“It was eye opening to witness how completely the Forest Service entrusted the RAF to plan, prepare, and airlift heavy materials into Moose Creek Ranger Station to replace hundreds of feet of fence,” RAF Supporter Tom Jensen said, as he pitched in with other volunteers to help replace jackleg fence at the Idaho USFS airstrip in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest.
The Moose Creek US Forest Service log ranger station was built in the 1920s as a fire-fighting base, becoming a supply and management center for more than 50 lookout towers in the Selway-Bitterroot region. Because of the Wilderness designation, the Forest Service transports equipment and supplies for the ranger station and lookouts primarily by mule teams. Naturally, livestock needs fencing, and the original fences were in need of replacement.
RAF Supporter Ed Kronfuss took on the logistics challenge and procured the posts and rails in Lincoln, Montana. Since no power tools are permitted in the Wilderness, Kronfuss had the posts and rails trucked to the Missoula airport where volunteers pre-drilled them for easier assembly. Daher-Kodiak provided the Kodiak 100 to haul the prepared posts to Moose Creek; and the USFS Shorts Sherpa carried the fence rails.
Working under USFS direction, as many as 21 RAF volunteers arrived at the airstrip and removed and replaced 1,260 feet of fence. Early October can be wintery at this 2,450 elevation, but the crews enjoyed shirt-sleeve temperatures, and all tent camped for the four days it took to pull down the old fence and erect the almost quarter mile of new. “It was like the Egyptians showed up with all the pyramid builders. I’ve been in construction for 35 years and have never seen so much progress in such a short time,” Kronfuss said.
“Everyone in the work party participated where they saw fit, and the work flowed with the many hands. There was a lot of sweat and digging in by all,” Jensen said. Non-pilot volunteer Jim Maurus described it as, “An amazing opportunity where a self-guided team all worked well to accomplish a lot, ‘fueled’ by cooks Fred and Alex.”
RAF President Bill McGlynn explains that in 1980 recreation was added to the list of functions of Moose Creek. “Pilots found a treasure in the backcountry to take family and friends camping, hiking, and fishing. About 500 GA airplanes make Moose Creek a camping destination every year,” he says.
“What a great group of resources on both sides of this project – civilian aviators and Forest Service working together,” Jensen added.
“This was an amazing collaboration of our volunteers and the Forest Service,” said McGlynn. “Volunteers just rolled up their sleeves and started working. Everyone found some new muscles and also found some new friends. People came from all over the Pacific Northwest, Montana, Idaho and as far as California to participate and we couldn’t have done this without them,” McGlynn said.
Submitted on October 27, 2023
By Carmine Mowbray