150,000 acre “project” on the Bitterroot

Well, not exactly, maybe.  This could be a good example of how to get the public involved early enough in the process for timber harvest decisions that the locations have not been determined yet.  But consider that the decision-maker is the same one who applied “condition-based” NEPA analysis to the Prince of Wales area of the Tongass, which has ended up in court.

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson has added a new “pre-pre-scoping” stage to the process, not part of the traditional process in which a set of options is presented to the public for review and analysis.

The new approach is meant to get the public involved prior to coming up with any specific actions being planned for any specific location.

That much I like the sound of.

“There is confusion,” said Anderson. “It’s hard for the public to get involved. We are asking ‘What do you want to see? What’s your vision?’” He said the agency was “starting at the foundational level, not any particular location.” He said it was important to get to those particulars but the way there was to first describe the “desired future condition that we want and then look at the various ways we can achieve it.”

Asked about the fact that the current Forest Plan describes a desired future condition for the Bitterroot Front that involves returning it to primarily a Ponderosa pine habitat with little understory, Anderson said that is in the current plan, but that the plan is about 30 years old. He said a lot has changed in that time on the ground. There have been lots of fires and areas where no fires have occurred, and the fuel load has gotten extremely high. He said current conditions need to be assessed and they were currently compiling all the maps and other information they need to get an accurate picture of what is on the ground today in the project area.

This should raise a concern about how this process relates to forest planning, since forest plans are where decisions about desired conditions are made.  However, old forest plans typically didn’t provide desired conditions that are specific enough for projects, so that step has occurred at the project level.  Under the 2012 planning rule, specific desired conditions are a requirement for forest plans, but the Bitterroot National Forest is not yet revising its plan. Whatever desired conditions they come up with should be intended as part of the forest plan, and the public should be made aware of this.  If the new decision is not consistent with “Ponderosa pine habitat with little understory,” they’ll need an amendment to be consistent with the current plan.  (I’d add that changes in the on-the-ground conditions over the last 30 years shouldn’t necessarily influence the long-term desired condition.)

“The Tongass is so different than the Bitterroot,” said Anderson. “There is not much similarity. I’m not trying to replicate that process here. It was a conditioned-based process up there. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.” In reference to conditioned-based projects, he said, “One difference with this project is that some of that will be pre-decision and some of that will be in implementation. We are trying to shift some of the workload to the implementation stage.”

He said they have a slew of options, from traditional NEPA, to programmatic NEPA to condition-based NEPA “and we are trying to figure it out.”

He insists that the NEPA process will be followed with the same chance for public comment and involvement on every specific project that is proposed in the area.

There’s some ambiguous and possibly inconsistent statements there.  Condition-based NEPA seeks to avoid a NEPA process “on every specific project.”  I could also interpret shifting workload to “pre-decision” and  “the implementation stage” is a way to take things out of the NEPA realm.

And then there’s this:

In response to the notion that the huge project is being driven by timber targets and not health prescriptions, Anderson said that the Regional Office had set some timber targets for different areas of the region, but that those targets were not driving the analysis.This project has nothing to do with meeting any target,” said Anderson.

This feels a little like “There was no quid pro quo.”  Would timber harvested from this project not count towards the targets?  (I’d like to see  targets for achieving desired conditions.) All in all this project would be worth keeping an eye on.

(By the way, here’s the latest on Prince of Wales.)

26 thoughts on “150,000 acre “project” on the Bitterroot”

    • It is not uncommon in the west to have planning areas of 50,000-100,000 acres these days…but it means that planning areas will be revisited sooner – and it makes me wonder what will be left to harvest in the next entry, if anything, as the focus on the current entry is usually thinning/fuels treatments on anything they can get to reasonably.

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  1. Jon, I agree that ideally projects would be in sync with the Forest Plan. However, I’m not sure that will ever be the case as long as Forest Plans are so large and require so much money and take so much time to complete, by which time conditions might have changed again. Perhaps the Bitterroot is at the bottom of the list and waiting for other forests to finish and get litigated? And they want something up to date in terms of DCs? So yes, it sounds like a plan amendment might be an easier way to go about things. In fact, those discussions might inform a later plan revision.

    Non FS people: there is a pot of money for plan revision and not enough to go around. There is no more money in the pot until the first forests under the 2012 get done. So many forests are not even in line. What are they to do?

