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Outdoor Idaho: The Frank

Jun 04, 2021
BRUCE REICHERT, HOST: IT'S THE LARGEST FORESTED DESERT IN THE LOWER 48, BIGGER EVEN THAN SOME STATES. AND MANY PEOPLE STILL MARVEL AT HOW IT CAME OUT. JEFF FEREDAY, ATTORNEY: IT WAS A HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT. AND TO SEE ALL THIS GRASSGROUND EFFORT DEPLOYED AND SEE THE TREMENDOUS RESPONSE WE HAD, WAS TRULY HISTORIC. REICHERT: HISTORICAL AND LONG-RANGE. AN ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM WHERE, FOR BETTER OR WORSE, NATURE NOW THROWS THE DICE. ISAAC BABCOCK, BIOLOGIST: I THINK THIS IS SOMETHING THE NATION CONSIDERS ITS MAGICAL DESERT. THESE THINGS HAPPEN EVERYWHERE, THESE REALLY UNEXPECTED THINGS. AND YOU CANNOT SEE THAT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. SALLY FERGUSON, SELWAY CHURCH FOUNDATION BITTRROOT FRANK: THERE'S NOT JUST THE JOURNEY, THERE'S THE COMMITMENT TO BEING THERE, AND ONCE YOU'RE THERE, THE REMOTE AND THE IMMENSITY IS TRULY AMAZING.
outdoor idaho the frank
DENNIS BAIRD, HISTORIAN: ALL THE THINGS WE VALUE ABOUT IDAHO HAVE THEIR ESSENCE THERE, IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR STATE. AND PLACES WORK TO DO WHAT NATURE INTENDED TO DO. REICHERT: It has been 35 years since the creation of the River Desert of No Return. WE MAY HAVE LEARNED TO LIVE WITH THE COMMITMENTS WE HAVE MADE OVER THE YEARS. BUT THAT'S THE EASY PART. THE REAL CHALLENGE IS TO KEEP THIS MAGICAL AND REMOTE INTENSITY INTACT, IN THE FACE OF INTENSIVE FIRES, FOREIGN SPECIES, A CHANGING ENVIRONMENT AND OTHER THREATS. OUTDOOR IDAHO GOES TO EXPLORE, TO THE HEART OF FRANK.
outdoor idaho the frank

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outdoor idaho the frank...

REICHERT: IT WAS ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL BATTLES IN THE HISTORY OF OUR STATE, THE FIGHT FOR THE CREATION OF THE RIVER DESERT OF NO RETURN. AND YET IT IS A STORY THAT FEW PEOPLE SEEM TO KNOW OR REMEMBER. HELLO, I'M BRUCE REICHERT AND WELCOME TO OUTDOOR IDAHO. TODAY, MANY PEOPLE SIMPLY REFER TO IT AS THE FRANK, IN HONOR OF US SENATOR FRANK CHURCH, WHO HELPED PASS THE BILL THROUGH CONGRESS AND WHOSE POLITICAL CAREER THIS DESERT HELPED END. SOME OF THE COMPROMISES FROM THEN STILL FIND SOME PEOPLE. BUT AFTER ALL, IT'S 2.3 MILLION ACRES. THAT'S BIGGER THAN SOME STATES, WITH REALLY REMARKABLE DIVERSITY.
outdoor idaho the frank
FROM THE AIR IT LOOKS LIKE AN OCEAN OF MOUNTAINS THAT EXTENDS OUT OF SIGHT. IT TOOK YEARS TO DEFINE THE EXACT BOUNDARIES OF THIS DESERT. AS LONG AS 1973, A COALITION OF CONSERVATIONISTS, LEADED BY WRITER TED TRUEBLOOD, BEGAN TO GET TOGETHER AROUND A PROPOSAL FOR 2.3 MILLION ACRES, A NUMBER THEY BELIEVED THEY COULD JUSTIFY. BUT THAT WAS TOO LARGE A NUMBER FOR THE FOREST SERVICE, FOR MINING AND TIMBER INTERESTS, AND EVEN FOR THE MOST LIKELY POLITICIANS, LIKE US SENATOR FRANK CHURCH AND GOVERNOR CECIL ANDRUS. DENNIS BAIRD, HISTORIAN AND CONSERVATIVE: IT WAS A CASE OF MAKING POLITICIANS. I THINK THAT WOULD BE A POLITE WAY OF EXPRESSING IT.
