Alliance for the Wild Rockies, $5; (406) 721-5420
"The last of the native forests...the last of the wilderness dreams of our
children," cries the "auctioneer" as the film begins, "going once,
going twice!" Complementing this bleak vision of what could happen to the wildlands
of the Northern Rockies are equally bleak images of giant trees succumbing to chainsaws,
and fish floating belly-up in stagnant streams. The segment ends with a majestic vista of
a mountain range drenched in red-orange dusk, challenging us to accept our responsibility
for saving the region's rugged public lands.
One of the largest unprotected wilderness
areas in the Lower 48, the Northern Rockies traverse Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, and
Washington, providing critical habitat for wolves, bison, grizzly, caribou, bull
trout-species long gone or at risk in most other parts of the country. Rich cinematography
dramatizes their looming extinction: young wolves romp together as snow falls around them,
hungry grizzlies patrol rivers looking for dinner.
American Indians, conservation biologists, and wildlands activists criticize Forest
Service policies that allow roadbuilding, logging, grazing, and oil exploration in prime
habitat for threatened species. "Whenever the Forest Service tries to convince you
they need roads for ecosystem management, it's a lie," says activist Keith Hammer.
"They need roads to haul trees-it doesn't help the ecosystem in any way." Saving
these lands depends on abandoning traditional ideas of wilderness. Says The Wildlands
Project's Reed Noss, "It's time to move beyond protecting areas for aesthetic and
recreational qualities, ignoring their importance as guardians of diversity."Liza Gross