Wild Life - August 2013

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Frank, Honeybunch, and Benny along the Rocky Mountain Front.

It was one cold winter evening last December that I met Frank Vitale. We visited over a crackling fire and ate a delicious meal cooked by his wife, Ellen Horowitz. I quickly learned Frank is a farrier, a stockman, a historian and storyteller, a lover of the open-spaces of the Front Range, a pragmatist, and a passionate wilderness advocate.

View from the Montana-Idaho border.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Montana Wilderness Association’s campaign to get Idaho’s portion of the Great Burn Area listed as “recommended Wilderness” and the Chug for Charity event at Draught Works where MWA asked drinkers to send comment cards to the Clearwater National Forest. I was there, and although I could discuss the region’s importance as a wildlife corridor and make vague allusions to its beauty, I had never been to the Great Burn. With the belief that you can’t really fight for something without knowing what it is you are fighting for, I decided to make my first sojourn into the Great Burn.

CDT Montana Crew Leader Meg Killen show volunteers how to construct a drain on a section of the Continental Divide Trail in the Centennial Mountains of Southwest Montana. Photo by Michael Dax

While I don’t normally consider myself a selfish person, if someone made that charge against my recreationist persona — the part of me that likes to hike, backpack, fish and bike — then I would have a tough time denying it.

Without a doubt, when it comes to outdoor recreation, I am a taker.

Okay, another brewery story out of Missoula. Big surprise. But unlike many others, this one has some larger significance. On Wednesday afternoon representatives from the Montana Wilderness Association along with organizations such as Montana Conservation Voters, Montana Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Horseman of Montana and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, among others, all gathered at the Tamarack Brewery on Front Street for the release of Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Ale. The summer saison, which has been in the works for months, is brewed in celebration of Senator Max Baucus’s signature legislation, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.

I strongly support passage of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. Hiking these incredible landscapes has instilled in me a deep sense of the enormous potential to maintain wild habitat and traditional land uses in a balanced manner. It is both a rare privilege and a rare opportunity to secure such vanishing natural treasures for future generations.

If it were just because I love wild places, that would be a bit selfish but Montana's economy, now and even more in the future, depends on these places being preserved. Please help to protect these lands for future generations.