the famous profiles of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they looked westward during
their famous expedition to the Pacific Ocean 200 years ago. Gazing at flora and fauna in
abundance for as far as the eye could see, did they pause to question whether such
abundance would extend as far into the future as the mind could possibly imagine?
they to revisit the route of their journey now, chances are they would be concerned about
the losses to the plant and animal kingdoms since their time. And were they to return as
present-day Montana legislators, most likely they would join in the recent effort to
reverse some of those losses.
Take, for example, echinacea angustifolia or purple cone flower which the
explorers collected specimens of at the Mandan villages and sent back to President Thomas
Jefferson. Little could they imagine that a plant the Mandans used to treat rattlesnake
bite would in 200 years soar in popularity as a cold preventive and immune-system tonic
and that with its popularity would come an alarming decline in a medicinal plant once
abundant in eastern Montana. Yet the unimaginable has come to pass.
People living there have harvested it to a point where it may become extinct
because harvesting the root can bring in a good days wage, says UM
pharmaceutical sciences Professor Rustem Medora. Although Medora says the upper part of
the plant can be as effective as the root for medicinal purposes, those who harvest the
plant take it root and all, forcing it to the brink extinction.
As a result, the Montana Legislature in 1999 passed Senate Bill 178 to establish the
Wild Medicinal Plants Task Force. Medora serves on the eight-member committee with other
plant experts and tribal and state governmental representatives. Their tasks are to
determine sustainable methods of collecting wild medicinal plants on state lands and
recommend legislation if appropriate.
Besides echinacea angustifolia, the legislation lists bitterroot, ladys slipper,
lomatium, osha, sundew and trillium as endangered plants for the task force to look into
and report on. Lewis and Clark found them all except osha, mentioned them in their
journals and sent specimens to Jefferson. None of these plants has any modern use, Medora
said. They are on the list because they are about to become extinct and must be protected.
As a holding action until the task force completes its work in 2002, the Legislature
established a three-year moratorium on harvesting wild medicinal plants from state lands
except for scientific study by an accredited representative of an accredited institute of
higher education. Echinacea roots will not be for sale. Lewis and Clark would probably
by Terry Brenner
David Jackson, a UM forestry professor, has been appointed by U.S. Secretary of the
Interior Bruce Babbitt to serve on a Going-to-the-Sun Road Advisory Committee for Glacier
National Park. This 17-member committee will advise and make recommendations to Babbitt
and the National Park Service about alternatives for reconstruction of the aging
Jackson, an economist, has worked at UM 24 years. His role on the committee is as an
economist who represents the public interest.
We will look at and identify a lot of alternatives for construction,
Jackson says. Theres no way its going to be easy on the businesses up
Going-to-the-Sun Road is the only through road across Glacier National Park. It crosses
the Continental Divide at Logan Pass and is one of the most visited features in the park.
Each year nearly 2 million visitors travel the 52-mile roadway, which is the only access
to many of the parks spectacular attractions.
The road is a National Historic Landmark and a National Civil Engineering Landmark and
is listed on the Register of Historical Places in recognition of its significance as both
a historical and cultural resource.
by Cary Shimek