Back in the 1990s I was active in a group called the Montana Wilderness Association, since renamed “Wild Montana” and changed from activism to collaboration, an industry front group. Part of my self-initiated volunteer work was to go around Billings, my home town, and speak to various groups. But rather than “speak,” I had an idea. I was dedicated to one purpose only, the preservation of wild lands, and noticed that we had this in common with just about everyone, even our severest critics. However, we had among us misanthropes, and such people tended to be the face of our movement, as cameras tend to pick out the wild ones with dreadlocks and who carry signs and stand on street corners. In truth, the men and women I worked with in MWA were serious and stable. These were some of the best people I’ve ever known, and I look back on those times with warmth and good feelings.
My idea was to speak to disinterested and even opposition groups, and bring love of wild lands to them. I went to the forest service and asked if they had any resources I might use – in fact, they had photographs of just about every lake and mountain in the state, and offered to let me use them. My first engagement was a large gathering with the Gem and Mineral Society, and was well received. All I did, without prepared script, was to show the slides and ask who in the audience recognized the places. They were enthusiastic – they knew the names and were proud of having been there. People in that group knew every place, more than a few having hiked to them.