Guest Bloggers Archives - Page 2 of 3


  • December 6th, 2010
    Aron Ralston photo
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    You might know me as “that guy who cut off his arm to escape a boulder.”

    With the nationwide release this month of 127 Hours – the Hollywood adaptation of my story – you might soon know me as “that guy played by James Franco” (who so vividly pretends to cut off his arm that some viewers have fainted – but still, he’s just faking).

    However you know me, please know this: I feel blessed that my experience has encouraged others.  I’m doubly blessed to be able to give back to the wilderness of southern Utah.  This land has taught me about not only strength, perseverance and the will to live, but also the will to love.

    I support SUWA – the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance – because they have been successfully defending these lands for over 25 years.  Their work has not only stemmed the loss of wilderness-quality lands, it has won congressional wilderness designations.  They safeguard nearly 10 million acres of pristine southern Utah that belong to you, me and all Americans, both present and future.

    Unchecked, our civilization’s ravenous appetite for expendable resources and high-octane recreation will progressively devour southern Utah.  Though remote, these lands are not so distant that they lie beyond the reach of energy companies’ bulldozers and drilling rigs, nor are they safe from thoughtless off-road vehicle drivers.

    Thankfully, SUWA has built a wilderness movement that has one goal: permanent protection of this amazing landscape.  Supporting and investing in SUWA is the best way to stand together and demand that Congress and the Obama administration act boldly on behalf of these lands.

    Wilderness is both a natural and a human phenomenon.  Only the perfection of nature can create it.  Only the humility of man can preserve it.

    Will you please join me in supporting SUWA and giving back to the landscapes that have given so much to us?

    Thank You,

    Aron Ralston
    (You can still call me ‘that guy’ if you like.)

    P.S. Having walked the halls of Congress as a citizen-volunteer for wild Utah, I can attest that SUWA provides top-notch value as they work in Utah and Washington DC to permanently protect the Redrock country. Please support SUWA today!

  • October 19th, 2010

    Guest post by Jamie Pleune

    Jamie and Ryan Pleune kicked off the first ten miles of their 350 mile walk with a ten mile backpack in the San Rafael Swell accompanied by eleven high school students.   The Pleunes are walking 350 miles through Utah to raise awareness for climate change and the importance of protecting wild places.   They were pleased that the symbol for the first mile that they walked on this journey was a wilderness study area boundary.  You can learn more about their journey at www.thewildernessproject.com.

     

    Wilderness boundary
  • July 29th, 2010

    America’s Great Outdoors Listening Session, Seattle, WA
    July 1, 2010

    Post by Allen Stockbridge

    On Thursday, July 1st, I attended the America’s Great Outdoors listening session in Seattle. There were about 500 people attending. After meeting in a large group, with an introduction and orientation to the event, the group broke into many small groups for a structured listening session.  These groups were led by employees of the National Park Service.

    The leader of the group of 35 people that I attended was Jonathan Jarvis, the Director of the National Park Service (nationally).  The other great coincidence of picking this group at random is that Charles and Nancy Bagley, two other Seattle based SUWA members, were in the same small group.  We planned to meet in advance (we planned to recognize each other by the Protect Wild Utah yellow button that we were wearing).

    The hour and a half long listening session was structured around four questions that were asked. After each question, the audience could speak and provide their input.  The National Park Service staff took careful notes, using a laptop and overhead, so that the comments could be added to the national report. The speakers were civil towards one another, and even the ATV guy who was there agreed that ATV riders must be held accountable to the laws protecting wilderness and wilderness study areas.

    Here is what I said in response to the questions: I introduced myself and said that I had just moved to Washington State from Utah and had worked with SUWA starting in 1996.

    • Challenges – Proposed wilderness areas are vulnerable to human encroachment and need to be protected as soon as possible or will be lost as wilderness lands forever.  Some of those opposed to a wilderness designation for sensitive federal lands are intentionally denigrating the land so that it will lose its wilderness characteristics.  This is a challenge to federal lands that needs to be addressed before it is too late.
    • Federal Government Role – Federal enforcement resources are limited due to pressure on the budgets of the BLM, National Park Service, and other agencies will patrol and protect our federal lands.  It is unrealistic to increase the allocation of resources for appropriate enforcement efforts. The penalties for those who are caught by federal enforcement agents on the ground need to have more “bite” to really discourage encroachment on federal wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and other proposed wilderness land.  Sanctions can include much higher fines; and the seizure of equipment used in wilderness areas, including ATVs, trailers, and vehicles that trespass on federal wilderness land.   A public awareness campaign about new “very high fines” are needed to create awareness of the new penalties. Without increasing sanctions, and in the absence of increased patrol and enforcement resources, wilderness areas will continue to be disrespected and irreparably harmed.  Additionally, more power can be given to citizens to record illegal activities and report them to federal authorities.  On the basis of this evidence, federal prosecutors can pursue known violations with vigor.
    • Tools – U.S. Senators and Congress members should be invited and actively encouraged to visit federal lands already designated as wilderness lands or seeking wilderness protection.  For too many members of Congress, wilderness is a vague notion.  Without direct experience and personal appreciation for lasting value of wilderness lands, there will not be the passionate support needed to protect appropriate federal wilderness lands forever.  The visits will benefit other federal land programs, including the maintenance of the National Parks operating budgets, and the public outreach programs to ensure use of parks by those most in danger of Nature Deficit Disorder.