outdoor idaho the frank
SO FROM DAY ONE THERE WAS A VISION OF A 2.3 MILLION ACRE DESERT, AND ALL THE POLITICIANS STARTED WITH A MUCH SMALLER NUMBER, BUT UNLIKE THE CASE OF MANY DESERT AREAS, THIS GOT BIGGER OVER TIME , IN THE EYES OF POLITICIANS. PERHAPS THERE IS ONE OF THE GREAT MIRACLES OF THE FIGHT FOR THE RIVER WITHOUT RETURN. HE DID NOT SHRINK; IT GOT A LITTLE BIGGER WITH EACH ITERATION. REICHERT: THE FINAL BOUNDARIES NOW PROVIDE A REFUGE FOR ALL TYPES OF WILDLIFE, INCLUDING MOUNTAIN GOATS AND BIG SHEEP. IDAHO'S SALMON AND STEELHEAD ALSO HAVE A SECURE REFUGE IN THE VAST FRANK BASIN.
IT IS THE SIZE AND DIVERSITY OF THIS DESERT THAT MAKES ALL THIS POSSIBLE. THERE ARE PEAKS THAT RISE TO MORE THAN 10,000 FEET, WHERE SNOW REMAINS ALL SUMMER LONG. THERE ARE ALSO TEMPERATE SUFFICIENT AREAS TO HAVE ATTRACTED FARMERS, PARTICULARLY ALONG THE MAIN SALMON RIVER AND ITS TRIBATTERS. THE TERRACE AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY OF THESE PEOPLE KEPT MANY OF THEM ALONG THE RIVER FOR DECADES. IN 1990, DURING THE STATE'S CENTENARY CELEBRATION, IDAHO TEAMERS PAID TRIBUTE TO THOSE EARLIER TIMES AND TO THE RIVER OF NO RETURN, NAMED FOR THE OUTWARD JOURNEY OF THESE WOODEN MOUTHS. WAYNE JOHNSON, SALMON RIVER EQUIPMENT: IT WAS SO FUN TO COME BACK AND RUN AS MUCH AS WE COULD.
WE CARRY TWO WOODEN SCOWS AND PEOPLE TURN THROUGH THE BOATS. THEY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO RIDE ON ONE OF THE WOODEN SCOWS. WE RUN A LONG SECTION OF THE RIVER, FROM CHALLIS ACTUALLY TO LEWISTON, BUT EACH PORTION HAD A DIFFERENT CREW. THIS RIVER HAS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE TO REALLY SEE WHAT THE UNITED STATES WAS LIKE. NOT ONLY THE RESISTANCE AND ISOLATION BUT THE WAY PEOPLE SETTLED IN THIS COUNTRY. THE STRUCTURES ARE STILL HERE. YOUR LAMPS ARE STILL HERE. THERE IS A LOT YOU CAN APPRECIATE IN OUR NATION'S HISTORY ABOUT HOW PEOPLE EXPANDED TOWARD THE WEST.
REICHERT: BUT IT IS THE AVERAGE DIFFERENCE OF THE SALMON RIVER THAT HAS BEEN THE REAL ATTRACTION OF THIS DESERT. EACH YEAR, ABOUT 10,000 PEOPLE FLOAT THIS 100-MILE FREE-FLOWING RIVER, MOVING THROUGH A VARIETY OF CLIMATES AND TYPES OF TERRAIN. THIS IS ONE OF THE NATION'S EIGHT ORIGINAL RIVERS DESIGNATED WILD AND SCENIC IN 1968. IN MANY WAYS IT STILL LOOKS LIKE IT WAS IN THE 1920S, WHEN FILMMAKER HENRY WEIDNER MADE THE FIRST DOCUMENTED CANOE DOWN THE RIVER. IN THE 1930S AND 1940S, ADVENTURERS TOOK TO THE RIVER IN SPECIALLY DESIGNED WOODEN BOATS. THEY WERE ALSO PIONEERS IN THE FIRST RUBBER RAFT DESCENT ON THIS RIVER.
