Wilderness matters. It’s a lesson America has spent centuries learning. And no one knows that better than John McCarthy.
The journalist and Wilderness advocate has focused his decades-long career on the past, present and future of Wilderness. Last week, he shared that vision at a meet-and-greet held in Sandpoint’s Utara Brewing. And the message was clear: It’s up to dedicated people to keep the Northwest wild.
He spent much of his time talking about just those kinds of visionaries. People like Emil and Penny Keck, who tirelessly trained a generation of trail workers on the use of traditional tools and methods. Or Bud Moore, who shaped the U.S. Forest Service as the last of the true mountain men faded into history. William Wharf transformed the USFS policy on wildfire, recognizing that it has a place in healthy woodlands. And Warren Miller innovated with the cross-cut saw, realizing its potential as a forest management tool.
Many of the people McCarthy discussed are fleshed out in his new book, “Working the Wilderness: Early Leaders for Wild Lands.” The book captures the passion that drove Wilderness advocates to save their wild lands. It’s a passion that persists in Wilderness work today.
And it’s evident in McCarthy’s own career, too. He began as a trail worker before moving into journalism. His advocacy work kicked off with a fight against a timber project. As his approach evolved, he embraced collaboration with multiple interest groups in restoring forestland. Finally, he is a co-founder and project leader of Idaho Trails Association.
The evening proved a significant draw. More than 60 turned out to hear McCarthy speak, purchase a book and ask questions. More than anything else, participants walked away inspired. McCarthy is a great example of the energy and love it takes to save wild lands for our kids and grandkids.