Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Fitting tribute

Marble monuments and names memorialized on government buildings may be suitable homage for some deserving public figures.

However, few tributes can top the enormity of the accolade bestowed last week on Idaho's two most beloved champions of public lands, Bethine Church and her late husband, U.S. Sen. Frank Church.

The Forest Service has renamed the Galena Overlook to henceforth be the Bethine and Frank Church Overlook.

From this vantage just below the 8,701-foot Galena Summit on state Highway 75 north of Ketchum, sightseers can pause and take in a breathtaking panorama.

To the left lie the soaring peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains. Straight ahead, the sweeping valley floor gives rise to creeks and meadows where wildlife gambol. To the right sit the White Cloud Mountains.

Beyond lie the Salmon River town of Stanley and spectacular recreational challenges for people of all ages.

All of this 756,000 acres of protected land came into public stewardship as the Sawtooth National Recreational Area, supported by Sen. Church, who famously championed wilderness and public lands.

The SNRA's perpetual importance is bolstered by the Sawtooth Society, founded by Bethine Church to lobby for improvements as well as to raise funds for new public facilities.

The overlook will provide a restful place to contemplate a stunning vista that Bethine and Frank Church worked hard to make certain would be preserved

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