Outdoor Idaho: The Frank

BRUCE REICHERT, HOST: IT'S THE LARGEST FORESTED WILDERNESS IN THE LOWER 48, LARGER EVEN THAN SOME STATES.

AND A LOT OF FOLKS STILL MARVEL AT HOW IT CAME TO BE.

JEFF FEREDAY, ATTORNEY: IT WAS A LANDMARK ACHIEVEMENT.

AND TO SEE ALL THIS GRASSROOTS EFFORT UNFOLD AND TO SEE THE TREMENDOUS RESPONSE WE HAD, IT WAS TRULY HISTORIC.

REICHERT: HISTORIC AND FAR-REACHING.

AN ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM WHERE, FOR BETTER OR WORSE, NATURE NOW ROLLS THE DICE.

ISAAC BABCOCK, BIOLOGIST: I THINK THIS IS SOMETHING THE NATION LOOKS AT AS THEIR MAGICAL WILDERNESS.

THESE THINGS HAPPEN ALL OVER THE PLACE OUT THERE, THESE REALLY UNEXPECTED THINGS.

AND YOU CAN'T SEE THAT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD ANY MORE.

SALLY FERGUSON, SELWAY BITTERROOT FRANK CHURCH FOUNDATION: NOT ONLY IS THERE THE JOURNEY, THERE'S THE COMMITMENT TO BEING THERE, AND ONCE YOU ARE IN THERE, THE REMOTENESS AND THE VASTNESS IS REALLY STAGGERING.

DENNIS BAIRD, HISTORIAN: ALL THE THINGS WE VALUE ABOUT IDAHO HAVE THEIR ESSENCE RIGHT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR STATE.

AND THE PLACES WORK TO DO WHAT NATURE INTENDED TO DO.

REICHERT: IT'S BEEN 35 YEARS SINCE THE CREATION OF THE RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS.

WE MAY HAVE LEARNED TO LIVE WITH THE COMPROMISES WE'VE MADE OVER THE YEARS.

BUT THAT'S THE EASY PART.

THE REAL CHALLENGE IS TO KEEP THIS REMOTE, MAGICAL VASTNESS INTACT, IN THE FACE OF INTENSE WILDFIRES, ALIEN SPECIES, A CHANGING ENVIRONMENT, AND OTHER THREATS.

OUTDOOR IDAHO GOES EXPLORING, INTO THE HEART OF THE FRANK.

REICHERT: IT WAS ONE OF THE PIVOTAL BATTLES IN OUR STATE'S HISTORY, THE FIGHT OVER THE CREATION OF THE RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS.

AND YET IT IS A STORY THAT FEW PEOPLE SEEM TO KNOW OR EVEN REMEMBER.

HI I'M BRUCE REICHERT AND WELCOME TO OUTDOOR IDAHO.

TODAY MANY PEOPLE SIMPLY REFER TO IT AS THE FRANK, IN HONOR OF U.

S.

SENATOR FRANK CHURCH, WHO HELPED SHEPHERD THE BILL THROUGH CONGRESS AND WHOSE POLITICAL CAREER THIS WILDERNESS HELPED TO END.

SOME OF THE COMPROMISES BACK THEN STILL RANKLE SOME FOLKS.

BUT IT IS, AFTER ALL, 2.

3 MILLION ACRES.

THAT'S LARGER THAN SOME STATES, WITH A DIVERSITY THAT IS TRULY REMARKABLE.

FROM THE AIR IT RESEMBLES AN OCEAN OF MOUNTAINS THAT STRETCH AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE.

THE EXACT BOUNDARIES OF THIS WILDERNESS TOOK YEARS TO HAMMER OUT.

AS EARLY AS 1973, A COALITION OF CONSERVATIONISTS, LED BY OUTDOOR WRITER TED TRUEBLOOD, BEGAN RALLYING AROUND A WILDERNESS PROPOSAL OF 2.

3 MILLION ACRES, A NUMBER THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD JUSTIFY.

BUT THAT WAS A NUMBER TOO BIG FOR THE FOREST SERVICE, FOR TIMBER AND MINING INTERESTS, AND EVEN FOR THE MOST SYMPATHETIC POLITICIANS, LIKE U.

S.

SENATOR FRANK CHURCH AND GOVERNOR CECIL ANDRUS.

DENNIS BAIRD, HISTORIAN AND CONSERVATIONIST: IT WAS A CASE OF SORT OF TRAINING THE POLITICIANS I THINK WOULD BE ONE POLITE WAY TO PUT IT.

SO FROM DAY ONE THERE WAS THE VISION OF A 2.

