In Defense of America’s Great Outdoors
In George Wendt’s 47-year career at the helm of O.A.R.S.—one of the largest family-owned outfitting companies in the world—he personally experienced the loss of several wild rivers, including the Colorado River through Glen Canyon, the Stanislaus River in California, and the Bio Bio River in Chile. He often compared the loss of these rivers to the loss of a loved one and these experiences ultimately became the galvanizing force behind his commitment to protecting wild places. For decades, he fought hard to protect rivers throughout the Western U.S. and around the world. Since his passing last July, never have the words “conservation is a fight that’s never over” been truer.
On April 26, the Trump administration took unprecedented steps that threaten the removal of protections for our public lands and our access to them.
Since President Theodore Roosevelt signed the landmark Antiquities Act in 1906, he and 15 presidents after him used this vital tool to designate more than 157 national monuments, preserving America’s public lands, historical sites and cultural landmarks for all to enjoy.
As Americans, we protect what is ours and these lands belong to every single American and to all of those who come after us. Indeed, threatening to turnover, redefine or rescind these designations is a threat to the very heart of what makes America great. The wild lands and waters that form the bedrock of our American heritage are irreplaceable and any move to threaten the health of these landscapes and our access to them carry very real consequences for local economies, the environment and our way of life.
As an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service and a permitted outfitter of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, we take very seriously our responsibility to protect our wild places and every American’s access to them. We can’t imagine George would back down from this fight and neither will we.
What happens in the coming months will write our story across the nation. We urge all Americans to contact their members of Congress and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It is up to us to keep watch, to stand up and to speak out.
Equally as important as using your voice? Using your access. These lands are our lands. They are our birthright. Every single American has the great privilege of unfettered access to miles and miles of some of the most breathtaking wild rivers and landscapes in the world. Get out and enjoy them.
We owe it to those who came before us, to ourselves, and to future generations to ensure that these wild and uniquely American landscapes remain safeguarded now and forever—and accessible to all.
The O.A.R.S. Family
Photos: Jim Block, David Hessel