Here is what Idaho's foremost conservation reporter wrote
in the Idaho Statesman:
Idaho environmental pioneer Day dies
Submitted by Rocky Barker on Wed,
02/13/2008 - 9:36am.
One of the last of a
generation of early Idaho conservationists, Ernie Day, died Tuesday
especially his dazzling picture of
Castle Peak, helped convince
Idahoans and eventually Congress to protect the White Clouds as a
part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. the campaign helped
get Cecil Andrus elected in 1970 just as the nation was celebrating
its first Earth Day.
Day also was among the
leaders of the fight to save the Frank Church-River of No Return
Wilderness. He and friends like the late Bruce Bower, Nell Tobias
and Ted Trueblood, and younger activists, Jerry Jayne, Ralph Maughan,
Russ Brown and Pat Ford pushed to preserve the parts of wild Idaho
that today are recognized as among its crown jewels.
A former president of
the Idaho Wildlife Federation, Day also served on the national board
of the Wilderness Society. The Sierra Club gave him its highest
honor, the Ansel Adams Award in 1981.
Political leaders like
Church and former Gov. Cecil Andrus rightly get much of the credit
for the protection of these and other wild areas in the state. But
it was people like Day who prodded and poked, campaigned and fought
to make it possible.
Here is the Mt.
Ernie Day was giant of Idaho conservation
SNRA, River of No Return owed to Day’s days in the saddle
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Ernie Day may have
captured the nuanced majesty of central Idaho's mountains with his
camera, but the mountains captured part of Ernie Day's soul.
Day was a giant in Idaho conservation, and mammoth preservation
efforts like the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Frank
Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Wilderness Act itself
are at the very least partially due to Day's passion and
Day died Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the age of 89, and a memorial service
was held Friday, Feb. 22, in Boise.
Day comes from an era that included the founding leaders of Idaho
conservation, men like Bruce Bowler, Ted Trueblood and Sen. Frank
"These are the heroes of Idaho conservation," said Sawtooth National
Recreation Area Recreation Manager Ed Cannady. "They're the last
ones who got anything done. We stand on their shoulders. We have the
responsibility to finish what they started."
Day was a Republican, an ardent wilderness supporter and a man with
a subtle eye for light and shadow. His iconic photograph of Castle
Peak in the White Cloud Mountains helped stop a mining company from
digging a huge molybdenum quarry at the core of the range now
proposed for congressional wilderness designation.
Day's Castle Peak photograph ran in Idaho newspapers and eventually
the cover of Life Magazine. The photographs influenced Cecil Andrus,
who was running for governor against mine supporter and incumbent
Republican Gov. Donald Samuelson.
"His photographs brought vividly to my mind and the public the
damage that would be imposed on the area and the threat it posed to
the Salmon River," Andrus told the Idaho Statesman in a Feb. 13
interview. "We lost a giant yesterday."
Andrus ultimately opposed the mine, and that central platform plank
is credited as a leading reason that he upset Samuelson. The White
Clouds were later protected as part of the 756,000-acre Sawtooth
National Recreation Area in 1972.
Cannady doesn't mince words when it comes to speaking about the wild
mountains that have been a formative force in his life. He, too,
said the threat posed at Castle Peak was averted largely because of
"People got to see actually what that open-pit mine was going to
do," he said.
At Day's memorial service, Boise attorney and longtime friend Jeff
Fereday related the tale of how Day and Andrus became lifelong
It was 1962, and Day was casting for steelhead on the banks of the
Clearwater River in north Idaho. The middle-aged man lost his
footing on the slippery riverbed rocks and fell. He was pulled from
the river by the man who would become four-time Idaho governor and
Interior secretary during the Carter administration.
Andrus and Day became close, and they'd often take journeys to
Idaho's wild trout streams or to the elk-speckled mountains.
