The annual Frank Church Conference on Public Affairs this year, this weekend, will be in Boise, Idaho.  This year the conference is entitled Wilderness, America’s Heritage.”

The conference will discuss How did the Wilderness Act of 1964 become public law? What kind of framework did the Wilderness Act establish? How has the Wilderness Act functioned during the past fifty years? What challenges to the Wilderness Act should be considered for the future?

Idaho’s senator, Frank Church,  sponsored the Wilderness Act, and in 1964  he was the floor manager of the bill as it passed the U.S. Senate.  In Idaho, his greatest achievement may have been the establishment of the River of No Return Wilderness area, the largest in the lower 48 states at 2.4-million acres. This is slightly larger than Yellowstone National Park. After the senator’s death, the wilderness was renamed the “Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness,” or just “The Frank” to many.

According to the Frank Church Institute, “Church stated in a 1977 lecture, “The  wilderness movement was not a romantic excursion into the past; rather, it was the start of an exploration of our future…as we rise to the difficult challenge of designating and managing wilderness, we must rise, too, to the challenge of better stewardship of all our natural resources: the land, the water, and the air. As we proceed on this journey together, the real meaning of wilderness will open our eyes like an Idaho sunrise on a summer morning.”

Down Cache Creek in the Frank Church Wilderness

Down Cache Creek in the Frank Church Wilderness

The keynote speaker will be  historian Douglas Brinkley. Also attending will be Chief of the Forest Service, Tom Tidwell and former governor Cecil Andrus.  Andrus, who served 4 terms as Idaho governor, will be honored. He played a key role in the battle to secure the River of No Return Wilderness in the crucial 1979-80 time period.  At the time Andrus was Secretary of Interior.

In addition to the keynote speech. There will be three panels filling the day, Monday. The first is on the passage of the Central Idaho Wilderness Act of 1980, which established  the Frank. Panelists include former Democratic congressman from Idaho, Larry LaRocco who played a key role in establishment of the Gospel Hump Wilderness in Idaho. Also on on the panel will be Craig Gehrke, Idaho Regional Director of the  Wilderness Society; Rick Johnson, Executive Director, Idaho Conservation League who served on boards of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness; the American Wilderness Coalition; Advocates for the West; and the Wilderness Support Center; Dr. Ralph Maughan, former chair of the Sierra Club Northern Rockies Chapter; a founder and former president of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition; president of the Wolf Recovery Foundation; and Vice President of Western Watersheds Project. Maughan is also author of numerous books on backpacking.

The last panelist will be Doug Scott, wilderness advocate formerly with The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club and the Pew Charitable Trusts; author of The Enduring Wilderness: Protecting Our Natural Heritage through the Wilderness Act; and Wild Thoughts.

A book by Dr. Maughan  entitled Charles Manson was an Environmentalist, on the fight to protect what became the Frank, came out this month. It is available at

The other two panels will feature discussions on the history of wilderness areas and the future of wilderness.

More on the conferences is in the Idaho Statesman at Garry V. Wenske: Celebration of Church’s landmark U.S. law will be special. Guest Opinion.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

14 Responses to “Wilderness America’s Heritage” conference to be held Sunday, Monday in Boise

  1. Kathleen says:

    I hope someone holds Mr. Tidwell’s feet to the fire concerning IDFG’s killing of wolves in the Frank Church. That happened in Msla when he spoke here, and it should happen everywhere he goes. Some of the biggest threats to wilderness are coming from within the agencies…how sad is that. And speaking of that…

    Excellent article on the challenges to wilderness in the next 50 years (presented at the Mansfield Center’s wilderness conference last month in Msla):

    The national conference is going on in Albuquerque right now:

  2. Ida Lupines says:

    Fascinating. Beautiful photo too.

  3. Ed Loosli says:

    Ralph Maughan: If it were offered to you by some future far-sighted President, would you accept the job of being the U.S. Secretary of Interior? — Many, including myself, would second that nomination.

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Ed Loosli,

      Why thank you, Ed! I don’t like being an administrator, but if I was asked to fill the Secretary of Interior’s job, it would be yes! yes!

      • skyrim says:

        “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber”
        The wisdom of Lao Tzu

        • skyrim says:

          My quote above is by Plato, not Lao Tzu. I should have known, as its about 15 words too many to be Lao Tzu. Sorry……..

      • Amre says:

        Ralph, you would be a great secretary of interior!

  4. topher says:

    I might not have been paying attention lately but the new book is news to me. Sounds interesting.

  5. Real Nice Guy says:

    When I first read this, I immediately saw immense irony. Frank Church would be drummed out of the 21st century GOP for his efforts to preserve wilderness!


October 2014


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey