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From the Valley to the Mountaintop

CarolI put my computer on my desk and looked around my Intel office, what had been my place of work for the previous eight years. I could no longer deny it. My 12-week sabbatical had radically opened my eyes and my heart.

I loved my work in program management and worked hard at it. I joined the Tech boom at an exciting time when Silicon Valley was just starting up. For almost two decades, I had lived a Tech dream from starting a family software company with my Dad to working for Apple. When I began work for Intel my plan was to stay forever. But something changed. Carol Vista

Twelve months later, I took my badge off and walked into my supervisor’s office to hand it over. It was a cathartic act. I remembered my first love, before program management, biology. After graduating from Brown on the East Coast, I worked with the Student Conservation Association in the Curecanti National Recreation Area near Gunnison, Colorado. 

Back then, I wanted to continue working in the field, but I wasn’t ready to return to school for an advanced degree. So I made different choices and pursued a different career path.

That day that I walked out of the Intel building I couldn’t help but do a little dance knowing that I would devote myself to finding my heart’s work. Four months later, I had complete clarity about what was next; I joined WildEarth Guardians. 

Carol at the seaWhat happened on that 12-week sabbatical? I backpacked into San Pedro Parks wilderness in the Jemez mountains—alone for a week. I climbed Mount of the Holy Cross in Colorado with a friend who had never seen the Rockies and saw them through new eyes. I spent five days in the Weminuche Wilderness, with my 13 year-old niece and nephew, my wonder compounded by their wonder in one of the last places grizzlies lived in the Southern Rockies. I breathed in Zion National Park on a weeklong yoga retreat. At the end of 3 months, I could not ignore the sound of my heart beating for wild places. 

I would like to believe that as a 20-something working in the field in Curecanti National Recreation Area, and before that as a California girl in the 70’s stuffing envelopes for Jerry Brown and Pete McCloskey, for Committee for Green Foothills and Sierra Club, that I was already a Guardian. Admittedly, I did not take the shortest path, but I believe the longer journey prepared me better. It isn’t always easy, but I know without a doubt that every day at WildEarth Guardians, I am hugely satisfied by the work we do.

Guardians’ work is bold and innovative and it is strategic and effective. We may be a small regional organization, but we have an out-sized impact on our issues. I love working with our team because we hire some of the brightest people on the planet who, like me, know this is our life’s work. Guardians are committed to the bone to achieve our vision—a world where wildlife and wild places are respected and valued and a world that is sustainable for all beings.

After reflecting on where I’ve been, I am profoundly grateful to be a Guardian and more excited than ever about where we are going. It is truly a season to celebrate. There are more wolves in the Gila this year, and perhaps there are fewer cruel and inhumane leg hold traps in Idaho and Montana. Four fewer coal-fired turbines are spewing carbon into our atmosphere thanks to Guardians, and our work to protect the sage grouse has the potential to transform land use across 78 million acres of the Sagebrush Sea. 

This day is a special day for many, and this season is meaningful to almost everyone as we reflect on the progress of one year and the possibility of the next. I am marking this moment in time to thank you for being part of an incredibly important, multi-generational movement to make the world a better place. Thank you for being a Guardian in whatever way you are able. It has been an incredible 25 years and the next 25 will be even better.

For the wild,

Carol Norton Signature

Carol Norton Headshot

Carol Norton
Associate Director
WildEarth Guardians

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