South Dakota’s Indian Creek area looks much as it did when Lewis and Clark arrived–35, 895 acres of windswept tablelands, plunging canyons, and striped buttes–except for the tracks of freewheeling motorized vehicles that crisscross its prairies. “In a time when wildness is going fast,” says Jeff Olson, “you protect what you love.” Over the last year, as president of his Safari Club chapter and the Black Hills Sportsmen’s Club, Olson has rallied his combined 200 members, including ATV owners and ranchers, to demand federal protection for this immense, open place. Olson says they agree on the bottom line: “It’s the quality of the hunt.” The groups teamed up with the Sierra Club and 48 other organizations to deliver a proposal to Congress that would make their backyard the first grasslands with wilderness status.

Scott Christensen IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO
Scott Christensen is fighting an agri-giant with fish tissue. The J.R. Simplot Co. is proposing to expand a 14-mile phosphate strip mine into the Deer Creek watershed, one of Idaho’s last strongholds of the near-threatened Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The state’s southeast corner already produces 12 percent of the nation’s phosphate, and fish populations near the mines are “blinking out,” says Christensen. The excavated rock leaches selenium, a toxic element that kills trout eggs and can wipe out a stream’s population in a few years. Last summer, Christensen, a member of Idaho’s two-man branch of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, collected samples from seven streams and found selenium levels in trout flesh that were two to four times the proposed EPA standard. “If we can document this over the long term,” he says, “we hope we can stop it.”

In 1985, just outside Victoria Falls, Illinois, 20 friends purchased 389 acres of strip mine spoils, “an utter wasteland,” as John Madsen remembers it. Twenty years, 3,500 hardwood saplings, 90 nesting sites, and thousands of fish fry later, they have rebuilt an ecosystem. With rented bulldozers, Madsen and his partners level hashed earth into wide, shallow indentations that fill with rain to become wetlands. In waders, they anchor homemade platforms for migratory waterfowl, and tend to minnow breeding ponds. On dry land, they build brushpiles for quail and plant autumn olive for turkeys. “Every time we come to hunt or fish,” says Madsen, “we put in some hard labor.” Last spring, he counted 23 Canada goslings in just one small pond. “The land has become a haven.”