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What Harvey Manning did for wilderness

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Nov 12, 2006 04:00 PM |
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The Mountaineers Books, Harvey Manning's publisher, just sent out a press release listing all the ways Harvey worked to protect our state's wild places. It's up on WTA's website here. He passed away on Sunday at the age of 81.

Harvey was definitely a hero of mine. Although we'd never actually met (something I now regret) we had chatted on the phone occasionally, and I was always left with the feeling of being in the presence of a generous and determined spirit. He was the real deal.

HarveyThe environment and the landscape always came first for Harvey. And I really respected him for that. It was important to have someone out there reminding us why we were out there hiking or climbing in the first place: That it wasn't just about hikers and trails and Gore-Tex and titanium stoves. It was about wild country: elk foraging in the Quinault River Valley, fields of shooting star and lupine in a high alpine meadow, the thick hemlock forests mantling the Suiattle River below Glacier Peak. He once wrote that "we revere the trail for what it does, not for what it is."

Harvey was also quick to remind hikers of their obligation to protect those places. That was the reason for everything he wrote about the outdoors: saving it. His forewords to the 100 Hikes books (including 100 Classic Hikes in Washington) weren't just a place for stale thank-yous and legal disclaimers. They were manifestos--well-written, inflammatory, pissed-off calls to arms for the booted masses. And those manifestos worked. His dogged persistence was essential to the protection of North Cascades National Park, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and Cougar and Tiger Mountain in the "Issaquah Alps," which he named--in order to save them.

Harvey was always a straight shooter, and didn't care much what anyone else thought. There are plenty of words both friends and foes would use to describe to Harvey: abrasive, curmudgeonly, stubborn, uncompromising. But those qualities were necessary just at the time Harvey arrived on the scene in Washington's history. Land managers and the general public needed to be awakened to what was happening in our mountains: that trails and landscapes were being destroyed by logging, mining, and motorized transportation. He was the sort of galvanizing, Thoreau-like voice in the wilderness (and for it) we needed. With the help of visionaries like Louise Marshall and Ira Spring, Harvey helped leave a huge legacy for generations of hikers.

And even later in life, when some had thought he'd gone too far in the direction of the needs of the environment over the "needs" of recreationists, he provided an important conscience for hikers--he kept reminding us (even if some tired of hearing it) that wilderness has value in itself, apart from how many hikers ever see it, or what impact it has on the local economy.

And he was of a generation that didn't need GPS units and cell phones to explore the high country. All that fuss over gear and gadgets--even tents--was a distraction. He once told me in an interview for a story  I was working on that you didn't need a tent to go backpacking. If you brought a tent, you were either 1.) scared of the dark, or 2.) doing something you didn't want other people to see.

Thanks again Harvey, you're up there in the hills you loved now.

In lieu of a memorial service, the family asks that donations be sent to the North Cascades Conservation Council, P.O. Box 95980, Seattle, WA 98145-2980;

Photo of Harvey Manning by Ira Spring.