What better thing could a bunch of old timers leave for us before taking off to those fabled “happy hunting grounds” than to tell us the story, and maybe show us a few pictures as well, of the most remarkable places they’ve been, the marvelous things they’ve seen, and the deep respect they’ve gained for everything wild in Montana. A couple of old timers, Dale Burk of Stevensville and Wayne Chamberlin of Helena, along with over 70 other writers and photographers, have done just that in the new book, “A Wild Land Ethic – The Story of Wilderness in Montana.”
Co-editors Burk and Chamberlin have managed to pull together a masterful collection of stories and photos from some of the most dedicated and influential wilderness advocates in the state, each one giving us a glimpse into the awesome majesty of the wild, informing us of its intrinsic value and conveying the need to protect Montana’s wildlife and wild places for future generations. The book is dedicated to the late Ken and Florence Baldwin of Bozeman, early advocates in Montana for wilderness preservation and founders of the Montana Wilderness Association.
A major chapter in the book was written by noted author Jim Posewitz of Helena, titled “Idealism Touching the Earth,” in which he outlines how the themes of wild land resources and wildlife have been championed in an intertwined fashion across the history of the United States from Revolutionary times to the present. Another significant chapter in the book on the theme of “Native Americans and Wilderness” was written by Dr. John A. Vollertsen of Helena, while one chapter in the book gives special regard to a rugged wilderness horse named “Scruffy” who earned his spurs, so to speak, as a special mount over many years in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Scruffy’s story was written by Greg Schatz of Columbia Falls.
Other special chapters include those on the theme of “Wilderness and the Human Spirit” by Hal Harper of Helena, “The ‘Hush’ of the Land” by retired outfitter Arnold “Smoke” Elser of Missoula, “Our Public Lands” by Peter Bengeyfield of Dillon, “Montana Wilderness Heyday” by Bill Cunningham of Choteau, “Lessons From the Yellowstone” by George Wuerthner of Livingston, “The Terry Badlands and Natural Bridges” by Karen Stevenson of Terry, “Silent Partners” by Leslie Shaw of Fairfield, “The Threads That Bind Us” by Gerry Jennings of Great Falls, “A Kaleidoscope Love Affair” by Teddy Roe of Billings, and “Getting Involved, You and Wild Montana” by Ben Gabriel of Helena. A special “Afterword” by Wayne Chamberlin of Helena closes out the book.
Altogether, the book is broken down into five sections: Context, Perspective and Reminisce, Places of Special Legacy, Voices For the Wild, and The Task Before Us. The book also includes an appendix that lists the established and proposed wilderness areas in Montana as well as providing a listing of wilderness-oriented conservation organizations in the state. The Montana Conservation Elders, a nonprofit group based in Helena, served a sponsoring role in developing the book in cooperation with the publishing firm of Stoneydale Press in Stevensville. The process took over three years to bring to fruition.
“We consider this one of the most significant books we’ve been able to publish,” said Burk.
There will also be a special signing event at the three-day annual convention of the Montana Back Country Horsemen in Hamilton on March 20, 21 & 22 at which several of the local contributors will be present to sign the books. Later appearances in Helena, Bozeman, Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell, Butte, Helena, and other places are planned.