    As to trying to design projects within a 150K acre area, as Jon says starting with a chunk of land and asking “what is important to do here” as per various publics seems like a reasonable way to approach things. Especially if that particular 150K area has some kind of landscape and social coherence.

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  2. Considering that I was at one of the several very well attended public meetings and have had several conversations with Matt Anderson let me add my two cents. First the goals, beyond some type of WUI fire management , the plans are so vague it was hard to comment or get to answers other than TBD.

    So I asked at one roundtable how this fits in with Forest Planning considering the current plan is from the 80s and the next revision is planned for 2021 (of course it was also planned for 2017, and 2018 so we will seem). It seems they are confident they can scope and NEPA this before the next revision. I guess that makes sense given that they expect the revision to take 3 or 4 years. I can only assume they want to finish this before having to deal with the 2012 planning rule.

    These big public meeting may be good for disseminating information to the public, but next to useless for receiving input. On the one roundtable I attempted to participate on over recreation split most of the time discussing the need for better grading of roads to trailheads (which are fine) and the concern of weed mitigation during new road building by one the Friends Of … members. I tend to agree with him on this issue, but I absorbed all the time for the other 30 people.

    The other roundtable on more general topics ended up a discussion of climate change. About all I could get in was a suggestion that this might be good project for initiating a collaborative group that could eventually transition to the Forest Revision. I tried to get some clarification about logging in the IRAs in the area without getting a satisfying answer.

    In summary I guess this pre-scoping process is helpful in giving individuals and groups time to figure out what they can potentially gain or advocate for. The negatives are is everything is so vague it is impossible to really figure out what the plan will be and there are already letters to the editor complaining about the lack of transparency since they have no numbers on cost, new roads, or logging acreage.

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    • Always good to have the first-person accounts, thanks. A premise of the Planning Rule was/is that desired conditions are something that the public would understand and want to contribute to. But when they’re used to reacting to project proposals I can see how it would be hard to think and collaborate strategically unless the Forest Service is good at setting the stage, including telling when they would be able to provide answers on specifics.

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  3. If the desired condition is thinned ponderosa pine stands, then there will never be much of that around. From what I’ve seen, only southerly-facing slopes have enough ponderosa pines to achieve that condition. Other aspects have other species compositions, with different desired outcomes.

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  4. Here’s a little addition to this “project” for recreation:
    https://missoulian.com/news/local/sticks-and-stone-mill-creek-conflict-continues-public-input-process/article_d1373022-3eb1-557f-9ea8-59ba8aaef584.html

    The forest hopes to use this project planning process to address a long-standing forest planning issue about how an area popular with rock climbers should be managed. I assume that would include a plan amendment if it represents a change from the current status of “recommended wilderness.” (The Forest is arguably not following its current plan if the “permanent” climbing bolts are “mechanized” uses that impair wilderness quality/suitability.)

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    • I think it’s possible to argue that bolts are infrastructure, but it is my understanding that bolts are not banned in wilderness, but power drills are and need to be drilled by hand. I have never seen any prohibition against power tools in recommended wilderness as even the FS used chain saws in RW. They are considered a transient use that does not degrade wilderness character. Still I do know that most climbers in the area would prefer that RW borders be moved in any future forest plan revision to eliminate any ambiguity. For what it is worth, same individuals opposing sport climbing are the ones opposing mountain biking in the Bitteroot’s two WSA. They have different group names, but the individuals are the same.

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      • Lance,

        you said . “Still I do know that most climbers in the area would prefer that RW borders be moved in any future forest plan revision to eliminate any ambiguity”.. just to be clear, the climbers are thinking it would be best for their climbing areas to be outside of RW?

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        • Correct. They rationally fear that the groups opposed to climbing will advocate in any forest plan revision for a policy that manages RW identical to wilderness which would limit future bolting of routes and the development of official trail access. They have seen the same groups successfully advocate for closure of nearby WSAs to bikes and fear the same fate awaits them.

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  5. “Recommended Wilderness” or “Relatively-Intact-Ecosystem”. Whatever the handle, folks who value these landscapes (like climbers and mountain-bikers) and who also believe in Climate Change have to reckon with the facts that there are not enough left of either to sacrifice for personal pleasure, and that the Wilderness Act is currently the only law on the books that best protects them. Unless biking and climbing groups are prepared to mount a similar effort to the 10-year struggle to pass the 1964 Wilderness Act (which they definitively are not), personal recreation preferences have to take a back seat to protecting these remaining areas with what laws are currently available. Given the political and physical assaults our remaining backcountry is experiencing, talk of weakening such protections (specifically in RW’s) is not consistent with the spirit and intent of the Wilderness Act, or basic ecological principles.

