Letters from the West

Stuebner, Wilson get Nelle Tobias award

Wendy Wilson and Steve Stuebner were honored Wednesday with the Nelle Tobias Award for Environmental Integrity by the Fund for Idaho.

Wilson has long been one of Idaho’s leading environmental activists. But it was her leadership in the fight to stop hydroelectric development of the Payette River and her founding of Friends of the Payette and later Idaho Rivers United that changed conservation in the state. The campaign brought kayakers and whitewater rafters who worked in Idaho’s budding high tech industry into the cause and the halls of the Idaho Capitol.

She has mentored and taught two generations of conservation leaders in Idaho and across the West as an executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, the Institute for Conservation Leadership and the Rivers Network. Today she is the executive director for Advocates of the West, which has a team of some of the best environmental lawyers in the West.

Stuebner used to have my job as the environmental reporter for the Idaho Statesman and broke ground reporting on tough issues like mining, public lands grazing, logging and salmon. Later he worked with me at the Idaho Falls Post Register where we and Candace Burns did a major award-winning series on the Salmon River Country.

The centerpiece of the series was a float trip Stuebner organized down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with people from all sides of the debate including Republican Rep. JoAn Wood, representatives of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the mining industry and federal fisheries officials.

Later Stuebner published 10 books that have helped get people into the outdoors and today he works on public relation projects, including the Idaho Rangeland Commission, enlarging the tent of conservation.

The award honors Nelle Tobias, an Idaho pioneer who lived in McCall and quietly funded many of the conservation groups that were protecting her beloved Payette River, Idaho’s roadless areas and the Frank Church River of No Return. She died in 2005 at age 98.