FOB George Wuerthner

George Wuerthner, ecologist, wildlands activist and wilderness visionary, will speak at the Friends of the Bitterroot’s “Wild Places, Wild Times” event at 6:30 p.m. on July 11 at the Bedford Building. The photo was taken of him in Alaska last June.

Friends of the Bitterroot is hosting an evening of education to help people to learn about local issues.

FOB member Gary Milner is helping to organize the event to “educate and activate” with organizations like the Bitterroot Audubon, the x-country ski club, Patagonia, Montana Wilderness Society, Bitterrooters for Planning and the Sierra Club.

Longtime activist George Wuerthner will speak about the value of wild lands and places.

“After his speech people can learn about local issues and how they can get involved,” Milner said. “Each group is bringing a backpack or a Monte Dollack Wilderness Poster and there will be a free drawing. You have to be present to win.”

The event is free, as is the food and drink.

“We hope people will show up and learn about wild places,” Milner said. “George has been on the front lines of wild lands protections for 30 years. He has books, journals and magazines out. He will be talking about how important it is to save these few remaining wild places before it is too late.”

The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and at about 7 p.m. Wuerthner will give his talk then there will be additional time for attendees to visit the tables of organizations.

“If people want to get involved, the groups will be there,” Milner said. “Then we’ll do the drawings.”

Milner said he believes people should get involved because “there is about 2.5% of the lower 48 states designated as wilderness and maybe 3 to 4% is protected wild lands.”

“We have very few places left and we want to do all we can to protect these plants and animals that live there — healthy big game herds and clean water,” he said. “A little humility and respect can go a long way towards saving these places, for us, for future generations and for the plants and animals that call this place home and actually have nowhere else to go.”

George Weurthner, the Oregon director of the Western Watersheds Project, is a photographer, author, ecologist and longtime wildlands activist with interests in conservation history and biology.

Weurthner said he will talk about how wildlands are critical to protecting resources for everyone and not just for their economic value.

“From watersheds to wildlife habitat, wildlands are important for natural processes, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, genetic diversity and a host of other attributes that are difficult to quantify but exist nevertheless,” he said. “The wilderness teaches lessons of restraint, patience, self-control and other values that are important to society.”

He said our remaining roadless public lands are critical for the ‘three Ws’--watershed, wildlife and wildlands.

“The designation of public lands as a wilderness area under the 1964 Wilderness Act is the ‘gold standard’ for conservation,” Weurthner said. “If we want to preserve some of our natural landscapes, where human influences are minimal, then wilderness or park designation is the best option.”

He said that it is impossible to predict our future needs.

“When Yellowstone National Park was established, the Helena paper opined that it would turn Bozeman into a ghost town,” he said. “When Glacier National Park was established, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce lamented that the parklands would be a waste of land and resources that could otherwise be utilized.”

Weurthner called it ironic that today these parks and wilderness areas are the foundation of Montana's economic development.

“Even people who never step foot in a wilderness area or a national park benefit from the clean water, wildlife and scenic values these designations protect,” he said. “Why are places like the Bitterroot Valley growing? It is driven in part by the close proximity of wildlands.”

Milner said the goal of the evening by Friends of the Bitterroot is to bring folks together to celebrate wild places and provide an opportunity to become active.

“Wild lands provide clean water, habitat and recreational opportunities,” Milner said. “Besides their benefits to us, they’re often the only places left for the plants and animals who live there. Climate change, inappropriate/over use, and the whittling away at their protective status make the need to save these places urgent. We hope this event will inspire and encourage folks to participate in protecting these last remaining wild places."

Attend “Wild Place, Wild Time — a cause for celebration and a call to action” at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday July 11, at the Bedford Building, 223 S. Second St. in Hamilton.