Press/PR

Colorado Trout Unlimited Applauds Progress to Save LWCF

Senate passes bill to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund and protect special places

(Feb. 12, 2019) Denver, CO. – The United States Senate has voted to advance S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act. Importantly, the bipartisan legislation permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has been expired since September 30. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives where supporters are urging quick passage.

 

“Even when this hugely successful program was falling victim to Washington’s partisan dysfunction, Senators Bennet and Gardner never stopped working to secure its passage. We deeply appreciate their unflagging commitment to investing in Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.  

 

Gunnison Gorge, CO Picture from: Unsplash.com

Gunnison Gorge, CO Picture from: Unsplash.com

For over half a century, LWCF has used a portion of federal offshore energy revenues — at no cost to taxpayers — to conserve our lands, water, and open spaces and protect the outdoor recreation opportunities they offer. LWCF has invested over $268 million in Colorado, helping to secure access and conserve special places, across the state, including the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and boat launches on the Colorado River.

 

“We still need to fully fund LWCF and we’ll continue working toward that end, but permanent authorization is an enormous accomplishment for all who have working tirelessly on this issue,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “In addition to LWCF, there are dozens of bipartisan provisions across the country that will help sustain our public land heritage, including new Wilderness areas, Wild and Scenic River sections and National Conservation Areas. This is one of the most important pieces of public lands legislation in recent memory and we urge the House of Representatives to quickly pass this bill.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

 

Feb. 12, 2019

Contacts: 

David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited 

303-440-2937 x1 dnickum@tu.org

 

Scott Willoughby, Trout Unlimited

970-390-3676 swilloughby@tu.org  


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Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and TwitterInstagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.

 

50 years protecting rivers, and we're just getting started

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Every once in awhile you need to stop and take a look back. To take inventory. To measure your successes. To celebrate your accomplishments together; as a group.

Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 50th Anniversary officially kicked off January 1 of this year and now is exactly the time for us to showcase our accomplishments. As you read this, keep in mind all that you have done together with your fellow members. Think about everyone else that has created so much in each of the 49 years before this one.

This year we will be using our limited edition 50th anniversary logo.

This year we will be using our limited edition 50th anniversary logo.

In August of 1969 a small collection of visionaries gathered in Vail and formed Colorado Trout Unlimited with this mission statement: To Conserve, Protect and Restore Colorado’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds. We now boast approximately 12,000 members statewide who participate locally in 24 chapters. How does that compare? Colorado has the second highest number of Trout Unlimited members in the country second only to Pennsylvania. We are committed to carrying on the mission and to inspire other visionaries to join us.

In 2018 Trout Unlimited in Colorado invested more than $4,700,000 towards our mission. In addition, we have organized 45,000 hours of volunteer service, conducted more than 100 youth education programs and events, 60 conservation projects and 40 veterans service projects. You did that. Each of you. You are a positive force accomplishing our mission.

There are countless stories of our positive impacts. Some are high profile efforts like the “Save the Fraser” campaign or the defeat of Two Forks Dam. Some go largely unnoticed – except by the trout that benefit. Some are as simple as picking up a piece of trash as you peacefully walk stream side. It all goes to the common good. As a part of our celebration, we invite you to submit stories and pictures to share from your TU experiences. Now is the time- share your passion, your excitement and your accomplishments. Big or small, we welcome your submissions (coloradotu.org/submit-your-story). We will be showcasing them throughout the year- our 50th anniversary year- with members and nonmembers alike.   

You should be proud of yourselves. Our accomplishments are something to be shared. Capture the positive energy and share the TU story with somebody who might not know about us. The next visionary might just be in your network. The next new member is waiting for your inspiration.

Thank you for all that you have done and all that you will do in the future. The next 50 years starts with you. CTU’s next chapter continues with your passion.

Mike Ledger, CTU Member and Director at Large, Chair 50th Anniversary Workgroup



January Currents: We're just getting started!

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The latest issue of Currents is out! See how we are kicking off our 50th Anniversary this year! We also have a list of upcoming events around the state and an exclusive peek at the 50th Anniversary custom rod made by SaraBella Fishing, which will only be available at the River Stewardship Gala on March 7, 2019. 

