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Executive Director’s Report, October 2020

By Chris Morrill, Executive Director

We are only a few days from the election. I am, like I imagine you are, ready for it to be over. However, we must acknowledge that, like many issues, this election will perhaps be the most important ever for the management of our public lands. So, if you haven’t, I will now make the gratuitous plea to vote.

Regardless of the outcome, the protection of wild places will still depend on the energy, passion, and commitment of everyday people. I wanted to share a few inspiring or uplifting stories that are giving me hope for the future, whatever it may hold.

First, on October 25, Assistant Policy Director Linda Castro joined about 100 other activists in Lone Pine to protest a proposed gold mine by K2 Gold Corporation on Conglomerate Mesa, located near Olancha and the western boundary of Death Valley National Park. The pandemic has forced all of us to get creative on how we engage with the world. I was heartened to see that, after taking all necessary precautions, so many would turn out to have their voices heard.

Coverage of the protest in the local Inyo Register


Assistant Policy Director Linda Castro at Conglomerate Mesa protest

Second, I want to highlight the ever-expanding demographics of the environmental community. Latino Outdoors, Green Latinos, and Outdoor Afro have all shown how cross-cutting environmental issues are to many different groups of people. My hope is to continue to see this transformation with both new groups forming and more inclusive established environmental groups. Below are a couple of virtual hike videos from Latino Outdoors including one from our own André Sanchez.

Third, multiple catastrophic wildfires have compounded an already overwhelming and exhausting year. Our wildfire challenge was many decades in the making. However, it was with this level of destruction that action was possible. One key development is the elevation of cultural burning and a broader respect and interest in indigenous practices of native Californians. This is a welcome and needed progress for the future of California’s public lands. Discussions of current and past management practices and the education of the past treatment of native people will be hard and the issues uncomfortable. However, if our goal is better stewardship and management of California’s wild places for future generations, I think these conversations move us in that direction. Below is a great summary with a video about cultural burning practices:

Finally, I want to highlight the role Patagonia has played in defending the value of public land for the public. Patagonia has long been a supporter of many environment groups, including CalWild. Their support is financial, but also in capacity building and connecting activists. In the last few years their work has only become bolder. Many in the outdoor industry have followed their lead, understanding what is at stake. Below is a link to a recent documentary Patagonia produced about the fight to preserve public lands in the “public trust”. While much of the film is about mobilizing against threats and the film’s ending is not the most uplifting, ultimately the many examples of mobilization by many committed people will continue to be necessary to preserve our public lands. It is the many people fighting and ready to continue to fight that gives me hope.

None of this is unequivocally happy or an easy escape. but these actions are not ephemeral either. These are the long-term changes that give me hope when other news breeds a feeling of hopelessness. I hope you enjoy this material and use it to catalyze your own fight for the public land you treasure for years to come.


Please let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions by emailing me at