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Vernon Carroll in Traveler's Rest Museum, standing next to a quote from the Lewis and Clark journals. Photo courtesy Debbie Lee

Vernon Carroll in Traveler’s Rest Museum, standing next to a quote from the Lewis and Clark journals. Photo courtesy Debbie Lee

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Episode 43 (15:00)

Thank you for joining us for the forty-third episode of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project. In this episode, titled “Ancient Communities of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness,” we hear from Vernon Carroll, whose job it is to interpret history for visitors to the Bitterroot Valley at Traveler’s Rest. From showcasing a museum dedicated to Lewis and Clark, to cultivating interest in the Native tradition of educational storytelling, Vern brings the past of this important area to life.
Vernon Carroll, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, was born in Cut Bank, Montana, and worked as a cattle rancher there alongside his father, maintaining a lifelong interest in the history and culture of the native peoples who lived in Montana. His ranch itself boasted three buffalo jumps and numerous tipi rings, among other native sites and artifacts. His love of history led him to work for a year as the interim manager of the Glacier County Museum in Cut Bank. In 2002, he retired from ranching when he was hired as the pioneer Interpretative Specialist at the Traveler’s Rest State Park in Lolo, Montana.

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Work Crew at Moose Creek 1979

Work Crew at Moose Creek 1979

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Episode 41 (32:06)

Thank you for joining us for the forty-first episode of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project. In this episode, titled “Thirty Miles from Paradise,” we take a look at the community that exists in the Moose Creek Ranger Station. Located deep in the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Moose Creek has housed Forest Service employees, work crews, volunteers, outfitters, visitors, and celebrities. Because it can only be accessed by airplane or thirty miles of non-vehicle trail, Moose Creek Ranger Station tends to foster tight communities within the people who live and work there each season. From the early days of the Forest Service in the 1920’s and 30’s, to the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, to the present day when the Selway-Bitterroot Foundation organizes volunteer crews to maintain the trails and manage fires, Moose Creek has been one of the central heartbeats of the Selway-Bitterroot area. The various comments presented in this podcast about living and working at Moose Creek give a small glimpse of this unique place.

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Impact

Emil and Penny Keck, ca 1976. Photo courtesy Alan C

Emil and Penny Keck, ca 1976. Photo courtesy Alan C

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Episode 38 (13:07)

Thank you for joining us for the thirty-eighth episode of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project. In this episode, titled “Impact,” we hear from Emil Keck, who had an enormous impact on the policies and people of wilderness in the Selway-Bitterroot area.

Emil Keck worked as a Forest Service employee beginning in 1962. He was in charge of construction and maintenance of some 400 miles of trails, a half-dozen suspension bridges, another dozen span bridges, the small collection of buildings around the district, and the four remaining fire lookout towers on the 550,000-plus acres that comprise the Moose Creek district in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Emil, the oldest of nine children born to Russian immigrants, spent his first seven years in a sod hut in North Dakota. He began work as a logger and — before his future wife Penny was hired — had strongly objected to having women employees on the district. Following their marriage, Emil and Penny began living at the Moose Creek Ranger Station year-round. When Emil was forced to retire in 1979, Penny became the paid employee, and he stayed on as a volunteer. They continued to live and work at Moose Creek until 1988, when Emil was asked to leave. He died shortly afterward in 1990.

This excerpt is taken from an interview conducted by Don Biddison on November 4, 1988. Emil discusses the work he did in re-wilding the Selway-Bitterroot area in the early years of wilderness, and the work he and Penny undertook to educate campers, hunters, hikers, outfitters and rafters in care and maintenance of the beautiful natural resource by packing out garbage, not creating shortcuts that cause erosion in trails and using ideas that would eventually lead to “Leave No Trace” education in wilderness use.

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Anna Bengtson

Anna Bengtson

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Episode 34 (10:50)

Thank you for joining us for the thirty-fourth episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.” In this episode, titled “Letters by Mule Post,” Anna Bengtson, the Wilderness Ranger at Moose Creek, talks about the sense of history that she feels, working deep in the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot. Anna grew up in northwestern Montana and remembers visiting Glacier National Park with her family. After obtaining a forestry degree, she applied to work on fire crews in Montana and Idaho, finally ending up at Jumbo Mountain Lookout for five seasons.

As a wilderness ranger at Moose Creek, Anna does on-the-ground wilderness management, including cleaning up camp sites, and returning fire rings to a naturalized state, as well as teaching Leave No Trace principles to wilderness users. In this excerpt, she describes living deep in the back country for months at a time, and reasons for using historic methods of transportation in the wilderness.

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Eric Melson, 2010

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Episode 4 (14:19)

Thank you for joining us on the fourth episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.” In this episode, titled “Communities of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, part 2,” we hear from Eric Melson, who is a graduate of Colorado State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Protected Area Management and developed a deep passion for wilderness stewardship, a love of wilderness travel, and a strong work ethic. During the fall of 2010, Eric became a full-time staff member of the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation, a wilderness stewardship organization. He now leads the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation’s work bringing the Telluride Mountain Film Festival to western Montana and Idaho as well as leads volunteer trail crews and trains interns in wilderness leadership skills during the summer months.

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Sarah Walker, December 2010

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Episode 1 (9:23)

And then I think people get so much out of being in a wilderness setting. Once you take away cars and money and telephones, people are different. And they are different to each other, I think. And then they draw on things in themselves that maybe are a little rusty from our crazy life out here now. I think the ways that people get along when they’re isolated in a place like that, a place that they want to be—it’s a wonderful thing.” ~Sarah Walker

Introduction:

Thank you for joining us for the first episode of “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.”

Who attached themselves to the Selway-Bitterroot, and why? What about people’s practices and beliefs and their interaction with the land itself preserved its wild character? What do people’s stories tell us about relationships between people and wildland that might be applicable to the future of U.S. wildernesses more broadly? The oral histories gathered for the Selway-Bitterroot History Project will attempt to answer these questions. Such stories are critical to capturing specific fields of information relating to the Selway-Bitterroot. Oral history interviewees include those who were raised on or who owned early homesteads as well as outfitters, packers, trappers, former Fish and Game conservation officers, pilots, early river-runners, smokejumpers, early trail crew members, and wilderness workers. Many lived and worked in the Selway-Bitterroot when the 1964 Wilderness Act was passed and were some of the first people in the U.S. to interpret the legislation as it played out on the ground.

In this episode, titled “Communities of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, part 1,” we hear reminiscences from Sarah Walker who worked for the Forest Service in Idaho and Montana as a Wilderness Ranger from 1977 until 2002 and who was close to the communities of people living in the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness during that time.

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