High Country Angler Winter Issue

That's right, the latest digital issue of High Country Angler, Winter 2019 is now available! This issue features a Q& A with Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis, the fishing trip of a lifetime in New Zealand, how raising trout in a classroom inspires youth, stories on both fishing and conservation work on the Dolores, a recap of Greenback Cutthroat recovery efforts, and upcoming events to look forward to in 2019. All of this and more is available to read now. Happy New Year!

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers aim to cut protections for thousands of streams

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Proposal leaves important drinking water sources and habitat unprotected from pollution 

For immediate release 

Dec. 11, 2018 

Contact: 
Steve Moyer, steve.moyer@tu.org, (571) 274-0593
Vice President of Government Affairs

Shauna Stephenson, shauna.stephenson@tu.org (307) 757-7861
National Communications Director

(Dec. 11, 2018) WASHINGTON D.C. -- Trout Unlimited announced its strong opposition to the proposed rollback of protections for thousands of miles of streams and many wetlands today by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The proposal outlines an ill-conceived approach to applying the Clean Water Act by eliminating protection for thousands of stream miles in the country – streams that supply drinking water for millions of Americans. It also erases protections for thousands of acres of wetlands, a critical component to a functioning watersheds. 

 The proposal will deregulate a host of development activities, such as pipeline construction that will, over time, degrade hunting and fishing opportunities in every state in the country. 

“Today’s proposal is so far off track that you cannot see the track from where this proposal landed,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Headwater streams, especially ephemeral streams, are like the capillaries in our bodies – they're small and easy to overlook, but we wouldn’t last long without them. It is a fundamentally flawed proposal.” 

Polls show Americans overwhelmingly support protections for clean water and the Clean Water Act. 

“The Agencies’ proposal turns its back on the importance of small headwater streams to healthy waterways and sportfishing recreation," said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited.  “Sportsmen and women know that we all live downstream. All the benefits of our larger streams, rivers, and bays are dependent on the health of our small streams.” 

Using the Clean Water Act to protect headwater streams is especially valuable to Trout Unlimited. At a basic level, 59 percent of rivers and stream miles in the lower 48 states are intermittent or ephemeral (i.e., they are small or headwater streams that do not flow year-round). However, in the drier southwest, that figure is higher. In Arizona, 96 percent of the waters are intermittent or ephemeral streams. EPA Region 8, consisting of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas, estimates that only 17 percent of the waters in its states flow year-round.   

Headwater streams contribute to the drinking water supplies of 117 million Americans, protect communities from flooding, and provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that support a robust outdoor recreation economy worth $887 billion.  

“Clean water is not a political issue. It is a basic right of every American,” Wood said. “To be effective, the Clean Water Act must be able to control pollution at its source -- upstream in the headwaters and wetlands that flow downstream through communities to our major lakes, rivers, and bays. We urge the Agencies to reconsider their flawed proposal and remember the very purpose of the Clean Water Act.” 

Frequently asked questions: 

How Did We Get Here?  

When the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, it protected virtually all of America’s waters--every type of stream, wetland, river, lake or bay. A 2001 Supreme Court decision first questioned if all wetlands and streams should in fact be protected--and the issue has become ever-more politicized since then. 

In 2015, under President Obama, the EPA finalized a rule (the Clean Water Rule) clarifying that the Clean Water Act protects all of our nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands. The rule gained strong support from sportsmen, scientists and the public, but it was opposed by a powerful coalition of agriculture and development interests  

What’s happening now? 

Early in 2017, President Trump directed the EPA to first rescind and then replace the Clean Water Rule. The Administration’s efforts to rescind the 2015 Rule have partially blocked, as the 2015 Rule is in effect in 22 states. The new proposal, unveiled today, is an unwarranted effort to replace the 2015 Rule. The new proposal is NOT based in science and is NOT consistent with the goals of the Clean Water Act. The new rollback proposal will undermine long standing protections for wetlands and small streams, it will harm hunting and fishing in America. 

Why should sportsmen care? 

The Clean Water Act and the 2015 Rule are vital to TU’s work and to anglers across the nation. Whether TU is working with farmers to restore small headwater streams in West Virginia, removing acidic pollution caused by abandoned mines in Pennsylvania, or protecting the world-famous salmon-producing, 14,000-jobs-sustaining watershed of Bristol Bay, Alaska, we rely on the Clean Water Act to safeguard our water quality improvements. 