    I encourage you to attend a Listening Session and speak. I think it is equally important to write your comments into the official record at: http://ideas.usda.gov/ago/ideas.nsf/

    For me personally, it was a deeply rewarding experience.  I left with the feeling that the federal government is listening.  I can only hope the majority of people speak to preserve wilderness and fund national parks, and federal agencies charged with protecting the land.

  • July 28th, 2010

    America’s Great Outdoors Listening Session, Albuquerque, NM
    July 17, 2010

    Post by Don Boyd

    There were about 400 participants in the Great Outdoors Listening Event I attended in Albuquerque on July 17. A youth involvement forum had been held among youth earlier in the day and a pair of teen representatives from that forum gave a report highlighting a youth march for conservation as one practical thing that youth could do. Following remarks by Senator Bingaman, Secretary Salazar, and an emcee from the Dept. of the Interior and a panel of New Mexico folks – Alvin Warren, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Dept; Kenny Salazar – Assoc. Dir. of the New Mexico Acequina Assoc.;
    Sue Probart, Exec. Dir. of Tree New Mexico; and Carl Colonius, Exec. Dir., Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – we broke into 4 groups to hold discussions.

    The group was facilitated by someone from the Dept. of the Interior and we were asked to respond to 4 questions:

    1. What Works
    2. Challenges – obstacles to achieve goals for conservation, recreation, or reconnecting people to the outdoors?
    3. Federal Government’s Role – how can the feds be a more effective partner?
    4. Tools – What additional tools and resources would help your efforts be even more successful?

    1. What Works?

    Beyond acknowledging that these events would have never happened in the previous administration and that there is a hope that it reflects a deeper and more abiding appreciation of the importance of conservation of our natural resources, we didn’t talk much about what works.

    2. Challenges?

    Not surprisingly, we spent most of our time here.

    1. No plan for youth involvement.
      This observation drew more comments and agreement than any other identified Challenge. A US Forest Ranger talked about how he involved youth in his region and how he could do more with additional funding. He spoke about how a similar activity when he was a kid set him on his career path. Youth are seen as unconnected and clearly experiencing “nature gap” (nature deficit disorder). Lack of a plan is reflected in: no vocational ag programs in schools; teacher ignorance about how to introduce nature and conservation programs, and parent apathy; and, no creation of entry
      level jobs by the Fed. government. (New Mexico’s high poverty rate and high unemployment, especially among young Hispanics, is both a source of concern and hope if funding could be found to introduce them to wilderness and conservation issues.) One participant gave the rallying cry of, “No child left on their behind, no child left inside!”
    2. Potential loss of wilderness quality lands in Utah – much redrock country is at risk – in New Mexico Otero Mesa grasslands and others – and in Colorado. (Understandably, there was more focus on the risks in New Mexico.) Potential for severe destruction to waterways due to proposed new uranium mining in New Mexico.
    3. Lack of a meaningful vision. This lack of vision has prevented effective planning for the use of public conservation resources and allows some lands to be cherry picked by short sighted local politicians and/or well financed private parties.
    4. There is little overall coordination of preservation efforts. One participant offered the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan as an example of what can happen when there is a well coordinated plan across a geographic area.
    5. The increasingly higher cost of accessing public lands. What began as a “pilot” (charging access fees), has gone on to be the norm and the result is that many people cannot afford to visit “public lands” and therefore have little investment in protecting them.
    6. Fiscal year budgets are often in conflict with youth association budgets making application for funding difficult.
    7. Lack of public appreciation for the connection between our dependence on non-renewable resources and the pressure on natural land resources.
    8. No coordination of resources from all entities at the state level.

    3. & 4. Fed. Government Role?
    Tools

    1. Vision with teeth in it that supports sustainable access to wilderness quality lands.
    2. Clear earmarking of resources to engage and involve youth (ala CCC)
    3. Creation of a Fed. Partnership Coordinator role at each state to coordinate resource distribution to local entities. A high point of the event was being able to hear what is being done by local people who are leveraging local resources, including volunteers, to involve youth and protect local habitat.
    4. Do away with the “No New Wilderness” policy.
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