American Long Distance Hiking Association - West

I Continue to Stand for Public Lands

07 Dec 2017 8:19 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

I Continue to Stand for Public Lands
by Kate "Drop-N-Roll" Hoch

Bubbles in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

In the spring of 2016, I walked 1000 miles through southern Utah and Northern Arizona roughly along a route called the Hayduke Trail. I say roughly because, for the most part, there is no actual trail. The route was conceived by 2 guys who just like exploring the desert and happened to write a guidebook about it. This is no “National Scenic Trail”, there is no trail agency or organization overseeing anything about it. Without such official oversight, the route is free to be whatever one walking it chooses. We chose dozens of alternate routes during our hike, using beta cobbled together from the internet, maps and other guidebooks. In the end, we were able to string together about 1000 continuous miles of travel over public lands. To me, this was the greatest joy of the hike – the ability to choose almost any direction and travel freely.

Hiking in the Grand Staircase-Escalante

Today, these lands are threatened. On December 4, President Trump announced a reduction of about 85% of the Bears Ears National Monument and 50% of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The intention is clear: open the areas to mining and gas extraction. Having spent weeks walking through these lands, I feel deeply connected to them. Bears Ears was not yet a National Monument at the time I hiked the Hayduke, yet I understood the impact and rejoiced when President Obama declared the protections in late 2016. I had experienced not only the vast beauty of the land, but saw evidence of native people’s history with the lands. I can only imagine the devastation they now feel, after having fought so hard to protect lands uniquely special to them.

My 2016 Hayduke Trail route through the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments before their reduction.

My time in the Grand Staircase-Escalante was some of the best of my entire hike. The area is (was) so expansive and continuous, I felt I was in truly remote terrain. Though even in the most seemingly rugged and wild areas, human impact was evident: so many cow pies and fouled water sources; old rutted roads crisscrossing the fragile crytobiotic soil; mining debris; cowboy trash. It’s not all a pristine landscape, but I don’t believe that doesn’t mean it’s not worth protecting. Rather, a call to be better stewards of the land, make the changes now to preserve and protect the land for future generations.

Hiking in Bears Ears

The threat to our public lands is real, and it’s easy to feel defeated. During the review of the National Monuments by Ryan Zinke, I dutifully called and wrote my representatives, submitted official comments to the review. So did millions of other Americans. Despite the overwhelming support of the Monuments by the people, we were ignored.

Hiking in Bears Ears

I expressed my grief and feeling of powerlessness with my fellow ALDHA-West board members. They reminded me of the importance of continuing to fight to make our voices heard. It is now more important than ever to take a stand and fight for public lands.

Hiking in the Grand Staircase-Escalante

What can you do?  Continue to make your voice heard. Contact your Congressional representatives to start (find them here: https://whoismyrepresentative.com).  


Hiking in the Grand Staircase-Escalante

ALDHA-West is the voice of the long-distance hiker and as such, we feel this new direction the current administration and Department of the Interior are taking undermines any federally protected lands that our members utilize - whether as federally designated trails or cross country routes, and sets a dangerous precedent that at any given moment (even with overwhelming public support), we could lose these valuable resources. With the ever-increasing popularity of hiking and use of the trail systems, we the long distance hiker personally understand the relationship people have with the land, and also the benefits connecting users to regions can have. Anyone who has walked a long distance trail or route has certainly passed through small rural towns, many of which welcome us and the economic shot in the arm to their communities. Further many of us understand that long distance hiking not only provides mental and physical health benefits but also allows the user to connect to unique wilderness environments and engage with various cultural and historical sites along the way. We hope you our members will use your time to help speak up for the lands and places we all enjoy to preserve them for future generations of long-distance hikers.


©2017 ALDHA-West

ALDHA-West is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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