Jim was an outfitter in the heart of Idaho - Salmon River country. For several years he chaired the wilderness committee of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association. He was on its board, then its vice president, and last year was elected president. Together we worked on and off for almost a decade on just two matters, neither of which ever concluded.
The first was wilderness. Jim helped track each false start and blind alley, beating back congressional efforts to enact wretched bills, keeping the hope of serious legislation alive, doing all he could to keep places wild in the meantime.
He worked for his fellow outfitters, whose businesses depend upon wild places all over Idaho. He worked for himself; his livelihood depended on unprotected wild areas such as French Creek and the Salmon River Breaks. He worked for an Idaho-to-be in which wilderness could endure.
A group of us came together four or five times a year to plot or lobby. Because we worked so long to so little apparent end by someone else's rules, something of the camaraderie of a lost cause came to color these times. Underneath was an unspoken bond: We didn't intend to lose the battle.
The second matter Jim Thrash worked on was to keep the alliance between Idaho outfitters and Idaho conservationists in working order. In our state the political ground upon which all conservationists stand is thin enough. Jim was among those consciously resisting pressures to slice it thinner by letting differences become disagreements, and disagreements divisions.
To me it was, and is, a form of madness to elevate disputes over outfitter practices to a pitch threatening our common stake in keeping Idaho wild. In the small boat of Idaho conservation, it is not intelligent to use the paddle to whack each other.
Jim was part of an outfitter leadership that from the late 1980s determined to achieve four goals: making IOGA a tough professional advocate for the business interests of its members; significantly raising standards of outfitter practice; giving outfitters sharper and separate standing in Idaho conservation politics; and working cooperatively within the broader conservation ranks. Doing it all at once was tough. I respected Jim for the skill and patience he brought to it.
And like everyone else, I came to like him. He was friendly, quiet, alert, a close listener, well and plain spoken, competent, gentlemanly, genuine. He was at home in wild mountains and with people both; the combination made a solid man.
I don't know much of how he died, and for whatever reasons am not reading the reconstructions. I hear he was helping others; that fits the man I knew. What I feel is loss and sorrow for his wife and two children.
So Jim, from me, from the boat we chose separately and then chose to help row together, we are diminished, but we remember. And we can't give up.
Memorials to the Educational Trust Fund for Ginny and Nathan Thrash can be sent to IOGA, P.O. Box 95, Boise, ID 83701.
* Pat Ford
Pat Ford lives in Boise, Idaho.
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