December 28, 1996 in City

Tales And Lessons Of Lochsa Country ‘The Power Of The Lochsa Gripped Me And Never Let Go’

Bill Loftus Lewiston Morning Tribune

Bud Moore’s first thought was to record the lore of the Lochsa River country of north central Idaho.

His focus on history came naturally. He grew up on the eastern slope of the Bitterroot Mountains, first venturing over their crest into the wild lands surrounding the Lochsa in 1930. He was a 12-year-old on his first solo adventure.

One of the last unsettled spots in a shrinking frontier, most of the Lochsa’s human history transpired over his lifetime.

Moore, who lives near Condon, Mont., visited Lewiston recently to promote his book, “The Lochsa Story: Land Ethics in the Bitterroot Mountains.” The book draws on his experiences and the conclusions he’s drawn from them.

In 1934, he joined the U.S. Forest Service, a move that later linked his own history to that of the Lochsa when he became Powell District Ranger in 1948. He moved on from that post in 1957 and retired after a 40-year career with the agency in 1974.

“I knew when I was very young that I was living in a very exciting place. The power of the Lochsa gripped me and never let go, I guess.”

“By the time I was the ranger there in the late ‘40s and ‘50s, I got fairly serious about it. I wasn’t thinking about a book, I was just thinking about getting the lore down. Then later on, the darned story just kept growing, growing, growing.”

Moore refocused his efforts to stretch beyond a simple recitation of the Lochsa’s history. He wove in his account some of the lessons that could be drawn from the history of the place.

The Lochsa country stretches northeast of Lowell, Idaho. Its rugged terrain led settlers to avoid it. U.S. Highway 12 parallels the river, a route that was not completed until 1926.

The Lochsa still is a place of clear waters, abundant wildlife and lonely vistas. The only settlement along 77 miles of river and highway is an Idaho Department of Transportation outpost.

The country is far different than when Moore first ventured into it with a .30-30 Winchester, light tarp, blanket, fish hooks and line and salt, bacon, flour and oatmeal to supplement whatever he could find to eat along the way.

Moore recounts in his book that as he traveled the Brushy Fork, one of the Lochsa’s major tributaries, a movement in the shadows along the trail caught his attention.

“I saw the short nose, the broad flat face with rounded ears set nearly a foot apart, the big hump on his shoulders, the black hair luminous in the twilight and peppered with gray on his head, neck and hump. Grizzly.”

Only 30 feet away, the bear began to move slowly toward him, Moore said. The metallic click from cocking the rifle’s hammer stopped the bear, which slowly stood, then vanished.

Moore comes at the book as a contemplative traveler who has investigated both the nooks and crannies that abound in such rugged country and the roles people have played in them.

Photos from the earliest days of whites’ forays into the area spices its pages. Moore reaches even earlier, recounting the Lochsa’s importance to the Nez Perce Indians and extending the history through the rise of ecosystem management in the modern ranks of the Forest Service.

In the often superheated debate about forest management, Moore hopes cooler heads will prevail.

Citizens need to decide how to proceed. Moore said the Forest Service’s shift toward ecosystem management offers the best hope.

“What it will do is come out with the best options we’re able to come up with that will be sustainable,” Moore said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email