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    • Bill, I’m having a little trouble following your comment. Maybe you would be willing to help me better understand. First are you stating that climbing and mountain biking in RW, or anywhere for that matter, has a greater impact on climate change that hiking or bird watching or horse riding? If so, on what are you basing that that statement. Or rather, is your statement more one that fighting climate change and creating ecosystem resilience requires maintaining large areas of relatively intact ecosystems? If so, what is your evidence that RW and “Relatively-Intact-Ecosystem” are fundamentally equivalent, and if they are equivalent that the only way to maintain their integrity is as as de-facto wilderness that excludes sport climbing and mountain biking. Considering that RW is not part of the National Wilderness Preservation System how is management of RW that allows bikes and climbing inconsistent with the Wilderness Act, since the wilderness act states that there are no requirements for buffer zones? More specifically how is excluding climbing from Mill Creek and mountain biking from the Blue Joint and Sapphire WSAs incompatible with basic ecological principles?
      Now it seems to be that the reason that Wilderness designations protect the landscape is because that are legislatively enacted rather than administratively managed and as we have seen administratively designated protections such as National Monument designations through the Antiquities Act are at risk. It seems to me that groups like the Friends of the Bitterroot would be better served working with recreational groups to get these areas the protection they deserve, rather than fighting for ever more stringent restriction by the forest service which are far less permanent and risk creating opposition rather than allies.

      Considering that the Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists have spent the last 10 years trying to find a balanced solution to the WSA that designates some wilderness and some a National Recreation Area that would legislatively protect the areas from logging, mining, and other forms of ecological destruction, it seems to me the recreational community is more than willing to work for long term protection with like minded partners.

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    • Bill can you tell us what you mean by “intact ecosystem” and what are the”political and physical assaults on the remaining backcountry?”

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      • Sure. “Relatively-intact ecosystems” is a phrase (I think) I made up to refer to those hunks of landscape we all know of that deserve more protection than they’re getting but, for now, are healing (or rewilding, if you will) and beginning to function as “relatively-intact ecosystems” for lack of a better handle. I can usually feel the difference, even on short outings, when I get past the “fuels-reduction” products and salvage-logging and off-road scars and get to where I’m usually aiming for. The sweet spot, I guess one could call it, and we’re so lucky to still have enough of them within a short hike from us that we can access them without mounting an expedition. What I think many of us fail to see though is that their existence is more accidental than anything, and can be erased in a couple days worth of “fuels’ reduction”. What I meant by “political assaults” was Daines’ (and the Ravalli Co. Commissioners and others’) recent assault on the remaining Wilderness Study Areas that still have de facto wilderness protection as long as they aren’t released. The spirit and intent of the 1964 Wilderness Act was to add all such remaining lands (including much of the “relatively-intact ecosystems” I talk about) as fit the legal definition of wilderness into the wilderness system, but Wayne Aspinall (a Democrat and powerful chair of the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee) roadblocked it until President Kennedy put his foot down and he had to “compromise” with Zahniser and Brandborg et.al. That left all those lands legally deserving of protection vulnerable to political and physical attacks, to basically, all comers, including those who see these backcountry areas more as playgrounds than functioning ecosystems. A mountain-biking group supported Daines’ proposal and I expect the same to happen with this Bitterroot Front Project. The 150,000 acres within its boundary encompass virtually ALL the drainages, ridges and high country up to the current wilderness boundary, including current Wilderness-study areas as well as areas that should be in that category. There will certainly be groups who will want to decrease protections for these areas in favor of their being able to access them with their toys, but time and time again it’s been proven that underprotection is death. Climate Change is getting us down to the brass tacks. We can’t look away anymore from the ancient carbon sinks known as old-growth being hauled off to mills or the soil and watershed damage caused by reckless recreation such as ORVs (I still use the acronym for “Off-Road-Vehicles cuz that’s what they are) that, by current law, will be allowed into any area a mountain bike is allowed into. Even if some temporary “deal” is worked out by the FS and “user-groups” to allow only mountain bikes, or only mechanized climbing or (hovercraft?) in, the history of such stop-gaps is poor, and the best protection for them is wilderness designation. Barring that, the very least we can do if we care about these areas and take Climate Change seriously is to leave them as much alone as possible. We may not know where we’re going at this point, but I think we can agree that we’re going there in a handbasket. Prudence dictates caution. These places won’t have another chance in our lifetimes, maybe not in anyone’s.