3 MILLION ACRE WILDERNESS, AND THE POLITICIANS ALL STARTED WITH A MUCH SMALLER NUMBER BUT UNLIKE THE CASE OF MANY WILDERNESS AREAS, THIS ONE GOT BIGGER OVER TIME, IN THE EYES OF THE POLITICIANS.

THERE'S MAYBE ONE OF THE GREAT MIRACLES OF THE FIGHT FOR THE RIVER OF NO RETURN.

IT DIDN'T SHRINK; IT GOT JUST A LITTLE BIGGER IN EVERY ITERATION.

REICHERT: THE FINAL BOUNDARIES NOW PROVIDE A REFUGE FOR ALL KINDS OF WILDLIFE, INCLUDING MOUNTAIN GOATS AND BIGHORN SHEEP.

IDAHO'S OCEAN GOING SALMON AND STEELHEAD ALSO HAVE A SAFE HAVEN IN THE FRANK'S EXPANSIVE WATERSHED.

IT'S THE SIZE AND DIVERSITY OF THIS WILDERNESS THAT MAKES ALL THIS POSSIBLE.

THERE ARE PEAKS THAT TOWER OVER 10, 000 FEET, WHERE SNOW LINGERS DEEP INTO SUMMER.

THERE ARE ALSO AREAS TEMPERATE ENOUGH TO HAVE ATTRACTED HOMESTEADERS, PARTICULARLY ALONG THE MAIN SALMON RIVER AND ITS TRIBUTARIES.

THE STUBBORNNESS AND SELF RELIANCE OF THESE FOLKS KEPT MANY OF THEM ALONG THE RIVER FOR DECADES.

IN 1990, DURING THE STATE'S CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION, IDAHO'S OUTFITTERS PAID TRIBUTE TO THOSE EARLIER TIMES, AND TO THE RIVER OF NO RETURN, NAMED FOR THE ONE-WAY JOURNEY OF THESE WOODEN SCOWS.

WAYNE JOHNSON, SALMON RIVER OUTFITTER: THAT WAS A LOT OF FUN, TO RETRACE AND RUN AS MUCH AS WE COULD.

WE RAN TWO WOODEN SCOWS AND PEOPLE ROTATED THROUGH THE BOATS.

THEY HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO RIDE ON ONE OF THE WOODEN SCOWS.

WE RAN QUITE A LONG STRETCH OF RIVER, FROM CHALLIS REALLY TO LEWISTON, BUT EACH PORTION HAD A DIFFERENT CREW.

THIS RIVER HAS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE TO ACTUALLY SEE THE WAY AMERICA USED TO BE.

NOT JUST THE RUGGEDNESS AND ISOLATION BUT THE WAY PEOPLE SETTLED THIS COUNTRY.

THE STRUCTURES ARE STILL HERE.

THEIR GRAVE MARKERS ARE STILL HERE.

THERE'S SO MUCH YOU CAN APPRECIATE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR NATION IN HOW PEOPLE EXPANDED TO THE WEST.

REICHERT: BUT IT'S THE MIDDLE FORK OF THE SALMON RIVER THAT HAS BEEN THE REAL DRAW FOR THIS WILDERNESS.

EACH YEAR ABOUT 10, 000 PEOPLE FLOAT THIS 100 MILE FREE FLOWING RIVER, MOVING THROUGH A VARIETY OF CLIMATES AND LAND TYPES.

THIS IS ONE OF THE ORIGINAL EIGHT RIVERS IN THE NATION DESIGNATED AS WILD AND SCENIC IN 1968.

IN MANY WAYS IT STILL LOOKS MUCH LIKE IT DID IN THE 1920'S WHEN FILMMAKER HENRY WEIDNER MADE THE FIRST DOCUMENTED DESCENT DOWN THE RIVER IN A CANOE.

IN THE 1930'S AND '40'S ADVENTURERS TOOK TO THE RIVER IN SPECIALLY DESIGNED WOODEN BOATS.

THEY ALSO PIONEERED THE FIRST DESCENT IN A RUBBER RAFT ON THIS RIVER.

TODAY THE FOREST SERVICE MANAGES RIVER TRAVEL THROUGH AN EFFICIENT AND WELL RUN LOTTERY SYSTEM, AND OUTFITTERS HAVE LEARNED THE FINE ART OF SERVING UP ADVENTURE AND A QUALITY EXPERIENCE FOR PEOPLE OF ALL AGES.

