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 The Trek: Media Center

•
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Hondas Keep The Trekkers Moving!
Honda Provides Support For American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey
By: SPEED TV Staff
Torrance, CA, August 22

American Honda Motor Company is proud to announce its participation in an unprecedented adventure called American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey.

The project is a joint effort by the Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA), with the backing of the Federal Government and the National Geographic Society, to increase national understanding and appreciation for America's public lands legacy and the wide range of benefits public lands provide.

"We are proud that we could take part in this event as the official vehicle supplier" said Ray Blank, Vice President of American Honda's Motorcycle Division. "Educating Americans about our public lands and how we can enjoy them responsibly is important to all of us here at American Honda."

The two teams started the Journey on July 31, 2002 - one starting on the US/Canadian border and the other from the US/Mexican border - and will travel until they meet in northern Utah on National Public Lands Day, September 28. Jointly, over an eight-week period, each team will traverse more than 1,300 miles through some of the most spectacular lands of the West. Participants will be utilizing Honda Vehicles exclusively based on the regulations for that specific route. On routes designated for off-highway vehicles the trekkers will be using Honda ATV's and Honda motorcycles. On backcountry roads the all new Honda Pilot and all new Honda CR-V, will be the vehicles of choice. Honda 4-stroke marine engines, along with Honda's new 4-stroke personal watercraft, the Aquatrax, will see duty on Lake Powell, and other waterways where appropriate. Honda generators will contribute by running all computers and other electronic devices along the route. In non-motorized areas trekkers will be hiking, riding horses, peddling mountain bikes or paddling canoes.

Special events held at selected locations along the route will allow opportunities for the media to meet the teams and participate in the Journey. There will be educational projects and outreach programs targeted to schools and families all across America that will continue to build awareness of our public lands legacy and value. A "joining" event and a full-scale celebration will take place when the trek teams meet in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest near Salt Lake City, Utah on Public Lands Day, September 28.

To follow the Journey on-line or to get more information on public lands please check the American Frontiers website at: www.americanfrontiers.net




•
Friday, August 16, 2002
Tense Moments On The Trek
Friday, August 16, 2002

Public land supporters making trek from Glacier to Salt Lake
By JARED MILLER
Tribune Staff Writer

Bob VanDeven was getting worried.

A 5 p.m. rendezvous with four hikers and a forest ranger at Rogers Pass hadn't happened. Four miles of scouting on foot and attempts to raise the party by satellite phone had yielded nothing on a brisk Wednesday evening.

VanDeven's watch said 7:30 p.m., and the sunlight was beginning to fade.

"Maybe they just came out some other way," said VanDeven, picking his way over a thin thread of the Continental Divide Trail north of the pass.

The hikers, called trekkers, had been on horseback for eight days but were supposed to start the five-mile trudge toward the pass on foot at about 3 p.m.

The trip began in Glacier National Park 16 days ago. The goal: walk, float and ride from the Canadian border to Salt Lake City, Utah, touching only public lands and waterways along the way.

A similar group, called the South Team, left Mexico headed north the same day.

The groups hope to rendezvous in Salt Lake to celebrate Public Lands Awareness Day on Sept. 28.

The pilgrimage, under the name American Frontiers a Public Lands Journey, is designed to raise awareness about public lands in America. The teams will traverse some of the most spectacular mountain country in the West by foot, horseback, boat, ATV and motorcycle.

National Geographic, Honda, Coleman, Hewlett Packard and others are backing the expedition.

Scheduling problems

After four miles of hiking Wednesday, VanDeven was standing on U.S. Highway 200 at Rogers Pass.

The time was 8 p.m., but the trekkers had not yet emerged.

Team physician Ravi Gupta volunteered to remain at the pass to meet the trekkers if they showed.

VanDeven drove a ?-ton pickup west to the Lincoln Ranger Station. The rest of the support crew -- about 10 members -- was waiting at the home of U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Deina Bambe, and VanDeven informed them of the delay.

Nobody seemed concerned; scheduling problems were inevitable on an expedition of such magnitude.

At Bambe's house, Robert Ashley, a teacher from Illinois and Michelle Williams, an EMT from New York City, were among those absorbed in a detailed presentation about the Corps of Discovery.

Others were hovering in the kitchen, picking over chips and veggies. Supper -- seasoned elk burgers, salad and potato wedges -- had been put off until the trekkers could join in. Stomachs were growling.

By 9 p.m. the sun was down and there was still no word.

Alternates on hand

Both the north and south trek support teams are traveling with three 4WD vehicles -- donated by Honda -- a motorhome on loan from Cruise America, two trucks and two trailers topped with supplies.

Each team includes four alternate trekkers, in case someone falters.

A National Geographic videographer is also accompanying the journey, though trek organizers are still unsure what plans National Geographic has for the footage.

"There's talk about a documentary," VanDeven said. "But we don't know where they would put that or even if it's going to happen."

GPS there, too

Earth Analytic, a Santa Fe, N.M.-based company has provided two trailers packed with computers, Global Positioning System equipment and a state-of-the-art satellite system for mapping and communications.

The trailers can handle eight Internet connections. Trekkers and support-crew members submit daily journals on the Web.

Drew Stephens of Allpoints GIS of Boulder, Colo., was at camp Wednesday night tweaking the equipment. Allpoints is coordinating GIS mapping of the trek.

Stephens is responsible for making sure the team stays on public lands as it muscles its way through miles and miles of wild country.

"After the trek is over, we will be able to do all sorts of analysis as far as how many miles were traveled and how close they came to stepping on any private land," Stephens said.

Is there enough gear?

By 9:30 p.m. some members of the support crew were beginning to wonder openly if the trekkers were lost. If so, did they have gear enough to stay overnight?

Did they have headlamps? Could someone be hurt? Why had their forest ranger escort not made radio contact?

Team Leader Charlie Thorpe, a semi-retired aerospace systems engineer from Alabama, headed for the pass.

