As we regard the religious fervor with which any attempts at land-use planning are attacked these days, it’s important to keep things in perspective. This includes refreshing our memories about seismic progressive achievements we now take for granted—at our peril. A good place to start with this reflection is with our founder, Steward Brandborg, whose timeless biography is posted below.
Born: February 2, 1925
Occupation: Conservationist, Citizen Activist, Organizer
Stewart Brandborg worked closely with fellow conservationist Howard Zahniser(1) to assure the passage of the Wilderness Act(2) in 1964, and then devoted the next twelve years, during which he served as executive director of The Wilderness Society, to the designation of tens of millions of acres of wilderness for the new National Wilderness Preservation System, and more than 100 million acres in Alaska that have been preserved in the National Park, National Forest, Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness systems. Brandborg’s specialty was in training concerned citizens to participate in the designation process and in environmental activism that reached hundreds of grassroots leaders who attended the training seminars that he designed and oversaw.
Stewart Monroe Brandborg was born in Lewiston, Idaho on February 2, 1925, son of Edna Stevenson and Guy Mathew Brandborg. Guy, who spent his entire 40-year career with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), was Supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest for Twenty years and, as a strong wilderness advocate, passed down to his son a love of nature and commitment to responsible stewardship(3). It was through him that Stewart, as a young person, had known Gifford Pinchot, the agency’s first great leader, and Robert Marshall, pioneer wilderness advocate and founder of The Wilderness Society.
Starting at the age of 17, Stewart worked seasonally in various national forests throughout Montana, Idaho and Oregon, on range and forest surveys, trail maintenance, and as a lookout fireman. By 1944, when he was 19 years old, he had risen through the ranks to train other lookout firemen in fire suppression.
Brandborg graduated from the University of Montana in 1949 with a B.S. in Wildlife Technology: in 1951 he earned his M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Idaho.
As a research fellow for the Idaho Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Idaho, Brandborg completed seven years of field research on the life history of the mountain goat and wrote the first (and thus far only) monograph about this species. He performed population, range and management studies of the other major big game species of the region for the Montana and Idaho Departments of Fish and Game during the period 1947-54.
Brandborg left the Northern Rockies for Washington D.C. in 1954, when he was appointed Assistant Conservation Director of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). With his background in public lands and wildlife ecology, his duties included planning and overseeing conservation education programs and editing NWF’s weekly “Conservation Report,” a digest of all the legislation on natural resource and conservation issues before the U.S. Congress. It was with NWF that he developed skills in public interest advocacy, giving testimony and in lobbying Congress for wildlife, public lands and a broad range of environmental issues and in mobilizing conservationists form all over the nation in support of these measures.
In 1956, The Wilderness Society (TWS) elected Brandborg to its council where he worked closely with TWS director Howard Zahniser on an issue of concern to both TWS and NWF(4). The Wilderness Bill, drafted by Zahniser in 1956, was the first legislation to propose a program to designate federally-owned wildlands as wilderness while giving them protection within a national Wilderness system. TWS offered Brandborg the position of Director of Special Projects in 1960. He worked closely with Zahniser to gain passage of the Wilderness Bill.
When Zahniser died suddenly in May of 1964, Brandborg was appointed to succeed him as Executive Director. He escorted the Wilderness Bill through its last crucial steps in Congress and final passage in September 1964. The Wilderness Act initially provided for the protection of some nine million acres of wilderness. Conservationists set what was then the ambitious goal of adding at least 50 million more acres of wilderness to the system and TWS, under Brandborg’s leadership, worked hard to achieve this. One of the stipulation s of the Wilderness Act is that, for each proposed new wilderness area, there is a public hearing and review by the Wilderness agencies and Congress. Drawing on his experience in Congress and with local and state environmental groups and leaders, Brandborg initiated training programs for citizen activists, teaching them to carry out field studies of the areas in question; to work with the agencies charged with managing the areas; to testify effectively; and to carry out grassroots publicity and lobbying campaigns to win Congressional designation of the areas. TWS brought selected state activist leaders to Washington for week-long seminars on how Congress and government agencies work, while providing assistance and advice for formation and funding of local groups. Between 1964 and 1974, 150 new areas in 40 states were reviewed for protection under the Wilderness Act. A total of more tha 103 million acres have now been designated as wilderness in Alaska nd in the lower 48 states, many of these a result of the dedication of TWS-trained volunteers.