TU members, and sportsmen and women nationwide, want to move forward with progress on cleaning up our nation’s waters, not go backwards. Thus, the Clean Water Act needs to be improved, not weakened—the as was the case in today’s proposal. 

 

 Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and TwitterInstagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.  

 

Time for Congress to support our great outdoors

Repost from the Grand Junction Sentinel:

by THE DAVE DRAGOO

With elections behind us, Congress is reconvening for its so-called "lame duck" session. One of its first orders of business should be to permanently reauthorize our nation's most successful outdoor recreation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Over its more than 50 years, the LWCF has provided more than $16 billion in protecting valuable habitats, expanding public access to America's public lands, and supporting local projects for outdoor recreation. And it has done so without busting the federal budget — relying on revenue generated by the success of America's energy sector, not taxpayer dollars.

Close to home, LWCF has helped western Colorado with investments from protecting the Ophir Valley above Telluride, to securing key inholdings at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, to supporting the community Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs. More than $268 million has flowed into Colorado from LWCF, securing key public lands, opening up improved hunting and angling access, and supporting community trail and park development.

Yet despite bipartisan support and a long track record of success, Congressional gridlock allowed the LWCF to expire on Sept. 30. The loss of LWCF could seriously hamper future efforts to conserve valuable habitats and expand public access to America's public lands. Fortunately, the lame duck session gives Congress a second chance to reinstate the program with full, dedicated annual funding.

Here in Colorado, we know that protecting our outdoor resources isn't just about the environment and our quality of life — it is also an investment in our state's economy and our communities. Outdoor recreation in Colorado contributes $62.5 billion to our state economy, and supports 511,000 jobs. For businesses like Mayfly, the great outdoors is our corporate infrastructure — and the LWCF helps provide the outdoor resources for our customers that allow us to invest in our companies, our workforce, and our communities.

Sens. Bennet and Gardner and Congressman Tipton have all supported permanent reauthorization of LWCF, for which Coloradans can be grateful. Now it is time for them, and the rest of Congress, to finish the job and ensure that this vital program continues to support Colorado's — and America's — great outdoors and the multi-billion outdoor recreation economy that it supports. The time is now to #SaveLWCF.

David Dragoo is president of Mayfly Outdoors, a Certified B Corp that operates Montrose-based Abel Reels and Ross Reels with the goal of conserving wildlife and fish habitats.

Article Link

Request for Proposals: Fish Passage and Ditch Diversion Improvement

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Trout Unlimited (TU), in coordination with the Town of Granby (Town), Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is soliciting Proposals for Design Services for a diversion structure on the Fraser River in Granby, Colorado.  Proposals shall be received by TU via U.S. Mail and email by no later than January 4, 2019 at 5:00 pm at the following address:

Mely Whiting

P.O. Box 1544

Pagosa Springs, CO 81147

mwhiting@tu.org

Intent to submit a proposal shall be submitted via email to Mely Whiting at mwhiting@tu.org by December 21, 2018.  Only those contractors that submit an “intent to submit proposals” will be considered for a final proposal. The intent to submit proposal should list the primary contact and their contact information.

Consulting services shall be led by a primary Contractor, whose team should include appropriate fish passage engineers/scientists, river modeling and scour analysis experts, ditch diversion designers, and experience in water rights related to ditch diversions in Colorado. Contractor selection will be made through a combination of Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) and Cost Based Processes as described in this Request for Proposals (RFP). Please refer to the following sections for details on the project, conditions, schedule, proposal requirements, and selection process.

QUESTIONS and ONSITE FIELD VISIT

An onsite, field visit will occur on November 28, 2018 to answer questions about the project aspects.  Interested contractors are highly encouraged to attend.  Please meet at the Town of Granby Town Hall, Zero Jasper Avenue, Granby, Colorado at 2:00 pm on November 28, 2018. All questions relating to this RFP should be addressed to Mely Whiting by email, at mwhiting@tu.org.  Questions are due in writing by no later than 5:00 p.m. on December 5, 2018.  All questions will be addressed in one batch with answers sent out to all recipients by December 14, 2018.

