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Archive for the ‘Penny Keck’ Category

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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Penny Keck, 2011

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Episode 18 (18:32)

Thank you for joining us for the eighteenth episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.” In this episode, titled “Backcountry Bridge Building,” Penny Keck tells us stories of the years in which she and her husband Emil worked for the Forest Service, building and maintaining bridges throughout what is now the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Penny grew up on a farm near Portland, Oregon. While in college, she applied for and obtained a job as a fire lookout in the Moose Creek Ranger District in the summer of 1967. Her boss there was Emil Keck, whom she later married. During the summers, Emil and Penny trained fire and trail crews, manned lookouts and assisted the Forest Rangers with equipment and other work. But during the off-season winters, they built or replaced many of the bridges that span creeks and rivers in the backcountry. Without the use of heavy equipment or large crews, Penny and Emil Keck together built many of the astounding suspension bridges that lead hikers and hunters deep into the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

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The beautiful, pristine Selway River, near Bear Creek, 2010. Photo courtesy Debbie Lee

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Episode 17 (22:00)

Thank you for joining us for the seventeenth episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.” This is a special episode, titled “What is the Greatest Threat to Wilderness?” Debbie Lee, our project coordinator, asked many of the oral history interviewees this question, and she received some surprising and enlightening answers. Among the interviewees in this podcast are Penny Keck, a longtime resident of the Selway-Bitterroot area who managed equipment for the Forest Service, as well as worked with her husband Emil to build and maintain many of the bridges and buildings. We hear from Ed Bloedel, who helped write the first wilderness management plans, Eric Melson and Rob Mason who currently work for the Selway-Bitterroot Foundation, and Warren Miller and Bruce Farling, who worked as Forest Rangers in the Moose Creek district in the 1970’s and 1980’s after the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. From these varying perspectives, we hear about the possible future of wilderness areas and their importance in the lives of current and future generations.

Slideshow: Scenic landscapes from the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness at various points during the past century, show how little the protected landscape has changed. In this place, it is possible to view wild land as it once was, and to enjoy the tranquility of recreation in a pristine area.

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