JEFF SURBAUGH, LEAD GUIDE, WHITEWATER ADVENTURES OUTFITTERS PROVIDE PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO COME INTO THIS WILDERNESS AND EXPERIENCE IT IN A SAFE AND ENJOYABLE WAY.

I'VE BEEN DOING IT FOR 20 PLUS YEARS, AND IT'S SO NICE WHEN WE HAVE SOMEONE COME DOWN THE RIVER THAT'S NEVER BEEN OR EVEN NEVER BEEN CAMPING AND TO SEE HOW OTHER PEOPLE APPRECIATE IT, AND EVERYBODY APPRECIATES SOMETHING DIFFERENT; FOR SOME PEOPLE, IT'S THE WATER, FOR SOME PEOPLE IT'S THE AIR, FOR SOME PEOPLE IT'S THE VIEW, SO IT'S NEAT TO SEE THE MIDDLE FORK THROUGH A BEGINNER'S EYES.

REICHERT: BUT TO REALLY SEE THE FRANK, SOME WOULD ARGUE, YOU HAVE TO GET OFF THE RIVER AND ONTO THE TRAILS.

AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THESE TWO HIKERS DID, TRAVERSING WEST TO EAST ACROSS THE FRANK, USING SMALL VIDEO CAMERAS TO DOCUMENT THEIR ADVENTURE.

PETER MORRILL, HIKER: I'VE REALLY HAD THIS TRIP ON MY MIND FOR AT LEAST A COUPLE OF DECADES.

AND THE IDEA OF TRYING TO TRAVERSE IT FROM ONE SIDE TO ANOTHER HAS ALWAYS INTRIGUED ME.

THE BIG CREEK DRAINAGE AREA IN THE EARLY 1900'S, THERE WERE LITERALLY THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE PRIMARILY THERE FOR THE MINING ACTIVITIES OF THUNDER MOUNTAIN.

AND THEN BY THE 1930'S MUCH OF THIS AREA REALLY WAS ABANDONED AND LEFT TO A FEW REMAINING HOMESTEADERS AND ODD BALL CHARACTERS.

JEFF TUCKER, HIKER: COMING DOWN BIG CREEK YOU'RE REALLY ON A TRAIL WHERE NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE WALK.

IT'S NOT NECESSARILY A DESTINATION TRAIL.

AND AS WE GOT TO THE MIDDLE FORK, YOU LOOK UP BIG CREEK AND YOU GO, OH, THAT'S NICE, AND THEN YOU LOOK UP THE OTHER SIDE, THE EAST SIDE AND YOU GO, WOW, THAT'S A REALLY BIG INCLINE, I WONDER WHERE THAT GOES? AND THIS TRIP TOOK ME UP THERE.

PETER MORRILL: HIKING UP WATER FALL CREEK TRAIL WAS FAIRLY ARDUOUS.

IT WAS ABOUT 11 MILES UP, ABOUT 6, 000 FEET GAIN IN ELEVATION AND THE FIRST SET OF LAKES THAT WE REACHED WERE TERRACE LAKES.

THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL BLUES AGAINST THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE SKIES, WITH GREEN AND WILD FLOWERS.

IT WAS JT SUCH A REFRESHING EXPERIENCE.

JEFF TUCKER: THE BIGHORN CRAGS HAVE A WONDERFUL TRAIL SYSTEM.

UP AND OVER RIDGES DOWN INTO ANOTHER LAKE AND THEN UP AND OVER ANOTHER RIDGE AND DOWN INTO ANOTHER LAKE AND ONE CALLED FISH FIN RIDGE IS JUST THE MOST AWESOME LOOKING RIDGE.

IT REALLY DOES LOOK LIKE THE PREHISTORIC FINS OF A FISH.

AND AS YOU GET CLOSER, THOSE SPIRES JUST GO UP HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF FEET.

PETER MORRILL: ONE OF THE ICONIC IMAGES OF THE FRANK CHURCH WILDERNESS IS SHIP ISLAND LAKE.

THERE IS AN ISLAND THAT KINDA LOOKS LIKE A SHIP, BUT IF YOU HIKE ALL THE WAY AROUND, THERE'S THIS GRANITE FLUME THAT GOES FROM THE BACK OF THE LAKE ALL THE WAY DOWN INTO THE MIDDLE FORK BASIN, AND IT ABSOLUTELY TOOK MY BREATH AWAY.

JEFF TUCKER: PETER AND I, AND THE OUTDOOR IDAHO CREW, WE ALL MET THERE ON THAT RIDGE.

IT WAS THE HOLY GRAIL OF PICTURE TAKING PLACES.

