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"What he's doing has far greater impact beyond what the average adventurer or mountain climber does," says George Schaller, the eminent biologist whose research first brought attention to the chiru. "Climbing to the top of a mountain, that's self-satisfaction. But if there's a large cause, it's a deeper satisfaction because you leave something for the future."

That weekend in Jackson, Ridgeway's presentation elicited a standing ovation. Brokaw's own soaring and passionate love poem to the West was a rousing success. The governors approved a 118-page policy paper called "Wildlife Corridors Initiative," a report 18 months in the making that outlines strategies for identifying critical habitat areas. The report also makes the important point that abundant wildlife is actually good for the economy, as it drives the tourism industry, a fact often ignored by an extractive industry that equates conservation with lost jobs.

But policy papers are not laws, and whether any of the governors can actually push these recommendations through their legislatures remains to be seen. In any case, it's a promising first step—and one that Ridgeway, who hauled a rickshaw across Tibet for a month in support of his last cause, will see through.

"I would say his overarching quality is pure pigheaded tenacity," says Michael Graber, a longtime friend. "If he sees something he wants to do, he just doesn't back off of it."

This winter, the Freedom to Roam staff is racing with programmers to build an interactive platform by the summer of 2009 for people to record their adventures in migratory corridors. After a hiking, fishing, biking, floating, or hunting trip, participants will be able to upload photos, observations, and reports of any wildlife. So if you were to go online and find the Gros Ventre River outside of Grand Teton National Park, I might click on a Freedom to Roam icon planted by a group of hikers, who have posted photos of a herd of antelope that they saw.

The morning of the conference, reporters flew the pronghorn route in small planes to see for themselves. I ended up in a five-seat Cessna with just four sets of headphones. Ridgeway volunteered to sit in the back, where he wouldn't be able to talk or listen to anyone else. We soared up and veered away from the dazzling Tetons and followed the Gros Ventre into the mountains. Half an hour later we came upon pronghorn grazing amid ranchettes and oil rigs. The pilot explained how the one-two punch of drilling and fencing was blocking the migratory corridor. The window was open for the photographer, and we were blasted by a cold wind. I took off my headset and the wind rushed through my ears and the engine roared. Behind me, Ridgeway was wrapped in a parka. For the first time all weekend he was not networking or proselytizing or looking for an angle. He peered out the glass as the plane buzzed low. The pronghorn scattered and sprinted, and Ridgeway watched them bound across the sagebrush toward the mountains.

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