Fereday remembered that "Ernie was particularly tickled by Cece's
retort, in one of their exchanges years later, in which the governor
said: 'Ernie, I should have practiced catch and release that day on
"So now Ernie is gone, as are most of his happy few. And what a
remarkable bunch they were," Fereday said. "Here were a group of
fishing and hunting buddies in the World War II generation, guys who
loved to hike trails with their families. They saw situations that
threatened their own private experiences--their ability to backpack
into the high country and be confronted by solitude and unspoiled
views, to wade streams 'clear as a gin,' to repeat a phrase I heard
"They went for the great fishing, the encounters with wildlife in
wetlands and in desert canyons, hunting elk in the high country,
chasing chukars and sage hen, photographing wild nature. Then, of
course, their interests went far beyond just what might be good for
them. At some point they began thinking bigger, perhaps thinking
like a mountain, to use the words of Ernie's favorite writer, Aldo
Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon, has worked in
Idaho conservation since 1977, and he, too, spoke at Day's memorial.
"When I think of Ernie Day I always first see him together with Ted
and Bruce--Ted Trueblood and Bruce Bowler. Three friends who led the
River of No Return Wilderness Council, meeting every month and then
every two weeks in the basement office of the Idaho Conservation
League from 1977 to 1980. That's when I came to know them and how I
came to know them—as a group.
"But at that time, when I came to know them and when America's
greatest wilderness achievement outside Alaska (the River of No
Return Wilderness) was won, they were the leaders and they were my
leaders. They are my heroes forever."
Ford said Day was a gruff man who had opinions he didn't keep to
"Ernie's emotions when he cared about something were not hidden,"
Ford said. "I remember his laugh. I remember him angry and I
remember him talking."
Ford said he remembers a morning waking in a sleeping bag on the
front porch of Day's Fisher Creek cabin, which afforded panoramic
views of the Sawtooths to the west. Day had set up a tripod the
night before. He was awake at first light watching the Sawtooths
greet the sun.
"He'd look, then he'd look through the viewfinder, then step away to
his coffee, then come look again. He was waiting for the light. When
it came only his finger moved. This was my first look at another
side of Ernie: his quiet eye, his delicate eye for how light greets
and reveals rock, water and sky. Once I had seen that quiet eye in
practice, I could hear it in him when he spoke. I could see it in
what he did."
Ford referred to a controversial bill now being ushered across
Capitol Hill by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. The Central Idaho
Economic Development and Recreation Act, which proposes to designate
more than 300,000 acres of the Boulder and White Cloud mountains as
wilderness as well as convey public land to private interests,
contains things Day would have hated and some he would have loved.
"But if it becomes law, the good in it will be, in a dozen ways I
don't have time to trace, another major conservation achievement
drawn out of the life, work and inspiration of Ernie Day," Ford
said. "I look forward to remembering him again then."
Day's influence in fact went straight to the heart of the modern-day
wilderness movement. He is credited with helping influence Sen.
Frank Church, D-Idaho, who was the 1964 Wilderness Act's Senate
"Most fundamentally, Ernie revered wilderness," Fereday said. "He
advocated for the passage of the Wilderness Act, an effort he
supported in the 1950s in his association with the National Wildlife
Federation and The Wilderness Society."
Day had told Fereday of his admiration for his friend Howard
Zahniser, executive secretary of The Wilderness Society and author
of principle parts of the act.
"It was Zahniser's lyrical phrases that were inserted into the 1964
Wilderness Act itself because there, in a rare moment, a few leaders
in Congress—and certainly Frank Church—recognized the transcendent
importance, and spiritual character, really, of what it was dealing
with in the concept of wilderness. Using 'Zahny's' words, the
statute says that its purpose is 'to secure for the American people
of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring
resource of wildernes'"
Fereday went on.
"This piece of the United States Code then goes on to say this: 'A
wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works
dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the
earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man
himself is a visitor who does not remain.'
"Ernie once recited those words to me from memory, then, with his
eyes misting, he looked straight at me and said, 'That's not just
statutory language. That's pure poetry.'"
In so many ways, Day left an indelible mark on Idaho and on
conservation in general, and still his Castle Peak photograph stands
"Ernie's famous photograph of Castle Peak must, I think, be the most
influential visual image in Idaho's modern history, as far as impact
on public perceptions, public opinion, law and the large, distant
place the SNRA has come to occupy in our state and for we, her
people," Ford said. "Thirty-five years after its creation it seems
inevitable. It wasn't. Ernie is at the head of the list of those
whose determination and work brought it to being."
In these ways Ernie Day's soul lives on, and the SNRA, Frank
Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Wilderness Act itself
are only mere parts of his lasting legacy.
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