Bethine Church to Receive Wilderness Society’s Highest Honor

Oct 23, 2009

BOISE – The Wilderness Society will bestow its highest citizen’s honor, the Robert Marshall Award, on Bethine Church at the annual meeting of its Governing Council Friday night in her hometown of Boise.

“Bethine has worked tirelessly to protect the Sawtooth Mountains and other Idaho gems,” said Wilderness Society President William H. Meadows. “All of us who have had the privilege to work alongside Bethine know how much she brings to any initiative to protect our natural heritage for future generations.” She is the widow of former U.S. Senator Frank Church of Idaho, who shared her commitment to conservation.

The award goes to a person who has devoted long-term service to conservation, and who has had a notable influence in fostering an American land ethic. Marshall founded The Wilderness Society in 1935 along with A Sand County Almanac author Aldo Leopold, Appalachian Trail creator Benton MacKaye, and five other conservation leaders. Marshall was a prominent thinker and leader in the wilderness movement in the 1920s and 1930s.

Church is the 24th winner of the award, joining an elite group that includes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner, Terry Tempest Williams, Arnold Bolle, former EPA head Russell Peterson, and Mardi Murie.

Murie’s commitment and achievements are celebrated through the presentation of an award named for her and her husband Olaus, who headed The Wilderness Society in the 1950s and 1960s. This year’s honorees are Katherine (KK) and Aaron Prussian, who now live in Coeur d’Alene and recently transferred to the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. KK is a hydrologist, while Aaron is a fisheries biologist.

The Murie award recognizes the Prussians’ efforts to promote ecological restoration during a five-year tenure at Thorne Bay, historically the most timber-oriented district in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. “The Prussians developed partnerships between groups such as The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Trout Unlimited and the Forest Service to implement much-needed restoration activities,” said Meadows. “We are recognizing both KK and Aaron for their courage in the face of adversity, their willingness to mentor others about the challenges and possibilities in forming new and unconventional partnerships—and for making forest restoration a reality in the historic struggle between the Forest Service, timber industry, conservationists, and the public .”

The Prussians are the 20th and 21st recipients of the Murie Award. The list of previous honorees includes Diane Ronayne of Boise, Shawn Stapleton, Dr. Jerry Franklin, Donald G. Oman, Dave Willis, and Gloria Flora.

The Wilderness Society’s mission is to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in January 1935, the organization has more than 450,000 members and supporters.