Tag Archives: Frank Vitale

Frank Vitale’s “Leaving a Legacy” presentation

Frank Vitale was one of the panelists at last Thursday’s MWA “Wilderness Speaker Series” presentation. Here’s a transcript of his remarks.

Nicely done; recommended reading . . .


It was probably 20 years ago I planned a pack trip out of Cave Mountain up in the Teton drainage. Our destination was “as far as we could go in about 8-10 days.” We had to travel over Route Creek Pass and I had never been on that trail before. So I decided to give Roland Cheek a call. He told me to “Come on over and bring your map. It just so happens Route Creek Pass is one of my favorite trips in that part of the Wilderness.” So after a great visit and a drink or two, Roland marked on my map the best places to camp with good water and good grass. He didn’t steer us wrong.

I don’t think I ever told you how much I enjoyed reading your newspaper column, “Wild Trails & Tall Tales,” from back in the early 80s, so while I’m thinking of it now I just want to say  it’s an honor to sit on the same side of the table with you.


In our discussion about wilderness, politics always seems to come up. It’s sad, but true, but anything in life that’s worthwhile never comes easy. This is also true for wilderness.

The wild country we have today is by no accident. It had to be fought for. At time things got ugly. Wilderness and politics are wrapped together and I suppose it will always be that way.

But spending nearly my whole life in wild country I guess I’ve learned to let the heart speak first. It was not always like that, and when I was younger it was easy to get mad as hell and frustrated.

But youth being no easy keeper, the words for wilderness come a whole lot easier. I would tell the young folks that everybody needs a hero, a mentor; someone to look up to. My advice for you young folks is to find your heroes and learn their stories.

From early on I had many heroes. Way too many to even have time to mention. Some of my heroes are even probably sitting in this room tonight.

So I will tell you just a few of mine and briefly tell their stories…

Continue reading Frank Vitale’s “Leaving a Legacy” presentation

‘Passing Wilderness on to the Next Generation’ presentation tomorrow evening

Our own Frank Vitale will be a panelist at the next MWA “Wilderness Speaker Series” presentation. Here’s the official announcement . . .

Wilderness Speaker Series
Leaving a Legacy:
Passing Wilderness on to the Next Generation
Thursday, March 13, 2014
7:00 p.m.
Flathead Valley Community College
Arts & Technology Building, Room 139
Kalispell, MT

Our third presentation in our Wilderness Speaker Series will be this Thursday night! Join MWA and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation for an insightful intergenerational panel discussion that will encourage audience participation.

Panel participants:

  • Roland Cheek, retired wilderness outfitter and writer
  • Chris Ryan, retired USFS Region 1 Wilderness Manager
  • Frank Vitale, farrier and wilderness advocate
  • Rebecca Boslogh, Student leader in the University of Montana Wilderness Association student group
  • Jonson England, high school student and BMWF summer intern

See you there!

Frank Vitale: Daines not a conservation hero

Long-time NFPA member Frank Vitale has a few things to say about Congeressman Steve Daines’ rather uneven support for conservation issues. This letter to the editor was published in this week’s Hungry Horse News and is also scheduled to appear in a number of other papers.

While I feel Congressman Steve Daines’ introduction of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2013 is a great step forward, let’s not frame him as a conservation hero. With his political ambitions it would be political suicide if he didn’t support protection of the North Fork.

But let’s look at his overall conservation track record. First of all, he has dragged his feet on supporting one of the largest and most important pieces of conservation legislation in decades: The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. Rather than getting behind this broad-based, made-in-Montana collaborative he stands to be the biggest spoiler. The Heritage Act is a plan that’s truly citizen based and represents many stakeholders. Support for its protection has been overwhelming. The Front also has some of the wildest country left in the lower 48. Under the Act most traditional uses will remain intact while protecting the most incredible landscapes and diverse ecosystems in Montana.

Then, Steve Daines introduces House Bill HR1526 that would probably make even most folks in the timber industry cringe. He basically throws the collaborative process out the window. His bill would impose mandatory timber targets for the Forest Service. This takes us back to the dark ages – when collaboration was nonexistent – back to the days of the timber wars of the 1970’s and ’80’s.

So is Steve Daines a conservation hero? I hardly think so. The North Fork Watershed Protection Act – while good – is also an easy bone to throw at the conservation community.

Frank Vitale

Frank Vitale: Badger-Two Medicine under threat

Hello NFPA members:

At our August Board meeting I said I would keep the membership informed about the current status and events of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act as they unfold, and the issues facing the Badger-Two Medicine Roadless Area.

At my request, I asked Bill Walker to post the most current news reports from the Great Falls Tribune, Missoulian, Daily Interlake and the Hungry Horse News. Thanks, Bill. It’s my hope that NFPA members read these articles and become engaged.

The Hungry Horse News, in its Oct. 9, 2013 issue, has a very good article written by Chris Peterson on the pending legal battle over an oil and gas lease within the Badger-Two Medicine. (Bill posted this on the website.)

