Bob Marshall Remembered

As wilderness lovers we appreciate solitude, but we also must recognize that we do nothing in isolation. Our work today, in any field, is built upon a foundation of the work done by others before us.  Land management and Wilderness advocacy are no exceptions.

“Just a few more years of hesitation and the only trace of that wilderness which has exerted such a fundamental influence in molding American character will lie in the musty pages of pioneer books and the mumbled memories of tottering antiquarians.”

Bob Marshall wrote these words as part of the conclusion to his paper “The Problem of Wilderness” published in the Scientific Monthly in February 1930!! The urgency of taking further action to preserve wilderness has not diminished since that time.

Bob Marshall received a Masters in Forestry and PhD in Plant Physiology. Among many other postions, Bob worked as the Chief of Forestry in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (part of the Dept of Interior) and was the head of Recreation Management for the Forest Service. In the Roosevelt administration he was tireless in his efforts to bring about protection for wilderness areas. He also was an early advocate for designation of wilderness through congressional action.

Bob carried the cause of wilderness with on all his travels and job postings including extensive time in Alaska and at the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Montana.  He even spent time in the Kaniksu  National Forest (now know as the Idaho Panhandle NF) fighting fires!  The Bob Marshall wilderness area south of Glacier National Park carries is named in  his honor. It’s easy for us to imagine Bob Marshall being captivated by the Wilderness qualities of our region.

Sadly, Bob Marshall died young, passing away at the age of 38 from heart failure on Nov 11th, 1939. But his legacy lives on.  Bob Marshall’s writings and advocacy were influential and helped to bring together the founders of the Wilderness Society in 1935.  The son of prominent lawyer Louis Marshall, the family’s wealth supported the Wilderness Society in it’s early years.

In closing his seminal paper, Marshall wrote:

“There is just one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will  fight for the freedom of the wilderness.”

Again, these words as true today as when they were published in 1930.

We hope you agree too and join us in our efforts to preserve the Scotchmans.  But, today, let’s pause for a moment  to simply remember and honor the efforts of one man who came before us and contributed so much.  Let’s remember Bob Marshall.


For a more complete biography and the full text of Bob Marshall’s article “The Problem of Wilderness”, please visit

You can read more about Bob Marshall’s historical contributions in Doug Scott’s book “The Enduring Wilderness.” Available at your favorite outdoor bookstore or online.

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Categories: Blog
About The Author:

Phil Hough is the Executive Director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

He has hiked the "triple crown": the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest trail (twice). He has also paddled the length of the Yukon river. Phil's love of wilderness guides him as he works to save the incrediblly wild Scotchman Peaks, one of the last and largest roadless places in northern Idaho and western Montana.

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  1. Thank you for reminding us of the wisdom of Bob Marshall. It is sobering that 80 years later we do not have one square inch of designated wilderness in North Idaho. But Bob would be pleased that we do have an “organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom of the wilderness.” Kudos to the citizens of North Idaho, northwestern Montana, and eastern Washington who are committed to protecting the Scotchman Peaks proposed wilderness area.

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