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        • Addressing ‘climate change’ by ‘doing nothing’ on impacted lands is… unfortunate. Here in California, many areas of National Forest now have no options left, with uncontrolled wildfires being some people’s ultimate solution to tens of millions of dead trees, just waiting to burn.

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          • They’re storing carbon as they stand. If and when the area burns, not all of them will for one thing, and the remaining ones will still be storing much more carbon for far longer (statistically) than logging them for lumber. There’s no ecological or “climate-change” argument for salvage logging. That’s an economic activity. Sheparding forests back to the carbon sinks they once were is the antithesis of “doing nothing”. I’ve planted hundreds of thousands of native conifers in my life here in Montana, but the several thousand that are tall and healthy now are the ones I personally babysat or sold and planted for people who did the same. Actual reforestation is a huge personal commitment, and I agree in a way, it’s unfortunate that we’re at this place in human evolution. But on the other hand, old forestry paradigms no longer apply (and I say that with sadness). We only have a few years left. I’m for evolving.

          • With 84% of all US wildfires being human-caused, forests can never be ‘natural’ again, with all those ‘natural’ processes. Letting ‘whatever happens’ happen is never good for today’s real-world forests, in today’s world. Are you willing to let burned areas reforest themselves? The concept of “natural succession” is highly-overrated in America’s current forests.

          • While approximately 84% of forest fire ignitions are human caused, the vast majority remain small and have no discernible effect on our forests. Lightning fires are responsible for 60% of all acres burned in the US(1992-2017; Source: https://www.fs.usda.gov/rds/archive/catalog/RDS-2013-0009.4).

            We are never going to thin our way our of the disturbance deficit we currently are in due to past suppression efforts. We don’t have the workforce, infrastructure or financial resources to subsidize all the work that needs to be done. We need to prepare our forests with localized thinning/logging efforts so that we can use wildfire as a tool to help meet resource objectives.

            With that said, the Bitterroot front project is located in the third highest wildfire density location in the country (only southern CA and the Florida everglades see more fire). Numerous state, national, etc. risk assessments all list Ravalli county as one of the most at risk locations for loss from wildfires in the country. I applaud the USFS’s work here and hope they can be successful given the limited commercial infrastructure that remains in SW Montana.

          • I don’t want to wander too far afield, but before discussing the Bitterroot Front Plan I want to comment on a few of Bill’s other points. First I think their a difference between the spirit of the Wilderness Act and Zahniser’s and Brandborg’s vision of the it, even if they were the primary authors. Yes, the organization I lead Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists did support Senator Daines bill to release those portions of Wilderness Study Areas that have not been recommended for wilderness. Since these areas would remain Inventoried Roadless Areas, we felt they would remain as relatively intact ecosystems and would return to management plan that worked successfully for 30 plus years in maintaining these areas as pristine. Unlike Bill we do not consider changing management from WSA to IRA to be an assault of ecosystem integrity.

            Now to the Bitterroot Front. First there are no Wilderness Study Areas in the 150,000 acres in the Bitterroot Front Proposal. There is however, recommended wilderness and since these areas are also IRAs the odds of them getting logged and roaded are close to zero. The remaining part of the plan is predominantly Wildland Urban Interface and the odds of these areas becoming wilderness are similarly next to zero. The jury is still out on how much treatment, aka logging, decreases risks to houses. It is premature to state whether or not we will support the Bitterroot Front Proposal. It hasn’t even been scoped yet. What I can say is will take this opportunity to engage with other groups and individuals to advocate for recreational access and minimizing logging and new roads. We prefer collaboration and engagement to opposition.

            As far as Bill’s claim that motorized users can legally go anywhere bikes, I’m scratching my head. Here is a partial list of trails in the Bitterroot National Forest that are open to bikes, but not motorized. Lake Como Recreational Trail, Coyote Coulee, Larry Creek, Continental Divide Trail, Tolan Ridge, Reimel Creek, Fire Creek, Porcupine Creek, all of the Stoney Mountain IRA. All I can assume is that what Bill means is that in theory any of these trails could be opened to motorized use during a Forest Plan revision. I suppose if that what he means, he is correct. Although the conversion of non-motorized trails to motorized is exceedingly rare. More common is the closure of motorized trail and conversion to non-motorized use. Even if this is a concern the solution is not necessarily more Wilderness. That is why we prefer the Rattlesnake Model, a core of wilderness with a buffer of a National Recreational Area that can legislatively maintain ecosystem integrity while allowing more liberal recreational opportunities.

