The Idaho Environmental Forum,
which traditionally serves up point/counterpoint engagement on a range of current issues, instead held what IEF President Will Whelan called "a birthday party" Nov. 14. While some attendance may have been curtailed by the season's first snowstorm piling up outside the doors of Boise's Hoff Building, those who did pull on their galoshes to attend were treated to a flurry of stinging and insightful commentary from Doug Scott, policy director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness, author, renowned historian, organizer of the first Earth Day, and strategist for the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club.
Whelan pointed to a 1970s-era photograph of a group of young advocates—staff and board members of the newly formed Idaho Conservation League.
"And you'll notice that the only one wearing a tie was Doug Scott," said Whelan, referring to an idealistic young man with a lot more hair than the man who stood at the IEF dais on Nov. 14.
Scott talked extensively about the past—the Idaho Wilderness Act and the Gem State's wilderness designations, including the Selway-Bitterroot, Craters of the Moon, Sawtooths, Hells Canyon, Gospel Hump, River of No Return and Owyhee Canyonlands. But he was also particularly concerned about something that had been playing out a few hours earlier.
"I was just watching the U.S. House vote to approve the Keystone Pipeline,
" said Scott, taking a pause. "And I'm savoring the coming veto." Scott was referring to President Barack Obama's promise to nix the deal to push Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast.
Scott had particular criticism for a string of anti-environmentalists but he also had high praise for leaders from both sides of the political aisle.
"Ask yourself: how does one state give us men such as Frank Church, Cecil Andrus, Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick? They 'get it' when it comes to being nonpartisan," he said.
Scott urged the gathering not to listen to the '"noise" heard on Fox News or MSNBC or give too much credence to posturing on Twitter. "Yes, there is much political disagreement out there. But the topic of wilderness is not really one of them," he said. On multiple occasions, Scott expressed his optimism for federal protections for Idaho's Boulder-White Clouds.
"People ask: 'Why do we need to have designated wilderness areas inside of U.S. National Parks? Just because someplace is a national park doesn't keep the National Park System from messing it up."
Ultimately, Scott said wilderness is the lifeline that runs through Idahoans' hearts.
"You fell in love with a wild place and let's face it, you don't want to see it change," he said.