons, attained a black belt in American Kenpo Karate, and mastered snowboarding at age 50. With his wife Sally, he took great pleasure in the outdoors, embarking on annual horsepacking trips through the Bitterroot and Bob Marshall wildernesses and summiting innumerable peaks in the Bitterroot and along the Rocky Mountain Front. In later years, they introduced many of their Florence friends to the splendor of the Front, a place they both cherished. Clint was also a wonderful guitar player and singer. He enjoyed hunting for many years, earning the nickname “the ridge runner” from friends; he also loved fishing and regretted not purchasing a decent fishing boat until 2016. Despite health challenges, including a Parkinson’s diagnosis and a near-fatal heart attack in 2017, Clint lived life to the fullest. His resilience, intuition, wisdom, and unstoppable drive inspired all who knew him. He is survived by his beloved wife Sally, daughters Kim Carlson and Charlene Brett, and five grandchildren: Erica, Annika, Abby, Craig, and Tyler. A Celebration of Life will be held at Clint and Sally’s home and tree farm in Florence on Saturday, May 11, at 11 a.m., followed by a reception at the Florence Carlton Community Church. In Clint’s honor, we welcome donations to Wild Montana or the Florence Carlton Community Church. If you plan to attend, please RSVP: Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at

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May 11, 2024

11:00 AM
Florence Carlton Community Church (Florence)
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