Billy Frank to receive Wilderness Society's Highest Honor

May 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Wilderness Society will bestow its highest citizen’s honor, the Robert Marshall Award, on Billy Frank, Jr., of Olympia, Washington, at a meeting of its Governing Council Thursday night.

A Nisqually tribal elder and chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for 30 years, Frank has been a pioneering leader in the fight to protect Pacific salmon runs and the Indian treaty rights to those salmon.

“Billy’s success on behalf of the tribes of the Northwest is legendary,” said Wilderness Society President William H. Meadows. “In a room full of state fisheries biologists, lawyers, and policy makers, the Northwest tribes often were the lone voice advocating fishery habitat protection, and it all started with Billy Frank. He understood the link between sound forest management and healthy salmon stocks, and he was a valuable ally in the long campaign to protect roadless areas in our national forests.” His efforts were the subject of a book by Charles Wilkinson, Messages from Frank’s Landing.

“His work to save Pacific salmon was to save his people whose livelihoods and cultures have always depended on the salmon and its habitat,” said David Getches, dean of the University of Colorado School of Law and a member of The Wilderness Society’s Governing Council. “Billy’s lifelong work as a caretaker of the natural world and bridge builder to many different constituencies makes him a deserving recipient of this award.”

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.

“I am deeply honored to receive the Robert Marshall Award,” said Frank. “Bob knew that cooperation is the pathway to preserving and protecting our wild places and natural resources. Only by working together—all of us—can we be successful in our efforts today and in the challenges that lie ahead.”

Frank is the 25th 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 Mardy Murie.

The Wilderness Society is the leading public-lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.

For photo: lallen@nwifc.org