IMPORTANT DATES:

  • November 14, 2018 Request For Proposals Announced

  • November 28, 2018 2:00pm Onsite Field Visit and Answer Questions at the Town of Grandby Town Hall

  • December 5, 2018 5:00pm All Questions due in writing by December to Mely Whiting by email, at mwhiting@tu.org

  • December 21, 2018 Intent to submit a proposal shall be submitted via email to Mely Whiting at mwhiting@tu.org

  • January 4, 2018 at 5:00pm Proposals shall be receivd by TU via U.S. Mail and email by no later than at the following address:

    Mely Whiting

    P.O. Box 1544

    Pagosa Springs, CO 81147

    mwhiting@tu.org

    Please download the full proposal details and requirements by clicking the button below:

Ring the Victory Bells

Conservationists: Victory for the Maroon Bells Wilderness

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Final agreement means Aspen will abandon plans to build dams on Maroon & Castle Creeks

Aspen, CO (Oct. 16, 2018) – Today, Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, and Colorado Trout Unlimited celebrated news that the city of Aspen has reached the last agreement necessary for it to permanently abandon its plans to build dams on Maroon and Castle creeks. 

“This agreement is a huge victory for the Maroon Bells Wilderness and the Maroon and Castle creeks. The city of Aspen deserves tremendous credit for agreeing not to build these dams and instead pursue smart water alternatives that will enable the city to respond to future needs and to climate change, while preserving this amazing natural environment that draws visitors from all around the world,” said Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois. “Communities throughout the Colorado River basin face similar dilemmas; Aspen is showing true leadership by demonstrating that it’s possible to find solutions that protect our rivers, preserve our quality of life, and enable future growth.”

“The signing of this final document means the end of conditional water rights that would have allowed dams to be built across Castle and Maroon creeks. The city of Aspen played a leadership role in working to find a set of solutions that will both protect Castle and Maroon creeks and ensure continued water for the citizens of Aspen,” said Will Roush, Executive Director at Wilderness Workshop. “Castle and Maroon creeks have tremendous ecological and community values, this is a moment to celebrate both the continuation of their free-flowing character and the partnership and collaboration with the city of Aspen that led to this outcome.”

“This is a significant victory for rivers in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Matt Rice, Colorado River Basin Director for American Rivers. “We applaud the city of Aspen for working with the community to find more sustainable and cost-effective water supply solutions. Thanks to the hard work and persistence of so many people who love this special place, these creeks will forever flow free.”

Sacrificing the places that make Colorado great is the wrong answer for meeting future water needs,
— David Nickum, CTU Executive Director

“We appreciate the city of Aspen’s commitment to meet its water supply needs in ways that protect these much-loved valleys and creeks, and the wild trout that call them home” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

If built, the dams proposed on Maroon and Castle creeks would have flooded important wildlife and recreation areas in addition to portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, forever changing two of the most beautiful, visited, and photographed valleys in Colorado.

The plans were opposed by Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, and Trout Unlimited, as well as several other parties, including Pitkin County and the U.S. Forest Service. This spring, after extensive negotiations, the conservation organizations signed agreements with the city, requiring it to relocate its water rights and abandon plans to build reservoirs with dams on Castle and Maroon creeks, regardless of whether it is successful in moving these rights to alternative locations. However, the agreements were contingent on the city reaching accord with other opposers in the case. Final agreement ending plans for a dam and reservoir on Castle Creek was reached in late summer. Today, the city announced a final settlement regarding the dam and reservoir on Maroon Creek.

The agreements commit Aspen to pursuing more river-friendly water storage strategies. The city will seek to move a portion of its water rights to a suite of more environmentally friendly water storage locations within and downstream of the city limits, including a site near the gravel quarry at Woody Creek. The city of Aspen played a critical role in helping find solutions to protect the two creeks while maintaining an important source of water for the community.


Western Resource Advocates works to protect the West’s land, air, and water so that our communities thrive in balance with nature. WRA’s team of scientists, lawyers, and economists craft and implement innovative solutions to the most complex natural resource challenges in the region. For more information, visit www.westernresourceadvocates.org and follow us on Twitter @wradv.

