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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Bud Moore

Air Date: Week of

In the West people are looking for leaders who can bring together traditional westerners, who tend to favor resource extraction, with newcomers to the West, who value undeveloped wild country. At first glance octogenarian Bud Moore may not seem to be a powerful leader, but his down-to-earth approach is the right prescription for one rural western valley. From member station K-B-S-U in Boise, Idaho, Jyl Hoyt reports.


CURWOOD: In the West, people are looking for leaders who can bring together traditional westerners, who tend to favor resource extraction, with newcomers to the west who value undeveloped wild country. At first glance, octogenarian Bud Moore may not look like a powerful leader, but his down to earth approach seems to be the right prescription for one rural western valley. From member station KBSU in Boise, Idaho, Jyl Hoyt reports.

(Steps into water)

HOYT: Bud Moore's place in western Montana's Swan Valley is like one of those calendar pictures. Spectacular snow-covered mountains that encircle a pine forest with glistening ponds full of water birds.

MOORE: Good to see you, I've missed you.


MOORE: Yeah. When you came over the other day.

(A dog barks, pants)

GRAHAM: What is that white bird that is absolutely gorgeous? A white hat.

MOORE: Well, a little duck.

GRAHAM: Yeah, smaller sized.

MOORE: Yeah, the one that's a little duck, that shows white and he's got a white bob on the back of his head, that's a bufflehead...

HOYT: The Moore home is a welcoming place, not just for birds. Neighbors like Jeff Graham are always dropping by to visit the lean and muscular octogenarian and to pick his brain on everything from local wildlife to house building.

(Dog panting in the background)

GRAHAM: I've got a question for you: do you nail on the tongue or do you nail on the groove?

MOORE: Oh, you nail on the tongue.

GRAHAM: Nail on the tongue.

MOORE: Yeah.

HOYT: Old-timers often don't get along with all the newcomers moving to Montana. When the old-timers grew up, taming the wilderness and extracting its riches were the dominant values. While newcomers tend to be conservationist who aren't fond of mines and clear-cuts. But the newcomers also have been carving up the woods and riverbanks in their frenzy to capture a piece of the great outdoors, making old-timers shake their heads in disgust. Bud Moore wants the civil wars between the two groups to stop. He welcomes the newcomers.

MOORE: But I also say I'm going to bug you to till you understand our values here, too. And then we can work together on this place and try to keep it nice. And we can do it. We can do a lot.

(Metal clanking sounds, a drawer)

HOYT: Bud packs away a set of tools he's been using and heads inside. Like the Native Americans who used to burn the prairies to make the grasses more nutritious for the bison, he says people today need to find ways to work with the land rather than subduing it.

MOORE: We must draw sustenance from those ecosystems. But we need to do it in a sustainable way where we can have generation after generation having something like we've had in the past.

(Bending grasses, footfalls)

HOYT: Bud Moore's philosophy developed over decades of living and working in the woods of Montana and Idaho. He was born and raised about 100 miles south of here, on a farm at the edge of the Bitterroot Mountains that straddle the Montana/Idaho border. His family, like most homesteaders of that era, lived on what they grew in their gardens and hunted in the forests. They killed for food, not for trophies.

MOORE: When I went hunting, if I brought back home a big, big mule deer buck, for example, big rack, my dad would probably take me to the wood shed. He didn't want anything like that around. He wanted something that was real good to eat. That's what we were, meat hunters.

HOYT: In the 1930s, when he was 12 years old, Bud Moore quit school and went to live in what locals call the “Lochsa Country.” A national forest with no towns that is watered by the Lochsa fork of Idaho's Clearwater River. He spent the next 25 years there, trapping coyotes, fox, and beaver in the winters and learning outdoor skills.

MOORE: It was where I matured from boyhood to near-middle-age. And so I was pretty well formed, a lot of my principles that I live by, right there in the Lochsa with those mountain men and the great wild country that demanded self-reliance. It made you humble.

HOYT: But his lessons in humility were challenged when the US Forest Service hired him to be District Ranger in the Lochsa. The 1950’s were a time of enormous economic growth, and like other rangers Bud Moore encouraged private timber companies to cut as many trees as possible to fuel America's booming home-building industry.

MOORE: We went in and we tried to inventory these wild lands, this great country, and find the things that were useful to humans. And from that, we decided we could take so much out. What we didn't understand fully was the connections between all these, these parts of the ecosystem.

HOYT: But Moore began to see those connections when he discovered a spruce bud worm infestation in a section of the Locksaw. He sprayed DDT to kill these pests. Several hours later, he found dead trout floating in the streams.

MOORE: So the warnings came to us real hard then. Boy, this is bad stuff. That was a big turning point for me, because up until that time I was pretty naive. I had such great faith in our way of life, our culture, my superiors, that somehow I thought that everything that was legally right was also morally right, you know, that sort of thinking. I just didn't think that we were doing anything wrong.

HOYT: He saw other things go wrong after he took an administrative job at the Forest Service in Washington, DC. He realized that forests were being cut faster than they could grow back. Even in his lush beloved Lochsa.

MOORE: I walk now through the upper brushy fork and through there, the country to me is just darn near empty.

HOYT: Ultimately, he moved home to Montana, where he has spent the past quarter century trying to do things differently.

(A motor starts up)

MOORE: This is my sawmilling operation. It's the centerpiece for Coyote Forest Management. We manage our own forest here and the centerpiece is this little mill. And I take the forest all the way from planting the trees the sawn board.

HOYT: Bud Moore's timber company manages his own 400 acres, plus 800 more acres of his neighbors' land. He does selective cutting of different species, leaving behind a mix of species and ages. And enough trees for the needs of wildlife and healthy streams.

MOORE: And this thing we're calling ecosystem management, I think that's a pretty good show, you know, a good way to go. And so, we've been doing a lot of this sort of thing for a long time, but we didn't have the vocabulary of ecosystem management we've got now. So it's easy for us to fit in.

(Motor sounds fade out)

MOORE: Hey, hey! How's it going?

HOYT: As we're talking, another neighbor drops by. Eric Pack, a long-haired, thick-muscled newcomer from Vermont, who raises sled dogs, wants to ask about sharpening saws. When he complains about the mosquitos, Bud offers Eric something to think about.

MOORE: Mosquitos are -- they're a barometer of a rich ecosystem. So when they're biting you good, just tell yourself that boy, I'm in a beautiful place. Got to be with this many mosquitos.

PACK: I'll tell you what, I'm moving back to Vermont then.

MOORE: (Laughs) You do that. He's got the rich ecosystem without...

(Footfalls, a creaking door)

HOYT: Inside his workshop, Bud Moore takes inventory of his iron traps, snowshoes and pack. He's taken the past four winters off to finish writing a book about the Lochsa. Now, at 81, he hopes to get back out for a few more seasons of trapping.

MOORE: I know I'm not as strong as I was 3, 4 years ago. The Lochsa story took a lot out of me because if you don't maintain that strength that you need to go across the passes and do it, then you can't get it back. It's hard to get it back, at my age especially.

HOYT: What will endure long after the trapping season has passed is Bud Moore's link between generations. His generous spirit. His willingness to share time, knowledge, and wisdom with both the young and old, so they can learn how to work together to solve the rifts of the rapidly changing west. For Living on Earth, I'm Jyl Hoyt in Boise, Idaho.



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