Meanwhile, Trek Manager Dave Mensing, a Bureau of Land Management outdoor recreation planner from Santa Fe, N.M., explained that the 3,000-mile cross-country trek was initially the brainchild of a man named Stephen Maurer.

Maurer, publications and Web director for the Albuquerque-based Public Lands Interpretive Association, brainstormed the idea three years ago over coffee with a friend.

"It was a question, more or less: whether you could hike this country from border to border on public lands," Mensing said.

Looking for participants

Maurer soon involved the BLM and National Geographic. Mensing suggested that government agencies might run with the idea if Maurer adopted an educational theme.

With some seed money from BLM and Mensing assigned to the project full time, Maurer did just that.

Land management agencies were invited to nominate volunteers for the project and corporations were asked to donate money.

Still, the trek had an uphill start.

While in-kind contributions were coming in, the corporations weren't stepping up with cash. And only about 35 applications had arrived from potential trekkers.

"Six months ago, this project was still up in the air," Mensing said.

Everyday men, women

Eventually, the Coleman company donated gear to the expedition and Honda stepped up with cash. Mensing discovered that trekker applications were packed with credentials.

Yet even with their backcountry experience, nearly all applicants were what Mensing called everyday Americans. The goal had been to select a cross-section of the American public to show that everyone can enjoy public property.

"These people out there are not professional athletes," Mensing said. "They are not celebrities. They are not in tremendous physical shape."

They are also not getting paid.

All members of the trek team and the support team are volunteers. Three team members gave up jobs to join. Others forfeited paychecks.

Trekker Charlotte Talley, 24, of West Columbia, S.C., gave up a job as a park ranger-interpreter for the South Carolina State Park Service.

Rob Carlo, 38, of Queens New York took leave from his job as a New York City firefighter. Carlo lost his younger brother, also a firefighter, in the World Trade Center attacks.

Stoking interest

Involved with the BLM for more than 20 years, Mensing is passionate about the public's voice in land decisions. He is also concerned about how much the average Americans knows about the decision-making procedures on public lands. It's almost nothing, he said.

Mensing hopes that through the trek Americans will get interested in public lands, get educated and get involved.

At exactly 10 p.m. a somber voice came crackling over the two-way radio at the ranger station. It was Mari Schramm, the ranger accompanying the trekkers through the backcountry.

"Everyone is in good condition," she reported.

The mood was jubilant among support crews members, although a small group did eventually walk up the trail about a mile to help guide the exhausted hikers off the mountain.

Ranger Bambe finally gave the order to put burgers on the grill.

Punching a trail

Trekkers later reported that they hadn't started hiking until about 7 p.m. Itineraries had been off somehow. And the path they had followed required miles of bushwhacking through dense trees and scrub.

"We weren't lost," Schramm said Thursday. "It was just a matter of running out of daylight. It was truly an adventure. I know it is truly a hike I will never forget. That's for sure."

The teams made it to Aspen Creek Campground at about 1 a.m. Trekkers made it to bed by about 3 p.m.

They were up at 8 a.m. Thursday morning.

Massaging sore feet

After coffee and breakfast of pancakes and eggs, trekker Dana Bell of California sat near her tent rubbing salve into her feet. Bell is the project coordinator for the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council.

"I knew as long as we were together we were fine," said Bell, recalling the previous night. "We were yelling 'Yo bear' and clapping our hands.

"It just took time and we ran out of daylight," Bell added.

Trekker Mike Murphy, a 48-year-old elementary school teacher from California, said he was "never in any fear for (his) life, ever."

Tired but pumped from the previous night's adventure Murphy, Bell and the other team members prepared for the next leg of their trip: a 20-mile ride by horseback down the spine of the continent to Stemple Pass.

They got on the trail a little late Thursday, about 9 a.m.


•
Friday, August 16, 2002
Public Land Supporters Making Trek From Glacier to Salt Lake
Friday, August 16, 2002
Public land supporters making trek from Glacier to Salt Lake
By JARED MILLER
Tribune Staff Writer

Bob VanDeven was getting worried.

A 5 p.m. rendezvous with four hikers and a forest ranger at Rogers Pass hadn't happened. Four miles of scouting on foot and attempts to raise the party by satellite phone had yielded nothing on a brisk Wednesday evening.
VanDeven's watch said 7:30 p.m., and the sunlight was beginning to fade.

"Maybe they just came out some other way," said VanDeven, picking his way over a thin thread of the Continental Divide Trail north of the pass.

The hikers, called trekkers, had been on horseback for eight days but were supposed to start the five-mile trudge toward the pass on foot at about 3 p.m.

The trip began in Glacier National Park 16 days ago. The goal: walk, float and ride from the Canadian border to Salt Lake City, Utah, touching only public lands and waterways along the way.
A similar group, called the South Team, left Mexico headed north the same day.
The groups hope to rendezvous in Salt Lake to celebrate Public Lands Awareness Day on Sept. 28.
The pilgrimage, under the name American Frontiers a Public Lands Journey, is designed to raise awareness about public lands in America. The teams will traverse some of the most spectacular mountain country in the West by foot, horseback, boat, ATV and motorcycle.
National Geographic, Honda, Coleman, Hewlett Packard and others are backing the expedition.

