Reflecting on the life of conservation champion Bud Moore

Bud Moore

Bud Moore, a great conservationist and a wilderness champion for Idaho and Montana, passed away last week at his home in Condon, Montana, at age 93. Bud blazed a trail his whole life for all who revere wilderness and wild land — linking the mountain men, who taught him backcountry skills in his youth, to the modern foresters who came to understand ecosystem management with his vision.

He was a trapper, a logger, horse packer, cabin builder, hunter, fire fighter and a fire manager, and wilderness preserver. He was an ecologist, a naturalist and above all — a guide for and in the wilderness.

Bud earned his place in wilderness heaven soon after he became the district ranger at Powell on the Clearwater National Forest in 1949 at age 32, in his home territory of the Lochsa country. One of his first actions was to stop a bull dozer cutting a “fire” road from Elk Summit to Moose Creek in what later became the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The road would have bisected the wilderness but was considered necessary for fire control. Bud turned the bull dozer back and then told the regional forester of the change in management direction.

Years later he told me, “I just told them, ‘Not while I’m ranger on the Powell district are you going to take any dozers down to Moose Creek.’”

Bud went on to become the chief of fire management and air operations for the Northern Region of the Forest Service out of Missoula and led the effort to return fire to play its ecological role on the National Forests. The first fire on the National Forests to be purposefully monitored and managed — instead of all-hands-on-line controlled — was the White Cap fire in the Selway-Bitterroot in 1972, carried out under Bud’s guidance.

After he retired from the Forest Service in 1974, Bud continued to lead by his actions in taking on land management, including sustainable timber harvest and wildlife protection at his 80-acre homestead in the Swan Valley, which he called Coyote Forest. In recent years, he applied his ecosystem management ideas at a 200-acre, old mining claim, blazing a new trail for ecological restoration.

For those of us who had the good fortune to be influenced by Bud’s ideas and actions, we can hope his greatest legacy will be to follow some of his footsteps on the trail.

Bud’s great story telling capacity is captured in his book from 1996, “The Lochsa Story: Land Ethics in the Bitterroot Mountains.”

Years ago, I sat with Bud in one of his hand-crafted cabins at Coyote Forest and he shared this advice for new wilderness rangers: “You ought to be like the moose and show up here and there as often as you can. Be unobtrusive. Be present enough so that people in the wilderness know there is a wilderness ranger around and he’s a great guy and he loves the country.”

Bud was certainly one of those great guys himself.

Photo: Bud Moore, courtesy Richard Walker.