Archive for the ‘Emil Keck’ Category


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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