TODAY THE FOREST SERVICE MANAGES RIVER TRAVELS THROUGH AN EFFICIENT AND WELL-WORKING LOTTERY SYSTEM, AND OUTFITTERS HAVE LEARNED THE FINAL ART OF SERVING ADVENTURE AND A QUALITY EXPERIENCE TO PEOPLE OF ALL AGES. JEFF SURBAUGH, LEAD GUIDE, WHITEWATER ADVENTURES OUTFITTERS GIVE PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENTER THIS DESERT AND EXPERIENCE IT IN A SAFE AND ENJOYABLE WAY. I'VE BEEN DOING IT FOR OVER 20 YEARS, AND IT'S SO NICE WHEN WE HAVE SOMEONE GO DOWN THE RIVER WHO HAS NEVER BEEN OR HAS NEVER BEEN CAMPING AND SEE HOW OTHER PEOPLE APPRECIATE IT, AND EVERYONE APPRECIATES SOMETHING DIFFERENT; FOR SOME PEOPLE IT'S WATER, FOR SOME PEOPLE IT'S AIR, FOR SOME PEOPLE IT'S SIGHT, SO IT'S NICE TO SEE THE MIDDLE FORK THROUGH THE EYES OF A BEGINNER.
REICHERT: BUT TO REALLY SEE FRANK, SOME WOULD ARGUMENT, YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE RIVER AND ON THE TRAILS. AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THESE TWO HIKERS DID, TRAVELING FROM WEST TO EAST ACROSS THE FRANK, USING SMALL VIDEO CAMERAS TO DOCUMENT THEIR ADVENTURE. PETER MORRILL, HIKER: I'VE REALLY HAD THIS TRIP ON MY MIND FOR AT LEAST A COUPLE OF DECADES. AND I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN INTRIGUED BY THE IDEA OF TRYING TO WALK IT FROM ONE SIDE TO THE OTHER. IN THE BIG CREEK DRAINAGE AREA IN THE EARLY 1900'S, THERE WERE LITERALLY THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE THERE PRIMARILY FOR THUNDER MOUNTAIN'S MINING ACTIVITIES.
AND THEN IN THE 1930S, MUCH OF THIS AREA WAS ACTUALLY ABANDONED AND LEFT TO A FEW FARMERS AND WEIRD BALL CHARACTERS. JEFF TUCKER, HIKER: COMING DOWN FROM BIG CREEK YOU ACTUALLY ARE ON A TRAIL WHERE NOT MANY PEOPLE WALK. IT IS NOT NECESSARILY A DESTINATION PATH. AND WHEN WE GET TO THE MIDDLE FORK, YOU LOOK UP BIG CREEK AND GO, OH, THIS IS NICE, AND THEN YOU LOOK OVER THE OTHER SIDE, THE EAST SIDE AND YOU GO, WOW, THAT'S A REALLY BIG INCLINE, I WONDER WHERE THAT GOES? AND THIS JOURNEY TOOK ME UP. PETER MORRILL: WALKING THE WATER FALL CREEK TRAIL WAS pretty arduous.
IT WAS ABOUT 11 MILES UP, A GAIN OF 6,000 FEET IN ELEVATION AND THE FIRST SET OF LAKES WE ARRIVED AT WERE TERRACES LAKES. THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL BLUE AGAINST THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE SKIES, WITH WILD, GREEN FLOWERS. IT WAS SUCH A REFRESHING EXPERIENCE. JEFF TUCKER: THE LITTLE BIGHORN HAS A WONDERFUL TRAIL SYSTEM. UP AND OVER RIDGE TO ANOTHER LAKE AND THEN UP AND OVER ANOTHER RIDGE AND DOWN TO ANOTHER LAKE AND A CALLING FISH FIN RIDGE IS SIMPLY THE MOST AWESOME RIDGE. IT REALLY LOOKS LIKE THE PREHISTORIC FINS OF A FISH. And as you get closer, those spiers go up hundreds and hundreds of feet.
