John McCarthy Retires from The Wilderness Society

Here is the link and below is an excerpt.

To many of his former enemies, John McCarthy is now the face of collaboration. He and ICL joined Owyhee County, ranchers, local officials and others in the initiative to protect wilderness and ranchers.

He and other environmentalists were told by the Owyhee Cattleman’s Association there would be no wilderness without the support of every single rancher affected. McCarthy was the primary person who went to the ranches, met with the families and mapped out the places that eventually would make the 500,000-acre wilderness areas protected by Congress in 2009.

Then McCarthy went to work for the Wilderness Society, going back to the Forest Service officials who he had so often clashed during the forest wars and joined their efforts to restore fire to the ecosystems of Southwest Idaho. To do this thinning and even logging was needed, especially around communities to give them the comfort necessary to allow burning in the backcountry.

Through these efforts and his work on Resource Advisory Councils established by legislation sponsored by another old foe, Sen. Larry Craig, McCarthy began building relationships with the timber communities. He and his new partners former loggers and Boise Cascade foresters, formed collaborative groups that are successfully bringing federal funding back to the forests for logging and other restoration work.

He and the Wilderness Society actually supported funding for a new timber mill in Emmett.

Deadwood, along nearly 9 million acres of roadless lands in Idaho is now protected as a part of the Idaho Roadless Plan that ironically had the support of the timber industry and his old group the ICL but not he and the Wilderness Society. Fire burned through parts of the area in 2007 but Forest Service foresters said most of the big trees survived and the fires did minimal damage.

A couple of thoughts.. this is the first time I have heard that WUI fuel treatments have the benefit of giving folks the comfort necessary to allow burning in the backcountry. It makes some sense, but I just don’t recollect hearing it before. And I still wonder why TWS decided to litigate Idaho Roadless (not just “not support” it)..maybe someday we will find out how and why that decision was made.

2 thoughts on “John McCarthy Retires from The Wilderness Society”

  1. I knew John and worked with me on the edges here in Idaho, when he first started with ICL. He is a good man, from my experience, and never was a radical person in his speech or dealing with issues I am familiar with.
    The environmental community could use a few more Johns.

  2. I can’t speak for other parts of the country, but I do know that here in the northern Rockies the idea of focusing limited resources on conducting fuel reduction activities immediately around homes and communities so that the Forest Service could allow more wildfire to burn in the backcountry (to do it’s natural, beneficial [and potential very cheap] role) has been a common refrain from conservation groups since at least the fires of 2000.

    I can think of these discussions taking place during numerous Forest Service project planning meetings, within development of the Montana Restoration Principles, etc. I will say, that the Forest Service usually responds to this idea with some general support, but also claims that they still will likely put out all fires for fear that the fires get too big, too political, etc.


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