          • Lance, what does “ecosystem integrity” mean to you? What is allowed or not allowed? BTW this discussion is very helpful to me as I’m not familiar with areas and I think it’s easy to talk past each other with generic statements vs. specifics, so thanks!

            I also think it’s important to call out the idea of “permanent protection”- that’s the old argument that IRA’s aren’t good enough because someone might redo a Roadless Rule. As a person who worked on one, it’s not a casual thing that anyone/State/Feds seeks to do. When the Bush Admin opened up the possibility, only two states, Idaho and Colorado took them up on it. And Alaska is working on one now and maybe Utah thinking about it? So, realistically IRAs are IRA’s and it’s very unlikely that anything will happen to them.

          • Before replying, I did some googling to refresh myself. It’s been more than a few years since I got by BA in Biology.

            When the Greater Yellowstone Coalition talks about ecosystem integrity they state as their vision, “Our vision is a healthy and intact Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where critical lands and waters are adequately protected, wildlife is managed in a thoughtful, sustainable manner and a strong, diverse base of support is working to conserve this special place as part of a larger, connected Northern Rocky Mountain Region.”

            When the Trust for Public Land talks about an intact ecosystem they highlight the area having all the species that were present during the Lewis and Clark expedition.

            In my quick review a few key themes came out: viable populations of historic flora and fauna, clean water, and connectivity to other regions. Less explicit were a relative lack of a human presence and natural process progressing unimpeded by human intervention (dare we say untrammeled.) I don’t have an issue with a definition based on these key points. I would disagree with a definition based on , “ those hunks of landscape we all know of that deserve more protection than they’re getting…” since it is presumptuous of me assume that my preferences are universal. We are lucky in Montana to have ecosystems so intact. Much like the Eastern Wilderness Act allowed more trammeled land to become wilderness along the east coast than we we consider pristine in the west, a certain amount of flexibility would need to be applied to implement in other states.

            Now the Bitterroot Front abuts the Selway-Bitterroot and is part of the Central Idaho ecosystem and at this time is one large furry omnivore away from having it’s full complement of animals. So one issue of the Bitterroot Front Proposal impact the future introduction of grizzlies naturally, as one did this summer, or by introduction. A related question would be impacts on connectivity to the Glacier region and the Yellowstone region. As an aside it is interesting the the core of both of these ecosystems are trammeled National Parks, indicating that wilderness designation is not an absolute requirement for a healthy ecosystem.

            Rather than on disagreeing on the definition of intact ecosystem, I suspect my differences with some wilderness advocated on the appropriate approach to maintaining the integrity of these landscapes. I have heard wilderness designation described as the best way to protect a landscape or wildlife. It has also been described as the gold standard. Now I assume these folks are not advocating to return to gold based dollar, so I assume instead they mean similar to as it as we describe in medicine, the most accurate test to diagnose a disease. Now the funny thing is in medicine, we almost never use the gold standard test since they also tend to be the most expensive, most invasive, and often the greatest risk of harm. Autopsy after all the the final gold standard everything is based on. Instead the goal is to find tests that are cheaper, less invasive, more convenient, faster but still good enough. If you extrapolated the same idea to landscape management, the “best” land designation is not the most restrictive but rather the designation that adequately protects the landscape, water, and wildlife with the least amount of restrictions on access. Beyond that we are more often than not managing user conflict, which is a separate and reasonable management goal, but one one that should not be confused with ecosystem management.

          • Just a little reminder that the Forest Service definition of “ecological integrity” is “The quality or
            condition of an ecosystem when its
            dominant ecological characteristics
            (for example, composition, structure,
            function, connectivity, and species
            composition and diversity) occur within the natural range of variation and can withstand and recover from most perturbations imposed by natural environmental dynamics or human influence.” That would probably not directly include humans. However, “structural developments and human uses” are “ecological conditions” that do come into play where there are at-risk species that require those conditions and may be affected. 36 CFR §219.19

          • I actually can make more sense of the restoration definition. We are never going to get there if for example, “connectivity” is expected to “occur within the natural range of variation.” Even if we locked people out of NF’s entirely, we are unlikely to get there. Just definitionally, using an “and” is fairly odd- how do we know if they can “withstand and recover” and what on earth are “most” perturbations?

