Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness, Central Idaho

Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Elk on Ayer's Meadow at the southern end of the Frank -- prime wolf habitat.

At 2.4 million acres, the River of No Return Wilderness was established by Congress and President Jimmy Carter in 1980. It is the largest such federally protected area in the lower 48 states.

Shortly before he died, former Idaho U.S. Senator Frank Church, the leading congressional proponent of the bill, was honored when Idaho Senator James McClure changed the name to the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness. Today most people call it "The Frank.".

Sleeping Deer Mountain

Copyright © Ralph Maughan
Sleeping Deer Mountain, a landmark on the SE side of The Frank.

Most of the Wilderness, is not meadow, but rather endless rugged ridges and deep canyons. All of the reintroduced Idaho wolves were released into this Wilderness area, and they have spread out from there. Today many wolf packs have parceled off the Frank as part of their territories. The exact number changes from year to year.

In the last 20 years the Frank has had many forest fires, both large and small. These have had ecological changes favoring more elk as grass and forbs grow under the burns. The fires have harmed the moose population and probably the cougar population. The wolves are doing just fine and they tend to dominate the cougar in meager period the winter and year just after a fire.

The Frank was once the country's greatest remaining home of the cougar, but Idaho Fish and Game policies against predators have had far more effect on the cougar than the fires have. This is totally against the idea of Wilderness (Fish and Game manipulation of wildlife populations and prejudice against predators). It is a shame.

Copyright © Ralph Maughan

The Pistol Lakes Cirque on the west side of the Frank
This beautiful area is being burnt by the "Burnt" forest fire as of mid-Aug 2006

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