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My Call to Action
I’d always known of wilderness, but I’d never quite experienced wild places until the summer of 2001, when I was hired to conduct inventories of roadless public lands in some of Wyoming’s most remote forests and deserts.
My job was to document every road, every incursion, and every impact of human civilization that encroached upon lands that by all measures were wild, but that lacked permanent protection.
I started in the Sierra Madre of southeastern Wyoming and worked my way to the hinterlands of the Red Desert in the central part of the state.
The work gave me a new sense of wonder and amazement of the power of undeveloped nature. In the mountains, I came face to face with raging thunderstorms, snow flurries in July, and the joy of happening upon elk, deer, and pine marten so at ease in their wild surroundings that they barely noticed me. In the desert, I stared down wild mustangs, discovered teepee rings, arrowheads atop hoodoos, and life-giving springs, and narrowly avoided flash floods along the continental divide.
I felt like I was experiencing nature for the first time all over again.
Yet with all the highs came dismal realizations. In the forest, I discovered massive clearcuts that were so big the Forest Service had to secure an exemption to approve them. I discovered meadows so overgrazed that only nonnative thistles were growing alongside dry, trampled streambeds. I discovered an extensive network of illegally created off-road vehicle trails that scoured mountainsides and turned creeks into mud puddles.
But the worst was the desert, where I witnessed first hand the destruction that fossil fuel development wreaks in the fragile high plains of the Rocky Mountains. I traversed mile after mile of roads leading to hundreds of oil and gas wells, each one spewing noxious gases and stained black from leaks and spills. This development left roadkilled wildlife, trash piles, and big rig traffic in its wake.
Put another way, the wild deserts of Wyoming were being sacrificed for the sake of fossil fuels, which ultimately fuel global warming.
Witnessing all of this destruction was an intense call to action for me. It made me realize that the key to safeguarding the West and saving the climate is to protect wild places.
It’s also been a call to action for WildEarth Guardians. For 25 years now, we’ve not only sought to protect our public lands, but confront the West’s oil, gas, and coal with the goal of stemming global warming pollution. By saving our wild places and saying no to fossil fuels, not only can we keep our valuable public lands safe from destruction, we can take big steps forward for our climate.
After all, the American West is the source of more global warming pollution than anywhere else in our nation. With massive coal mines and expansive oil and gas fields—mostly on public lands—it is here that Guardians is a powerful force in curtailing fossil fuels, combating climate change, and maintaining our wild places.
As we celebrate 25 years of being a force for nature, I’m empowered by Guardians’ ability to work comprehensively across the West. Not only are we actively securing protections for wild places and threatened wildlife species, including many in Wyoming, we’re beating back the onslaught of oil, gas, and coal that are degrading our public lands and fueling global warming.
It’s a potent combination of advocacy that emphasizes how important and effective we are already, and will be for the next 25 years. It’s heartening for me. I’ve seen the majesty of our public lands and I’ve experienced their inspiring wildness. Their power is amazing, but without diligence, they could disappear completely.
I know you share my desire to protect our public lands and I hope you will join me as we begin our next 25 years defending the West and ensuring that our wild places remain intact and serve as an inspiration for future generations.
For the wild,
Climate and Energy Program Director