Editor’s note: This posting was authored by Pat Ford. Many years ago, Pat served as the executive director of ICL. Most recently, he was the executive director for Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Pat lives in Boise, Idaho, and periodically contributes to the ICL blog.
I have 40 years of reactions to this summer’s creation of a Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness. The deepest is gratitude to its places. They bring me alive, but I’ve come also to see their life without much reference to me, or us. I don’t mean we don’t alter them, of course we do. But they have their own inviolable agency, strong, supple, lasting powers that far precede and far outlive us. By honoring them, far more than we in the aggregate do now, I think we’ll also do a bit righter by our grandchildren. So first to thank for the Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness is the White Clouds, the Boulders, and Herd Creek.
I ache for what I and others failed to anticipate or counter in the first half of those 40 years-the Wilderness would be larger but for those failures. Mostly I have memories, stories, places and faces. What seems best here are some bows to some people for parts of the work I know.
Cecil Andrus was at the center of things, 1969 to 1972, when the modern story of Sawtooth country and the White Clouds erupted in Idaho and reached initial national resolution in the Sawtooth National Recreation Act. And at the center of things, 2013 to 2015, for this second national resolution, 270,000 acres of Wilderness across much of the Boulders, White Clouds, and Herd Creek. The guts and hard-won mastery behind his decisive contributions, over 47 years, is one more reason he is Idaho’s standing giant.
As Andrus joined Frank Church then, he joined Rep. Mike Simpson now. Mr. Simpson, and Lindsay Slater and staff colleagues, have steered through Congress a lasting gift to Idaho, and gift of Idaho wild country to our nation. It’s too bad only the southern parts of Idaho’s wild heart are in his district, but there’s much still to be done there and I doubt he is through. Mr. Simpson stands out in our delegation, as a legislator. His decision that his office will shepherd for now the willing-seller grazing rights buyouts that his legislation authorizes shows he is also not done in the greater Boulder-White Clouds. The area will be fortunate to have his career devotion.
To Ernie Day, for his spirit for this country, for the Castle Peak photograph that reached and inspired so many, and for what I heard in his unexpected, quiet, may-it-carry-on-after-me voice on the Boulder-White Clouds Council’s late 1980s video about the area. Thanks greatly to you, Ernie, it did. To Ralph Maughan and the Idaho Falls men-Jerry Jayne, Russ Brown, Boyd Norton, Dick Farman, Al McGlinsky, Cyril Slansky, and more. (Boyd wrote Snake Wilderness in the 70s, the first book to attempt the story.) To Robb Brady, Ken Robison and Pam Morris for long editorial eloquence, and Rocky Barker for sketching in the wild heart of Idaho in the pages of the Idaho Statesman.
To Rick Johnson, Craig Gehrke, Linn Kincannon, Bart Koehler, Mike Medberry, John McCarthy, and 40 others I could name from their teams over many years: professional, imaginative, relentless, working through differences and past obstacles year upon year. The foot-miles are your compasses, and your credentials. Rick, Linn, Bart, donor and agents, anyone key to the grazing buy-out option whom I don’t know, and Mike and Lindsay who delivered it in law, thank you for this great thing within the greater thing.
To Ed Cannady-all creeks and peaks walker, wolverine finder, field guide for Congressmen, and Forest Service conscience for the Sawtooths, Boulder-White Clouds, and Upper Salmon. To Ron Walker for the early White Clouds poster, Katy Flanagan and Gary Grimm for the video and multi-media show we presented in the 80s and 90s as much as we could, and Dick Meyer and Evelyn Phillips for the maps we put to so many uses. To Tom Pomeroy for work and cheer all the way.
The most unexpected part of the new Wilderness, and for me most gratifying because of its watershed scope, is in Herd Creek and Jerry Peak. It was on no radar when the SNRA was created; now it is Wilderness. I think this is owed most to one person. She was the first one I knew to poke over it all and document its beauty, breadth, animals, and natural boundaries with photographs that spread far and wide. She wrote it into her hiking guide, Sawtooth Country Adventures, and organized the hikes that over the years took several hundred people into it, and led to many more discovering it. She worked for years with much success to keep most of it without motors, reduce its damage from poorly managed grazing, and keep the Wilderness option alive. By act of Congress this new Wilderness bears another Idahoan’s name officially, an estimable man but I bet he never set foot in Herd Creek nor even knew it existed. If any one person gets the true name here, this is Lynne Stone’s Wilderness.
To everyone-it is a very large number of people-who helped, once or a hundred times, to keep the Boulder-White Clouds wild, or in wild’s close vicinity: thank you, and please keep helping. Sawtooth country, the greater Boulder-White Clouds and the upper Salmon have been at the heart of Idaho’s conservation story, and near the heart of Idaho’s story, for a long time. This Wilderness is a big bright jewel on that ribbon of story, but the story continues. There’s more to see, and more to be done. Let’s press on.