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Grass Routes shows that the Friends is doing its groundwork

In summer of 2010, three young guys from Connecticut— via Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania—showed up in my yard in a Prius with a Thule pod on top. Jake Glass, Joe Foster and Matt Stauble of Wildman Pictures were here to make a movie. I assumed that the Thule was full of film equipment. Instead, it was full of food. The film equipment was jammed into the Prius with backpacks, tents, computers, a massive array of other digital equipment, more food and, of course, themselves. It was a very full car. 

Jake, Joe and Matt were looking for a fight, here to film a story about a doughty little wilderness advocacy group fighting the entire industrialized world for a patch of land in the West Cabinets of northern Idaho and western Montana—the Scotchman Peaks. They didn’t find what they were looking for. And, they didn’t make the movie they came to make. At least not right away. 

En Plein Air grew out of that visit, a film concentrating on the artists and adventures of the Scotchman Peaks Extreme Plein Air expeditions. Jake and Matt joined artists and few other wilderness junkies on a five-day trek from Ross Creek Cedars to Ross Creek Cedars. That might seem not very far, but there was about 11,000 feet of elevation change in between visits to the big trees, which caused some serious struggle for the first two days. After that, as it always does, the wilderness took over, and we were drawn along, not effortlessly, but assuredly willingly. 

The “actors” didn’t have to do much except be where we were and do what we were doing. We were constantly upstaged by the setting, anyway. That and the inimitable nature of the expedition—art and artist immersed in wild country—distracted the filmers in a very beautiful way. Thanks to the talents of Wildman, and particularly Joe Foster’s editing and direction, En Plein Air is a beautiful film. 

In July of 2012, Joe and Jake came back to finish the movie they set out to make in the first place. But first, they had to finish wrapping their heads around a different paradigm than the one they expected on their first visit. 

Grass Routes: Changing the Conservation is the film that has come out of the latest visit. It is appropriately named. Conversation about wilderness is changing, particularly in the West. Groups like Idaho Conservation League and Montana Wilderness Association and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are contributing to that change by inviting people and institutions into the conversation that have been left out in the past. Wildman found FSPW’s effort on behalf of the proposed wilderness in the West Cabinets is more about conversation than confrontation, more about cooperation than condemnation. 

Rather than assuming that environmental groups, industry and multiple use groups have nothing to talk about, the starting point for these conversations is about what we do have in common, and how we might leverage that into agreements we can all live with, where none who come reasonably to the table are marginalized. The United States Congress might do well to pay attention to the model. 

It’s not a new model. A lot of wilderness with a capital W has been created this way, from the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the King Range of California. It is a model that seems to be working, for the prerequisite to getting a wilderness bill introduced in Congress is support on the ground in the place where the proposal lies. Grass Routes demonstrably proves that FSPW has done and continues to do its groundwork. It will be part of the vehicle that eventually leads to Congressional designation of the Scotchman Peaks as Wilderness. 

On top of that, Grass Routes and En Plein Air are both fine films. Wildman does good work. Jake, in fact, received one of the prestigious Brower Youth Awards for his efforts with Wildman, and both Jake and Joe have worked hard to polish Grass Routes. Via many late nights on Joe’s watch, a few hundred hours of footage have been reduced to a fine feast of ideas and visuals that anyone who is concerned about the future of wilderness will find compelling and inspiring. 

FSPW will be showing both films at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint on Thursday, March 14 (6 pm doors and 7 pm films.) The movies will also show in Thompson Falls (1:30 pm at the Rex theater) and Libby (6 pm at the Little Theater) on Saturday, March 16. 

Come listen in on the conversation. Better yet, come join the conversation. 


Sandy Compton’s latest book is The Friction of Desire, which is totally not about what you might think it’s about. It’s better than that. Buy it at www.bluekcreekpress.com, or in Sandpoint at Vanderfords or the Corner Bookstore. Meet Sandy at the StoryTelling Company on March 24 at Ivano’s. 5 o’clock dinner, 6 o’clock show.

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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

Tagged as:

Friends of Scotchman Peaks, The Scenic Route, Grass Routes, En Plein Air, Wildman Pictures, Joe Foster, Jake Glass, Matt Stauble, movies

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