Wilderness Workshop is dedicated to preservation and conservation of the wilderness and natural resources of the White River National Forest and adjacent public lands. WW engages in research, education, legal advocacy and grassroots organizing to protect the ecological integrity of local landscapes and public lands. WW is the oldest environmental nonprofit in the Roaring Fork Valley, dating back to 1967 with a membership base of over 800.  Learn more at http://www.wildernessworkshop.org/.

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 275,000 members, supporters, and volunteers. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at www.AmericanRivers.org.

Colorado Trout Unlimited is dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring Colorado’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. With a grassroots base comprised of nearly 12,000 members in 24 local chapters across the state, CTU works both locally and statewide through advocacy, education, and on-the-ground restoration projects. For more information visit www.coloradotu.org.




NEWS RELEASE             

 Contacts:

Jennifer Talhelm, Western Resource Advocates Communications Director,

202-870-4465, Jennifer.talhelm@westernresources.org

Will Roush, Wilderness Workshop Executive Director,

206-979-4016, will@wildernessworkshop.org

Matt Rice, American Rivers Colorado River Basin Program Director,

303-454-3395, mrice@americanrivers.org

David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited Executive Director,

303-440-2937 x1, david.nickum@tu.org

The Thompson Divide: Standing at the Summit

Photo: Trout Unlimited www.tu.org

Photo: Trout Unlimited www.tu.org

Excerpt from Aspen Times, read the full article here.

By Scott Willoughby

In a landlocked rise of rock and ice, Thompson Divide flows like a vein of Colorado gold. This vast sweep of lustrous aspen groves and lush conifer forests surrounded by the iconic sentinel of Mount Sopris, the towering Elk Mountains, rugged Ragged Wilderness and verdant Grand Mesa is flanked by open, grassy meadows and cool, clean trout streams offering a treasure of precious, wild habitat. The 221,000-acre backcountry expanse serves as one of the most pristine natural environments in the West, and among the most deserving of preservation.

Described as a "Colorado Crown Jewel" by Gov. John Hickenlooper himself, the rolling, mid-elevation backcountry is home to a rare combination of natural and recreational resources in the heart one the nation's most popular outdoor playgrounds. Because it supports recreation, ranching and other local industries, the Thompson Divide produces an estimated 300 jobs and pumps more than $30 million into the local economy, much of it during the fall harvest and hunting seasons when the hillsides bustle with life.

Critical keystone habitat supports some of the state's largest herds of Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and dozens of other species benefiting from one of the densest concentrations of roadless areas in the West. Native cutthroat trout line the vital cold water streams and ponds that continue to serve as a water source for the husky bruins once hunted by conservation champion President Theodore Roosevelt more than 100 years ago.

A new chapter was added to this storied landscape recently when a coalition of local government officials, businesses, ranchers, sportsmen and citizen groups successfully orchestrated the cancellation of 25 oil and gas drilling leases improperly issued in the early 2000s within Thompson Divide's boundaries and settled a lawsuit challenging the cancellation last summer. The leases covered more than 21,000 acres (about 33 square miles), featuring prime big game habitat and native cutthroat trout streams in watersheds providing source water to the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers, as well as local communities.

But the battle is far from won. Keep reading.

Can’t access the full article, try on Trout Unlimited.

#STANDFORPUBLICLAND

Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park, California

Guest blog by Catherine Belme

When I moved into my @vanforpublicland and drove off on the open road last fall, it was to fuel my soul and better connect with and get to know the land I call home. It’s so much more than that though. I have the deepest, most passionate feelings for this land, for the rivers and plants and animals that inhabit it with us. We are creatures of the wild, somewhere along the lines domesticating ourselves a little too much, in my opinion. I strongly believe all of us have a primal connection to the outdoors, the wild. Some of us just may never have had the chance to explore that yet, and others may have forgotten or suppressed it while caught up in modern life. I want to change that.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

I strongly, strongly believe that interacting with nature heals the body and soul, grounds us, helps us understand life and get a grip on what actually matters and why, gives us fuel and a deep sense of fulfillment. I want to share the feelings I get when in the outdoors with as many as possible. For these feelings – they’re the first step in developing a lasting relationship. The way I see it, there’s something in the outdoors for everyone, and once found it leads to an appreciation for and love of the environment. Once that foundation is laid, people begin feeling passionate about the wild spaces in their lives, and with that comes a reason to protect these places. Our public lands are threatened every day, not just by humans mistreating them but also by our government and special interest groups. Now, more than ever, there is no guarantee these last wild places will remain protected for future generations to enjoy.

