Member Spotlight: Thumbs Up to Arlington’s Al Burt

Wilderness Society Member Al Burt

Some people will go to great lengths to preserve wilderness. Wilderness Society member Al Burt is one of them.

“Wilderness nourishes me—mentally as well as physically,” says Al Burt. “I go outside, breathe fresh air, and just feel better.”

After receiving one of our WildAlert messages about the Bush administration’s attempts to open pristine, roadless forest lands in Idaho, Burt snapped into action.

Burt, an active 67-year-old grandfather of seven, walked several miles from his home in Arlington, Va., to Capitol Hill to attend a meeting where federal and Idaho officials heard comments from the public.

After telling officials that protecting roadless lands was important to him, Burt sat down with us to explain why he took time out to defend forests in a state on the other side of the nation.  

It’s Going to Make a Difference

A native of Wheeling, West Va, Burt first experienced Idaho wilderness more than 40 years ago. He fell in love with America the Beautiful and, in order to protect our natural legacy, eventually became a Wilderness Society member.

“I really like the e-mail alerts,” says Burt, who jokes that he’s older than Mount Rushmore. (He was born before the carving of the monument was completed, in 1941.) “They give me the ability to say what I want to say in very little time, knowing it’s going to make a difference. That’s extremely valuable to me.”

The retired aerospace engineer, who once worked to send men to the moon, spends considerable time outdoors appreciating what nature and conservation organizations provide: he bikes 100 miles per week on trails running through the Washington area, hikes in places such as Great Falls Park, and camps on public lands across the West.

Burt did spend enough time indoors to write Cut the Strings, a new book examining quality-of-life issues, including the role of national parks and forests.

His pet peeve? “It’s a mistake when people go outside with their cell phones and their radio headsets,” he says. “People never get a chance to turn all that electronic junk off and just think.”