PETER MORRILL: ONE OF THE ICONIC IMAGES OF THE FRANK CHURCH DESERT IS LAKE SHIP ISLAND. THERE'S AN ISLAND THAT LOOKS LIKE A BOAT, BUT IF YOU WALK ALL THE WAY, THERE'S THIS GRANITE CANAL THAT GOES FROM THE BACK OF THE LAKE TO THE MIDDLE FORK BASIN, AND IT ABSOLUTELY TOOK MY BREATH AWAY. JEFF TUCKER: PETER AND I, AND THE IDAHO OUTDOOR TEAM, WE ALL MEET THERE ON THAT RIDGE. IT WAS THE HOLY GRAIL OF THE IMAGE THAT TAKES PLACE. THE LITTLE BIGHORNS OFFER A LOT OF THAT. THERE ARE SOME THINGS IN LIFE YOU NEVER FORGET, AND LITTLE BIGHORN, THAT JOURNEY IS SOMETHING I WILL NEVER FORGET.
PETER MORRILL: WOW, AMAZING JEFF! JEFF TUCKER: THAT'S NOT A BAD SIGHT, PETER. PETER MORRILL: CONGRATULATIONS. REICHERT: IT DEFINITELY TAKES AN EFFORT TO ACCESS THE FRANK. IMAGINE HOW PRIMITIVE THE AREA WAS IN THE 1920S, AND THAT WAS VERY FINE UNDER THEN GOVERNOR H. CLARENCE BALDRIDGE. DURING A CAMPING TRIP TO BIG CREEK IN OCTOBER 1927, BALDRIDGE JOINED WOODCAM HARRY SHELLWORTH AND FOREST SERVICE FORESTRY RICHARD RUTLEDGE. THE MEN came up with a strategy to protect this area from cars. AND IN 1931, THEY HAD ACHIEVED GREATLY. THE FOREST SERVICE OFFICIALLY DESIGNATED ONE MILLION ACRES AROUND THE MIDDLE FORK AS IDAHO'S PRIMITIVE AREA, REDUCING ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND ROAD CONSTRUCTION.
FAST FORWARD TO THE 70'S. NOW WAS TIME FOR CONGRESS TO DESIGNATE THIS LAND AS AN OFFICIAL DESERT. AT LEAST, A CERTAIN GROUP OF CONSERVATIONISTS THOUGHT SO. HIS STRATEGY WAS VERY SIMPLE. MAKE SURE THE BOUNDARIES OF YOUR DESERT PROPOSAL MAKE SENSE ON THE GROUND. DENNIS BAIRD, HISTORIAN AND CONSERVATIONIST: THE FOUNDERS OF THE RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS COUNCIL DECIDED THAT THE COMPROMISE WAS SOMETHING THAT MAYBE SOMEONE ELSE COULD DO, BUT WE WERE GOING TO FOLLOW THAT PLAN. SHE WAS GOOD. EVERYTHING WAS DEFENSIBLE. AND THAT WAS WHAT WE WANTED, AND WE WEREN'T GOING TO SETTLE FOR LESS. REICHERT: RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNES COUNCIL MEMBERS MOUNTED AN EDUCATIONAL CAMPAIGN THAT INCLUDED LETTER WRITING, EDITORIALS, PUBLIC HEARINGS AND EVEN BUMPER STICKERS.
FRESH OUT OF COLLEGE, JEFF FEREDAY HAD STARTED WORKING FOR THE NEWLY FORMED CONSERVATION LEAGUE OF IDAHO, AND SPENT TIME WITH TED TRUEBLOOD, ERNIE DAY, BRUCE BOWLER AND OTHERS. JEFF FEREDAY, ATTORNEY: THESE PEOPLE ARE FROM THE WORLD WAR II GENERATION; THEY WERE NOT TREE HUGGERS OR LIBERALS IN THAT SENSE; THEY SOMEHOW UNDERSTOOD HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS TO PRESERVE SOMETHING THAT WOULD TRULY DEFINE A WILD HEART OF IDAHO. REICHERT: OF COURSE, ALL THIS WOULD NOT HAVE MATTER WITHOUT FRANK CHURCH IN THE US SENATE. THE CHURCH HAD BEEN THE FLOOR ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ORIGINAL DESERT LAW IN 1964. AND IN 1978 IT BEGAN WORK ON WHAT CAME TO BE CALLED THE GOSPEL HUMP DESERT.
