June 16, 2009 | By:

#22 Around the Campfire; “So long, Clif…”

The last year has been a hard one from the overlook of losing friends and leaders. Among them have been demigods such as John Seiberling, the Ohio congressman who was a peerless champion for Alaska, wilderness areas, and overall conservation back in the 1970s and 1980s. I think that others would agree with me that during his time in Congress, we had no better friend there. Then there was Arne Naess, crusty and charming Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer, who founded Deep Ecology. Carnivore biologist and Rewilding Fellow Dave Maehr was ripped away all too early when his small plane crashed while surveying Florida black bears. Pete Lavigne, tough river conservationist and environmental studies professor, suddenly died of illness. And after a long and wonderfully brave battle, Carol Jones, a great river running buddy of ours and wife of Dave Johns, took her last rapid around Christmastime. Alan Kuper, the conscience of the Sierra Club on population, left a huge hole when he drifted away just before the end of the year (he was active to the end, writing an update to his Comprehensive US Sustainable Population group the day before he died). LaRue Christie, a founder of the Earth First! Foundation and wife of Lance Christie, died after a long illness. I’ll miss them all—especially those who left us too early in their lives.

But here I want to highlight one outdoorsman who lived a good life and did as much for wilderness as anyone I’ve ever known.

Clif Merritt headed down his last trail into the sunset this summer. He was 89. Clif is likely not well known to conservationists these days, but I wouldn’t shy from putting him on the list of the top half-dozen wilderness heroes of the twentieth century. As director of The Wilderness Society’s western regional office in Denver in the 1960s and through the 1970s, Clif Merritt was in the thick of the defining battles and campaigns that shaped today’s National Wilderness Preservation System, and he was at the heart of the forging of today’s grassroots wilderness world.

Click on the attachment below to read the entire “Campfire.”

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