Various groups are intervening on behalf of the Lewis & Clark NF to help protect the Badger-Two Medicine, which is on the northern portion of the Rocky Mountain Front just south of Glacier NP. The article briefly explains the history of the area and its importance as a vital linkage between Glacier and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. One hundred thirty thousand acres of inventoried roadless land is nothing to ignore. A person can travel through the Badger-Two Medicine and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex approximately 140 miles without crossing a single road. The Badger-Two Medicine was included in the 1980s statewide wilderness bill, but vetoed by then President Ronald Reagan at the request of Senator Conrad Burns (R-Montana).

Many of the folks that have requested intervener status have helped out in our North Fork efforts, and I feel it’s time for us to help out our neighbors. Letters need to be written to the delegation (see contact info below) with copies sent to the Lewis and Clark National Forest in support of protecting the Badger-Two Medicine, and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act as a whole.

As I stated before, things are unfolding fast and this will probably be one of the largest and most important conservation issues facing the Crown of the Continent. And, as a side note – One of the oil and gas companies that is holding out on a buyout just happens to be holding out its lease in the North Fork as well.

The Badger Two Medicine and the North Fork of the Flathead have more in common than you might think. Both adjoin Glacier NP and both are vital wildlife areas connecting linkages east & west, and north & south. Protecting the Badger-Two Medicine is good for the North Fork.

For additional information on the Badger-Two Medicine area, the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance and its long-time North Fork connection, go to: http://www.conservemontana.org/content/glacier-two-medicine-alliance/cnmF68CE668434B66836.

Please send letters to protect the Badger-Two Medicine and support the Rocky Mountain Heritage Act:

Senator Jon Tester – www.tester.senate.gov
706 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-2604
Phone: (202) 224-2644

Senator Max Baucus – www.baucus.senate.gov
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2651

Congressman Steve Daines – www.daines.house.gov
206 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3211

Supervisor’s Office
Lewis and Clark National Forest – www.fs.usda.gov/contactus/lcnf
PO Box 869
Great Falls, MT  59403



Larry Wilson: Thompson-Seton Peak by mule and foot

For those of you who haven’t encountered Larry Wilson’s enthusiastic Thompson-Seton trip report, here it is. Kudos to Frank Vitale for coming up with the idea in the first place and making it happen . . .

What a great trip. Regular readers of this column will no doubt remember Frank Vitale and I debating the wilderness issue in this newspaper late last summer. That debate ended with Frank challenging me to go with him on his mules to Thompson-Seton Peak, where we would sit down and debate the issue on the mountain top. After getting Frank to agree to not only take me into the mountains but also bring me out, I accepted the challenge.

Unfortunately, the weather turned wet and cold, and we had to postpone the trip until the summer. During the winter, we were both involved in the Whitefish Range Partnership, and over the course of the meetings, we both became fully aware of the other’s feelings and concerns about wilderness. Thus, there was no big need for a mountain-top debate, but I was still anxious to take the trip and was more than happy that Frank, too, was still willing to take me.

July 28 was set as a mutually acceptable date, and I was so excited I started putting my gear together a week ahead of time…

Continue reading at the Hungry Horse News . . .

Frank Vitale: Thoughts of a Wilderness Traveler

Editor’s note: At the Whitefish Range Partnership meeting where wilderness was first discussed, Frank stood up and read the following aloud to the assembled representatives and observers. The whole room burst into applause when he finished.

For those of you who know him, try to imagine Frank’s delivery, rhythm and passion as you read this . . .

It’s lost on me that some people feel wilderness locks them out and locks up the land.

I’ve spent the better part of my life traveling through wild country, both on foot and horseback. When I was younger I got angry with those who would oppose wilderness protection for the last of the wild country. But as I get older and a bit more gray around the muzzle my perspective has changed. I sort of feel sorry and even feel a bit of pity for those who feel wilderness is a bad thing. Perhaps they are afraid, intimidated or just insecure to venture beyond their comfort zone.

For me, wilderness is the greatest freedom I’ve ever known. I’m not alone in these feelings. Just ask anyone who has spent time traveling in wild country. There’s a feeling that’s hard to describe – a sort of magic when I cross the line. It’s the key that unlocks the universe. Ian Tyson says it so well in song:

It’s way out back and the back of beyond
Where the nights are dark as coal,
Where the circle stays unbroken,
Where the rocks begin to roll.

The mules feel it too. The whole string’s cadence of hoof beats picks up; their ears stand erect and forward as if they can read “Wilderness Boundary” on the old Forest Service sign. I can breathe a whole lot easier.

In this fast, crazy world of computers, cell phones, gigabytes, megabytes, YouTube and all this cyberspace stuff, I have my doubts all this technology has really set us free. For me, the sound of well-shod hooves on the rocks, the creaking of saddle leather, the pungent smell of good honest mule sweat tempered with the sounds and smells of the wilderness – That’s Freedom!

I’ll go as far as I need to go to make camp where there’s good water, good grass. I’ll turn the stock out, hobble a few so they don’t stray too far. I’ll hit the bedroll under the biggest, brightest mantle of stars you could ever put your eyes on. I’ll wake early; jingle the mules in; sip stout coffee while feedbags are flipped for the last of the grain.

