The Faces of Wilderness
Click the photos to learn more about these special places and the people protecting them
We are teachers, business owners, chamber of commerce leaders, guides, outfitters, members of the faith community, hunters, anglers, and elected officials. We are the faces of wilderness protection. Wilderness to us means clean water, protected wildlife habitat, and a legacy for future generations. It drives our businesses – bringing tourists to our towns, adds to our quality of life, and supports our passions for recreational pursuits. Wilderness has something for everyone, and sometimes it's enough just to know it's there.
People like us from across the country are working together and with our senators and congressional representatives to construct legislation to protect our favorite wild places. From the Upper Bald River in Tennessee to New Mexico's Organ Mountains and Idaho's Boulder-White Clouds, wilderness designation will ensure that these beloved landscapes stay the way they are for generations to come.
Boulder-White Clouds, Idaho
"As Idahoans, we have fallen in love with the vast, enduring wilderness that surrounds us. Whether it's hiking in the Born Lakes region, watching wildlife in the big open ridge country or simply appreciating the serenity and solitude that can still be found in Idaho's backcountry, our pristine, roadless forests provide a one-of-a-kind experience for Idahoans of all ages and from all walks of life. As community members, outdoor enthusiasts, and most importantly as Idahoans, we need to work together to protect open spaces like the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains so that future generations have the chance to fall in love with the same Idaho that we have. Wilderness is about more than just protecting Idaho's wild places—it's about creating possibilities for everyone."
"Our business in Boise has been serving outdoor enthusiasts since 1987. We can attribute our success to Idahoans' love of the outdoors and Idaho's vast wilderness that has endured unchanged for thousands of years. The Boulder-White Cloud Mountains are Idaho at its best. They not only provide the clear, free-flowing water for many of our wild rivers, they also help drive the outdoor recreation industry which provides Idaho with billions of dollars every year. As businesspeople, outdoor enthusiasts, and most importantly as Idahoans, we need to work together to protect places like Castle Peak, the Boulder Chain Lakes, and Warm Springs Creek in the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains. Because wilderness is about more than just protecting Idaho's special places—it's about creating possibilities for everyone."
"My shop in old town Pocatello and small businesses like mine across the state rely on local outdoor enthusiasts as well as tourists who are drawn to Idaho by its vast open spaces. From hiking and camping in the summer to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, Idaho's wilderness provides endless choices for recreation and outdoor activities. I also enjoy dirt bike riding and snowmobiling, and there are plenty of places around here to do that. But we also need wilderness like Castle Peak and the Boulder Chain Lakes where we can fi nd quiet and escape the roar of engines. Untouched places like the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains are Idaho at its best. Th ey provide clear flowing water for many of our rivers, and help drive the billion dollar outdoor recreation industry in Idaho. As businessmen, outdoor enthusiasts and most importantly as Idahoans, we need to work together to protect pristine open spaces like the Boulder-White Clouds. Because wilderness is about more than just protecting Idaho's special places—it's about creating possibilities for everyone."
Hidden Gems, Colorado
"For 19 years I've lived in Summit County, enjoying an outdoor lifestyle that transformed me from a “transient,” taking a year off from college, to a committed business owner with no intention of leaving. We Coloradans are fortunate to live what many consider a dream. We are surrounded by pristine beauty, wild places and countless opportunities to connect with nature to refresh the soul. These are the threads that weave the fabric of our lives and our community. It's what draws us here and keeps us here. I am grateful to past visionaries who protected wilderness for us. Conservationist Mollie Beattie understood the big picture when she said, “What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.” Hidden Gems is our opportunity to secure the highest protection available for our best wild lands before they quietly slip away acre by acre. We belong to these wild places, not the other way around, and together we can help keep them safe."
"Growing up in the Vail Valley, I took for granted my natural surroundings. At Battle Mountain High School, we went on hikes in the Holy Cross Wilderness and learned about the laws that protect it from human impact. We read books by people like John Muir and Edward Abbey. I developed a love for wilderness that made me who I am. Now, as a teacher at Battle Mountain, I think kids should have those same opportunities. There are a lot more people in this valley than when I was young, and as the population grows, it puts pressure on natural places. I want to be sure there will always be a variety of natural places that are protected for quiet recreation. I want students to be able to live in a community where they, too, can take the wilderness for granted."
"Born to a mining family, I grew up a ski racer, and now I'm a businessman and rancher. Colorado's traditions have been a big part of my life. My family has made the outdoors home for four generations and protecting that heritage is very important to us. Our wildlife, clean water and spectacular landscapes help my business thrive and keep my loved ones and our community healthy. If we want to protect our economic future, we must maintain the beauty, clean air, forests and wildlife habitat we have left. I want my grandchildren and their grandchildren to experience these mountains as I have. Our health and that of future generations depends on us taking care of what we have. That's why I support the Hidden Gems Wilderness Proposal."
