HELENA, MT. "I was one of the problem children of the forest service," Gloria Flora laughs. "I had to learn, early on, the art of diplomacy." Diplomatic or not, Flora made waves during a 23-year U.S. Forest Service career. In 1997, as supervisor of Montana's Lewis and Clark National Forest, she banned oil and gas leasing in the pristine 356,000-acre Rocky Mountain Front.
It was a controversial decision ― one that the oil industry has appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, thus far without having it overturned. But Flora became a hero to many Montanans. "There ought to be a monument for Gloria Flora," lauded the Missoulian newspaper. "Come to think of it, there is ― sort of. Montana's incomparable Rocky Mountain Front will endure as a monument to this forest service official's strength and vision."
Flora left the forest service two years later. Today she lectures and speaks on environmental issues, and she has started a new group, Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, whose goal is to ensure the sustainability of public lands.
Former U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck says of Flora, "She was not willing to compromise her principles even for her career. She never forgot the mission of the agency to care for the land."
"I took my responsibility very conscientiously," Flora says. "Was I going to wake up every morning a sellout? Or wake up knowing that I'd tried as hard as I could?"
Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, Box 1424, Helena, MT 59624; (406) 459-3486.