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.