On the Shoulders of Giants
“I knew from the moment I met them (Doug Scott and Zack Porter) that they were high-caliber people. To have them serve on the board of the Trust is a blessing.”
-Brad Borst, president, The Wilderness Land Trust
“Beyond all the other good reasons for saving wilderness, we do so because it would be morally inexcusable not to be wildly generous with future generations.” Doug Scott, The Enduring Wilderness: Protecting Our Natural Heritage.
Author, protector of wilderness, and Wilderness Land Trust board member Doug Scott spent his career at the forefront of wilderness preservation campaigns.
In 1968, fresh from the University of Michigan’s Forestry program where he conducted graduate research on the history and drafting of the Wilderness Act of 1964, Doug moved to Washington DC and started his career as a lobbyist for wilderness.
There, among many other accomplishments, he helped create 16 new wilderness areas in the eastern United States with the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act (1975), kept the Northern Cascades from being logged through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Act (1978), and contributed to the passing of the Alaska National Interest Conservation Act of 1980 which is, to this day, the single largest expansion of protected lands in history.
In the 1980’s, Doug worked for the Sierra Club and proved to be a force for the organization, eventually earning their highest honor, the John Muir Award.
Doug learned through this work the power of one person’s voice. “It is ordinary citizens who can change things in extraordinary and dramatic ways,” says Doug.
As Doug was fighting to enact state wilderness laws in dozens of states, a teenager named Zack Porter was slowly discovering how wilderness could become a source of solace, healing and strength. Starting in grade school, Zack struggled with depression. A week after graduating from high school, he landed a job as a backcountry ranger for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington’s North Cascades.
“You could say that summer I was reborn in the wilderness,” says Zack. “I worked hard from dawn to dusk. The beauty and power of wilderness rests in its ability to simultaneously break you down and build you up. The stark indifference of the wild is a reminder that the world does not revolve around humans; that one should be humble and respectful of others and the earth; that the most important things in life aren’t material.”
Zack says that summer gave him the inspiration to pursue a career in wilderness advocacy and soon after, he moved to Montana and earned a degree in geography and wilderness studies from the University of Montana. “I went to school for one purpose, to come out the other end working for wilderness,” says Zack.
As fate would have it, Doug had come to the point in his career where he felt the need to share his experiences with the next generation of wilderness advocates. In the early 2000’s, he began speaking on college campuses, at training programs for federal agency personnel who administer wilderness areas, and at gatherings of wilderness advocacy organizations. In 2008, he traveled to Missoula, Montana to present the keynote address for a local wilderness organization’s fundraiser. The same organization where Zack spent his time when he wasn’t in class at UM.
“I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time,” says Zack. “When I heard Doug speak, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I wanted to learn from people who had gifted future generations the promise of wilderness. I wanted to carry that torch forward.”
And carry it he did. That chance encounter 13 years ago blossomed into a lasting friendship. Doug eventually retired to Seattle and then Palm Springs, while Zack went on to fulfill his dream, working for wilderness organizations from Montana to Vermont. The two continued to meet at wilderness events and Doug made it a point to introduce Zack to other leaders in the wilderness community.
“One of the things I love about Doug is that he conveys a compelling, positive, proactive vision for America’s future,” says Zack. “His messages are full of hope. That resonates deeply with me and that’s the approach I’ve always tried to take in my work.”
In 2019, Doug urged the Wilderness Land Trust to extend an invitation for Zack to join him on the board of directors. A nomination that was enthusiastically approved. “It’s the responsibility of current leaders to be talent scouts. To find and nurture new people in the wilderness world,” says Doug.
“I feel as if the environmental movement has come full circle,” says Zack. “Wilderness was at the heart of America’s early conservation efforts, and now the spotlight is back on America’s wildlands and waters in a more equitable way. The inspiring messages Doug has been leading with for so many years now? We’re still learning how important they are.”
“We have an obligation to inspire,” says Doug. “And as some of us advance to an elderly age, we’re planting the roots for future generations to continue the fight.”
“And those generations will be standing on the shoulders of giants,” adds Zack.
As board members, Doug and Zack are tireless, passionate advocates for fulfilling the mission of the Trust. “Together, they bring an unbeatable combination of smarts, experience and enthusiasm to our organization,” says Brad Borst, president. “My history with both of them also originates in Montana when I was working on multiple wilderness campaigns, and I knew from the moment I met them that they were high-caliber people. To have them serve on the board of the Trust is a blessing.”
The Wilderness Land Trust board of directors is made up of 14 highly dedicated wilderness advocates from across the United States. Doug Scott has been a Trust board member since 2003. He currently sits on the lands and board nominating committees and served as chair of the board in 2006-2007. Zack Porter joined the Trust’s board of directors in 2019. He chairs the lands committee and is a member of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion working group.