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The Plank Award

FOC File Photo

Friends of the Clearwater founder and long-time Board of Director Steve Paulson recognized the need to honor men and women that have devoted decades of their lives fighting to protect our public wildlands, biodiversity and natural processes, particularly those of the Clearwater Basin and northern Rockies. As a result, the Macfarlane Plank Award was created in 2006 to recognize and thank individuals that may not have, yet, received adequate recognition for their important work.

2007 – Gary Macfarlane is the Ecosystem Defense Director for Friends of the Clearwater. He has spent over twenty years working to protect roadless wildlands, threatened species and keeping Wilderness wild in the Clearwater Basin of north-central Idaho and throughout the northern Rockies. Prior to that, he worked for fifteen years with the Utah Wilderness Association. He has served on the Board of Directors for Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Wilderness Watch, and currently lends his expertise to the Sierra Club Wildlands & Wilderness team.

2008 – Stuart Brandborg worked closely with Howard Zahniser, author of the Wilderness Act, to ensure it’s passage by Congress in 1964. He then went on to become the Executive Director of The Wilderness Society for over a decade, earning a reputation as a fierce and loyal grassroots organizer who was successful, with the help of others, in getting tens of millions of acres added to the newly established National Wilderness Preservation System. “Brandy” also worked for the National Wildlife Federation, helped found the Friends of the Bitterroot and is an accomplished wildlife biologist, particularly in field research on mountain goats.

2009 – Larry McLaud worked for years with Friends of the Clearwater, bringing his economics background to Forest Watch, and helping lead projects to protect old growth forests and native species. A former forest lookout, he is fond of talking about the sacredness of place, and the Clearwater Country is one of his favorites. “Lorenzo Trout” also worked as the Conservation Director of Hells Canyon Preservation Council in eastern Oregon and was responsible for north Idaho while with the Idaho Conservation League and helped start the Wild Clearwater Coalition. Larry passed away in 2019. Check out friend Greg Gollberg’s candid tribute in honor of “Lorenzo Trout” (Larry’s self-proclaimed moniker). We will miss him.

2010 – Barry Rosenberg was one of the founders and founding chairman of the Selkirk-Priest Basin Association, now known as the Selkirk Conservation Alliance. The group is dedicated to keeping the Southern Selkirk Mountain ecosystem of northern Idaho, northeastern Washington and southern British Columbia intact. Barry also created and directed the Forest Watch Program for The Lands Council, whose goal was to establish and support a community of forest advocates in the Inland Northwest. His decades of work, and those of the Forest Watch groups and individuals in holding federal agencies accountable to our public land laws, including public involvement through the National Environmental Policy Act, has led to a significant reduction of illegal and destructive Forest Service timber sales. He is currently highly critical of the industry-driven and undemocratic public lands collaborative process. Following that, he was executive director for the Kootenai Environmental Alliance until he ‘retired’ in 2009.

2011 – Dr. Fred Rabe is professor emeritus of biology at the University of Idaho and author or co-author of over thirty-five referenced articles in aquatic science journals. He worked for years with the late Forest Service botanist Chuck Wellner to successfully establish Research Natural Areas on National Forests in Idaho and throughout the northern Rockies. Fred has devoted much of his time since retirement writing books, leading field workshops and lending his expertise to the Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, Idaho Native Plant Society, Idaho Conservation League and Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute, including working with Friends of the Clearwater to publish numerous booklets on the importance of permanently protecting roadless areas in the N. Fork Clearwater.

2012 – George Nickas has been a public lands activist for over thirty years. Fresh out of high school, he helped form a local organization to protect the picturesque wildlands of Desolation Canyon, the Book Cliffs and San Rafael Swell of Utah. After college he went on to work for Utah Wilderness Association, before becoming the Executive Director of Wilderness Watch, which is the only nationwide organization dedicated solely to the protection and proper stewardship of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

2013 – Liz Sedler is a long-time activist that left us too soon. Her decades of work on issues affecting grizzly bears, bull trout and other species native to the northern Rockies resulted in federal agencies having to strengthen standards and reduce the impacts of extraction programs on endangered species and fish and wildlife habitat. She was the long-time president of the Board of Directors for Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

2014 – Jeff Juel has spent over twenty years doing Forest Watch for the WildWest Institute (formerly the Ecology Center), The Lands Council, Friends of the Clearwater and Alliance for the Wild Rockies. His expertise is vast, with a strong background in national forest policy, public process, ecology, law and field monitoring.

2015 – Karen Coulter is the co-founder of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, which works to protect and restore the ecosystems of the Blue Mountains and eastern Oregon. A long time activist, she has experience with American Friends Service Committee, Greenpeace International, the Program on Corporation, Law and Democracy and other grassroots efforts. Karen is a past recipient of the Oregon Wild William O. Douglas Award of Courage and the Fund for Wild Nature’s Grassroots Activist of the Year.

2016 – Keith Hammer is a former wildland firefighter and logger turned activist. He is a co-founder of the Swan View Coalition, which has been working tirelessly for over thirty years to decommission harmful roads and cease unsustainable logging in order to benefit native fish and wildlife, particularly grizzly bears and bull trout, on the Flathead National Forest in Montana. Keith is a strong proponent of “quiet recreation” and the multiple values it brings to people and place.

2017 – Janine Blaeloch has an extensive background in public lands policy and management, including with the private and public sector. She is the founder of the Western Lands Project, which was very successful in bringing reform to the obscure federal land exchange program. Janine has been a vocal critic of the national environmental establishment (“Big Greens”), the public lands collaborative process, quid pro quo wilderness, and the federal government’s destructive public lands solar energy policy. She is a former board member of Wilderness Watch.

2018 – Arlene Montgomery is the Program Director of Friends of the Wild Swan. She has a strong background in public lands policy, including decades of work to gain protections afforded under the Endangered Species Act for Bull trout and other imperiled species in the northern Rockies. Arlene has also been a critical voice in protecting the Swan and Falthead regions of Montana from harmful road building and logging projects.

2019 – Kristin Ruether was the first paid employee of Friends of the Clearwater in the late 1990’s. After completing her law degree, she then became a staff attorney for Advocates for the West. Years later, she went on to become staff attorney for Western Watersheds Project, mostly litigating livestock grazing impacts to federal public lands and native species. Kristin now practices immigration law for a refugee settlement organization in Idaho.

2020 – Larry Campbell – coming soon

2021 – Al Espinosa, when he “retired” from the FOC board in 2021, was one of its longest serving members. He is also a retired fisheries biologist who has staunchly defended independent science, opposed habitat destruction, and criticized the blatant cronyism of the Forest Service and NOAA in regards to recovery of wild salmon and steelhead. His knowledge of the Clearwater is nearly unmatched and his resolve to “fight like hell” is an inspiration.

2022 – Sara Johnson founded the Native Ecosystems Council (NEC) in 1992, using her deep knowledge of ecology and law to challenge industrial extraction on public lands. She has commented on or challenged hundreds of federal land management proposals from the Black Hills of Dakota to the Panhandle o Idaho, and is currently a plaintiff challenging the USFWS failure to protect grizzly bears in the Bitterroot. Sara began her activism in earnest when she realized her position as a wildlife biologist was merely “window dressing” for the Forest Service, and started her nonprofit.


“One day, when all our wildlands are protected from greed, when the Grizzly Bear roams free again, when the caribou graze

in Chamberlain Basin again, when the wolverine lives in peace in the high country again,

the people on this plank will be remembered as heroes.” – Steve Paulson.