Scheduling problems
After four miles of hiking Wednesday, VanDeven was standing on U.S. Highway 200 at Rogers Pass.
The time was 8 p.m., but the trekkers had not yet emerged.
Team physician Ravi Gupta volunteered to remain at the pass to meet the trekkers if they showed.
VanDeven drove a ú-ton pickup west to the Lincoln Ranger Station. The rest of the support crew -- about 10 members -- was waiting at the home of U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Deina Bambe, and VanDeven informed them of the delay.
Nobody seemed concerned; scheduling problems were inevitable on an expedition of such magnitude.
At Bambe's house, Robert Ashley, a teacher from Illinois and Michelle Williams, an EMT from New York City, were among those absorbed in a detailed presentation about the Corps of Discovery.
Others were hovering in the kitchen, picking over chips and veggies. Supper -- seasoned elk burgers, salad and potato wedges -- had been put off until the trekkers could join in. Stomachs were growling.
By 9 p.m. the sun was down and there was still no word.
Alternates on hand
Both the north and south trek support teams are traveling with three 4WD vehicles -- donated by Honda -- a motorhome on loan from Cruise America, two trucks and two trailers topped with supplies.
Each team includes four alternate trekkers, in case someone falters.
A National Geographic videographer is also accompanying the journey, though trek organizers are still unsure what plans National Geographic has for the footage.
"There's talk about a documentary," VanDeven said. "But we don't know where they would put that or even if it's going to happen."
GPS there, too
Earth Analytic, a Santa Fe, N.M.-based company has provided two trailers packed with computers, Global Positioning System equipment and a state-of-the-art satellite system for mapping and communications.
The trailers can handle eight Internet connections. Trekkers and support-crew members submit daily journals on the Web.
Drew Stephens of Allpoints GIS of Boulder, Colo., was at camp Wednesday night tweaking the equipment. Allpoints is coordinating GIS mapping of the trek.
Stephens is responsible for making sure the team stays on public lands as it muscles its way through miles and miles of wild country.
"After the trek is over, we will be able to do all sorts of analysis as far as how many miles were traveled and how close they came to stepping on any private land," Stephens said.
Is there enough gear?
By 9:30 p.m. some members of the support crew were beginning to wonder openly if the trekkers were lost. If so, did they have gear enough to stay overnight?
Did they have headlamps? Could someone be hurt? Why had their forest ranger escort not made radio contact?
Team Leader Charlie Thorpe, a semi-retired aerospace systems engineer from Alabama, headed for the pass.
Meanwhile, Trek Manager Dave Mensing, a Bureau of Land Management outdoor recreation planner from Santa Fe, N.M., explained that the 3,000-mile cross-country trek was initially the brainchild of a man named Stephen Maurer.
Maurer, publications and Web director for the Albuquerque-based Public Lands Interpretive Association, brainstormed the idea three years ago over coffee with a friend.
"It was a question, more or less: whether you could hike this country from border to border on public lands," Mensing said.
Looking for participants
Maurer soon involved the BLM and National Geographic. Mensing suggested that government agencies might run with the idea if Maurer adopted an educational theme.
With some seed money from BLM and Mensing assigned to the project full time, Maurer did just that.
Land management agencies were invited to nominate volunteers for the project and corporations were asked to donate money.
Still, the trek had an uphill start.
While in-kind contributions were coming in, the corporations weren't stepping up with cash. And only about 35 applications had arrived from potential trekkers.
"Six months ago, this project was still up in the air," Mensing said.
Everyday men, women
Eventually, the Coleman company donated gear to the expedition and Honda stepped up with cash. Mensing discovered that trekker applications were packed with credentials.
Yet even with their backcountry experience, nearly all applicants were what Mensing called everyday Americans. The goal had been to select a cross-section of the American public to show that everyone can enjoy public property.
"These people out there are not professional athletes," Mensing said. "They are not celebrities. They are not in tremendous physical shape."
They are also not getting paid.
All members of the trek team and the support team are volunteers. Three team members gave up jobs to join. Others forfeited paychecks.
Trekker Charlotte Talley, 24, of West Columbia, S.C., gave up a job as a park ranger-interpreter for the South Carolina State Park Service.
Rob Carlo, 38, of Queens New York took leave from his job as a New York City firefighter. Carlo lost his younger brother, also a firefighter, in the World Trade Center attacks.

Stoking interest
Involved with the BLM for more than 20 years, Mensing is passionate about the public's voice in land decisions. He is also concerned about how much the average Americans knows about the decision-making procedures on public lands. It's almost nothing, he said.
Mensing hopes that through the trek Americans will get interested in public lands, get educated and get involved.
At exactly 10 p.m. a somber voice came crackling over the two-way radio at the ranger station. It was Mari Schramm, the ranger accompanying the trekkers through the backcountry.
"Everyone is in good condition," she reported.
The mood was jubilant among support crews members, although a small group did eventually walk up the trail about a mile to help guide the exhausted hikers off the mountain.
Ranger Bambe finally gave the order to put burgers on the grill.
Punching a trail
Trekkers later reported that they hadn't started hiking until about 7 p.m. Itineraries had been off somehow. And the path they had followed required miles of bushwhacking through dense trees and scrub.
"We weren't lost," Schramm said Thursday. "It was just a matter of running out of daylight. It was truly an adventure. I know it is truly a hike I will never forget. That's for sure."
The teams made it to Aspen Creek Campground at about 1 a.m. Trekkers made it to bed by about 3 p.m.
They were up at 8 a.m. Thursday morning.
Massaging sore feet
After coffee and breakfast of pancakes and eggs, trekker Dana Bell of California sat near her tent rubbing salve into her feet. Bell is the project coordinator for the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council.
"I knew as long as we were together we were fine," said Bell, recalling the previous night. "We were yelling 'Yo bear' and clapping our hands.
"It just took time and we ran out of daylight," Bell added.
Trekker Mike Murphy, a 48-year-old elementary school teacher from California, said he was "never in any fear for (his) life, ever."
Tired but pumped from the previous night's adventure Murphy, Bell and the other team members prepared for the next leg of their trip: a 20-mile ride by horseback down the spine of the continent to Stemple Pass.
They got on the trail a little late Thursday, about 9 a.m.


