Tag Archives: Frank Vitale

Keeping it wild: how mules help preserve the last untamed places in the US

Chinese Wall - Bob Marshall Wilderness
Chinese Wall – Bob Marshall Wilderness

Here’s an excellent article centered on the Bob Marshal Wilderness. NFPA founding member Frank Vitale gets more than just a passing mention.

(And there’s even a link back to this website. See if you can find it.) . . .

Here’s a partial list of things you cannot, under any circumstances, take into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, in Montana: chainsaws, mountain bikes, ATVs, tractors, wheelbarrows. If it has gears, it stays home. If it’s mechanical in any way, it’s a no-go.

Those are the rules deemed necessary to protect the United States’ 803 federally designated wilderness areas. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, with its 1,849 miles of trails, happens to be one of the biggest.

The Bob, as it is affectionately called by Montanans, is home to wolves, grizzlies, elk, moose and mountain lions. The pristine territory is more than 1.5m acres, roughly eight times the size of New York City. And thanks to the 1964 Wilderness Act, it is not crossed by a single road. Drones and bush planes are also, today, strictly forbidden.

But here’s what you can take along for the ride instead: the humble mule.

Continue reading . . .

NFPA Annual Meeting photos

The NFPA annual meeting was held outside this year, on July 25, with social distancing and masks. Frank Vitale was recognized and appreciated for his 38 years on the NFPA board of directors. Dave Hadden was present to describe the Headwaters Montana endowment to NFPA to continue the Jack Potter Glacier National Park Stewardship Award and the Loren Kreck-Edwin Fields Wilderness Scholarship Fund. Flannery Coats became the new NFPA president and Diane Boyd was newly elected to the board. The speaker was Teagan Tomlin on “The Geological Story of Glacier National Park.”

Here are some photos from the event, courtesy of Roger Sullivan . . .

Part of the crowd — recognize anyone?
Frank Vitale receives an award for serving 38 years on the NFPA board!
Part of the group watching Teagan Tomlin’s presentation on “The Geological Story of Glacier National Park”
Teagan Tomlin’s talks about “The Geological Story of Glacier National Park”

A “not-so-hidden” gem in Augusta, Montana

Frank Vitale in 'A not-so-hidden gem in Augusta,' June 22, 2018
Frank Vitale in ‘A not-so-hidden gem in Augusta,’ June 22, 2018

NFPA board member Frank Vitale got some air time in a piece by KFBB-TV about Augusta’s role as a gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness . . .

It’s a gem that has helped put Augusta on the map, but it’s technically not even in town. And it’s not so much a gem… as 1.5 million acres of pristine public lands. We’re talking about the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the huge impact it’s had not only on Augusta, but on this entire state.

Augusta, Montana is known for many things. One of the most significant, though, is it’s location. As the trailhead to the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Augusta attracts people from all over the world who are here to experience one of the most unique things Montana has to offer… public lands.

“If you leave this country, particularly the Rocky Mountain West, you’ll see there’s not a lot of public land. People are starving to be outdoors and to recreate,” says Montana Packer Frank Vitale.

Read/view more . . .

Frank Vitale: Bikes don’t belong in wilderness areas

NFPA member Frank Vitale’s op-ed in the Flathead Beacon has some pointed comments about mountain bikes in wilderness areas . . .

Mountain bikes should never be permitted in wilderness. Consider this potential scenario: A packstring is slowly making its way down through Gateway Gorge, coming off the bench from Sabido Cabin deep in the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The trail is steep, rocky and narrow and it’s a long way down to the creek bottom.

The wreck took place about half way through the gorge. Half the packstring went off the edge. Two mules went down in the bottom, floundering and flopping around with broken legs; packs and gear strewn all over; pack boxes smashed to bits. The packer luckily stayed on his mount and tried to keep the rest of the string together. It started almost instantly, with no time for the packer to even know what was happening as two mountain bikers came down from the top, hell-bent for leather, and came up from behind the packstring.

Could this really happen? You bet. This could have been a U.S. Forest Service packer, an outfitter, or a group of family and friends out on a week-long pack trip in the wilderness. Somebody could have been killed. Continue reading Frank Vitale: Bikes don’t belong in wilderness areas

Apprentice packing program begins this year

Our own Frank Vitale gets some ink in an article about the apprentice packing program beginning this year . . .

Frank Vitale was deep in the backcountry along with a pair of fellow wilderness packers last summer when the campfire talk turned to the future of their profession.

“We don’t see a whole lot of young people packing anymore,” Vitale said. “And a lot of us are starting to get a little gray around the muzzle.”

Vitale splits his work life between packing trips and horseshoeing on his ranch, which sits nestled against the Swan Mountain foothills between Creston and Bigfork.

Read more . . .

Frank Vitale: Badger-Two Medicine is no place to drill

Frank Vitale says his piece
Frank Vitale

NFPA member Frank Vitale has a nice op-ed in today’s Daily Inter Lake concerning drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .

The Blackfeet call it “Mistakis,” the Backbone of the World. The Continental Divide snakes its way through this land also known as the Badger-Two Medicine. It is the cornerstone of the Blackfeet creation story.

I have ridden, hiked and hunted through this area and know it well. It is some of the wildest country in the Northern Rockies. It lies between Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Great Bear Wilderness. It is one of the largest unprotected roadless areas in the state at 165,588 acres.