            It seems to me that this definition is mumbo-jumbo which can only be settled by random judges with random views and random appeals of random decisions. I would never write a reg that provides so much court-fodder, but that’s just me.

          • Sharon, not sure if you can open this up from this site, but it’s just one of many examples that can be found to demonstrate how vulnerable our remaining roadless areas (and WSAs and RAs) are. My points above and below were that Wilderness designation is the best protection we have right now for those areas, and with global warming breathing down our necks we, as cognizant “stewards” if you will, of the land should be working hard to include more areas within its protection-brackets, not less. That, in my mind, includes areas like my self-described “relatively-intact ecosystems” that are healing and have a few stands of habitat finally getting to the point where they can actually store serious carbon. As per Lance’s comments: of course we aren’t going to get everything, but compromising on enviro. laws from a position of strength is called “negotiating”. Compromising from a position of capitulation is called losing and I just don’t think we can afford the luxury of thinking we can do that anymore. We’ve already lost so much. I don’t have numbers at this point, but I haven’t seen mountain goats on the south-facing Bitterroot cliffs for at least a decade, or since climbing folks started posting “routes” online etc. I used to see them regularly to the point I’d always look for them. I still have that habit, but I don’t see them anymore. They are certainly in the high country (again I don’t have the numbers) but those SE facing benches up above the cliffs as the canyons open to the valley was where they birthed and are very vulnerable. One already has a subdivision on it and all of them are within the 150,000 acre Bitterroot Front Project. Mt. goats are just one tiny piece of the puzzle that we have been so carelessly spilling on the floor and loosing pieces of over the decades, but I just thought it’s worth noting, since iconic wilderness advocate and Bitterroot Valley resident, Stewart Brandborg, studied them for several years in the late 40s and early 50s and published the first serious conservation book on them. I knew Brandy well, and talked with him often of his close friend, “Zahnie” and, just for the record, to say that “there’s a difference between the spirit of the Wilderness Act and Brandborg and Zahniser’s vision of it” is, to put it as nicely as I can, shocking and, coming from someone who obviously spends serious time enjoying what was bequeathed to us by the efforts of those two main architects of that act (as well as the many, many more) a sadly ignorant statement as to what the Wilderness Act was, is, and is capable of being. To channel Brandy: They aren’t making anymore wilderness. Don’t whittle away at it. Grow more of it.
            https://earthjustice.org/features/sunset-roadless-area-climate&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social?fbclid=IwAR3VJR9V3udcCrpIfLMwFNme7GN064NxprOekBm6atDUw7FJSENvu7MuS08

          • I guess I would have thought heretical rather than ignorant, but believe what you want. These may be poor analogies, but I think Star Trek is more than that what Gene Rodenberry imagined. He had a vision, but it built upon and expanded by Leonard Nimoy as Spock, William Shatner as Captain Kirk, and years later the wonderful Patrick Stewart as Jean Luc Picard. Star Wars is far beyond the vision of George Lucas. The spirit of Harry Potter is not just that of J.K. Rowling but of every kid who grew up wishing they could play Quidditch and speak parsel tongue. Similarly I don’t for one moment stop thanking Zahniser for being the primary author of the wilderness act and Brandborg for ensuring its implementation hBut I believe the spirit of the wilderness act is also in those members of congress who had to cajoled to support it. It’s those senators who worked compromises to get it passed. It’s in the line officers who made it a reality on the ground. It’s in anyone who has looked up at the Milky Way on a moonless night in Capitol Reef and felt small. It’s part of anyone who has floated the Middle Fork of the Salmon and warmed themselves in a river side hot spring after getting soaked in a rapid or snowstorm. The spirit of wilderness grows with any one who has been cold, tired, thirsty or hungry and yet never felt more alive. Yes I’ll even grant the White Pines and morels, and wolverine their due. Yet everyone who felt connected to the the wild has a different sense of it and a different definition. I’ll admit the words of Walllace Stegner in his wilderness letter and Bob Marshall in the “The Problem of the Wilderness” essay inspired me more than the deep ecology of Zahniser. I guess I’m more wired toward adventure and challenge than spirituality, and that too is part of Wilderness. It is both and both aspects need to be embraced. So yes, I stand by my, as you say, ignorance. Yes they were seminal in the creation of the Wilderness Act, but the spirit of it is animated by legions of people not just the vision of those two.

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