Last Wednesday, May 17, Wildlands Network hosted two empowering events: the Salt Lake City premiere of the film Born to Rewild and the 2017 Western Wildway Annual Meeting. The near-tangible wonder and inspiration in the rooms after both events exemplify the spirit and opportunity within Wildlands Network’s critical conservation efforts.
The film premiere kicked off with an introduction by Stacy Bare, director of Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors program. Stacy, a veteran and outdoor enthusiast, recently returned from a ski trip in the Kurdish region of Iraq, part of the Adventure Not War project. In Stacy’s own words, this project is about personal healing in an effort to “change people’s images of these [war affected] places” and remind them “they’re still beautiful places full of beautiful people that just want the same things we do.”
Stacy’s sentiment about connecting people and places closely aligns the major takeaway from Born to Rewild. Following John Davis, Wildlands Network’s own wildway advocate and conservation athlete, across 5,000 miles of the Western Wildway (also known as the “Spine of the Continent”), the film showcases the stunning landscapes and brilliant, passionate people along the wildway, from Mexico to Canada. While the landscapes may not yet be connected along the Western Wildway, unbroken across the continent, the goals and values of those working to protect them are. Together, we’re all fighting for the same vision: a continental wildway to sustain wildlife and humans far into the future.
It was fitting, then, that the day after the film showing, various members and allies of the Western Wildway Network gathered together at Petzl’s North American headquarters to celebrate the collective successes over the past year and learn more about opportunities and strategies for the next 12 months.
During the meeting, we learned about expected and finalized changes to the policies under which our public lands are managed; the many harmful development projects and plans successfully halted through public opposition; and the amazing landscapes, like Bears Ears National Monument, protected for wildlife and future generations. We also heard about the omnipresent threats, like oil and gas development, that are likely to ramp up over the next four years.
The meeting was also a chance to rally support for key efforts that will affect everyone working across the Wildway, in all three countries. As a group, we stood in solidarity with tribal and local communities fighting to preserve Bears Ears National Monument, as its status faces doubt under President Trump’s national monument review.
We also rallied around the idea of bringing more voices to bear on efforts in Canada to protect water and land resources and support tribal sovereignty, including building awareness of and opposition to the Site C Dam project. We also learned about the inspiring, on-the-ground efforts in Mexico to protect jaguars and other species from becoming roadkill.
Such connectivity in our efforts along the wildway has the potential to bridge divides between those working in Canada, the United States and Mexico and connect us with new audiences and communities, all of whom share a common goal: security and prosperity for themselves, their children and the natural world around them. That we are even aware of these diverse projects and efforts demonstrates the potential for a continental network of organizations and individuals committed to the same vision. Regardless of who you are or where you live on the planet, you can share in our vision, and we can support each other to inspire the change we need to see in the world.
After the uplifting events of last week, I feel confident that together we can create a protected, connected Western Wildway. And I know I’m not alone. Just as John Davis and Stacy Bare use awe-inspiring adventures to connect people with the wild, so we at Wildlands Network connect people and place along the Western Wilday and across North America, preserving the continent for generations to come.