In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a conference was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 15-19, 2014. It was the first National Wilderness Conference in 25 years. I had an incredible experience being part of a multi-generational group of about a thousand people from around the U.S., who also valued wilderness.
There were many ideas and inspirations shared at the conference. The conference consisted of large seminars with keynote speakers and smaller seminars to choose from in the categories of: Civic Engagement, Education, Experience, History, Science, and Stewardship. Within these latter seminars I attended a youth panel (ages 18-25) that spoke about perspectives on wilderness and ideas for how to get other youth engaged. I also attended a seminar on present challenges and what wilderness stewardship will entail for the next 50 years, a Wilderness photography skill session with a professional BLM photographer, and a seminar on wilderness and climate change, and more.
The main theme I got out of the conference was that everyone there valued wilderness in some way. Getting people to enjoy and value wilderness—for any of a variety of reasons—is the key to protecting and increasing wilderness designations for the future. The speakers at the conference were very powerful and, after attending the conference, I felt very motivated and empowered to be an effective wilderness advocate. I believe the conference was a sparkplug for encouraging new actions across all generations. It gave me hope and a positive outlook to see so many people who were passionate about wilderness who will return home to spread the word in their hometowns, agencies, and beyond.
Natalie Vaughan is a recent graduate from Humboldt State University with a degree in Environmental Planning and former NEC intern who now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Protecting the environment and photography are her two passions in life and she hopes to pursue a career that combines the two. In her free time she likes to hike, hoop dance, travel, and read. You can see more of her photography on her website