THE BIGHORN CRAGS JUST OFFER A LOT OF THAT.

THERE'S SOME THINGS IN LIFE YOU JUST NEVER FORGET, AND THE BIGHORN CRAGS, THAT TRIP IS SOMETHING I WILL NEVER FORGET.

PETER MORRILL: WOW, INCREDIBLE JEFF.

JEFF TUCKER: THAT'S NOT A BAD VIEW, PETER.

PETER MORRILL: CONGRATULATIONS.

REICHERT: IT DEFINITELY TAKES SOME EFFORT TO ACCESS THE FRANK.

IMAGINE HOW PRIMITIVE THE AREA WAS BACK IN THE 1920'S, AND THAT WAS QUITE FINE WITH THEN GOVERNOR H.

CLARENCE BALDRIDGE.

DURING A CAMPING TRIP INTO BIG CREEK IN OCTOBER OF 1927, BALDRIDGE JOINED LUMBERMAN HARRY SHELLWORTH AND FOREST SERVICE FORESTER RICHARD RUTLEDGE.

THE MEN CAME UP WITH A STRATEGY FOR PROTECTING THIS AREA FROM AUTOMOBILES.

AND BY 1931, THEY HAD LARGELY SUCCEEDED.

THE FOREST SERVICE OFFICIALLY DESIGNATED A MILLION ACRES AROUND THE MIDDLE FORK AS THE IDAHO PRIMITIVE AREA, SLOWING DOWN FURTHER DEVELOPMENT AND ROAD BUILDING.

FAST FORWARD TO THE 1970'S.

IT WAS NOW TIME FOR CONGRESS TO DESIGNATE THIS LAND AS OFFICIAL WILDERNESS.

AT LEAST, A DETERMINED GROUP OF CONSERVATIONISTS THOUGHT SO.

THEIR STRATEGY WAS FAIRLY SIMPLE.

MAKE SURE THE BOUNDARIES OF THEIR WILDERNESS PROPOSAL MADE SENSE ON THE GROUND.

DENNIS BAIRD, HISTORIAN AND CONSERVATIONIST: THE FOUNDERS OF THE RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS COUNCIL DECIDED THAT COMPROMISE WAS SOMETHING MAYBE SOMEBODY ELSE COULD DO, BUT WE WERE GOING TO STICK TO THAT PLAN.

IT WAS A GOOD ONE.

EVERYTHING ABOUT IT WAS DEFENSIBLE.

AND THAT WAS WHAT WE WANTED, AND WE WEREN'T GOING TO SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS.

REICHERT: THE MEMBERS OF THE RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNES COUNCIL MOUNTED AN EDUCATION CAMPAIGN THAT INCLUDED LETTER WRITING, EDITORIALS, PUBLIC HEARINGS, EVEN BUMPER STICKERS.

FRESH OUT OF COLLEGE, JEFF FEREDAY HAD BEGUN WORKING FOR THE NEWLY FORMED IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE, AND HE SPENT TIME WITH TED TRUEBLOOD, ERNIE DAY, BRUCE BOWLER, AND OTHERS.

JEFF FEREDAY, ATTORNEY: THESE PEOPLE ARE OF THE WORLD WAR 2 GENERATION; THEY WEREN'T TREE HUGGERS OR EVEN LIBERALS IN THAT SENSE; THEY UNDERSTOOD SOMEHOW IN THEIR GUT HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS TO PRESERVE SOMETHING THAT WOULD REALLY DEFINE A WILD HEART OF IDAHO.

REICHERT: OF COURSE, ALL THIS WOULD NOT HAVE MATTERED WITHOUT FRANK CHURCH IN THE U.

S.

SENATE.

CHURCH HAD BEEN THE FLOOR MANAGER OF THE ORIGINAL WILDERNESS ACT IN 1964.

AND IN 1978 HE BEGAN WORK ON WHAT CAME TO BE CALLED THE GOSPEL HUMP WILDERNESS.

MARTY PETERSON, HISTORIAN, FORMER STAFFER FOR FRANK CHURCH: THE PROCESS THAT CHURCH USED ON THAT WAS VERY COLLABORATIVE; HE BROUGHT A LOT OF PEOPLE TO THE TABLE.

THEN CHURCH WENT TO WORK IN BOTH THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE DOING A LOT OF ONE ON ONE LOBBYING AND GOT IT THROUGH.

I THINK THAT, REALLY MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, PROBABLY SET THE STAGE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE CENTRAL IDAHO WILDERNESS ACT WHICH IS THE BILL THAT CREATED THE RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS.