MARTY PETERSON, HISTORIAN, FORMER FRANK CHURCH STAFF: THE PROCESS THE CHURCH USED WAS VERY COLLABORATIVE; HE BROUGHT A LOT OF PEOPLE TO THE TABLE. THEN THE CHURCH WENT TO WORK IN BOTH THE SENATE AND IN THE HOUSE DOING A LOT OF WORKING ONE ON ONE AND THEY ACHIEVED IT. I THINK REALLY MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, IT PROBABLY SET THE STAGE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE CENTRAL IDAHO WILDERNESS ACT, WHICH IS THE LAW THAT CREATED THE RIVER OF NO RETURN. REICHERT: FINALLY CONVINCED THAT THE 2.3 MILLION ACRE 'CITIZEN LAW' WAS FEASIBLE, THE CHURCH BEGAN TO ACCEPT THE COMPENSATIONS NECESSARY TO MAKE IT HAPPEN: A SPECIAL MINING MANAGEMENT AREA FOR THE EXTRACTION OF THE ORE COBALT;
THE USE OF EXISTING AIRCRAFT AND LANDING STRIPES IN THE DESERT; AND MOTOR BOATS ON THE SALMON RIVER. JEFF FEREDAY: THE COMMITMENTS WERE JUST SOMETHING THAT SEEMED TO ME AS NATURAL THINGS THAT SHOULD HAPPEN AND THAT THESE LEADERS THEMSELVES WERE WILLING TO EMBRACE. REICHERT: THE FINAL BILL EASILY PASSED BOTH THE U.S. SENATE AND HOUSE IN 1980. IT WAS A GREAT VICTORY FOR THE CHURCH, BUT ONE THAT PROBABLY SEALED ITS POLITICAL FATE. CRAIG GEHRKE, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY: FRANK CHURCH WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO VOTED IN FAVOR OF THE FOUR MEMBERS OF THE DELEGATION. HE DIDN'T LET LACK OF AGREEMENT STOP HIM AND STOP THAT EFFORT, AND I THINK THAT'S IMPORTANT.
AT SOME POINT YOU MUST TAKE A STEP FORWARD WITH A LONG-TERM VISION AND DO THE RIGHT THING. REICHERT: AFTER HIS DEFEAT IN 1980 AND JUST BEFORE HIS DEATH AT THE AGE OF 59, AT THE REQUEST OF SENATOR MCCLURE, CONGRESS HONORED THE CHURCH BY CHANGING THE NAME OF THE AREA TO FRANK CHURCH RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS. WE WILL TEND TO THINK OF THE FRANK AS A WATERSHED PROTECTOR, A REFUGE FOR WILDLIFE. Not exactly a place for honeymooners. BUT THIS IS WHERE BIOLOGIST AND FILMMAKER ISAAC BABCOCK TOOK HIS WIFE ON AN EXTENDED HONEYMOON. IN FACT, HIS ADVENTURES IN THIS DESERT BECOME A PBS 'NATURE' SHOW.
We caught up with Babcock to see what he had learned from his time at Frank. ISAAC BABCOCK, BIOLOGIST: BECAUSE THE FRANK IS SO BIG, YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR SOME OF THESE ANIMALS TO BE BACK THERE THAT ARE PLAYING THEIR ROLE IN NATURE IN A WAY THAT WE DON'T FIND COMPLETELY TOLERABLE IN OUR HUMAN EXISTENCE. AND EVEN THOUGH WE ARE PART OF THAT DESERT, THIS IS A PLACE THAT WE HAVE RESERVED A LITTLE TO SAY YOU KNOW WHAT, WE'RE GONNA LET A LITTLE MORE OF THIS HAPPEN THERE. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN THERE. WHEN WE WERE WORKING ON OUR FILM, I REALLY WANTED TO SHOW THE DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THE LIVES OF WOLVES.
AND OBTAINING THAT PREDATION SEQUENCE WAS VERY DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN. WHAT INTRIGUES ME MOST NOW, LOOKING BACK, WERE THE UNEXPECTED THINGS THAT HAPPENED WITH IT. ONE NIGHT THE WOLVES CAME UP THIS HILL AND THERE WAS A HERD OF MOOSE ABOVE, AND I THOUGHT, OH,MY GOD. THAT'S ALL. WE HAVE, EVERYTHING IS ONLINE, EXCEPT IT'S GETTING DARK AND THEY CAME UP THERE AND THIS WHOLE SCENE WAS PRODUCED. EVERYTHING WAS ALIGNED PERFECTLY. YOU GOT THIS LAME MOOSE. YOU HAVE A PACK OF WOLVES. YOU HAVE IT ISOLATED THERE ON A HILL, AND SUDDENLY THIS OTHER MOOSE COME IN AND THROWS THE ENTIRE KEY ON THE MATTER.
