Tag Archives: wilderness

Daily Inter Lake: Seeing the forest AND the trees

The Daily Inter Lake posted a friendly editorial on the work of the Whitefish Range Partnership Saturday evening . . .

A group called the Whitefish Range Partnership should be commended for efforts to guide long-term forest planning on the Flathead National Forest north of Whitefish and Columbia Falls.

To say that the group of about 30 people representing highly diverse interests were not on the same page at the beginning would be a huge understatement. But after meeting regularly over a 13-month period, with a specific rule that all parties involved would have to sign onto a complete package of recommendations or abandon the effort entirely, the partnership came to a complete consensus on a 58-page set of recommendations.

They addressed potentially conflicting issues such as recommended wilderness, motorized summer use, mountain biking, snowmobiling, and timber harvesting.

Read more . . .

Larry Wilson: Wilderness compromise reached for North Forkers

Larry Wilson’s column discusses the efforts of the Whitefish Range Partnership . . .

Nearly 13 months ago, the Whitefish Range Partnership was organized. This group is a diverse group representing every aspect of forest users, from timber companies to wilderness advocates and everything in between — hikers, horsemen, trail bikers, snowmobilers, off-road motorists and commercial interests.

The purpose was to be ahead of the Flathead National Forest planning process and put together a document that would influence the Forest Plan and make it easier for the feds to come up with a plan acceptable to a majority of users.

Toughest subject to deal with was wilderness, and because the self-imposed rule of the WRP was that if even one member voted no then no proposal would be forwarded to the Forest Service.

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.

Common sense in wild country

Timothy Egan posted an interesting “Opinionator” piece to the New York Times today titled “Nature Without the Nanny State.” It discusses the rising incidence of city-bred visitors ignoring common sense precautions when visiting national parks, sometimes with fatal consequences.

Here’s the meat of the piece . . .

More than ever, an urban nation plagued by obesity, sloth and a surfeit of digital entertainment should encourage people to experience the wild — but does that mean nature has to be tame and lawyer-vetted?

My experience, purely anecdotal, is that the more rangers try to bring the nanny state to public lands, the more careless, and dependent, people become. There will always be steep cliffs, deep water, and ornery and unpredictable animals in that messy part of the national habitat not crossed by climate-controlled malls and processed-food emporiums. If people expect a grizzly bear to be benign, or think a glacier is just another variant of a theme park slide, it’s not the fault of the government when something goes fatally wrong.

Continue reading the full article . . .

Obama administration abandons “wild lands” plan

From an AP article posted to the Flathead Beacon . . .

Under pressure from Congress, the Obama administration is backing away from a plan to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West eligible for federal wilderness protection.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a memo Wednesday that his agency will not designate any of those public lands as “wild lands.” Instead Salazar said officials will work with members of Congress to develop recommendations for managing millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West. A copy of the memo was obtained by The Associated Press.

Salazar’s decision reverses an order issued in December to restore eligibility for wilderness protection to millions of acres of public lands. That policy overturned a Bush-era approach that opened some Western lands to commercial development.

Continue reading . . .

Senate again passes wilderness bill

From the Thursday, March 19, 2009 online edition of the Flathead Beacon . . .

For the second time this year, the Senate has passed a long-delayed bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness, from a California mountain range to a forest in Virginia.

The 77-20 vote on Thursday sends the bill to the House, where final legislative approval could come as early as next week.

Read the entire article . . .