REICHERT: EVENTUALLY CONVINCED THAT THE 'CITIZENS BILL' OF 2.

3 MILLION ACRES WAS FEASIBLE, CHURCH BEGAN ACCEPTING THE NECESSARY TRADEOFFS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN: A SPECIAL MINING MANAGEMENT ZONE FOR THE EXTRACTION OF THE MINERAL COBALT; THE USE OF AIRCRAFT AND EXISTING LANDING STRIPS IN THE WILDERNESS; AND MOTORIZED JETBOATS ON THE SALMON RIVER.

JEFF FEREDAY: THE COMPROMISES WERE JUST SOMETHING THAT SEEMED TO ME NATURAL THINGS THAT NEEDED TO HAPPEN, AND THAT THESE SAME LEADERS WERE WILLING TO EMBRACE.

REICHERT: THE FINAL BILL EASILY PASSED BOTH THE U.

S.

SENATE AND THE HOUSE IN 1980.

IT WAS A GREAT VICTORY FOR CHURCH, BUT ONE THAT LIKELY SEALED HIS POLITICAL FATE.

CRAIG GEHRKE, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY: FRANK CHURCH WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO VOTED FOR IT OUT OF THE FOUR MEMBERS OF THE DELEGATION.

HE DIDN'T LET THE LACK OF AGREEMENT STOP HIM AND STOP THAT EFFORT, AND I THINK THAT'S IMPORTANT.

AT SOME POINT YOU NEED TO STEP FORWARD WITH A LONGER TERM VISION AND DO THE RIGHT THING.

REICHERT: AFTER HIS DEFEAT IN 1980 AND JUST BEFORE HIS DEATH AT THE AGE OF 59, AT SENATOR MCCLURE'S REQUEST, CONGRESS HONORED CHURCH BY RENAMING THE AREA THE FRANK CHURCH RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS.

WE TEND TO THINK OF THE FRANK AS A PROTECTOR OF WATERSHEDS, A REFUGE FOR WILDLIFE.

NOT EXACTLY A PLACE FOR NEWLY WEDS.

BUT THIS IS WHERE BIOLOGIST AND CINEMATOGRAPHER ISAAC BABCOCK TOOK HIS WIFE FOR AN EXTENDED HONEYMOON.

IN FACT, THEIR ADVENTURES IN THIS WILDERNESS BECAME A PBS 'NATURE' SHOW.

WE CAUGHT UP WITH BABCOCK, TO SEE JUST WHAT HE HAD LEARNED FROM HIS TIME IN THE FRANK.

ISAAC BABCOCK, BIOLOGIST: BECAUSE THE FRANK IS SO BIG, YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SOME OF THESE ANIMALS TO BE BACK THERE THAT ARE FULFILLING THEIR ROLE IN NATURE IN A WAY THAT WE DON'T FIND COMPLETELY TOLERABLE IN OUR HUMAN EXISTENCE.

AND WHILE WE ARE A PART OF THAT WILDERNESS, THIS IS A PLACE THAT WE'VE KIND OF SET ASIDE A LITTLE BIT TO SAY YOU KNOW WHAT, WE'RE GOING TO LET A LITTLE BIT MORE OF THIS HAPPEN THERE.

THIS IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN THERE.

WHEN WE WERE WORKING ON OUR FILM, I REALLY WANTED TO SHOW ALL THE DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THE WOLVES' LIVES OUT THERE.

AND GETTING THAT PREDATION SEQUENCE JUST PROVED SO DIFFICULT TO GET.

WHAT INTRIGUES ME NOW LOOKING BACK ON IT MOST WAS THE UNEXPECTED THINGS THAT HAPPENED WITH THAT.

ONE NIGHT THE WOLVES WENT UP THIS RIDGE AND THERE WAS A HERD OF ELK ON TOP, AND I THOUGHT, OH, MY GOSH.

THIS IS IT.

WE GOT, EVERYTHING'S IN LINE, EXCEPT IT'S GETTING DARK ON US AND THEY WENT UP THERE AND THIS WHOLE SCENE PLAYED OUT.

EVERYTHING WAS LINING UP PERFECTLY.

YOU HAVE THIS LAME ELK.

YOU'VE GOT A WOLF PACK.

YOU'VE GOT IT ISOLATED UP THERE ON A RIDGE, AND THEN SUDDENLY THIS OTHER ELK COMES IN AND THROWS THE WHOLE WRENCH IN THE MATTER.

AND THE NEXT THING WE KNOW, THERE'S NO PREDATION.

