Give Thanks to the Wild – Especially the Volunteers

Print Article

The Joa Harrison family teamed up to be the biggest Mountain Goat Ambassador of the 2018 season on Scotchman Peak. (Courtesy photo)

Thanksgiving is a time to show gratitude. Each year I give thanks for our wild places. Like so many other people, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, skiing in the backcountry and wilderness have brought me joy and, more importantly, taught me many lessons. I am thankful these special places are preserved for us all to experiencºe.

Whether these trips are on one of our nation’s iconic trails or wild and scenic rivers or closer to home, we should all be thankful that 50 years ago congress passed the National Trails Act and National Wild and Scenic River act.

A web of over 50,000 miles of National Scenic, Historic and Recreational Trail has been preserved, built and maintained since that time. These trails provide access to many special places across the nation including Idaho and Montana. However, it requires work to keep them open.

It would be easy to take for granted that these trails will always be around. And, that the special places they go to will stay wild forever.

In an era of shrinking budgets, volunteers are needed to keep the trails open. Unless we step up to keep them that way, we are at risk of losing access to wild country.

Nationally, groups like the Backcountry Horsemen of America and the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance provide support for volunteer projects to maintain backcountry and wilderness trails. Iconic trails, like the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail or the Pacific Northwest Trail have organizations with dedicated staff and volunteers that work to keep them open. In many states organizations like the Idaho Trails Association (ITA) work to keep access open to backcountry hiking trails. ITA’s volunteer resources and impact is growing both statewide and in North Idaho.

Many National Parks, Wilderness Areas or other special places have “Friends of” groups that focus on the needs of a particular place. Here locally we have the all-volunteer Pend Oreille Pedalers who are active in keeping many backcountry mountain bike trails up to riding standards.

Volunteers from the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) have spent hundreds of hours maintaining trails so that all may enjoy a hike to the top of the iconic namesake peak, or a trip through the tall ancient cedars, or a walk into many other backcountry destinations.

Like many other organizations dedicated to a special place, FSPW volunteers do so much to deserve our gratitude. In addition to trail maintenance, they lead others who may be novices on hikes and projects so they can experience the wild backcountry. Volunteers also work on whitebark pine and other habitat restoration, weed mitigation and education efforts.

As more people enjoy our wild places, encounters with wildlife increase. FSPW volunteers help to inform backcountry users on how to be bear aware and mountain goat smart and safe. Trail Ambassadors spend time from June through October in the field, to help make sure the trail can remain open and the experience is safer for both hikers and mountain goats.

In this season of thanks, we should all thank the many volunteers whose passion and hours of service keep our backcountry trails open and our special places wild and free for all who are seeking a quiet, natural place!

Phil Hough

— Executive Director, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

Print Article

Read More Letters to the Editor

Montana Senate Democrat’s outlook for legislative session

January 22, 2019 at 2:00 am | Western News The 66th Montana Legislative Session began Jan. 7, and based on the 3,101 bills that have been submitted so far, lawmakers will be working in overdrive. For Democrats, top priorities include keeping ...

Comments

Read More

We can lower medication costs in Montana

January 22, 2019 at 2:00 am | Western News Everyone agrees that the high cost of prescription medications is a huge issue, but there hasn’t been a serious attempt to solve the problem in Montana. We’re changing that by bringing forward legisl...

Comments

Read More

Conservative republicans, moderate republicans and statesmen

January 11, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Western News The 66th Legislative session is upon us, and a new group of men and women has been sworn into office to represent all Montanans. During this session, it is my hope that the more conservative Republi...

Comments

Read More

Rosauers Ambassadors

January 08, 2019 at 2:00 am | Western News The great gals of Rosauers right here in Libby, Montana. The friendliest creature on two legs. Some of them have been employed since high school, 25 years and beyond. No other stores like this one: d...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 293-4124
311 California Ave.
Libby, MT 59923

©2019 The Western News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X