AND THE NEXT THING WE KNOW IS THERE IS NO PREDATION. THAT WAS A BIG TURN POINT IN MY HEAD WHERE I REALIZED THAT YOU KNOW WHAT, WOLVES DON'T ALWAYS WIN. IT'S NOT JUST EASY: "Hey, what are we having for dinner today? Should we eat this or that?" I REALLY SAW WHERE WOLVES WORKED AS HARD AS EVERYTHING ELSE TO SURVIVE. REICHERT: ELBABCOCKS SPENT PART OF THE WINTER AT TAYLOR RANCH, A DESERT RESEARCH STATION MILES FROM NOWHERE IN THE HEART OF FRANK. ISAAC BABCOCK: ONE AFTERNOON WE ARE SITTING ON THIS BENCH AND LOOKING AT THE RIVER. AND SUDDENLY THIS DEER COMES ROARING DOWN THE HILL, AND BEHIND IT COMES A WOLF.
AND THEY COME OUT TO THE ICE. AND RIGHT IN FRONT OF US THIS ENTIRE SCENE TAKES PLACE. IT WAS REALLY HARD TO WATCH. IT WAS ONE OF THESE THINGS THAT YOU BUILT AND YOU'RE WAITING AND YOU'RE WAITING FOR, AND YET THE ACT IS NEVER SOMETHING YOU REALLY WANT TO SEE. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHAT REALLY SHOCKED ME WAS THAT THIS IS THE WAY NATURE WORKS. AND WOLVES AND OTHER ANIMALS HAVE TO LIVE ACCORDING TO THESE RULES. THEY CAN'T LIVE OFF OF OURS. AND THE FRANK, THE DESERT, THAT'S WHAT IT'S DIFFERENT FOR. REICHERT: UNTIL YOU NEED TO TRAVEL TO THE COUNTRYSIDE, YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA HOW VALUABLE THESE AIRRUNS ARE.
IT ALLOWS YOU TO MEASURE TRAVEL TIME IN MINUTES INSTEAD OF DAYS. THERE ARE ABOUT 30 AIRRUNS SCATTERED ALL OVER THE FRANK. IT IS THE MOST EFFICIENT, AND FOR SOME DESERT ADVOCATES, THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL METHOD OF TRAVELING IN THE DESERT. RICHARD HOLM, AUTHOR, AVIATOR: IT'S PRETTY UNUSUAL FOR AIRRUNS TO BE HERE. WHEN THE HEALTH ACT WAS PASSED IN 1964, MANY PLACES EXCLUDED AIRSTRIKES, SUCH AS IN MONTANA. IDAHO HAD A PRETTY LARGE GROUP OF ADVOCATES THAT WANTED TO KEEP ACCESS OPEN AND REALLY PUSHED FOR THAT. REICHERT: RICHARD HOLM HAS WRITTEN THE DEFINITIVE BOOK ON IDAHO'S PRIMITIVE AIRLINES. HE SAYS BEING A GRANDFATHER ON THIS MODE OF TRANSPORTATION WAS ACCEPTABLE TO BOTH SENATOR FRANK CHURCH AND OUTER TED TRUEBLOOD, BECAUSE GETTING PEOPLE TO USE THE DESERT WAS IMPORTANT TO BOTH OF THEM.
ALSO, THEY SAW THESE AIRRUNS AS A WAY TO DRIVE THROUGH EVEN MORE DESERT. RICHARD HOLM: THERE WERE A LOT OF NUMBERS, 1.5, 1.8 MILLION ACRES. THEY WANTED 2.3 MILLION ACRES. AND PART OF THAT WAS IF WE CAN GET THE MIDDLE FORK DRAIN BIGGER, WE CAN COMPROMISE A FEW MORE THINGS TO ALLOW PEOPLE TO ACCESS THIS HUGE AREA. AND AVIATION IS ONE WAY TO DO IT. REICHERT: THE ANCIENTS STILL CALL THIS THE TAYLOR RANCH. THE UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO BOUGHT THE PROPERTY IN 1970. AND MANAGERS MEG AND PETER GAG KEEP THE PLACE RUNNING ALL YEAR. PETER GAG, MANAGER, TAYLOR WILDERNESS RESEARCH STATION: THE UNIVERSITY AND THE SCHOOL OF NATURAL RESOURCES STRIVED A LOT TO KEEP A SYSTEM FAIRLY SUSTAINABLE, BUT STILL ROBUST ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO CONDUCT RESEARCH HERE, BECAUSE AS THE RESEARCH EVOLVES, THE THINGS ARE MORE TECHNICAL.