THAT WAS A BIG TURNING POINT IN MY HEAD WHERE I REALIZED THAT YOU KNOW WHAT, THE WOLVES DON'T ALWAYS WIN.

IT ISN'T JUST AN EASY GO, “HEY, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DINE ON TODAY? SHALL WE HAVE THIS OR SHALL WE HAVE THAT?” I ACTUALLY SAW WHERE THE WOLVES WERE WORKING JUST AS HARD AS EVERYTHING ELSE OUT THERE JUST TO SURVIVE.

REICHERT: THE BABCOCKS SPENT PART OF THE WINTER AT TAYLOR RANCH, A WILDERNESS RESEARCH STATION LITERALLY MILES FROM NOWHERE IN THE HEART OF THE FRANK.

ISAAC BABCOCK: ONE AFTERNOON WE'RE SITTING OUT ON THIS BENCH AND WE'RE WATCHING OVER THE RIVER.

AND ALL OF A SUDDEN THIS DEER COMES ROARING DOWN THE HILL, AND BEHIND IT COMES A WOLF.

AND THEY GET OUT ON THE ICE.

AND RIGHT OUT IN FRONT OF US THIS WHOLE SCENE TAKES PLACE.

IT WAS REALLY DIFFICULT TO WATCH.

IT WAS ONE OF THESE THINGS YOU BUILT UP AND YOU'RE WAITING FOR AND YOU'RE WAITING FOR, AND YET THE ACT IS NEVER SOMETHING THAT YOU REALLY WANT TO SEE.

BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHAT REALLY STRUCK ME WAS THAT THIS IS THE WAY NATURE WORKS.

AND WOLVES AND OTHER ANIMALS, THEY HAVE TO LIVE BY THESE RULES.

THEY CAN'T LIVE BY OURS.

AND THE FRANK, THE WILDERNESS, THAT'S WHAT IT'S MEANT FOR.

REICHERT: UNTIL YOU NEED TO TRAVEL INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY, YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA HOW VALUABLE THESE AIRSTRIPS ARE.

THEY ALLOW TRAVEL TIME TO BE MEASURED IN MINUTES INSTEAD OF DAYS.

THERE ARE ABOUT 30 AIRSTRIPS SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE FRANK.

IT'S THE MOST EFFICIENT, AND TO SOME WILDERNESS ADVOCATES THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL, METHOD OF TRAVEL IN WILDERNESS.

RICHARD HOLM, AUTHOR, AVIATOR: IT IS PRETTY UNUSUAL FOR THE AIRSTRIPS TO BE HERE.

WHEN THE WILDERNESS ACT WAS PASSED IN 1964 A LOT OF PLACES EXCLUDED AIRSTRIPS, SUCH AS UP IN MONTANA.

IDAHO HAD A PRETTY WIDE ADVOCATE GROUP THAT WANTED TO KEEP ACCESS OPEN AND REALLY PUSHED FOR THAT.

REICHERT: RICHARD HOLM HAS WRITTEN THE DEFINITIVE BOOK ON IDAHO'S PRIMITIVE AIRSTRIPS.

HE SAYS GRANDFATHERING IN THIS MODE OF TRANSPORTATION WAS ACCEPTABLE TO BOTH SENATOR FRANK CHURCH AND OUTDOORSMAN TED TRUEBLOOD, BECAUSE GETTING PEOPLE TO USE THE WILDERNESS WAS IMPORTANT TO BOTH OF THEM.

BESIDES, THEY SAW THESE AIRSTRIPS AS A WAY TO PUSH FOR EVEN MORE WILDERNESS.

RICHARD HOLM: A LOT OF NUMBERS WERE OUT THERE, 1.

5, 1.

8 MILLION ACRES.

THEY WANTED 2.

3 MILLION ACRES.

AND PART OF THAT WAS IF WE CAN GET THE DRAINAGE OF THE MIDDLE FORK TO BE LARGER, WE CAN COMPROMISE SOME MORE THINGS ON ALLOWING PEOPLE TO ACCESS THIS HUGE AREA.

AND AVIATION IS ONE WAY TO DO THAT.

REICHERT: OLD TIMERS STILL CALL THIS THE TAYLOR RANCH.

THE UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO PURCHASED THE PROPERTY IN 1970.

AND MANAGERS MEG AND PETER GAG KEEP THE PLACE OPERATING YEAR ROUND.

PETER GAG, MANAGER, TAYLOR WILDERNESS RESEARCH STATION: THE UNIVERSITY AND THE COLLEGE OF NATURAL RESOURCES PUT IN A LOT OF EFFORT TO MAINTAIN A PRETTY SUSTAINABLE SYSTEM, BUT YET ROBUST ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO CONDUCT RESEARCH HERE, BECAUSE AS RESEARCH EVOLVES, THINGS ARE MORE TECHNICAL.

