Guest Bloggers Archives - Page 3 of 3


  • 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.
  • July 1st, 2010

    America’s Great Outdoors Listening Session, Annapolis, MD
    Friday, June 25 2010

    Post by Chris Yoder

    The focus was on the Chesapeake Bay.  In the breakout sessions they had a list of four issues they wanted to discuss, all of them on the theme of how do we get more people outdoors and onto the Bay. My breakout group was moderated by a woman from the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

    I went off script and commented that just as the Bay is a national resource and that the entire nation, not just VA and MD, has an interest in the health of the Bay, so is America’s Red Rock Country (located in Utah) a national resource in which the entire nation has an interest (not just Utah).  I spoke in favor of “multiple use” observing that Wilderness IS a multiple use and that, unlike many management prescriptions, wilderness management protects the resource for the future.   While not all of the Red Rock Country is appropriate for Wilderness, BLM’s sweetheart deal with the prior Administration in which it agreed to refuse to recommend ANY wilderness is simply counter to the public interest, common sense, and the concept of
    multiple use management.

  • June 11th, 2010

    America’s Great Outdoors Montana Listening Session Bozeman, Montana
    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 Montana State University

    Post by Ron Craighead

    An
    introductory speech was given by Will Shefolk who works directly under Ken
    Salazar, Secretary of the Interior.  The
    stated purpose of these sessions was to ‘reconnect’ to people and issues
    regarding wilderness and public lands and restart conservation efforts that
    were absent in the previous administration. 

    There was
    an emphasis on reconnecting our nation’s youth to the outdoors, as children are
    spending less time in nature, and a desire to build momentum for local
    grassroots organizations to raise environmental awareness.  Will Shafroth referred to the creation of Yosemite and the National Trail System as examples of
    thinking ahead for future generations.

    Montana was the first stop on the tour, because they felt that Montana offered a good
    representation and diversity of views on wilderness and public land use.

    They then
    showed a 10-minute video of how government and volunteer-assisted conservation
    efforts in the past have helped protect some of our most treasured wildlands
    and parks.

    We (200 in
    attendance) were then divided into three breakout groups in different
    rooms.  I was in the group led by Jay
    Jensen from the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National Forest
    Service.

    The main
    emphasis of these sessions is to get direct input on land use issues, seek
    cooperative solutions from the public and to get input on what works and what
    doesn’t.  What role should government
    play?  They are starting with a blank
    slate and it is up to the public to provide direction on future land use
    issues.

    At this
    point, Jay opened the floor to public input.  Jay mediated and commented while
    another person took notes on a large note pad. Most of the people in the room
    made comments and a variety of people were represented:  dairy farmers, ranchers, ATV advocates,
    climbers, mountain bikers, hunters. 
    Three ranchers from southeastern MT drove four hours to have their voices
    heard.

    A very wide
    spectrum of views and subjects were expressed. 
    The government panel seemed most interested in efficient, grassroots
    projects that can be run on a local level by mostly volunteer effort.  Budgets are tight, and little money available
    to launch new national initiatives.  Jay
    seemed particularly interested in ideas that increased management and budget
    efficiency on the local level.  One
    person in attendance was an accountant who was on the MT board of Ducks
    Unlimited and had some very specific suggestions on how to improve efficiency
    of the local Fish, Wildlife and Parks operations.  Jay and crew were very interested in his
    comments.

    This forum
    really is a rare chance to present groundbreaking ideas directly to the people
    who create government policy – and they seemed eager to get that input.  They
    appreciated detail and forethought and all comments were listened to, although
    some time was spent on very broad concepts and emotional issues that, frankly,
    are difficult to act on.  They really perked up whenever someone presented a
    clear, concise, feasible idea.  It is
    also beneficial to let them know what programs work and what doesn’t.

    I commended
    the Dept of the Interior for canceling the past administration’s oil and gas
    leases in Utah
    and for initiating reforms for onshore drilling.  I also read a brief history of Utah’s ‘No
    More Wilderness’ settlement and asked them to repeal it in order to allow the
    millions of acres of wilderness quality lands now held in limbo to be able to
    move forward with possible wilderness designation.

    I was
    honored to be able to represent Utah Wilderness at this event, and I think
    having two representatives (Carolyn Hopper and myself) in two separate groups
    bring up the ‘no more wilderness’ policy in Utah was very effective. 

    Make your
    voice heard online at:

    http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/

    The final
    draft of their recommendations is to be presented this November.

  • June 4th, 2010

    America’s Great Outdoors Listening Session, Bozeman, MT
    June 2, 2010
    Blog post by Carolyn Hopper

    My impression of the “Listening ” session was that it went well.  The 200 or so who attended were in break out sessions after a short film which restated the statements in the hand outs of the purpose and mission of the Initiative.

    In my room I heard the Sierra Club, conservation corps members, one young person working with the conservation corps, ranchers, farmers, 3 or 4 ATV enthusiasts talking about “balanced use”, hunters, a canoeist – who is the head of the local canoeing “club” or group, Montana Wilderness Society and Gallatin Valley Land Trust and one Native American asking for consideration of protecting the ancient pictographs.There were comments about lack of access to public land because a private landowner has blocked access to Forest Service Land and for help for ranchers so they can stay on their land and with their known way of life.  More than once I heard the request for money for the conservation and water act, and money to support National Parks.  Education was another stated need in order to get kids engaged in the outdoors.  Conrad Anker spoke about having climbing walls at playgrounds.  Many are concerned about kids being plugged into electronic stuff.  One or two expressed the idea that everyone needs to understand that public lands belong to all of us.