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears National Monument

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

I set out on the road to see as much of our nation’s public lands as possible, with the intent of sharing their largely unrealized beauty and power with others, and to meet with and share the stories of as many folks in the outdoors as I can.
Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

My hope is that through sharing these stories, others will find someone they can relate to and thus be inspired to engage in the outdoor world. Over time, they’ll get the same wonderful feelings as the rest of the outdoorsy community, feel empowered, and find a reason to protect these spaces. Then, in my wildest fantasy, everyone will fight for conservation and know how to responsibly interact with nature. From exposure to experience to connection to conservation, bam! We all will be out there taking a stand for public land.

Along my journey I have met some of the most interesting and kind people, and witnessed first hand so much lost culture and raw natural beauty. My first stop was to link up with a couple who live on the road with their pup and have fallen in love with Bears Ears National Monument and the surrounding areas. I’ve driven through Utah on trips between Colorado and southern California several times before, but never even realized how much public land is there, and how amazing the topography and rich history of these places is! We drove around the land within the old Bears Ears border, stopping to look at Native American artifacts, kivas, and petroglyphs. The area is sacred to several tribes, and incredibly rich in cultural history. (In case you aren’t aware – last December President Trump announced a reduction in size of Bears Ears National Monument by a staggering 85%; a real blow to The Antiquities Act, outdoor enthusiasts, and especially to Native peoples, to say the least.)

I have really fallen for southern and eastern Utah from my travels, though! Cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses form a crust over the earth called cryptobiotic soil – it’s very alive and very fragile so you must be careful not to tread on it, but it is so interesting to look at and unlike any other soil I’ve ever seen. The ground is red, and at first glance may seem barren, but when looking deeper you’ll find that’s not the case at all. Buttes, canyons, rivers, and dry creek beds make for a drastic landscape. At dusk and dawn the air is alive with the sounds of coyotes on the hunt. Skies are full of stars and, out there, a full moon lights up the landscape better than any flashlight could. Some of my favorite spots are the Bears Ears area, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Monument Valley, and the area surrounding Moab.

At dusk and dawn the air is alive with the sounds of coyotes on the hunt. Skies are full of stars and, out there, a full moon lights up the landscape better than any flashlight could.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

My absolute favorite spots in terms of raw beauty that I have traveled so far have been sand dunes. There’s just something about an endless stretch of hills of sand at sunset that makes all the grains getting in my clothes, food, and all over the van totally worth it. White Sands National Monument is in southern New Mexico and is known for it’s sprawling dunes of, you guessed it, white sand. It almost looks like snow at times, and makes for incredibly high likelihood of getting a sunburn. Bring the kids for a sledding trip, or get to the visitors’ center early and reserve a backpacking campsite. My partner met me in El Paso and we spent a day and night at the dunes, I can assure you that sunset is nothing short of magical. My other favorites dunes were at Monahans Sandhills State Park in Texas. The state park is a bit smaller, but they have a good amount of campsites that you can drive right up to, as well as a day-use area. Unfortunately, someone discovered that the area is great for fracking, so there are a ton of extraction sites going up all around the park and some are visible from the sandhills. Definitely still worth a visit though!