AND SO NOW WE HAVE A SATELLITE SYSTEM FOR INTERNET.

AND WE ACTUALLY HAVE REAL TIME DATA COMING OUT OF HERE AND WE HAVE A ROBUST SOLAR SYSTEM TO POWER THAT.

REICHERT: NONE OF THIS MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT THE EFFORTS OF MAURICE HORNOCKER, A WORLD-RENOWNED BIOLOGIST WHO GOT HIS START HERE, IN THE 1960'S, STUDYING MOUNTAIN LIONS.

IT WAS HORNOCKER WHO CONVINCED JESS AND DOROTHY TAYLOR TO EVENTUALLY SELL THE RANCH TO THE UNIVERSITY.

HORNOCKER'S GROUNDBREAKING COUGAR RESEARCH, DONE IN CONJUNCTION WITH TRAPPER WILBUR WILES, PULLED BACK THE CURTAIN ON THE SECRET LIFE OF THIS SOLITARY PREDATOR.

MAURICE HORNOCKER, BIOLOGIST: ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FINDINGS OF ALL OF OUR WORK IS THAT THEY'RE SELF REGULATING, THAT COUGAR POPULATIONS SIMPLY WON'T GO OFF THE SCALE.

THE OLD DOMINANT MALES REALLY KEEP THE LID ON THAT POPULATION, AND WE SHOULD PROTECT THOSE.

REICHERT: ANOTHER MYTH EXPLODED BY THEIR RESEARCH: THAT COUGARS WERE KILLING TOO MANY DEER AND ELK.

HORNOCKER: OUR DETERMINATION WAS THAT COUGARS WERE REALLY NOT DEPRESSING ELK AND DEER POPULATIONS.

THEY WERE IN A BEAUTIFUL BALANCE.

REICHERT: BECAUSE OF HORNOCKER'S WORK, THE FISH AND GAME COMMISSION ENDED THE TREATMENT OF THE BIG CATS AS VARMINTS, TO BE SHOT OR TRAPPED AT WILL.

HORNOCKER: THE COMMISSION THEN SHORTLY THEREAFTER MADE THE COUGAR OFFICIALLY A GAME ANIMAL IN IDAHO WITH SEASONS, JUST AS WE HAVE SEASONS ON DEER AND ELK.

REICHERT: THERE'S ANOTHER RESEARCH PROJECT OF SORTS GOING ON OUT HERE, THIS ONE INVOLVING WILD FIRE.

AS A MATTER OF PUBLIC POLICY, WE HAVE DECIDED TO LEAVE NATURE IN CONTROL.

THOSE DAYS OF JUMPING ON EVERY FIRE BEFORE 10 A.

M.

ARE A THING OF THE PAST.

AND THAT'S A HARD ONE FOR MANY AMERICANS TO ACCEPT.

ALL THAT NATURAL BEAUTY, ALL THOSE RESOURCES, GOING UP IN SMOKE.

AND TOO OFTEN, WHAT HAPPENS ON THE GROUND EVENTUALLY FINDS ITS WAY INTO THE RIVER.

THE DEVASTATING FIRE OF 2000 RESULTED, SIX YEARS LATER, IN THE LARGST LOG JAM IN RECENT MEMORY, ON THE MIDDLE FORK OF THE SALMON.

THERE'S NOTHING IN THE WILDERNESS ACT THAT PROHIBITS FIRE SUPPRESSION, BUT IN AN AREA THIS LARGE, AND WITH LIMITED RESOURCES, MANAGERS SEEM TO HAVE LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO TREAT FIRE AS A TOOL.

TOM TIDWELL, CHIEF OF THE U.

S.

FOREST SERVICE: FIRE IS PART OF THE ECOSYSTEM, AND IT IS THE ONLY TOOL WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO RESTORE THE HEALTH AND RESILIENCY OF THESE SYSTEMS.

AND, LUCKILY, LIKE HERE IN IDAHO AND THE FRANK CHURCH AND ALSO IN THE SELWAY-BITTERROOT, WE'VE SEEN THE DIFFERENCE BY BEING ABLE TO MANAGE NATURAL FIRES.

SO TODAY WHEN WE GET A LARGE FIRE STARTED, YES, IT BURNS, BUT IT WILL BURN INTO ONE OF THE OLD BURNS THAT SLOWS DOWN, IT CREEPS ACROSS THERE, AND WE'RE ABLE THEN TO HAVE FIRE IN THE SYSTEM TO HELP PROMOTE THE OVERALL HEALTH.