•
Monday, August 12, 2002
Walk Across America But Only on Public Land
Walk across America, but only on public land
BY ROB HUBBARD

08/12/2002
St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Page 4E
(c) Copyright 2002, St Paul Pioneer Press. All Rights Reserved.
Hey, let's take a walk.
You start at the Canadian border in Montana's Glacier National Park. I'll start at the Mexican border in southern New Mexico. We'll meet in Salt Lake City.
Are you game?
Sounds daunting, doesn't it? But that's what two teams are doing in a cross-country journey on foot (mostly), horseback, boats and even in a motor vehicle or two for tougher sections.
But they'll never set foot on private property. This trek across the western United States will be on public lands, with all routes cutting through national parks, forests, monuments, state parks or U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.
Track their progress online. The American Frontiers site will feature daily dispatches, with photos and detailed maps, as well as information on the travelers and the places they're visiting.
Team North is now deep in the Rocky Mountains, scaling the foothills of some spectacular peaks, breathing in the scent of pine trees, and keeping an eye out for grizzly bears.
Team South is desert-bound, with their hiking boots sinking into the sand, admiring cacti and rock formations, and seeing little life save for an occasional lizard.
Hang with Team North and you'll meet Charlotte Talley, a South Carolina park ranger who has biked across the country.
Dana Bell is an expert on off-road vehicles, especially motorcycles. Mike Murphy is a California teacher and backpacker. Rob Carlo is a New York City firefighter who lost his brother on Sept. 11.
The southern crew features a nurse, a teacher, a scuba diver and a kayaker.
Each of the team members provides a journal entry on an almost daily basis, as do some of the backup travelers, and those who support them with food, medical and Web assistance.
So join the journey. See you in Salt Lake.
Cyber Kids Sleuth of the Week: Congratulations to Ben Knuth, 12, of St. Paul, who visited Yucky.com and found that the humerus is better known as the funny bone. For his anatomical acumen, Ben will receive the "MLB 2003" PlayStation game.
This week's question: What's the name of the park where the two teams are meeting? Find the answer on this week's site, then e-mail it, along with your name, age and city, to cyberkids@pioneerpress.com. You may win a prize.



•
Saturday, August 10, 2002
On the Trek: A Unique Variety of Individuals, Part 3
On the trek: A unique variety of individuals
By Tom Schultes
Sun-News
Editorís Note: This is the third and final article in a series regarding
American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey. The first two (Aug. 8-9) focused
on a discussion among area residents and trekkers participating in the
event. This looks at four members of the southern route team.
When starting an extended trek, one might prefer being with those he or she
has known for some time. But for the 11 members of American Frontiersí
southern route team, there was a joining of individuals from vastly
different backgrounds and locales. Interviewed following the roundtable
discussion in the Memorial Student Center on the Western New Mexico
University campus were, in no particular order, Julie Nichols Overbaugh of
Anchorage, Alaska; Jan Nesset of Durango, Colo.; Cathy Kiffe of Lafayette,
La., and Richard Tyrrell of Langhorne, Pa., located in Bucks County, Pa.
Others on the south team include: Bob Hammond, team leader; Kay Gandy,
education outreach coordinator/teacher alternate; Jessica Terrell,
pr/media/special events coordinator/first alternate; Jacob MacLeod, general
logistics/second alternate; Ron Monnig, route logistics/supply/equipment
manager; Lori McGraw, food and beverage manager; and Vipul Lakhani, medical
support team.
Nichols Overbaugh describes herself as a mom, wife and ìoutdoorswoman.î But
sheís also an emergency room nurse and flight nurse for an air ambulance
service back home in Alaska.
A native of Chicago, she said she didnít know what ìpublic landsî were until
20 years ago. Sheís also a 16-year former New Mexican, and likes this
opportunity to visit again.
Like the others interviewed, she became aware of American Frontiers through
a third party. She said a friend in Washington, D.C., employed by the Bureau
of Land Management, saw an announcement and called her.
ìI love the physical challenge,î she said, adding that it was more than
expected. The roundtable discussion was held on the seventh day of the
teamís 60-day trail experience. She said the activity is similar to that she
and her husband, Bill, and sons Jeffery, 8, and Willie, 10, do regularly in
Alaska.
For her, itís truly an outdoorswomanís dream come true ñ receiving an
adventure, seeing wild places, experiencing the outdoors and renewing her
spirit. She said her biggest concern was the drought and its implications
such as running low on water and threat of forest fires.
ìI love it all,î Nichols Overbaugh said. ìMy heart belongs in the
