Jim Shelden, President of the Institute's Glacial Lake Missoula Chapter, said that, while funding for the authorized trail has yet to be planned, the time has come for the importance of the Lake Missoula Flood to be recognized.
said it was one of the ten big things in the history of the planet as far as dirt moving and water sloshing," he
"It's impossible to be schooled in the northwest and not have a good background in the flood.
Just in my work, I've lived from one end of the flood to the other pretty much and it's always been of interest."
Shelden, a geologist who spent the bulk of his career working as a federal geologist with the BLM and Forest Service, was a founding member of the IAFI and had been following the trail-establishment process since its inception.
said that, while the legislation had been passed twice before by both the House and Senate
, it always seemed to get lost in the shuffle.
"It kind of seemed to be one of those bad luck things," he
"It would pass in the House and Senate
with slightly different versions and every time we would come up with a reconciliation bill we'd either get bombed or declare war or do something and, you know, it was just never a big priority."
said, now that the legislation has been signed into law, it's only a matter of time before details start to come together.
According to Shelden
, federal funds for the trail will come from the interior department via the Parks Service, though those details are still up in the air.
"The next big thing is to see how the states will proceed," he added, noting that a steering committee composed of at least one member from each state is in the process of being assembled.
The theory of catastrophic flooding in the northwest is a relatively young one that took some time to gain traction with a scientific community that, at the time, was fairly certain that geologic change only happened particle by particle over millions of years.
J. Harlen Bretz is credited with bringing the theory to the forefront of scientific thought, though it might not have been popular at the time.
Luckily for Bretz, said Shelden
, the evidence supporting his
theory was well preserved.
"One of the nice things about Lake Missoula is it's all carved in very good rock so that everything about it looks very fresh and you can see how high the water was," he
"Everything about it is very provable."
said that Bretz's ideas came at a time when conflicts between scientific and religious arguments were at their pinnacle.
Many in the field of science had a tough time swallowing the idea of a biblical-scale flood.
"What was happening then was there was all sorts of collisions between science and conservative religion; even within science itself," Shelden
"So, Bretz did his
thing and it turned out that he
was right and, in so doing, he
did two things," Shelden
sort of a cautionary tale that says, you know, you better look at a guy's evidence and see if he
knows what he's
talking about; and he
made it permissible to think in terms of big changes and fast catastrophism."
That precedent, Shelden
said, paved the way for more rapid acceptance of scientific theories dealing with catastrophic change such as the global extinction of dinosaurs at the hands of a giant meteor.
Another theory that has built itself upon the shoulders of Bretz's work is the previous existence of large bodies of water on Mars, evidenced by huge ripple marks similar to Lake Missoula's.
"Those guys that said that did not get immediately laughed-out of the conference because of the ground that Bretz had covered with Lake Missoula," Shelden