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Maine filmmaker to livestream new movie

Maine filmmaker, author, historian and frequent contributor to the Gorham Weekly Jeff Ryan was thrilled to recently receive an offer from the National Conservation Training Center (headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) to showcase his latest film.

“It had been a while since we shot some of the interview segments at the NCTC, and I was worried that they thought I’d shelved the project entirely” admits Ryan. “But I got sidetracked by a book project and circled back to the film late this winter, and I was glad I did.”

The film, entitled, “Howard Zahniser: Champion for the Wilderness”, traces the life of a man who dedicated seven years of his life and his health to finally steer The Wilderness Act into passage in 1964. When Ryan discovered that Zahniser’s story was little known outside of the community of conservation history buffs, he felt the need to bring it to film.

“Zahniser is an inspirational figure for so many reasons. He wasn’t quite cut from the same cloth as the founders of The Wilderness Society, where he became the head of publications in 1945. In fact, they were concerned that he didn’t ‘look like a wilderness man.’  He may not have looked the part, but what he accomplished — securing the protection of millions of acres of wilderness — certainly removed any doubts that he was up to the job”, says Ryan.

Ryan filmed the project in the studio at the NCTC and in Tionesta, Pennsylvania, Zahniser’s childhood hometown. The 35-minute film shows how the Allegheny region instilled an appreciation for nature in young Howard and how he went on to become an advocate for wild lands including the Adirondacks and Dinosaur National Monument before turning his attention to the passage of a national act. The film ends with a montage of places Zahniser helped keep “untrammeled by man.”

The film is narrated by veteran Maine actor Mitchell Clyde Thomas and is the second film in a series Ryan is creating called “Voices of the Wilderness”. For more information about the screening of the film and the interview with the director that will precede it, visit the National Conservation Training Center Facebook page at

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