Interview: Montana Forest defenders in the 1970’s

Tell us about the pictures you have from the early days?

“These first two pictures are from the Lolo National Forest, Lolo Creek
south fork drainage, in 1975. I discovered this mine exploration
(Fred Ward Mine, 20 miles south of Missoula) while out ostensibly
picking elderberries but really out snooping. So I requested a field
trip with Forest Service officials. The owner of the mine and
representatives of the Missoula Chapter of the Montana Mining
Association were also on the field trip.”

“Getting out, taking pictures or having the press with you, is what calls attention
to the destruction on public lands. That is why we need every
drainage and every district on every forest adopted by someone who
will hold the managers feet to the fire. And then all of it should go
to our congressional representatives as proof that we must have
stronger, not weaker, legislation for citizens to do their work.”

“The color photo shows the
extent of the ‘exploration.’ It was an abomination. The controversy
continued after I left Montana in July 1979. I do not know what came
of the activity but I do know that I stopped them in their tracks for
a while. The Missoulian had an article on the discovery & field trip
by Don Schwennesen, which it ran 9-24-75. My name was Jean Warren at
the time (today I use my birth surname of Brocklebank).”

Tell us more about how important it is to get out on the land?

“Here’s another example of getting out in the field and looking. It
doesn’t hurt to have Forest Service employees along for the
ride…especially District Rangers. This was July 24, 1972 on the Lolo
National Forest. It was the Petty Mountain Multiple Use Planning Unit
(ha…they did not understand the definition of multiple use). Notice
the steepness of some of those slopes.”

“How I wish I was still living in Missoula, Montana, where I adopted
three National Forests (the Lolo, the Bitterroot and the Deer Lodge).
I knew the forests and I knew the Forest Supervisors. I was at them
every day, reminding them of their responsibilities, keeping them
wondering how they could do things without being monitored by
environmentalists in general and me in particular.”

How did your activist agenda evolve over the years?

“Though I spoke at first for the Sierra Club, then Friends of the Earth when the Club was
too lightweight for my passion, I always made my own
policy… pretending that I was speaking on behalf of the Big Greens
(as they were not known then). And I always spoke for stronger
protection…never willing to back off. I did not mind being the
extremist. We need to have an inventory of every single forest, every
single district and a name of a local passionate environmentalists who
will adopt each and keep their thumbs on the bureaucrats. Then, no
matter what laws are passed, we can do our own our interpretation of
them as well as use other laws (the Wilderness Act for one) to keep
them from doing harm to the forests. This is the only way we can save
wildlands…we can’t ask our politicians to do it for us. We, the
people, have to do it. It will take a LOT of energy and work.

I know… I did it full time for seven years while living in Montana.
In the end, I had forest service employees phoning me at home,
whistleblowing! Today I live far away from the National Forests and
it is impossible to be connected to land one never sees. But we speak
up at local neighborhood meetings and city & county meetings. We never
let an opportunity pass to share our passion and our wisdom. We plant
many seeds daily. We write our Congress critters and I write weekly
to Obama’s We would like to do more but unless we move
closer to the lands at risk of destruction (and we cannot afford to do
so), we are stuck doing what we can from here. We are great fans of
the recession, a time for all living things to breath a little easier.
We are all in this together, huh? Best regards, Jean Brocklebank.”

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