Organ Mountains, New Mexico
"When my family moved to Las Cruces in 1970, we were overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounded us. Today, our happiest family memories are of hiking, bird watching, and picnicking in the wild areas of Doña Ana County—especially the Organ Mountains. I am still awestruck as the color of the mountains change with the light and seasons. New Mexico's spectacular wilderness is what makes our community so special. By stepping up and working to protect these unique lands, we can ensure that these wilderness areas can be enjoyed for generations to come. Because wilderness is about more than just protecting New Mexico's special places, it's about creating possibilities for everyone."
"We have hunted on the public lands in Doña Ana County all our lives. Nothing compares to being out in the wide-open backcountry, tracking a desert mule deer or searching for a covey of Gambel's quail. The only sounds are the crunching of our footsteps, the rustle of wind through grass and every now and then, the sudden explosion of quail flying from cover.
We are fortunate to have these magnificent wildlands right outside our windows. We can gaze at the majestic Organ Mountains, ride horseback through Broad Canyon or hike the Potrillos. But development is nibbling at the edges of some of our special wild areas bringing more houses, more roads and more congestion. Fortunately, we still have the opportunity to protect the natural treasures that surround us. We need to keep the things we love about Doña Ana County just the way they are."
"Making our home in Las Cruces, we appreciate the area's natural beauty—from the colorful Organ Mountains that are the city's magnificent backdrop, to Broad Canyon and the rugged Potrillos. As business leaders, we appreciate how these wild places and open spaces help the local economy. Across the West, we see counties with protected public lands economically better off than counties that lack these natural areas.
Doña Ana County is vibrant and growing, with higher than average rates of population growth and employment. Protecting our spectacular public lands is vital to preserving our quality of life and ensuring a thriving business climate. We need to keep the things we love just the way they are."
"As teachers, we strive to expand our students' worlds. But we know that helping them grow and develop doesn't happen only inside a school building. We have seen how kids blossom in our wide, wild open places. We are so fortunate to have amazing landscapes like the Organ Mountains and the Robledos practically out our back doors. These natural treasures add so much to student's lives. These places are outdoor classrooms where children can challenge themselves and reconnect with the real world—away from TVs, computers and video games. We need to keep the things we love about Doña Ana County just the way they are."
"As business people, we are excited about the historic growth we are experiencing in New Mexico. But we realize that now, more than ever, it is critically important to protect our culture and quality of life by enacting permanent wilderness protection for our spectacular, natural areas. The Organ Mountains and the vast open space that surrounds Las Cruces truly defi ne what makes our community and New Mexico unique. Th ese special places are what attracted a record number of visitors to New Mexico and pumped over $5 billion into our economy last year. Enacting a bold conservation vision for our community will not only protect our quality of life, it will provide a long-term boost for business, tourism and our overall economy. Protecting wilderness is about more than just protecting New Mexico's special places, it's about creating possibilities for everyone."
Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Ducktown, Tennessee, was a thriving mine town. Now we are prospering from something else: tourism. Our location in the Southern Appalachian Mountains near the Cherokee National Forest has put us on the map as a “go to” destination for the many recreation opportunities and scenic wonders that the forest provides. Whether it is hiking the Benton MacKaye trail, paddling or rafting the Ocoee River or enjoying our many bike trails, visitors are drawn here. They shop in our stores, eat at our restaurants and stay at our motels and bed and breakfasts, helping to drive our local economy. Protecting part of the Cherokee as wilderness will not only ensure that the activities that bring tourists here can continue on land unspoiled, but that future generations will seek out this special wild place for years to come.
"Northeast Tennessee is a great place to live. The region's natural resources, many of them within the Cherokee National Forest, have a lot to do with that. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the Cherokee for its exceptional recreation opportunities and quiet solitude. The forest adds much to the quality of our lives and ensures the vitality that keeps our counties thriving. Activities like hiking the Appalachian Trail, hunting in the mountains or fly fishing the Watauga River provide economic benefits that keep many local businesses flourishing. Protecting parts of the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness will help guarantee a healthy forest and the successful future of our counties — without restricting other important types of economic development. Visit us in Northeast Tennessee, and we think you'll agree: wilderness is good for everyone. It's our common ground."
Robert "Robin" Gottfried, Executive Director, Center for Religion and Environment, Sewanee: The University of the South (with Carson Wright, Daniel Williams, Rob McAlister, Jonathan Moody, Eileen Scharffer, Rebecca Mooradian)
"We love to hike and camp, to spend time in the forest where we escape the stresses of school and everyday life. There are few better places to do this than in the Cherokee National Forest. When we enter the quiet of nature, we encounter creation in a special way. The solitude of wilderness far from human distractions helps us clear our minds, explore our faith and listen to the small, still voice deep within. All people—those now living and those to come—deserve this opportunity. By protecting wilderness we proclaim the importance of faith in our lives. For us, it's a way of putting God first."
Media Contact: Lindsay Schlageter
Project: U.S. Public Lands Conservation