Wilderness Walks - Conserving What I Love

I serve on the board of the Eastern Wildlands Chapter of the Montana Wilderness Association.  Its a great group to be involved in.  The MWA does a great deal involving policy, resource management plans, and other sometimes rather dry--but critical--components of the conservation movement, the work to preserve wild places and the wildlife that lives there for now and future generations.
I think this sort of policy-based activism will make meaningful, long-lasting changes.  I am so grateful for the MWA volunteers and employees who lobby our legislature, who pour over every single page of environmental impact statement, who hold public land rallies at the Capitol, etc.  That said, my favorite part of the "job" is meeting other people who love the outdoors and exposing them to new places and experiences.  Its all about making connections.
This spring, I lead my second annual wilderness walk east of Billings to a lovely butte speckled with petroglyphs, overlooking the sweeping sagebrush prairie.  I had a great group this year--and it was a beautiful day of hiking under the big, blue Montana sky.  I was thinking about it again after my last Eastern Wildlands meeting.
Connecting people to their place has to be one of the best ways to help preserve it, I think.  If people don't know they don't care.  Making the place real--not just an abstract wild somewhere else--is so critical, in my opinion, to its long-lasting preservation.  It made me think of a t-shirt I got once from my sister.  It was very, very early on in my introduction to the environmental/conservation movement.  The t-shirt was covered with pictures of wildlife and this saying:
"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will only understand what we are taught."  Baba Dioum
I always loved that.  Its made so much sense to me--and continues to do so today.  It makes sense.  Watching birds doing their bird thing--hunting, swallowing, calling, answering, preening, perching, soaring, nest building--makes me want to make sure they always have a place to do it in.  Experiencing the wild power of a thunderstorm echoing off sheer granite peaks makes me so grateful for the untrammeled wild places we've got, and the power of nature--and what a small and important part I have in it.   It makes me care more about the wildlands and the urban landscape.  It makes me want to make my yard a migratory stopover.  It makes me want to help people fall in love with the sage grouse.  It makes me want to live lightly, yet deeply.
I know so many people who feel overwhelmed and disconnected in their world.  I want there to be places of solitude--in the town and in the mountains--to go recharge, to find one's self, to have a moment of quiet introspection.  Its done so much good in my life.  I am happy to play even a small part in ensuring these places will be here for me in my old age, for Keleigh and Eli, for the mountain goats and the marmots, for the huckleberries and the rosy pussytoes.  We're all in this thing together.
FYI:  Wilderness Walks are open--and FREE--to everyone.  You don't have to be a Montana Wilderness Association member or anything.  There are walks all across the state and of varying levels of difficulty.  For more information please visit: http://wildmontana.org/our-work/programs/wilderness-walks


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