REICHERT: ONE STAUNCH WILDERNESS ADVOCATE BELIEVES THERE ARE INSIDIOUS THREATS TO THE FRANK THAT FIRE CANNOT REMEDY: THE ONSLAUGHT OF ALIEN PLANT COMMUNITIES; A CHANGING CLIMATE, WHICH COULD DRAMATICALLY IMPACT NATIVE FORESTS.

CRAIG GEHRKE, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY: YOU'VE GOT TO KIND OF WONDER, IS THIS ALL GOING TO CHANGE AND FOR THE WORSE? INEVITABLY THEY'RE GOING TO BURN.

YOU'RE GOING TO SEE MORE WEEDS.

YOU'RE GOING TO SEE SOME WILDLIFE LEAVE.

YOU KNOW, WILL MOUNTAIN GOATS SURVIVE IN IDAHO 50, 60 YEARS FROM NOW? I DON'T KNOW.

I DON'T KNOW.

REICHERT: WITH THE REDUCTION OF TIMBER SALES IN THE EARLY 1990'S, THE FOREST SERVICE HAS BEEN STRUGGLING TO FIND REVENUE TO ACCOMPLISH EVEN THEIR CORE RESPONSIBILITIES.

FOR EXAMPLE, HERE IN THE FRANK THERE ARE MORE THAN TWO THOUSAND MILES OF TRAILS TO MAINTAIN.

BUT THE BURDEN OF MAINTAINING THOSE TRAILS HAS INCREASINGLY FALLEN TO VOLUNTEERS.

SALLY FERGUSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SELWAY BITTERROOT FRANK CHURCH FOUNDATION: IF WE WEREN'T OUT THERE GETTING WORK DONE FOR THEM, THE WORK WOULD NOT GET DONE.

REICHERT: THE SELWAY BITTERROOT FRANK CHURCH FOUNDATION DOES MORE THAN KEEP THE TRAILS OPEN.

SALLY FERGUSON: OUR WILDERNESS RANGER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM IS LIKE NOTHING ELSE IN THE COUNTRY BECAUSE WE FOCUS, SPECIFICALLY ON WILDERNESS SKILLS TRAINING.

IT INCLUDES FIVE DAYS OF CROSSCUT TRAINING THAT RESULTS IN A CERTIFICATION.

WE TEACH THEM EVERYTHING FROM HOW TO PUT HANDLES ON PULASKIS TO SHARPENING TOOLS AND THEN, OF COURSE, LIVING IN THE WILDERNESS FOR TEN DAYS AT A TIME.

REICHERT: THIS IS AN ORGANIZATION THAT SEES CENTRAL IDAHO'S GREAT WILDERNESS AREAS.

.

.

THE FRANK, THE SELWAY-BITTERROOT, THE GOSPEL HUMP.

.

.

AS INTER-CONNECTED.

DENNIS BAIRD, HISTORIAN & CONSERVATIONIST: LOOKING AT ALL THREE OF THEM AS ONE MAKES SOME SENSE.

THE ANIMALS THINK OF IT THAT WAY.

THE WATERSHEDS CERTAINLY THINK OF IT THAT WAY.

AND THE REAL REASON TO HAVE WILDERNESS IS HIGH-QUALITY WATER.

AND ALL THREE OF THOSE WILDERNESS AREAS CONTRIBUTE, ESPECIALLY TO THE SALMON RIVER AND THEN TO THE OTHER GREAT RIVER OF IDAHO, THE SELWAY.

ISAAC BABCOCK, BIOLOGIST: I DON'T KNOW IF WE REALIZE SOMETIMES, BUT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT THE NATION LOOKS AT AS THEIR MAGICAL WILDERNESS.

AND WE ARE VERY FORTUNATE THAT WE GET TO LIVE RIGHT HERE ON THE EDGE OF IT, AND WE HAVE IT RIGHT OUT OUR BACKDOORS.

REICHERT: IT'S EASY TO TAKE THE FRANK FOR GRANTED; AFTER ALL, IT'S A HARD PLACE TO ACCESS, AND FAR REMOVED FROM OUR WORLD OF COMMERCE.

BUT THIS REMOTE, VAST, WILD, MAGICAL LANDSCAPE MAY REALLY BE THE TRUE HEART OF OUR STATE, BENEFITING AND DEFINING US LIKE NOTHING ELSE CAN.

.

Leave a Comment!