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Down in Texas I visited Big Bend National Park. Big Bend lies on the Rio Grande, at the border of Texas and Mexico. Across the border the land is preserved by two national parks as well, so add that to the fact that Big Bend is way off the beaten path, and it makes for an extremely well conserved area. Big Bend is where I learned about riparian areas – it’s the native plants and trees surrounding a waterway to help stabilize the banks, shade the water to keep it cool, and filter the soil, to put it briefly. The park may as well be three parks in one, actually. The eastern part is right on the Rio Grande and has a lush riparian zone as well as natural hot springs and a slot canyon. The central area is the Chisos Basin and Chisos Mountains – where you may encounter bears while hiking the mountainside or javelina at your campsite. The mountains are beautiful and have trails leading along the ridge of the canyon, where you can see the Rio Grande below. I met a kind artist from Austin and camped with her in the Chisos, photographing her painting process and chatting all evening long. To the western side is Santa Elena Canyon and a few desert hikes. I saw several kayakers here as well, and I believe you can even float the river from that area. Beyond that is a dirt road that it seems not too many drive down, which is a shame. The views are spectacular and it is rich with historical sites as well. While exploring the west side I met an older gentleman named Terry who has lived out of his little sedan for a few years and camps at National Parks every night. He was delightful to talk to and I cannot wait to get ahold of him again for a feature in my project. I can only hope my retirement is half as adventure filled as his. I also befriended a family with a few daughters who was finishing up a spring break road trip. The parents were amped to meet a woman traveling solo and enjoying the outdoors, as they have intentionally raised their daughters in the outdoors and taught them to be daring and self sufficient. I thought that was so neat, and I am so excited for those girls to grow up and keep up their passion for nature.

After the southwest, I traveled up the Pacific coast to meet up with some folks in Olympic National Park. They’re a young couple living full time in an RV in the city, working in the city, and getting out of town every weekend they can to go camping. They even had an RV cat that they put on a leash and let wander around the campsite! How funny is that! Oh my gosh though – Olympic National Park is gorgeous. The lush rainforest (I didn’t realize we had a rainforest in the US until I visited up there), the rivers, the lakes, the mountains, and the seashore – all amazing. We only spent two nights together, so I definitely am due back for further exploration – but one night we camped in the Hoh Rainforest and the other at Kalaloch Beach campground. The Hoh is filled with towering trees, greens of every shade blanket the landscape, and the Hoh River cuts right through it. I hear it’s a great spot to fly fish, and that if you’re there at the right time of year you can see and hear the Roosevelt Elk bugling to each other. Over at the beach was also nice, however completely different. There’s a big cliff with a few trails leading down to a beach that seems to go on forever along the coast, and the tide goes out pretty far so it is wide too. The friends I met in Olympic used to be campsite hosts at the Hoh Campground, and currently are ambassadors for a trail clean up program. They have such a deep connection to the park after living there for a season and looking after the rainforest. Told you I’ve been meeting and collecting stories from the most interesting people!

Navajo Nation, Arizona

Navajo Nation, Arizona

Our country has so much to offer, so many beautiful places, so many hidden gems.

It’s been about a year, and I can promise you I am nowhere near done with this project. Our country has so much to offer, so many beautiful places, so many hidden gems. It’s almost a catch-22: the less human traffic in these places the more wild, serene, and awe-striking they tend to be, however, that also means the less people who have an understanding of the land and why it needs to be protected – which often leads to lands being leased, sold, developed, mined, fracked, etc. and the majority of our country being none-the-wiser. I am working at a conservation district in eastern Washington for now, learning and doing all I can to restore the land. I’ll be continuing my #standforpublicland project as a weekend warrior, visiting and learning all about new places to share with others, sharing stories of those I meet out enjoying the great outdoors, and helping to spread responsible practices for interacting with Mother Nature. To celebrate National Public Lands day (September 22, 2018) I’ll be hiking through Palouse Falls State Park and some other areas in the Palouse region, getting to know my new home better and see all of its beauty! I hope to hear you’re out doing whatever it is you love to do most in the outdoors! Just please always remember to practice leave no trace ethics, welcome others into the outdoors, and leave each place better than you found it. I’d love for you to join my quest for public lands conservation, and please feel free to get in touch so I can share your stories to help inspire others!

Snake River, Idaho

Snake River, Idaho


A note from CTU:

Learn more about National Public Lands Day here.

See who else is celebrating and find an event near you!

The fourth Saturday of each September marks National Public Lands Day. This September 22, 2018 we are reminded what makes our public lands great and because of that, all National Parks are free on that day. We want to thank Catherine for sharing her story and perspective on public lands and invite you to celebrate these beautiful places. Currently, we are trying to urge Congress to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund which has been key in establishing, conserving, and protecting some of your favorite places in Colorado such as the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The fund is expiring soon, but you can speak up!