pinon/ponderosa pine forest.î
On the other side of the outdoors experience spectrum is Kiffe, a
kindergarten through 12th grade teacher for homebound children in Lafayette,
La., with her being one of the National Geographic teachers on the trek
representing the Louisiana Geographic Education Alliance. She will be
working with National Geographic to develop curriculum for next school year,
with an emphasis on public lands. The curriculum for the National
Geographic-Geography Action program will be designed to include math,
literature and the sciences.
The mother of four grown sons, Kiffe is also a book illustrator and has
participated in educational projects at NASAís Stennis Space Center, The
Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Alliance Advanced
Institutes.
She said the program includes formal classroom study as well as activities
that can be enjoyed by not only the student, but also his or her family.
ìChildren want hands-on activities,î she said, which also enhances their
roles as stewards of the lands.
Her school district has given her a professional leave, and she will be in
contact with school districts en route.
Kiffe said she has visited state parks walking the trails and staying in
cabins, and wants to share that with as many people as possible.
Kiffe said her previous outdoor experience has been ñ up until now ñ was
walking some state park trails and staying in park cabins. But part of the
adventure, she said, is in ìrecreatingî herself.
ìI have been so thrilled,î she said, noting her ability to be on the trail
with much more experienced persons. ìIt shows the public lands are for
everyone in that aspect. But I couldnít have done it without their support.î
A more experienced trekker, Nesset said part of the problem with the terrain
is the group must stay on public lands, which arenít necessarily on the best
or easiest path.
Nesset, who recently moved from Montana to Durango, just found out about the
trek in March when an application was forwarded from his former forest
supervisor. In addition to seasonal work as a Forest Service wilderness
ranger, Nesset has worked on boat crews, lobster fisherman, shipyard worker,
mountain surveyor, documentary producer and editor. He is a former editor of
Canoe & Kayak magazine.
He said that when he read the mission statement and objectives, he
understood what they were going to do.
ìIt was apparent that my skills and interests were bundled into this,î he
said, noting his use of and appreciation for public lands goes back many
years.
He said his wife ìis behind me 100 percent of the way,î realizing this is
something he needed to do ìfor a lot of reasons. I gave up a job to do
this,î Nesset said, adding that itís an opportunity for members to
ìre-invent themselves, become who we want to be.î
Nesset also said he would like to construct ñ or reconstruct ñ the view many
Americans may have of public lands.
ìI hope to know I did the job I was asked here to do, to reach others with
my views and give others that privilege,î Nesset said.
In his online bio, Nesset states: ìBeing chosen as a Journey team member is
nothing short of an opportunity of a lifetime.î
For Tyrrell, participation was never a question.
He received his application from his wife, who is an elementary school
principal in Pennsylvania and couldnít get off work to participate. ìíYouíre
always this sort of thing,íî he said was her message. He filled out and
forgot about it until receiving a call at work the last notification day
ñ May 31. He said that even without consulting his boss ñ or wife ñ he
agreed to go. He is a jeweler and staff gemologist for the British firm of
Asprey, which has its flagship store in the United States on Fifth Avenue in
New York City.
Although he has international expedition experience, including Tibet, China
and the former USSR, Tyrrell said the Southwest had never been on his maps.
ìI had never visited this part of the country,î he said.
ìIt has been very challenging, a very different trip,î he said of the first
seven days. ìIíd never traveled in the desert before.î
Another change is that in his international treks, those expeditions were
smaller and more independent. He said the support and interaction with the
support team has been a ìwelcome change,î knowing that the group is never
more than two or three days away from support services. But, he said, that
also works both ways.
Tyrrell said this trek, with a different mission, requires more interaction
for Internet reports, and so forth.
Tyrrell said he will be sending his impressions of the trip back to
Pennsylvania, where that information will be dispersed among schools. When
returning, he will also be conducting lectures.
He said he was surprised to learn that 1/3 of this part of the country was
held as public lands, and that few others know the extent of public lands in
the country.
ìWe just know thereís an awful lot ahead,î Tyrrell said. ìAnd on the last
day (scheduled for Sept. 27 in Salt Lake City), it will be a pleasure to
shake hands with the north team and say, ëJob well done.íî


