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Bob Marshall on the Priest

By Sandy Compton



e all know the iconic Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is just south of Glacier National Park, but did you know the man it’s named after cut his teeth in Priest River? There are more than a couple versions of Marshall’s time in northern Idaho, and none of them completely agree. The following is what has been sorted out. The Forest Service launched the Priest River Experiment Station in 1911, but in 1921, administration for the station moved to its Region One headquarters in Missoula. In 1925, the name of the operation was changed to Northern Rocky Mountain Forest Experiment Station, of which Priest River was a unit. Also in 1925, Robert Marshall – 24 years old and a recent graduate of the forestry school at University of New York-Syracuse – arrived to work in Missoula. While there, he developed stomach problems and asked for a leave of absence. He returned to work in 1926 – at Priest River. It is said that better food and a “better atmosphere” completely cured his stomach. Marshall’s job at Priest River was the study of Pinus monticola, Western white pine, the tree that made Idaho famous. He studied methods of cutting, reproduction, yield, reforestation and fire. His work took him to the most remote camps in the Priest, something he loved, for he was a frenetic hiker. He once climbed 14 peaks in the Adirondacks in 19 hours. And 40 miles was a day hike. Floyd Carson, who knew Marshall, told about a day when the telephone in the ranger station was constantly ringing. There didn’t seem to be any fires, so he


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asked what was going on. The ranger said men from other stations were calling with wagers on what time Marshall would complete his 40 miles that day. Marshall was at Priest River for two years. In 1928, he entered Johns Hopkins University to work on his doctorate in plant physiology. In his two years in Idaho, he hiked hundreds of miles and wrote seven research reports – primarily on white pine. One study, though, was “Contribution to the Life History of the Northwestern Lumberjack,” a The indomitable Bob Marshall studied Western white pine at somewhat tonguePriest River for two years, from 1926 to 1928 in-cheek look at the habits of Idaho lumberjacks, including their propensity for profanity. He wrote: “It transpired that an average of 136 words, unmentionable at church sociables, were enunciated every hour by the hardy hews of work.” Marshall was from upstate New York, but he wandered all over the West in his short, eventful life. Those ramblings made him believe even more in leaving certain places wild. In 1937, Forest Service Chief Ferdinand Silcox appointed Marshall chief of the Division of Recreation and Lands. In that position, he campaigned for reserving public lands as wilderness, setting aside a remarkable 5.4 million acres in two years. He also helped form the Wilderness Society with conservation pioneers including Aldo Leopold. Marshall died in 1939 of apparent heart failure at age 38, only 13 years after he landed at the Priest River station. He left $500,000 to the Wilderness Society and helped plant a new idea in the American psyche, which burst into bloom at the signing of the Wilderness Act in 1964. The Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, created by Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace on Aug. 16, 1940, is named in his honor. SUMMER 2016

5/12/16 9:16 AM

Profile for Keokee :: media + marketing

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2016  

In this Issue: Dog Town, Idaho How people and their dogs have created Sandpoint’s copious canine culture Plus ‘Peaking’ Our Interest - Peak...

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2016  

In this Issue: Dog Town, Idaho How people and their dogs have created Sandpoint’s copious canine culture Plus ‘Peaking’ Our Interest - Peak...

Profile for keokee