AND THAT'S WHY WE NOW HAVE A SATELLITE SYSTEM FOR THE INTERNET. AND WE ACTUALLY HAVE REAL-TIME DATA COMING OUT FROM HERE AND WE HAVE A ROBUST SOLAR SYSTEM TO POWER THAT. REICHERT: NONE OF THIS COULD HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT THE EFFORTS OF MAURICE HORNOCKER, A WORLD-RECOGNIZED BIOLOGIST WHO STARTED HERE IN THE 1960S STUDYING MOUNTAIN LIONS. IT WAS HORNOCKER WHO CONVINCED JESS AND DOROTHY TAYLOR TO SELL THE RANCH TO THE UNIVERSITY. INNOVATIVE RESEARCH ON HORNOCKER'S PUMA, CONDUCTED WITH TRAPPER WILBUR WILES, PULLED THE CURTAIN ON THE SECRET LIFE OF THIS SOLITAIRE PREDATOR. MAURICE HORNOCKER, BIOLOGIST: ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FINDINGS OF ALL OUR WORK IS THAT THEY ARE SELF-REGULATED, THAT PUMA POPULATIONS JUST DON'T GO OFF THE SCALE.
THE OLD DOMINANT MALES REALLY KEEP THE LID ON THAT POPULATION, AND WE MUST PROTECT THEM. REICHERT: ANOTHER MYTH EXPLOITED BY YOUR RESEARCH: THAT PUMAS WERE KILLING TOO MANY DEER AND MOOSE. HORNOCKER: OUR DETERMINATION WAS THAT THE COUGARS WEREN'T REALLY DEPRESSING THE MOOSE AND DEER POPULATIONS. THEY WERE IN A BEAUTIFUL BALANCE. REICHERT: DUE TO HORNOCKER'S WORK, THE GAME AND FISH COMMISSION ENDED THE TREATMENT OF BIG CATS LIKE ALABARIES, WHICH WOULD BE SHOT OR TRAPPED AT WILL. HORNOCKER: SOON AFTER, THE COMMISSION OFFICIALLY MADE THE PUMA A GAME ANIMAL IN IDAHO WITH SEASONS, JUST LIKE WE HAVE SEASONS FOR DEER AND MOOSE.
REICHERT: THERE IS ANOTHER RESEARCH PROJECT IN PROGRESS HERE, THIS ONE WHICH INVOLVES WILD FIRE. AS A MATTER OF PUBLIC POLICY, WE HAVE DECIDED TO LEAVE CONTROL OF NATURE. THOSE DAYS OF JUMPING OVER EVERY FIRE BEFORE 10 A.M. THEY ARE A THING OF THE PAST. AND IT'S HARD FOR MANY AMERICANS TO ACCEPT. ALL THAT NATURAL BEAUTY, ALL THOSE RESOURCES, GO UP TO SMOKE. AND VERY OFTEN, WHAT HAPPENS ON THE GROUND ULTIMATELY FINDS ITS WAY INTO THE RIVER. THE DEVASTATING FIRE OF 2000 RESULTED, SIX YEARS LATER, IN THE LARGEST LOG JAM IN RECENT, IN THE MIDDLE FORK OF THE SALMON.
THERE IS NOTHING IN THE WILDLAND LAW that prohibits firefighting, but in an area this large and with limited resources, managers seem to have little choice but to treat fire as a tool. TOM TIDWELL, CHIEF, US FOREST SERVICE: FIRE IS PART OF THE ECOSYSTEM AND IT IS THE ONLY TOOL WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO RESTORE THE HEALTH AND RESILIENCE OF THESE SYSTEMS. AND FORTUNELY, LIKE HERE IN IDAHO AND THE FRANK CHURCH AND ALSO IN SELWAY-BITTERROOT, WE HAVE SEEN THE DIFFERENCE IN BEING ABLE TO HANDLE NATURAL FIRES. So today, when a big fire starts, yes, it burns, but it will burn in one of the old burns that slows down, crawls there, and then we can have fire in the system to help promote OVERALL HEALTH .