•
Friday, August 9, 2002
Trekkers Hear Local Public Lands Issues, Part 2
Trekkers hear public lands issues from locals
By Tom Schultes
Sun-News
Editorís Note: This is the second in a three-part series regarding a
discussion among area residents and members of American Frontiers: A Public
Lands Journey.
One of the most spirited discussion between representatives of American
Frontiers during Tuesdayís roundtable discussion was that involving access
fees.
In part one of this series, Silver City/Grant County Chamber of Commerce
Mike Trumbull noted a concern that high access fees could drive tourists
away.
But his philosophy was not the only one to argue against fees.
Mike Sauber, representing Gila Watch, said he doesnít believe the taxpayers
who have already paid for the land should be required to pay for access.
ìI donít think they should have to pay at all,î he said, adding that it is
more a matter of congressional priorities than numbers.
During later comments, State Rep. Dianne Hamilton (R-Dist. 38), said she
received many emotional calls from motorhome users when fees were increased.
Julie Nichols Overbaugh, an Alaskan member of the trekking group said she
didnít mind fees if she knows those dollars will be going to that site.
Her comments brought responses from two other trekkers.
Lorie McGraw, a food and beverage manager from South Carolina, said she
remembers when her family would take a canvas tent and war surplus stove to
the free public lands. She said that her parents couldnít afford to go out
otherwise, and many events that have formed her life wouldnít have been
possible.
Jan Nesset, who recently moved from Montana to Durango, Colo., agreed. He
said that because he couldnít qualify for scholarships it took him several
years to earn his bachelorís degree in journalism from the University of
Montana.
Nesset said he could go out to the forest to contemplate issues without
having to pay for access.
Fees, he said, ìsuggests that not everyone can use them.î
Marcia Andre, Gila National Forest supervisor, said she had mixed opinions
on the issue. She said she also remembers camping with her family as a child
and agrees that the public lands should be accessible. But, speaking as a
forest supervisor, she said access fees fund projects not possible
otherwise. Andre said trails are an example of areas receiving little or no
funding.
She also noted that the forest typically has one free day per month to sites
with access fees.
The trekkers also got to hear a report on grazing issues in the forest.
Steve Libby, U.S. Forest Service range wildlife staff person, said the Gila
National Forest has the most diverse vegetation, which he described as
ìrelatively brittle,î heís seen in his Forest Service career. Most of
Libbyís work has been in the Rocky Mountains.
Libby told the trekkers that the forest receives sporadic precipitation,
with most coming during intense thunderstorms.
Libby said grazing was one of the first uses for the forest, with few if any
clearly understood or defined borders. He also noted that, at that time,
grass was considered a renewable resource that couldnít be damaged. Between
the transitional herds and competition among ranchers, he said, it was easy
for land to be used beyond capacity.
In the early days, there was more grass and fewer trees, more of a savanna
appearance.
ìThe Forest Serviceís goal was to bring some sort of order,î Libby said,
noting that management and capacity are issues that remain today. He
acknowledged that fire suppression policies and livestock grazing are among
factors leading to the loss of vegetation ñ and increased soil erosion.
ìGullying is a legacy of past management,î he said, adding that while some
agencies may have used the wilderness designation to halt grazing, that
wasnít the intent of Congress. Libby said the emphasis is on forest health
and not livestock numbers for use as guidelines.
ìThe Forest Service doesnít have an agenda to remove grazing,î he said,
noting that some permitees have ìfairly marginal operationsî to start with.
He said that according to New Mexico State University research, it takes
about 500 head to get a positive return on investments.
Libby said the Forest Service is expecting more of its wildland ranchers all
the time, but itís more a matter of economics.
The trekkers also heard a report from John Kramer, wilderness staff member,
of the forestís history and changes in area designations over the years,
including its honor of having the first designation as a wilderness area. He
also noted that the Blue Range is split, with Arizona designating its area
as the Blue Primitive Area. Kramer said that is the only primitive area in
the U.S.
Kramer reported that 68 percent of the forestís users live within 300 miles,
with 68 percent of them coming from New Mexico; 23 percent from Texas; and
10 percent from Arizona. (Percentages are approximate, resulting in the 101
percent total). Of those users, 83 percent are in their 30s through 50s age
brackets, with an average stay of three days.
Increased use by outfitters has also brought problems. Kramer said with a
large increase during the past few years, there have been too many or too
many without adequate experience for the wilderness setting. That prompted a
moratorium for new applicants, which was then lifted. New applicants must
have at least 150 days of wilderness experience. The forest has provided an
outfitter school, which has graduated some 60 outfitters over its seven-year
existence.
Kramer also discussed the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf, which he
called ìthe very symbol of the wilderness.î
He said that when itís necessary to translocate them from the original
Arizona release site (near Alpine and the Blue Primitive Area), they are
brought into Arizona. He said it is believed that there have been two
litters born in New Mexico.
He said the re-introduction is ìperhaps the most important thing to happen
in the Gila Wilderness since its designation.î
Representing another user group was Alex Ocheltree for the Gila Rough Riders
(GRR) ATV group, comprised primarily of youth looking for a place to safely
operate his or her off-highway vehicles (OHV).
Ocheltree, whose son Skyler came up with the idea, said the emphasis is on
trail etiquette, prompted by their hearing a lot about the irresponsibility
of OHV users. He noted that in some situations, improper actions have
resulted in the confiscation of the vehicles.
ìI donít want it to go in this direction,î he said.
As a model, Ocheltree used the Paiute ATV Trail in central Utah as an
example of how various parties can get together for a successful effort,
including support from towns along the Pauite Trail.
Bob Hammond, team leader for the south trail team, said all of the trekkers
had received training and certification for OHV use and would be on part of
the Pauite Trail.
He said GRR doesnít want to create new trails, but to maintain what might
exist, adding that he has done some mapping of trails in the Burro Mountain
area. Ocheltree said he would also like to see an OHV fund set up for
maintenance, promotions and creation of trails. Another goal is to require
all youth using these trails to wear helmets. He said if the use of helmets
is instilled at an early age, it may carry into adulthood.
Frank Kirschmer, a member of the Upper Gila Watershed Board, said the New
Mexico Wilderness Alliance has mapped Burro Mountain trails. He said that
out of 160,000 total acres, 120,000 are regarded as having unstable soils,
basically meaning there is no control over erosion.
He said ATVs have caused erosion problems, even in former roadways. He also
noted the vehicles ñ and cattle ñ have gone through riparian areas, where
re-vegetation could occur. He said the situation is getting critical, noting
that as much as 3í-4í of surface can be lost in a single storm.
Kirschmer said he isnít trying to interfere with the Rough Ridersí actions,
but noted that all parties have to work together for erosion control.
ìOnce the vegetation is passed over, itís lost,î he said.
In closing the roundtable discussion, State Rep. Dianne Hamilton (Dist. 38)
said one of the most interesting things to her was the variety of parties
represented.
She said that ranchers are afraid, though, that they are going to become
like a ìJamestown,î serving as models that tourists can visit to see how
life used to be.
ìWe have to look at everything with balance,î Hamilton said.
(Part three looks at four of the 11 south team members participating in the
from will continue looking at the information provided to American Frontiers
trekkers by local and area residents regarding public lands issues.)


