Into the Woods with Scott Carrier
After a thirty-year lobbying effort, Congress designated the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail in 2009. Unlike the well-known Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, the P.N.T. runs east-west, trekking twelve hundred miles across multiple mountain ranges and pristine wilderness to connect the Continental Divide with the Pacific Ocean. For hiking advocates, it’ provides a singular opportunity to commune with the unspoiled natural world. For critics, like the writer Rick Bass, the P.N.T. is a reckless intrusion of dangerous creatures—people—into an ecologically sensitive grizzly-bear habitat in the Yaak Valley of Montana. Grizzlies are often the losers in encounters with humans, and their population in the Yaak Valley is estimated to be twenty-five bears, or even fewer. For the trail’s chief advocate, Ron Strickland, the critics’ point of view is mere selfishness: if Bass himself can live in the Yaak Valley, writing about the glory of this extraordinary landscape, why shouldn’t others have the chance to walk through? The producer Scott Carrier, who reported on this conflict from Montana, sees a tragic dimension to it: when it comes to nature, we seem fated to kill that which we love.