REICHERT: A staunch wilderness advocate believes there are insidious threats to loam that fire cannot remedy: the attack of exotic plant communities; A CHANGING CLIMATE, WHICH COULD DRAMATICLY IMPACT NATIVE FORESTS. CRAIG GEHRKE, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY: YOU HAVE TO ASK YOURSELF: IS ALL THIS GOING TO CHANGE AND FOR THE WORSE? THEY ARE INEVITABLELY GOING TO BURN. YOU WILL SEE MORE WEEDS. YOU'RE GOING TO SEE SOME WILDLIFE COME OUT. DO YOU KNOW, WILL MOUNTAIN GOATS SURVIVE IN IDAHO IN 50 OR 60 YEARS NOW? I DON'T KNOW. I DON'T KNOW. REICHERT: WITH TIMBER SALES REDUCING IN THE EARLY 1990S, THE FOREST SERVICE HAS BEEN STRUGGING TO FIND REVENUE TO MEET EVEN ITS BASIC RESPONSIBILITIES.
FOR EXAMPLE, HERE IN THE FRANK THERE ARE OVER TWO THOUSAND MILES OF TRAILS TO MAINTAIN. BUT THE BURDEN OF MAINTAINING THOSE TRAILS HAS INCREASINGLY REMEMBERED THE VOLUNTEERS. SALLY FERGUSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SELWAY BITERROOT CHURCH FOUNDATION FRANK: IF WE WEREN'T THERE DOING WORK FOR THEM, THE WORK WOULD NOT BE DONE. REICHERT: THE SELWAY BITTRROOT FRANK CHURCH FOUNDATION DOES MORE THAN KEEP THE TRAILS OPEN. SALLY FERGUSON: OUR WILD RANGER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM IS LIKE NOTHING IN THE COUNTRY BECAUSE WE FOCUS SPECIFICALLY ON WILDLIFE SKILLS TRAINING. INCLUDES FIVE DAYS OF CROSS TRAINING THAT RESULTS IN A CERTIFICATION. WE TEACH THEM EVERYTHING, FROM HOW TO PUT HANDLES ON PULASKIS TO SHARPENING TOOLS AND THEN, OF COURSE, LIVING IN THE DESERT FOR TEN DAYS STRAIGHT.
REICHERT: THIS IS AN ORGANIZATION THAT CONSIDERS THE LARGE DESERT AREAS OF CENTRAL IDAHO... THE FRANK, THE SELWAY-BITTERROOT, THE GOSPEL HUMP... AS INTERCONNECTED. DENNIS BAIRD, HISTORIAN AND CONSERVATIONIST: LOOKING AT THE THREE AS ​​ONE MAKES SOME SENSE. ANIMALS THINK SO. THE BASINS SURELY THINK SO. AND THE REAL REASON TO HAVE A DESERT IS HIGH QUALITY WATER. AND ALL THREE WILD AREAS CONTRIBUTE, ESPECIALLY TO THE SALMON RIVER AND THEN TO IDAHO'S OTHER GREAT RIVER, THE SELWAY. ISAAC BABCOCK, BIOLOGIST: I DON'T KNOW IF WE SOMETIMES REALIZE, BUT THIS IS SOMETHING THE NATION CONSIDERS AS THEIR MAGICAL DESERT. AND WE ARE VERY LUCKY TO BE ABLE TO LIVE HERE, ON THE EDGE OF IT, AND WE HAVE IT RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR BACK DOORS.
REICHERT: IT'S EASY TO TAKE THE FRANCA FOR MEANING; AFTER ALL, IT IS A PLACE THAT IS DIFFICULT TO ACCESS AND VERY FAR FROM OUR WORLD OF COMMERCE. BUT THIS REMOTE, VAST, WILD AND MAGICAL LANDSCAPE MAY TRULY BE THE TRUE HEART OF OUR STATE, BENEFITING AND DEFINING US LIKE NOTHING ELSE CAN.

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