The Badger-Two Medicine is a rugged, remote, pristine ecosystem that’s home to grizzlies and black bears, wolves, mountain lions, wolverines and lynx. Moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer and whitetail deer and one of the largest herds of elk on the northern Rocky Mountain Front (numbering around 800 head) also live here. Its cold rivers and streams support some of the last pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout east of the Continental Divide.

The Badger and Two Medicine rivers spill out on the high prairies. Life zones range from the alpine and montane forests to short-grass prairies where grizzlies and antelope intermix.

This is not a place to drill for oil or gas. No mitigation can avoid the negative impacts of oil and gas exploration in this sacred and wild land.

Whitefish Range video – A Community Vision for a special place

Anyone who worked in or with the Whitefish Range Partnership will see some familiar faces in this segment from This American Land. A big hand to Amy Robinson, Bob Brown, Heidi Van Everen, Frank Vitale, John Frederick, Paul McKenzie and Erin Sexton for participating in this video . . .

You can see the  full television episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quI1pjZWys0

Frank Vitale: Keep federal lands in public hands

Long-time NFPA member Frank Vitale wrote a pointed op-ed addressing the idea of transferring federal lands to state ownership and control. It appeared today on the Flathead Beacon’s website . . .

On Feb. 16 my wife and I attended the Public Lands Rally in Helena in the state capitol rotunda. The rally began at high noon, but people started filtering through the doors well before that. Many sported posters and banners in support of keeping our federal lands in public hands. As the rally began people continued filing into the room standing shoulder to shoulder. All the hallways, balconies and staircase were packed full.

A few people who supported transferring our federal lands to state ownership infiltrated our rally, but they were drowned out. Folks from all around the state made the trip to Helena and stood in solidarity against the lunatic idea of land transfer. Gov. Steve Bullock along with several guest speakers including Mary Sexton, former head of State Lands and Teton County commissioner, and David Allen, president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, gave fiery speeches against transfer of federal lands to the state. The crowds responded with thundering applause and cheers. Hopefully the state legislators took heed as the State Capitol rocked and rolled.

The land transfer concept is not new. It goes as far back as territorial days and the copper kings. In more recent history, I remember the days of James Watt and the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and early ’80s. Today it resurfaces with the Koch brothers, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and Americans for Prosperity to name a few. They work their dark money in local elections across the country. Their call for local control rings hollow because their agenda is exploitation of the resources on our public lands.

Our public lands belong to all Americans. They’re not for sale to the very wealthy to make huge profits and lock us out. My suggestion to those who support land transfer: pack your bags and move to a place where there are no public lands and access is limited to only those who can afford pay.

Our public lands are a national treasure, a gift to all of us, and the envy of the world.

Frank Vitale
Columbia Falls

Frank Vitale: Political shenanigans continue with North Fork bills

Frank Vitale is understandably annoyed with the political posturing holding up the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. This op-ed appeared May 14 on the Hungry Horse News website and has been submitted to a number of other regional newspapers . . .

My affiliation with the North Fork spans 35 years. As a North Fork landowner, I’ve worked, hunted, fished and cleared many miles of trails. For me, keeping the North Fork pristine is personal.

That’s why I’m so disappointed by the recent decision by Republicans in Congress to block a bipartisan bill to protect the North Fork.

Montanans have read conflicting information about how we reached this impasse (see Mac Minard’s April 19 op-ed in the Daily Inter Lake). I want to set the record straight.

Congressman Steve Daines recently told U.S. News that his strategy to win the Senate race this year is to pick off and neutralize constituents like advocates for the North Fork. His recent actions show why he can’t be trusted.

Sens. John Walsh and Jon Tester are pushing a bill, originally introduced in 2010, to withdraw the U.S. watershed from future development, following through on a deal between Montana and British Columbia to permanently protect the North Fork.

Montanans were hopeful when Congressman Daines introduced a companion bill last year, marking the first time in 30 years that the whole delegation supported a public lands bill. Our hopes rose further when on March 4 the House of Representatives passed the bill.

Unfortunately the North Fork has now run into the Tea Party gauntlet in the Senate. What is clear is that the game was rigged.

On April 3, three Republican Senators from other states — Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Texas — blocked our senators’ attempt to pass this made-in-Montana bill in the Senate. The Senator from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey, recently donated $10,000 to Congressman Daines’ campaign.

As Congressman Daines knows, the vote in the Senate (by “unanimous consent”) was the Senate’s equivalent of how the House passed the bill. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, “Most noncontroversial measures are approved by ‘suspension of the rules’ in the House, and by unanimous consent in the Senate.”

In fact, all eight Senate public lands bills that have passed the chamber this Congress passed by unanimous consent. Those bills set aside 85,000 acres of new wilderness and 73 miles of Wild and Scenic River designation in eight different states.

So why is the North Fork bill so different for Senate Republicans?

The answer reminds me of another Senate race 26 years ago, when President Reagan pocket-vetoed the last Montana wilderness bill to pass Congress in order to jam then-Senator John Melcher in his race against Conrad Burns.

For example, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is insisting on the opportunity to offer controversial amendments to the North Fork that would have brought down the entire proposal. This is a familiar ploy. The same Republican demand last fall (supported by Congressman Daines) caused the shutdown of the federal government for 16 days, costing Montana upwards of $45 million in lost business from Glacier and Yellowstone national parks alone.

I am confident that our senators will find a way to protect the North Fork. But how can Montanans trust Steve Daines when he won’t even stand up to his own allies in the Senate who help finance his campaign?