Brandborg made other notable contributions to wilderness preservation and the nation’s public lands as well while with TWS. In 1970, he led a three-year fight against the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which was found by the courts to violate the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This landmark, precedent-setting case strengthened the environmental impact assessment procedures of NEPA. Brandborg also directed a two-year lobbying campaign that eventually resulted in the designation of more than 100 million acres of public lands in Alaska as wilderness, national parks and wildlife refuges. He enlisted Congressman John P. Saylor of Pennsylvania (the original House of Representatives sponsor of the Wilderness act) in sponsorship of the Wild and Scenic River Act written by John and Frank Craighead. This measure, with TWS support, was enacted in 1968, establishing our National system of wild and scenic rivers.
Brandborg worked on other environmental issues in addition to wilderness preservation. Prior to the first Earth Day in April, 1970, he gave strong backing to Earth Day organizers and provided start-up funding for the celebration. From 1971 to 1975, he served as co-chair of the Urban Environmental Conference, one of the nation’s first groups to focus on the joint concerns of environmentalists, urban reform groups, and organized labor. Members of its board included senior staff of such national organizations as TWS, United Auto Workers and the National Urban League. The issues it addressed in its congressional lobbying work included lead poisoning, occupational health, clean air and water, energy conservation, urban transit, and land-use planning(5).
When Brandborg left TWS in 1976 (he was dismissed by the governing council, some of whose members believed that he devoted too much time to wilderness preservation in Alaska), the organization’s membership had grown to 130,000 five times larger than when he had become Executive Director twelve years earlier. The organization’s budget was $1.8 million per year; there was a full-time staff of 42 plus twelve part-time regional organizers. Environmental movement historian Mark Dowie called Brandborg a “committed warrior,” and “the last true activist to lead” TWS.
Brandborg spent the reminder of the 1970s working for the government, first as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and later as Special assistant to the Director of the National Parks Service. In these posts he worked with park personnel, teaching them how to work more effectively with citizen activists in building support for the National Park system.
From 1982 to 1986, he was national coordinator of the Regional Environment Leadership Conference Series, a collaboration between the ten largest national environmental organizations. This was a series of nine regional activist training seminars for environmentalists and representatives of labor and ethnic minorities, women and urban groups.
Brandborg moved back home to Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley in 1986, where he quickly became involved in public land and other environmental issues in the Northern Rockies. He was founder and president of Friends of the Bitterroot in the period 1988 to 1990, and served on the board of directors of Wilderness Watch and several state and regional environmental groups. He lives near Darby, a small town in western Montana, with Ann Vee, his wife of more than 50 years . They have five gown children(6).
 This may seem a bit trite, but if you’re regarding the Bitterroot Range, or some similar awesome, intact landscape out your front window now as you sip your coffee and you aren’t awed at the significance of this singular act, the first of a string of similar acts that preserved the wild world we Westerners take for granted today, please refresh your memory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilderness_Act
 As a result of the Bitterroot’s Clearcut Controversy in the early ‘70s, in which Guy Brandborg . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_M._Brandborg played a central role, the National Forest Management Act, which mandates public involvement in National Forest lands decisions, was passed.
 During this land-use renaissance period, Brandy was part of a group of iconic preservationists-poets, including Aldo Leopold, Olaus and Mardy Murie and Sigurd Olson just to name a few.
 The notion of, and fight for, Environmental Justice (of which land-use planning is a part) in our current age of global degradations and its deniers may be one of the most enduring legacies of Movement founders like Brandy. For instance:
“The World Health Organization estimates that more than 88 percent of the existing global burden of disease due to climate change occurs in children less than five years of age. Although children everywhere are affected, most of the impact is felt in populations of low socioeconomic status, squarely raising the issue of environmental justice.” http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/08/01-5
 They now reside in Hamilton.