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LOOKING FORWARD… AND BEHIND

by Mark McKeough, HUPC Board Member

Gary MacFarlane getting an award for his conservation work doesn’t surprise anyone who knows him. Getting the inaugural award, and having it named after him, also doesn’t surprise us. You can read more details about Gary, his life-long commitment to conservation work, his award and why the Friends of the Clearwater chose to name it after him in Dick’s accompanying article in this issue of THE LYNX.

The fact that Gary recently turned fifty also deserves some comment, serious and otherwise. First, the “other-wise” part: Because of what he believes, Gary has been a dedicated vegan for quite a while. But he wasn’t always so conscientious in his food choices. Or the quantity of food he ate. While with the Utah Wilderness Association, Gary went along to help out on the early fundraising river trips through Desolation and Grays Canyon on the Green River. It seemed on those early trips we always had much more good food than we needed for the number of people who signed up. None of us liked to waste food. On steak night on the river, on one trip, Gary ate six, maybe seven, eight ounce pieces of sirloin steaks so they wouldn’t go to feed the Green River catfish. Not tofu steaks. Real, good-tasting, cooked-over-wood fire pieces of chopped-up dead cow. I don’t know if Gary preferred things rare or medium back then. He wasn’t picky, as I recall.

On the serious side, Gary is one of the smartest and most dedicated people I know. It showed in his contributions on behalf of Utah’s wild country starting back in 1982 with the UWA. It continues today with Friends of the Clearwater. Gary has always had an insightful mind. Now, his insight is tempered by twenty-five years of frontline activism and day-to-day, hard conservation work. The folks at the Clearwater know how valuable he is. The smarter ones learn from him. Which brings me closer to the point of this digression.

Well, a little closer, anyway. Marty Steiz, our web designer, web master and tech support wizard, has a son, Jim, who is about half Gary’s age and who recently started working with a habitat restoration group in Oregon. I went to their web site to see what the organization was all about. There is a picture of the staff and volunteers in front of a converted house with a xeriscaped front yard—clumps of wild grass here, bunches of ground cover and native shrubs there. The picture showed a large group, maybe fifteen. And they were mostly young people. To find anyone over 50 in the organization it seemed you had to click deep into the web site in the previous board member section to see gray hair and gray beards.

There are a lot of good reasons why Jim’s new employer has a decent budget and large staff to do the rehab work they do; and why HUPC has a smaller budget and a paid staff of just one. But there is no reason why there aren’t younger people, say, under 30, more interested and involved with the HUPC and its issues. There is no good reason why the average age of the current board members is north of 55. The readers of this newsletter don’t need to have more evidence of how thorough, knowledgeable, persistent and incisive Dick Carter and the HUPC has been on public land issues involving the High Uinta Mountains in the recent, and not so recent, past. Yet, as board members, we always struggle to answer the questions: Where are the younger folks? Why don’t we see them at the Rendezvous? Why don’t we have them emailing us with questions, criticisms, anger, frustration, and surprise? Why do we as a board find it impossible to come up with the names of anyone under thirty who we might consider as new board members? We know the young Gary Macfarlanes and Dick Carters are out there. But how do we get them in here? We joke that the fact that none of us really knows how to text message and hates the idea of having to do it (clues, young folks: the letters are too small, the flipping screen is too small, the ideas are too small) must be some sort of indicator. But none of us really has any answers.

I’m more than curious to know what we need to do to get younger people on the board. I’m curious to know how come it seems younger people have limited interest in HUPC and Utah public land issues. And I’m desperate to know what insight young people have for us as a board that oversees a very good conservation organization. I’m frustrated to the point where I’m willing to try imbedding gratuitous, capitalized key words like “MySpace SUCKS” or “YouTube—YouProblem” in this article to see who gets angry enough to respond. So, please, from the bottom of my heart, write to me with your thoughts. We are not the equals of Leopold or Stegner. But, certainly, they looked behind them, at younger people, for reassurance of the value of what they held as universal beliefs. Their younger generation included people like Gary and Dick and George Nickas. It’s our turn to start looking behind us.


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