Fording the Daunting Confluence of Causasoids, Negroids, Mongoloids, Native Peoples, Millennials, Baby Boomers, Veterans, Hunters, and Recreationists in Protecting Our Wild Landscapes

Editorial Perspectives

April 2016 | Volume 22, Number 1


I’ve chosen to pen this title in the style of Glenn Nelson, the Trail Posse founder and journalist whose similarly labeled 2015 National Wilderness Workshop keynote presentation poked fun at the bureaucratic, wordy, doom-laden, and colon-heavy way in which wilderness people would describe one of the most profound challenges our movement faces. During the October 2015 workshop in Missoula, Montana, more than 200 wilderness management agency employees, seasonal staff, nonprofit leaders, scientists, and students converged to discuss the implementation of the federal agencies’ 2020 Vision plan for future wilderness stewardship. The workshop offered opportunities for 2020 Vision implementation team leaders to share information and receive feedback from nonprofit partners. This purposeful confluence of established wilderness professionals and young conservation up-and-comers provided a unique context to discuss, among other large and lingering wilderness stewardship issues, the topic of cultural, generational, and recreational inclusivity.

Discussions raised several important questions. How do we better engage millennials through escapism in digital storytelling, rebuild their confidence in government, and create clear, productive, and fulfilling career paths for them to work in wilderness management and advocacy? How do we move from including token minorities to fostering a culture of wilderness that simply sees minorities as typical? How can we think more creatively about working with the increasingly powerful recreation sector and other less conventional stakeholders on wilderness designations, while not compromising the core definition of wilderness in legislation? How can we gently nudge the old guard into truly trusting that the new guard will successfully protect wilderness, even if we don’t do it the same way?

I do not mean to imply that this gathering was a place where Lisa Ronald our movement yet again spun its wheels over the same wicked problem, even as the calls to “diversify or die” get louder. In fact, the partnership with the University of Montana as local host of the workshop along with participation by students, new conservation leaders, veterans, and other recreation groups provided a successful model for future gatherings and revealed sound evidence that a substantive level of diversification within our movement is already occurring.

Over the next five years as implementation of 2020 Vision works to address its broad goals, which acknowledge inclusivity, it is the hope that federal government and nonprofit partners will continue to collaborate through-out. Future gatherings of this kind should once again become a staple, and perhaps our understanding and articulation of inclusivity can become adhocratic, simpler, and hopeful.

LISA RONALD is the national wilderness communications coordinator for the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana; email:

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