Thankful for Public Lands

From the Gunnison Country Times


Sitting in my tiny condo on the mountain, working on seemingly endless projects on my laptop, it’s hard not to stare out the window at Mt. Emmons or Whetstone and think about how badly I want to be out there, and how lucky I am to live here. Among many things I am thankful for this year, I feel especially grateful for our public lands in Gunnison County. My life here, from my education to personal recreation to my work, revolves around the mountains and rivers and valleys that make this home.

Because I live in Crested Butte, I am privileged. No matter the season, I can explore our public lands in a multitude of ways. In the summer, I hike, climb, fish and ride my bike. In the winter, I can be found on skinny skis on the Nordic trails and fat skis on powder days, either searching for lines in the backcountry or carving turns at the resort.

I am a Master in Environmental Management (MEM) student at Western State Colorado University, so my spare time is limited, and I spend a lot of time in front of a computer, wishing I were playing outside. This paired with at least three part-time jobs makes it a struggle to balance everything. However, without those free moments spent roaming the wild, I think I would lose all motivation to work towards my career. 

Public lands are the underpinnings of both my employment and education. In the summer, I teach young students about ecology and wildlife for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory’s Kids’ Nature Camp. In the winter, I teach visitors and local children how to ski, and more importantly, to enjoy nature and our beautiful mountain ranges.

As an MEM student, I research the impacts of riparian restoration in sagebrush habitat on insect populations, an integral part of the Gunnison Sage-grouse diet. I hope that, one day, I can use my master’s to get a job working to restore and reclaim public lands, and I have to remind myself of that every time I have to spend four or five hours in front of my laptop reading research papers and writing reports instead of playing outside.

Public lands are woven into nearly aspect of my life. They sustain me here in Gunnison County — intellectually, financially, physically and spiritually. They improve my health, my resolve, and my sense of wellbeing. I believe strongly for these reasons that we should make sure that our most important wild places are protected for future generations. 

In just the four short years I’ve spent in Gunnison County, I’ve already seen increasing pressure on our natural resources. We must be proactive to ensure that our wild lands are healthy, ecologically viable and free from development. The Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) proposal to protect public lands would help ensure that core habitat, watersheds, and our best recreation will remain intact for years to come.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to live in a place where I’m surrounded by breathtaking views and can venture out into the backcountry nearly every day to remind myself of why we work so hard to preserve ecosystems and ecosystem health. Every time I see an ermine dart into the ground or look down a cornice and feel my heart drop into my feet, I am grateful that these are experiences that my generation still has. I support GPLI and hope you will too.


Samm Rowland