While saddling up, the hard reality sinks in. We’re about at the end of this gig . . .  Riding down through the Front Range I’m thinking . . .  A hundred years ago, Charlie Russell wrote in his memoirs, “Trails Plowed Under,”

“They ain’t making wild country anymore. We stole most of it from the Indians for a dollar a day. That was cowboy pay in them days.”

As the trail winds its way east through steep, narrow, limestone canyons the wind begins to pick up as it usually does in this country . . .  Wait, I thought I heard some far-off distant singing; a chanting sound fading in and out with each passing gust . . .  Must be my imagination . . .  No, there it is again . . .  Listen . . .  A chill runs through me . . .  Is it the spirits of the “old ones” who passed this way a long time ago?

I’m still riding and I’m still thinking . . .  When I get too old to put my foot in the stirrup and swing into the saddle I’m going to make one request . . .  Just wheel me up to the edge of the wilderness so I can look in one more time to a place and a time where I found true freedom.

Larry Wilson: Whitefish Range challenge accepted

Larry accepts the Mount Thompson-Seton challenge and discusses the end-of-season wind-down . . .

I thoroughly enjoyed the letter last week from fellow North Forker Frank Vitale. I consider him as well as the North Fork Preservation Association a “moderate” environmentalist.

Since there seems to be some confusion about the definition of moderate, let me refer you to the dictionary…

If Frank is willing to take this old fat guy to Mount Thompson-Seton and, most importantly, back out, I accept. I suspect there is much that he and I will agree on even if we don’t agree about the specifics of a wilderness. I hope others will join us.

Continue reading . . .

“From where I stand there’s not enough wilderness”

NFPA board member Frank Vitale took strong issue with some of the statements in Larry Wilson’s last column in the Hungry Horse News. Here’s his response . . .

August 20, 2012

To the Editor:

I would like to respond to Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views.

First, I didn’t realize the North Fork Preservation Association was considered a “moderate” environmental organization. If anyone out there has any idea how many classifications there are for environmental organizations, please let me know. Is it on a 1-10 scale; 1 being “least moderate” and 10 being “extremely moderate?”

Larry states that he is opposed to any Whitefish Range Wilderness. His opposition to it is fine with me. He is entitled to voice his likes and dislikes. That’s the way it should be in a free society.

I’d like to propose a challenge to Larry, and extend it to all North Fork landowners. The challenge would be to list 10 reasons why we should or should not have wilderness in the Whitefish Range. I would propose to have this discussion atop Mt Thompson-Seton. I would even supply the transportation to and from.

You see, Larry, we stand on different sides of the “divide.” Your side thinks there is too much wilderness. From where I stand there’s not enough wilderness. The spoilers have had a heyday tearing most of it up. They ain’t making any more.

Years ago, Bob Marshall said, “Wilderness is disappearing like a snow field on a hot July day.” A while back on one of my many packing gigs deep in the wilderness below Scapegoat Mountain, I lead my string of mules off the high plateau call Halfmoon Park. As we crossed the Continental Divide down the west slope a momma grizzly and two cubs of the year shot out below me faster than any race horse out of the starting gate. Before I knew it they made it across the canyon and up the opposite ridge like three rockets. As they crested the ridge top, they stopped and looked back toward the pack string slowly moving down the switchbacks. It was then I realized there’s no compromise up here.

Men like Cecil Garland fought like hell to keep the spoilers out of the Lincoln Backcountry. When push came to shove, there was no compromise. Now it’s called the Scapegoat Wilderness. And what a wilderness it is. One of the best I’ve seen.

I don’t know how to classify Cecil Garland. Which end of “moderate” is he? Which end of “moderate” do we place other men like Bob Marshall, Aldo Leopold, Andy Russell, John Muir? The list could go on.

When the push came to shove they didn’t quit. There was no compromise.

So Larry and other North Fork Landowners who think we have too much wilderness – take the challenge and let’s hear all your reasons. My mules are ready to go.

On a final note, the irony to Larry’s column was that it was next to Pat William’s guest editorial, “Two Rivers Run Through Montana.” This scrappy working class Irish kid from Butte, Montana made it all the way to the halls of congress. The spoilers tried to get Pat Williams voted out. They had their bumper sticker crowd with slogans like, “No wolves, no wilderness, no Williams,” but they failed. Pat gracefully retired from congress after a long, successful career. His only regret was that the wilderness dispute never got resolved, and we are still fighting the good fight many years later, one wilderness battle at a time.


Frank Vitale

Researcher says bear spray stops angry grizzlies better than guns

More evidence in support of bear spray. Also, read to the end to find our very own Frank Vitale’s bear spray story.

Bear spray doesn’t supply “brains in a can” to survive a grizzly attack, but it appears to work a lot better than spraying bullets.

That’s the conclusion researchers presented to more than 300 bear experts at the Fourth International Human-Bear Conflict Workshop in Missoula last week.

University of Calgary bear expert Steve Herrero was involved in two separate studies that looked at the effectiveness of bear spray and firearms in bear attacks . . .

Continue reading . . .