Welcome to Wilderness Week 2010

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Wilderness Week brings Wilderness Society and local activists together

Editor’s note: Jeff Hunter is a guest blogger from our partner group Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition.

By Jeff Hunter

October 1, 3:26 PM

Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. Photo by Bill Hodge.As a staff member for the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, each year I eagerly anticipate the coming of Wilderness Week. This annual gathering of wilderness advocates in our nation’s capitol is an opportunity to learn, network, lobby, and reenergize. This was my third year attending this event as an organizer for the Tennessee Wild campaign, and this year was a little different. Thanks in part to some great support from The Wilderness Society, we have a bill, the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010, which will permanently designate nearly 20,000 acres of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest as wilderness.

After weeks of planning, our Wilderness Week adventure began earlier this week in my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. While waiting at the airport gate for my colleague Bill Hodge to arrive, I ran into my Congressman Zach Wamp (Tenn-3). Although we met with a member of his staff during Wilderness Week, a good wilderness organizer never turns up an opportunity to get in a good word about Wildlands protection. We talked about the bill and the current political landscape, and the Congressman reiterated his support for protecting the Cherokee.

Once in Washington, the fun really began. Our opening reception was filled with folks from campaigns from across this great land. I was able to chat with organizers from Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alaska, North Carolina, and California. I was also able to see some of my friends and colleagues from The Wilderness Society, who have provided some invaluable support to our campaign. Folks like Matt Keller from the Wilderness Support Center in Durango, and Nicole Layman. Whether it is assisting us with planning a training session, or helping to put together an economic report, Matt and Nicole have been there helping us every step of the way.

This week was filled with trainings, and meetings with representatives from Tennessee’s Congressional delegation. It was a blast.

Arctic Refuge supporters head to the Hill

By Neil Shader

September 29, 2:57 PM

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is land of many names. When it was first established 50 years ago, after Olaus and Mardy Murie explored it, the area was called the Arctic National Wildlife Range. In 1980, it was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The native Gwich’in people, whose families have lived in the area for generations, call the coastal plain of the Refuge “the sacred place where life begins.” Many environmentalists call it the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System. For the polar bears, caribou, musk oxen, and other wildlife that abound on the Arctic Refuge, it is simply “home.”

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Photo by JGHurst, Flickr.One name that the Arctic Refuge should not have is “oil well.” This is why The Wilderness Society, along with others, is fighting to keep this pristine environment from becoming a pin-cushion for the oil industry’s drills.

Alaskans and other supporters of the Arctic Refuge are visiting Capitol Hill as part of Wilderness Week, meeting with Members of Congress and their staff to encourage them to protect the Refuge from energy development. September is also National Wilderness Month, celebrating the 1964 Wilderness Act that has protected so many special places across America.

Their message is one shared by more than 50,000 people who took action during the summer to tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend that the entire Arctic Refuge be designated as Wilderness — keeping the drills, pipelines, and roads out of the caribou breeding grounds forever. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Refuge, is taking these comments to heart: they will conduct a wilderness review for the area, to be completed next year. This is the first step to a full Presidential recommendation for inclusion into the National Wilderness Preservation System, and another step towards permanent protection for the Refuge.

Members of Congress are also stepping up give the gift of forever to the Arctic Refuge. More than 100 Members of the House of Representatives have signed on to the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act from Congressman Edward Markey (Mass.) to permanently protect all of the Arctic Refuge forever.

Now is the time to protect the Arctic Refuge. For the caribou that usher in the next generation of calves along the coastal plain. For the Gwich’in people that have been there for millennia.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge needs one last name — Wilderness, for the entire Refuge, so that it can be protected forever.

Wilderness Week Keynote Address:
America’s Great Outdoors

By Leslie Jones

September 28, 12:20 PM

Wilderness Week is an exciting conclusion to National Wilderness Month. The energy of dozens of wilderness advocates is contagious! On Monday, Robert Bonnie, senior advisor on Energy and Climate to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a keynote address to kick off Wilderness Week.

Mr. Bonnie guides policy and program decisions with an emphasis on those concerning our natural resources and climate issues. I was particularly excited to hear him speak to the connection between President Obama’s 21st century conservation initiative, America’s Great Outdoors and wilderness preservation.

Big Sur in California. Photo by Sequoia Hughes.His talk focused on all that Wilderness Week and America’s Great Outdoors represents: local stakeholders working with state and federal governmental officials to protect the places we love. Over the summer, the Obama administration held over 20 “listening sessions” learning about successful conservation efforts and ideas. And this week many wilderness advocates who participated in the listening sessions are in Washington conveying those same ideas to their Representatives and Senators. They are advocating for 20 Wilderness and wildlands protection bills that would protect nearly 4 million acres in a dozen states.

Mr. Bonnie shared what the Obama administration had heard during the listening sessions, and on their “virtual” listening session website. The administration heard about many successful working land collaborative projects, like those in the Crown of the Continent in Montana. They also heard about the economic boost forest restoration provides, in addition to mitigating the effects of climate change. Finally, they heard about connecting people — especially young people — to our public lands so they can be protected for generations to come.

Here at The Wilderness Society we are working to connect, protect and restore our public lands. Advocates from across the country are demonstrating that protecting our wildest lands is an integral component of a successful America’s Great Outdoors.

Welcome to Wilderness Week 2010

By Melissa Giacchino

September 20, 10:20 AM

Bill Meadows speaking at Wilderness Week. Photo by Jeff Widen.This week wilderness advocates from across the country are gathering in Washington, DC and taking the time out of their busy lives to advocate for the places they love.

These advocates are representing a dozen states with 20 bills pending before Congress this session. These measures would give permanent protection to nearly four million acres of breathtaking landscapes — from Tennessee’s Upper Bald River, through South Dakota’s Indian Creek and Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds, all the way to California’s Pinnacles.

While in DC, advocates will participate in a day long training session on wilderness campaign issues with special guest speakers from Washington DC and around the country including a keynote speech by Robert Bonnie, the Senior Advisor for Environment and Climate, US Department of Agriculture. They will meet with their state delegations to advocate for the protection of wilderness lands across the country.

Wilderness Week 2010 is hosted by The Wilderness Society’s Wilderness Support Center and the Campaign for America’s Wilderness of the Pew Environment Group.

In addition to our Wilderness Week, there is an Alaska Wilderness Week happening that is focused on celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We will be joining forces for a reception on Capitol Hill Tuesday night.

Wilderness is America’s common ground, a truly non-partisan issue that brings together hunters, anglers, business leaders, local elected officials, conservationists, ranchers and many others to protect our best wild places for future generations. We are all here together in DC, and we will be updating you on the happenings of Wilderness Week 2010 on our Wilderness Blog and on Twitter.

Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. Photo by Bill Hodge.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Photo by JGHurst, Flickr.
Big Sur in California. Photo by Sequoia Hughes.
William H. Meadows, President of The Wilderness Society speaking at Wilderness Week. Photo courtesy of Jeff Widen.