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Matt Root in 2011 holding a reproduction of a Native American spear. Photo courtesy of Debbie Lee

Matt Root in 2011 holding a reproduction of a Native American spear. Photo courtesy of Debbie Lee

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Episode 37 (13:34)

Thank you for joining us for the thirty-seventh episode of the Selway-Bitterroot History Project. In this episode, titled “Shards of the Past,” Matt Root talks about archaeology in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Since 2000, Matt has owned Rain Shadow Research, whose projects have included working with the Ni’mi-poo tribe to locate the sites of former villages or sacred gathering locations.

Matt Root earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in anthropology and archaeology from the University of Kansas, and a Doctorate in anthropology and archaeology from Washington State University. He has worked in archaeological research for thirty-six years, with the past thirteen years focused on Idaho and Washington. His company reports on archaeological sites for dam relicensing, or for Idaho Power to determine the locations of important sites for preservation or excavation.

Here, Matt tells about the process of locating an important site within the boundaries of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and what it means to wilderness users today.

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Dennis Baird in front of Elk Mountain. Photo courtesy Eric Barker/Lewiston Morning Tribune

Dennis Baird in front of Elk Mountain. Photo courtesy Eric Barker/Lewiston Morning Tribune

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Episode 36 (9:33)

Thank you for joining us for the thirty-sixth episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.” In this episode, titled “Wilderness Boundaries,” Dennis Baird, the co-leader for the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project, talks about his view of what a wilderness boundary represents, both physically and ideologically.

Dennis Baird attended Michigan State University and the University of Hawaii, and obtained graduate degrees from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, where he witnessed the very first Earth Day in Ann Arbor. While in high school and college, he traveled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as serving for a year in Vietnam. When he finished school, he taught at Southern Illinois University and became involved in conservation, helping to establish the first wilderness area in Illinois: Crab Orchard Wilderness. After moving to Idaho in 1974 to work at the University of Idaho Library, Dennis joined the conservation efforts in establishing both the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. In addition to pursuing his passions for historical preservation at the UI Library, and fine wine at his locally owned business, The Wine Company in Moscow, Dennis continues to advocate for wilderness protection in Idaho.

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Nels Jensen, 2011

Nels Jensen, 2011

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Episode 35 (12:28)

Thank you for joining us for the thirty-fifth episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot History Project.” This episode is titled “The 1979 Crash.” In June of 1979, a DC-3 aircraft with ten passengers and two pilots was headed for Moose Creek when one of the engines overheated, and the other failed. An experienced backcountry pilot, “Whitey” Hachmeister attempted to land the plane on one of the sandbars on the Selway river, but the wing caught a tree, spinning the plane out of control. The crash killed eight of the passengers and both pilots, and caused the US Forest Service to completely re-think their policy of using aircraft to transport seasonal workers and supplies to backcountry locations such as Moose Creek, and revert to primitive methods such as pack strings or backpacking.

Nels Jensen, himself a backcountry pilot and friend of Whitey, remembers the crash vividly as he was one of the first on the scene and assisted extensively in the search and rescue afterward. A native Montanan, Nels worked for the Forest Service first as a smokejumper, and then as a bush pilot throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. Today, he still flies into the back country, and is an active member of the Recreational Air Field Foundation. Here, he shares his memory of the 1979 crash and following investigative efforts.

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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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Dale Dufour, 2011

Dale Dufour, 2011

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Episode 33 (13:35)

Thank you for joining us for the thirty-third episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.” In this episode, titled, “Travelers’ Rest,” Dale Dufour tells us about Lewis and Clark’s famous journey through the Bitterroot mountains. Dale graduated from the University of Illinois in the 1960’s and began work in the forests of the Pacific Northwest just after the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act.

On September 14, 1805, Clark wrote in his journal of the exhausting trip:
“9 miles over a high mountain steep & almost inaxcessible much falling timber which fatigues our men & horses exceedingly, in stepping over so great a number of logs added to the steep assents and [descents] of the mountains . . . rained and snowed & hailed the greater part of the day all wet and cold”

Before entering the mountains, the Corps of Discovery stayed at a camp in the Bitterroot Valley that they called Travelers’ Rest. This area had been used for many years by the Native Americans as a campsite. The Corps stayed at Travelers’ Rest upon their return journey as well, making this site one of the landmarks of the expedition. In 2001, after archaeologists used the now-published Lewis and Clark journals to determine more precise locations for the camp sites used on the historic journey, Dale began volunteering at Travelers’ Rest State Park telling visitors about the Lewis and Clark journey, and detailing the findings of recent archaeological discovery. Listen as he describes the route they took through the mountains, aided by the Nimiipu and Salish Indians.

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Bob Marshall, 1920's

Bob Marshall, 1920’s

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Episode 32 (8:12)

Thank you for joining us for the thirty-second episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.” In this episode, titled “A Lumber Camp and Bob Marshall,” Karen Houppert reads several anecdotal excerpts from letters written by Bob Marshall. The reading takes place in the relaxed, storytelling style along the scenic Selway River with the sound of the river in the background.

Bob Marshall served as the chief of forestry in the Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1933 to 1937, and the head of recreation management in the Forest Service from 1937 to 1939. While serving in these two posts, Bob proposed the idea of a formal, national association dedicated to wilderness preservation, and was one of the founding members of The Wilderness Society, which twenty-five years later fostered the 1964 Wilderness Act. In 1935, Bob classified the Selway-Bitteroot the “greatest of all” U.S. wildlands for its natural and historical significance. He crusaded tirelessly for the area’s protection and single-handedly prevented the construction of a major roadway through the area; in fact, he gave so much energy to protecting the Selway-Bitterroot, the wilderness was originally supposed to bear his name. Bob Marshall is also considered by many to be responsible for starting the wilderness preservation movement in America.

These excerpts show a lighter side of Bob Marshall’s outlook, as he relates some his own time spent in the wilderness. This obviously led to many of his opinions regarding the preservation of the natural landscape for future generations.

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Gifford Pinchot

Gifford Pinchot

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Episode 31 (7:59)

Thank you for joining us for the thirty-first episode of the “Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project.” In this episode, titled, “Dear Mother and Father,” we hear the reading of a letter now preserved in the Library of Congress, written by one of the early chiefs of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot.

Gifford Pinchot graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University in 1889. His father, whose fortune came from timber and land sales, urged Gifford to join the new forestry movement, to become a forester and to begin developing concepts of long-term forest management. Because of the family wealth, Gifford was able to pursue this passion full-time. He served in various political offices including the chief of the Division of Forestry, what would be later named the United States Forest Service, and as the governor of Pennsylvania, working closely with Theodore Roosevelt. Although he supported forest management, he never went so far as to support preservation of wilderness for the sake of scenery, a policy which put him at odds with idealists such as John Muir, but which won him more political support as he attempted to put more wilderness land under the protection of the federal government to preserve as a resource to the growing country’s economy.

Gifford Pinchot wrote this letter to his parents in 1896, shortly after his graduation from university. His father had sent him to tour the great western forests as inspiration for his future life’s work, and his decision on this particular trip to spend some weeks in the Bitterroot mountains rather than to accompany John Muir to the Alaskan wilderness would impact his future policies and rhetoric. Additionally, this handwritten letter offers a fascinating glimpse into the culture and times of the western United States just before the turn of the twentieth century.

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