WASHINGTON -- James Stewart's famed character "Jefferson Smith" was ready to fight for a national boys camp that would give kids a chance to develop character while experiencing the great outdoors. When the idealistic "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," however, he discovers it takes an astounding amount of work and perseverance to make a difference.
The legendary film has become a synonymous reference for everyday Americans heading here to do what they can to fight for their issues. West Virginia Wilderness Coalition Campaign Coordinator Mike Costello becomes the latest "Mr. Smith" to hit this town on Sept. 19, when he and huge cast of other Mr. and Mrs. Smiths from across the country gather for Great Outdoors America Week (GO America Week). The outdoor advocates will spend the week calling on Congress and the Obama administration to protect our wild places. The diverse array of groups participating include Bull Moose Sportsmen, Vet Voice Foundation and the Outdoor Alliance for Kids.
“Our nation’s wild landscape is disappearing at an alarming rate,” says Costello, who has worked on multiple Wilderness campaigns, including the historic Wild Monongahela effort. The final passage of the Wild Mon Act ensured Wilderness protections for 38,000 acres of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest and represented the state’s first Wilderness designation in over 25 years. “There will be an inspiring level of energy in Washington, D.C. as citizens converge to preserve our threatened natural treasures. GO America Week is a great opportunity to work with Congressional leaders to protect the special places that make America’s outdoors so great.”
Thanks to modern technology, you can experience Go America Week right along with Costello.
Tune into The Wilderness Society's live blog to follow him as he honors Congressional champions of the outdoors, sits in on briefings with officials from agencies including the departments of Interior and Agriculture. Through quick reports, videos, photos, Tweets and Facebooks posts -- all located on the live blog -- you can rally support for Costello and all the "Smiths". You can also keep up with the action on Twitter through The Wilderness Society, Costello at the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition and by using #GOAmericaWeek. Both organizations are on Facebook, too.
"I'm looking forward to sharing the week with Web viewers all over America," Costello says. "This will be interactive, too: I will be asking for your thoughts and asking you to help us spread the word about the need put pressure on Congress and President Obama so they protect our wild places against a slew of recent attacks."
The setbacks Costello refers to are wide ranging. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sponsored a bill earlier this year would roll back existing protections and place at risk tens of millions more acres of wilderness-quality but unprotected National Forest and BLM public lands. It also prevents Congress or future administrations from using a national policy like the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule to protect these lands in the future. Many other members of Congress, meanwhile, are seeking to whack conservation funding with a stick. They even want to mine the Grand Canyon.
Costello and all the other GO America Week are up for the challenge – and geared up to honor the conviction of Senator Jefferson Smith.