    I was able to state the information for Utah.  I said:

    My husband and I have just returned from hiking and camping in southeastern Utah.  As we drove across miles of desert filled with flowers and through country where layers of time are revealed in monumental rocks, it seemed that this is part of our lungs – our breathing space. When we cover it or otherwise disturb it, it is as though we will be restricting our breathing. We need these spaces set aside for the health of our world and for ourselves.

    Thank you for coming to Bozeman, MT to listen to what we have to say about connecting people with our beautiful Nature.  I’d like to also thank the administration for canceling the Bush administration’s last second oil and gas sale lease and instituting reforms for onshore drilling.

    and ended this part of my comments with:

    Land that has been designated as having wilderness characteristics needs to be protected while Congress considers final designations.

    We had comment cards we could fill out and I reiterated the points there as well.

    One of my core beliefs is that somehow it must be shown how everything is connected and that the western states particularly must be encouraged to work together.

    One criteria for decision making on where they will go is if there are comments about a particular area or maybe requests from one area for attending.

    What I liked hearing is that there is a commitment to this Initiative whether there is an economic downturn or not.

    High ideals expressed overall – Now let’s see how it plays out.  It’s a good start at the very least.

  • June 1st, 2010

    SUWA Grassroots Leaders Retreat, Moab, Utah
    May 14-16, 2010

    Blog entry by Stephen Trimble

    We were exhilarated by the setting—Canyonlands Field Institute—nestled against the buttes and spires separating Utah’s Professor and Castle valleys. The La Sal Mountains rose to elegant snowy points, upcanyon, and sunset dramatized the red buttresses of Fisher Towers to the north. We were even more energized by the big hearts of the people who came together here for a weekend in mid-May.


    Groots Retreat 2010 Twenty SUWA grassroots activists and staff gathered from across the country to brainstorm and strategize about how best to take advantage of this moment of opportunity. How do we influence the Obama administration—so much more receptive to wilderness and conservation than the appalling corporate shills of the Bush administration? How do we convince senators intent on keeping their jobs to become champions for our cause? And how can we influence the negotiations happening in four Utah counties right now in rooms with doors mostly closed? Will those new county-by-county bills craft compromises that increase protection for Utah wilderness?

    We sifted through a whirlwind of ideas. We worked from the institutional
    memories of old-timers like Wayne Hoskisson, Utah chapter chair of the Sierra Club, from the brilliant grassroots organizing instincts of SUWA’s Deeda Seed and Terri Martin, from the quiet backcountry passion of Massachusetts photographer Harvey Halpern, and from the patient political chops of Clayton Daughenbaugh, SUWA’s Midwest organizer.

    We paid particular attention to Colorado, where Senator Mark Udall is the perfect candidate to become a champion for Utah wilderness. With his years of experience as an Outward Bound instructor in southern Utah, no member of Congress is more intimately familiar with the canyons of the redrock backcountry. A cohort of conservation leaders from Colorado along with younger folks new to the fight returned home ready to convince Senator Udall to be courageous “and step into his legacy,” in Terri Martin’s words.

    SUWA’s Brooke Williams updated us on the San Juan County negotiations. Deeda Seed described the upcoming media campaign to “mainstream” the fight, to make wilderness preservation a family value. Jackie Feinberg did her best to educate us old geezers on how to effectively use social networking media. Mark Meloy described his “Celebrate Cedar Mesa” event planned for June 12th to rally the local troops to speak for Cedar Mesa’s stunning scenic and cultural wilderness values. “The battle is won if you can organize the choir,” Mark says.

    A former leader of SUWA, Larry Young, once told me: “We know the truth. We just have to keep repeating it.” The truth—the facts of Utah wilderness issues—guided our weekend discussion. They bear repeating, for they frame every pitch we make.

    The acreage in the Redrock Wilderness Act holds less than 1 week of oil, just four weeks of natural gas. A majority of Utahns support preservation of 9 million acres or more of Utah BLM wilderness. SUWA has succeeded in halting a fifty-year loss of wilderness; under SUWA’s watch, only 1 percent has been lost since the Citizen’s Inventory. Wherever the BLM has gone back into the field to reinventory, they agree with the citizen’s inventory about 90 percent of the time.

    These are the facts. Just keep repeating them.

    We began with a night of rain, swaddled in fleece and Gore-tex, and ended in shorts and t-shirts two days later, swatting gnats. We hiked together in the canyons, to petroglyphs on a high outcrop, to the waterfall deep in Mary Jane Canyon. As always, conversations on these walks generated connections that will ripple outward for years.

    And then we went home. George Handley returned to his students at BYU, to galvanize wilderness sensibility in this unlikeliest of audiences. Mike Painter went home to San Francisco to continue his tireless efforts as director of Californians for Western Wilderness. Bev and Dave Wolf headed down the road to photograph for as many days as they could squeeze in before taking those images home to Michigan, where they will show them at SUWA and Sierra Club meetings and sign up new activists.

    It’s lifelong work. Terri Martin and I reminisced about our first meeting almost thirty years ago in Moab during the fight against proposed nuclear waste dumps near Canyonlands in the early 1980s. I expect many of us will be seeing each other again for years to come at events like this one. I just hope that those future events include some celebrations of success along with strategizing defense for these wilderness redrock canyons we all cherish.

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