Garrett VeneKlasen lives in Taos, New Mexico and is the northern conservation director at NM Wild. He previously served as the executive director of the NM Wildlife Federation.

On February 5, 1998, the single engine plane my father was piloting went down in the mountains east of Taos, NM. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Dad was flying from Santa Fe to Angel Fire to pick me up for a quail hunting trip we planned in the Texas panhandle.

It was a huge snow year and it took three days of intensive searching to find him. There were so many wonderful people — friends, family, volunteers and state & local officials — involved in the frantic search. …


Lisa Zoeller enjoys spending time exploring Colorado every chance she gets.

Thirty years ago this summer, a group of women came together for what would grow and flourish into a tightly-knit circle of support and friendship. The occasion was my upcoming wedding. Rather than a typical bachelorette party of bar-hopping through Denver, we decided it would be fun to go camping in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests outside of Winter Park, Colorado. Some of us were experienced hikers and backpackers. Some of were complete novices. But we were all game for an outdoor adventure — sleeping under the stars, swapping stories around the campfire, and drinking a lot of wine…


TJ Brown is the western regional field director for the National Wildlife Federation. He lives in Colorado with his family and enjoys exploring public lands every chance he gets.

“Look at the birds! Dad, it’s good that they can build their houses on the rock walls! Daaaad, I’m getting tiiiireed…” Suddenly the chatty child goes silent. I paddle to a shady spot on the side of the Colorado River and hop off the board. Oh my goodness, she’s snoring. My four-year-old, clad in PFD and oversized sun hat is in child’s pose on the back of my paddle board sawing some impressive wood — she’s out cold.

We’ve already had a few days exploring some areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management on the border between Utah and…


Craig Benjamin is a director of conservation partnerships & habitat connectivity at the National Wildlife Federation. He lives in Jackson, Wyoming.

A year into the perils of the pandemic, after having to cancel our 2020 family vacations, we were rolling into Escalante, Utah for a Spring Break week of family fun exploring the wonders of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It was one of two monuments in Utah that was decimated by President Trump, when he dramatically scaled back the boundaries — and protections — for these unique landscapes.

After dropping off our camper at one of the many new RV parks in town, part of the booming local tourism economy, we headed out for a short hike along the canyon rim…


Ed Robinson painted this landscape of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness during a plein air backpacking trip.

Ed Robinson worked as a professional forester for the Idaho Department of Lands for over 35 years in the Priest Lake and Sandpoint regions. Since retirement, plein air oil painting has become an all-consuming passion for him — a new and intimate way to interact with the local wilderness. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

It’s 3:00 am and I am suddenly awake. So, the question is — did something wake me? Or did my memory of very large and fresh piles of grizzly scat disturb my sleep?

I listen, but nothing is moving around out there. After making sure my pepper spray is right where I left it, I burrow deeper into the sleeping bag and try to nod-off again. It’s just another night on the Extreme Plein Air backpack trip sponsored by the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (plein air is a French term for painting outside in nature).

For over ten years…


Amy Maillet loves to get lost in the ecosystem and write about her adventures on Momma Earth. Her home is Colorado.

Every many, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary… For myself I’ll take Moab, Utah. I don’t mean the town itself, of course, but the country that surrounds it — the canyonlands. The slickrock desert. The red dust and the burnt cliffs and the lonely sky — all that which lies beyond the end of the roads. — Edward Abbey

The untouched wilderness of southeastern Utah was a place I wanted to explore once I read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire in…


Manistee River Trail. Photo by Brielle Jaglowski.

Brielle Jaglowski is a conservation science fellow at National Wildlife Federation

Spending nearly every hour of daylight — catching butterflies, climbing trees, wading through creeks — was the norm for me growing up in southwestern Michigan. It was no secret that I loved being outside. Exploring wooded parks, bogs hidden down winding dirt roads, near-forgotten paths through prairies bursting with wildflowers are some of the places I discovered just a short drive or bike ride outside of my hometown. I was always inspired by the tales of Charles Darwin, and eagerly toted around various field guides in hopes I would identify a new species.

As much as I loved the outdoors…


The author (left) clearing a trail leading to Scotchman Peak in the Scotchman Peaks Proposed Wilderness area.

Phil Hough is the executive director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness in Idaho.

Dear Mother Earth,

What a year it has been! Last April as the Covid-19 pandemic ramped up, many of us went home in isolation from each other and — at first — from you. We struggled with adapting to new ways to work, to attend school, to have dinner and to pursue our happiness amid a cloudy future. Individuals living alone became isolated, living like hermits. Families and their new found closeness brought both joy and struggles.

Unsure of when, where and whether we could go out we stayed close to home, working and worrying. Days were filled with uncertainty…


Dylan Carey loves to ski, hike, backpack, bike, and explore the great outdoors of Colorado and Utah.

I know that I was extremely lucky: growing up in Denver meant that spectacular mountain ranges, national forests, and state and national parks were a stone’s throw away. Due to their proximity and accessibility, these public lands played an integral role in my life. From as early as I can remember, I was visiting the Great Sand Dunes, driving across the state to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah, or skiing in the Arapahoe National Forest at Winter Park Resort.

Each of these public lands provided its own unique experience of adventure, scenery and solitude. Looking out over…


Jim Austin is a photographer, educator, artist, sailor and naturalist. He has lived aboard the sailing catamaran Salty Paws for the past two decades.

Enchanted. Stephanie Courtney loves her work as a master naturalist. When she guided us on an educational tour in the environmental center in Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, her stories enchanted me. I fell in love with the area as she taught me to see and love its biodiversity. In this special place, she shared her gift for illuminating the webs of life that surrounded us.

National Wildlife Federation — Our Public Lands

The National Wildlife Federation public lands program advocates for our public lands and waters, wildlife and the right of every American to enjoy them.

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