•
Thursday, August 8, 2002
Trekkers Hear Public Lands Issues From Locals, Part 1
Trekkers hear public lands issues from locals
By Tom Schultes
Sun-News

Editorís Note: This is the first in a three-part series regarding a
discussion among area residents and members of American Frontiers: A Public
Lands Journey.

For most residents of the Southwest, or even frequent visitors, the presence
of ìpublic landsî is nothing new. But to those from other countries, or
perhaps even the other side of the Mississippi River, ìpublic landsî may be
construed as a city park or school grounds.
To help educate the rest of the United States, American Frontiers: A Public
Lands Journey, has coordinated two groups of trekkers, with one group
walking north from the U.S./Mexico border and a second, southbound, starting
at the U.S./Canada border. One of the trekkerís physical goals is for the
two teams to meet in Salt Lake City on Sept. 27, the same point they met for
the first time July 23 to begin training.
The whole project began as a concept of Albuquerque resident Steven Maurer,
Public Lands Interpretive Association coordinator and publications director.
That group operates the bookstore at the Glenwood station.
Maurer, a native of Eastern Europe, said he made the ìincredible discoveryî
of the public lands practice when he came to the States. He said that
although these lands belong ìto all of us,î he found many Americans unaware
of them. Maurer said the only ìagendaî behind is idea is to keep these lands
under public ownership, and show collaborative efforts of diverse groups
working together to find solutions to existing problems.
The southern group, comprising 11 individuals, met with some 18 area
residents, representing user groups ranging from ATV organizations to
tourism to biologists, in a roundtable discussion discussing the issues
involving public lands. Several personnel from the Gila National Forest were
also present.
Specifically, said Bob Hammond, leader of the southern team who acted as
moderator, the trekkers were interested in learning how the presence of the
public lands affects daily life, what the issues are and how the lands are
being managed.
As the trekkers move toward Salt Lake City, their information is being
compiled and can be accessed on the web at www.americanfrontiers.net.
Hammond said that while the different parties may not agree on public lands
management, the ability of the various groups to get together and discuss
those issues is ìsomething special.î
Silver City resident, former journalism professor and historian Luis Perez
began gave the group a presentation on the history of Silver City and
surrounding area, noting the Spanish culture was present as early as the
late 1500s and that the Apache Indians were perhaps responsible for driving
them out of the area. Perez also told of the Chinese presence in the
community, telling the group that they came here as business persons and not
railroad laborers, as some might believe.
Michael Robinson, representing the Center for Biological Diversity, noted
the history of the area with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area being the
first area with such a designation in the world.
Robinson said the need for a reference point to what undisturbed land is all
about is the rationale for a wilderness designation.
ìWe have the last refuge for a number of creatures who canít adapt to
changes,î he said.
Also presented was a history of the Gila National Forest, the establishment
of the wilderness and primitive areas and demographics of its use by Forest
Service employee John Kramer
It was noted that a dramatic increase in the number of wilderness outfitters
in the forest resulted, finally, in the Forest Service to set up a school to
help ensure that guides had the skills and expertise necessary for the
backcountry.
He also talked about the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf to the trekkers,
calling the wolf ìthe very symbol of the wilderness.î He said it is believed
that there have been two litters of pups born to wolves translocated from
Arizona to New Mexico.
He said the reintroduction is, ìperhaps the most important thing to happen
to the Gila Wilderness since its designation.î
Addressing the tourism sector was Mike Trumbull, president of the Silver
City/Grant County Chamber of Commerce.
Trumbull said public lands managers have to be careful not to set use or
access fees so high that persons are discouraged from coming to the area to
visit the wilderness area. He also noted that some foreign tourists, noting
those from Japan and German, are preferring ìhard tourismî that makes them
work to see a site. He also suggested that a mechanism be found that would
allow private sector funds be used at sites such as the Gila Cliff
Dwellings.
Henry Torres, chairperson of the Grant County Board of Commissioners, said
he is concerned with special interest groups using legislation, such as the
Endangered Species Act, to take away the customs and lifestyles of persons
who have been living here for some time. He specifically noted impacts on
the mining, ranching and forest industries. He said it was those companies
and individuals who opened up the West so others could now come in and enjoy
the region.
Representing the economic development sector through SIGRID was Judy Ward,
assistant director of the Small Business Development Center.
She said the community doesnít want to attract ìsmoke stacks and hordes of
people,î but wants to maintain its quality of life while protecting the
environment.
ìThat balance is a very tricky thing to maintain,î she said, noting that the
organization was formed because it was known the mines werenít going to be
around forever.
She said it is the quality of life in Silver City that prompted Stream
International, with headquarters in Boston, to come to the community. She
noted that Stream has now succeeded Phelps Dodge as the top employer in the
county. Ward also told the trekkers about projects underway to make use of
small diameter timber coming from the forest. She said the cost of retooling
for smaller diameter timber makes it difficult for smaller companies.

(Part two will continue looking at the information provided to American
Frontiers trekkers by local and area residents regarding public lands
issues.)





•
Friday, August 2, 2002
Las Cruces Sun-News Reporter Travels With Trekkers
Cross-country trek to promote public lands
By Karen Boehler, Sun-News

WEST POTRILLO MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS STUDY AREA -- The sun hadn't even thought about casting its rays above the horizon early Wednesday when four trekkers, five support crew members, a National Geographic videographer and two computer technicians left their Las Cruces motel headed for the Mexican border.

The caravan was taking its first steps on an epic journey to cross the
United States -- from Mexico to Canada -- all on public lands.
The idea was the brainchild of Stephen Maurer, the special projects manager of the Albuquerque-based Public Lands Interpretive Association.

The 21-year-old nonprofit agency supports the educational and interpretive activities of public land management agencies, and Maurer thought a trek across America would be just the thing to let the public learn more about their public lands.

"The purpose of this entire project is to show all Americans what they
have," he said. "To call attention to public lands. To say, 'Hey folks, one third of the country belongs to you.'"

The plan was two get two teams of people -- one starting at the Mexican border, another at the Canadian -- who would hike, mountain bike, raft, horseback ride, drive all terrain vehicles, motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles -- whatever it took -- across public lands. The teams would meet in Salt Lake City on Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day, to celebrate the feat. Along the way, they'd meet with the public in special events designed to increase education about public lands.

So for three years, Maurer tried to gather support for his project.
The Bureau of Land Management was the first public agency to come on board, bringing enthusiastic support.

"If it wasn't for the BLM, this wouldn't have happened," Maurer said.
The BLM support helped other public lands agencies come on board, along with private businesses that lent their backing -- via both money and value in kind: the donation of products and supplies needed to make the trek a go.

The National Geographic Society bought into the project, focusing this
year's Geography Action! program on public lands. "They have enthusiastically embraced the program," Maurer said. "Through
them, we will reach approximately 1.5 million school children in grades K-12."

Because of National Geographic's involvement, one member and a backup on each team is a teacher, who will help bring what they learned to teachers and students across the country.

"What we're trying to do, next year, with teachers and students, is to try to teach people safe and practical ways to use public lands," said videographer Kevin Burtnett, who's traveling with the southern team. "To bring general awareness of public lands and how to use them in a way that promotes good stewardship of our country's backyard."

Still, despite almost three years of fund raising, Maurer said whether or not the project would actually happen came down to the wire. "Four months ago, if you asked me if this was going to happen, I would have said 'No,'" he said.

Still, Maurer and BLM Interagency Liaison Dave Mensing pushed ahead, sending out applications to public and private agencies asking for volunteers. A small group responded, returning applications that asked about their outdoor skills and required responses to essay questions.

"Fairly simple application, but I think a lot of us were chosen because we have a passion for this type of thing," said southern team first alternate Jessica Terrell.

"We tried to get a diversity of folks. But we did want people with some outdoor experience," Maurer said.

A committee made up of members from the PLIA, Forest Service, National
Geographic, the BLM and sponsor Honda ranked the applications, and came up with a group of what Maurer called "highly qualified people."
The positions are strictly volunteer, and require the team members to give up two months of their lives for the project.

Still, those on board have no regrets.

Richard Tyrell, a Pennsylvania salesman, got the call he was accepted May 31. "David Mensing called up and said you've been selected as a Trek team member, can you commit to the trip? And without thinking for a full second, just a fraction, I said, "Absolutely." I did not check with my boss. I did not check with my wife. Take care of details later. That's how I got involved with this."

Tyrell's company was equally enthusiastic and allowed him to take the time off.

