Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Jerry Pavia, long-time ICL Board Chair and member of the Boundary Backpackers. Jerry was close friends with Will Venard, another one of ICL’s leading voices in North Idaho for many years.
Will Venard from Bonners Ferry passed away a few weeks ago. Will was a long-time member of the ICL over the last 40 years. He was one of the founders of Boundary Backpackers in 1976 which became a Chapter of ICL in 1981.
It was Will’s idea that Boundary Backpackers have no officers and no dues. The main principles he put forth for the organization of the group were to always tell the truth. If the answer was unknown, the group would get back to the questioner after researching for an answer. He also suggested that the group would reject no ideas that were positive in furthering the goal of Wilderness for Long Canyon and the Selkirk Crest. For him, negativity was a no-no.
Will named the group when a reporter from the local paper asked him who the group was and Will, on the spot, came up with the name Boundary Backpackers. Up until that moment, the group had no name.
In 1984 Will traveled the state with Jerry Pavia and a 17-minute Long Canyon-Selkirk Crest slideshow to raise awareness about Wilderness in different communities.
Will was the first Boundary Backpackers member on the ICL Board in 1984 and served for several years.
Will was instrumental in encouraging Boundary Backpackers to expand their mission to include all environmental issues that affected Boundary County, and worked to get the Selkirk Mountain Caribou and the Kootenai River Sturgeon on the Endangered Species List. These were only two of the issues that he worked on with others over the years.
He was a really good wood sculptor. On many of his hikes in the Selkirks he would return home with several pieces of unique-looking wood to create a new work of art. His passion for wood and love of trees led to his establishing of an arboretum on his property in Boundary County with approximately 35 different species. His arboretum is healthy and still growing!
From the late 1970s, Will worked along with other members of the group in reopening and improving the 18-mile trail in Long Canyon each September. He and others from the group spent 7 to 10 days in the Canyon under Forest Service supervision working on improving the trail. It’s now the gem of the trail system in the region.
One of Will’s other great passions was hiking in the Selkirk Crest, exploring the off-trail beauty of the area.
He was a man of great integrity. He was a man who knew the value in listening to other’s opinions. He’ll be greatly missed by all those who knew him.