Others got the same support, including southern team teacher Katherine Kiffe of Lafayette, La., whose school district gave her professional leave. "They are very excited about the project," she said. "They think it's very worthwhile, not only for our school district, but across the nation."

Others actually gave up jobs to go on the trek, but agree it's worth it.. "Absolutely," said Jan Nesset of Durango, Colo., who quit a job to make the journey. "The reason is because all my interests and all my skills are bundled into this journey."

Each team has four trekkers who will make the journey across public lands: although once they're in camp they can leave, their path will not allow them to deviate from public lands along the route.

They're backed up by support team members -- a medic, cook and three
alternates -- who do all the little things necessary to make sure the
trekkers can do their job, and who can take off from the strict path.
If, for any reason, one of the main four can't finish the journey, the
alternates step in.

"Hopefully I won't need to do that, and these trekkers are all so determined that I don't think they'll let me do that," Terrell said.
Each team is traveling with three 4WD vehicles -- donated by Honda -- a motorhome loaned by Cruise America, two trucks and two trailers filled to the gills with supplies needed to complete the two-month trek.

They're also accompanied by a National Geographic videographer, and one or two specialists in geographical information systems: high tech gear that can give each trekker an exact location any time he asks.
"We know where we are exactly on the Earth at all times," said Tom Dudley of Earth Touch Solution of Boulder, Colo.

The tech experts work out of a trailer provided by EarthAnalytic outfitted with two-way satellite dishes, a variety of computer equipment and a full suite of GIS software.

AllPoints GIS of Albuquerque is coordinating volunteer expertise from a nationwide base of GIS professionals. The experts can map the next day's route for the trekkers -- printing out hard-copy on the spot --or make sure they're staying on public lands if the route is questionable. "If a route needs to be remapped, then we can do that," Dudley said. "If the public land comes into situations where (the sections are) only touching at corners, then we can be very precise as to where the team needs to cross these corners."

They also have Internet access in the trailer, allowing the team members to download journals to the trek's Web site:
"www.americanfrontiers.net with $1 million in cash and donations committed and a week of training behind them, the two groups began their journey.

The southern American Frontiers team pulled out of Las Cruces at 5:30 a.m. Their goal was to reach the Mexican border by 7 p.m., in time to make a video telephone linkup to a Washington, D.C., press conference.
The team pulled over along the side of N.M. 9, the Columbus Highway, between mile markers 119 and 120 shortly after 6 a.m.

With the sun now just over the horizon, the entire group -- trekkers and support members, along with BLM natural resource specialist Mark Hakkila -- made their way over, through or under a barbed wire fence, and, under the watchful eyes of grazing cattle, hiked about a mile and a half to the border.

Hakkila said while the group did have to cross the fence, that's perfectly OK on public lands. "You're still allowed to come out here and recreate," he said. "Public lands are open to public recreational and other kinds of uses."

Although the videophone connection didn't connect, the journey officially began with a photo and a cheer from the team. Then it was back to the highway, where the support crew headed for that
night's base camp, and the trekkers, Hakkila, videographer and GIS experts began their travels via 4WD.

With Hakkila leading, the group made its way across BLM and state trust lands. Most of the day's journey was across the 165,000-acre West Potrillo Mountains wilderness study area surrounding Mount Riley and Mount Cox, at 8,500 feet the highest peaks in that part of the southern New Mexico desert.

The ranch road the four vehicles traversed was little more than a rough trail, covered with sharp lava rocks and, after the previous night's monsoon rains, ankle deep with water.

But no matter how tough the journey, the trekkers seemed enchanted with everything they saw. With most coming from thousands of miles away to the Chihuahuan desert, they were fascinated by the sights, sounds and smells.

Stops were made to check out everything from ocotillos to horned toads to centipedes, and cameras were always at the ready. Hakkila gave a lunchtime talk on the wilderness area, and stopped later that
day for a geology lecture, pointing out the West Aden Lava Flow -- the site of another wilderness study area -- the Kilbourne Hole, and the numerous shield volcanoes and cinder cones dotting the landscape.

In order to stay on public lands, the route wound back and forth.
At lunch, the GIS experts noted the caravan had traveled 17.5 miles to get what was a mere 10.5 miles from the starting point. Average speed along the approximately 70-mile route was around 8 mph.
At 4:49 p.m., the first vehicle again touched pavement -- just east of the Burris Ranch Exit on the I-10 frontage road.

In order to stay on public lands, the trekkers had to cross the interstate on foot -- using a global positioning system to keep them in line with a peak on the horizon. The vehicles met the trekkers on the other side, and continued their journey by car a few miles further to Massacre Peak, where the support team had camp
set for the night.

Wednesday's journey was not without problems.

Burtnett had a close encounter with a cholla cactus, and one of the 4WD vehicles kept bottoming out, finally losing a large piece of its underside on one particularly rough stretch of road.

But, the group showed they could handle whatever came along.

"We fixed the car by putting ziplock baggies over all the electrical
connections and then duct-taping everything back together," Tyrell laughed. "Duct-tape's great. You can do anything."

But despite the rough start and the problems along the way, everyone was looking forward to the remainder of the journey. "(It was) absolutely fabulous, Kiffe said. "I love it. Love the challenge.

Love the bouncing around. Love being out here and seeing the change in
vegetation from cactus to mesquite to yucca to sand. Absolutely fabulous." "Actually, no, I'm not happy at all," Tyrell deadpanned. "Ecstatic is a better word. It's better than we ever even thought it was going to be." "I believe that every worthwhile event has its ups and downs," Nesset said. "We had a shaky start but we did have a start and we're going to start building our momentum and our rhythm and we're on our way."

Today, the group will start off from Lake Valley, where they overnighted after participating in a program on historic mining.
From there, it's off BLM lands today and onto the Gila National Forest. The trekkers will spend several days backpacking the area surrounding Emory Pass, and host a wilderness roundtable discussion from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the WNMU Student Union in Silver City.


•
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
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