Unsung Heroes: Laura Yale
High Country Citizens Alliance, USA
At the 10th World Wilderness Congress we discovered hundreds of young activists who were working quietly behind the scenes to make the WILD vision a reality. We felt that these people’s activities should be recognised. In keeping with the knowledge that young people are the future, we asked our team of young trainee journalists in the press office to go out and interview them.
Laura came to WILD10 with her family, because her father was befriended with somebody involved in the organisation. She is interested in the events because she works in the High Country Citizens Alliance, a local environmental NGO in the USA, that works to preserve the land, water and wildlife in Western Colorado and to protect it against the threats of mining and road construction. She is involved in the campaigning and the lobbying.
What’s the trick of a good lobby organisation? “The most important thing is that you get diverse support. Traditional environmentalists are important, but you should also look for other groups that have a stake in the area. In our case for example, there are hunters, fishermen, bikers, ranchers and motorised users. Their common stake is an appreciation of nature. But a strong lobbying organisation also requires a good plan to bring everyone together, so that all support proposals for the elected officials. Investigations of the lands and knowledge about the administrative system are very important.
Zones are a great tool to gather support from all different users, and still protect the area. Some places are more suitable for hunting and fishing than others. By proposing that the land can be preserved for certain uses, we can strengthen our position when campaigning against new roads or mining and drilling in the area, which would highly pollute it. We have always known that we should work together with such groups.
We have worked closely with the elected officials and have submitted our proposal to the senators. We are almost ready for the next step, where we will bring our message out to the newspapers and the radio. We will then also go to the streets to speak to people directly, and convince them of the need and the feasibility to protect the area.”
What are you doing here on WILD10? “I’m taking all the information in. I wanted to see the global connection with the international conservation efforts. I’m impressed with what people here are doing. It’s in places like WILD10 where you realise how many people care about wilderness, and work towards a solution. I am surprised to see in the presentations that not all local groups get involved in the plans every time. I do think it is a key to our success that we keep approaching new people.”
Why are you working in nature conservation? “Well, I grew up in Colorado, and I always wanted to give a voice to the plants and the animals that are not represented in the political system. I think the love for nature is inherited in every human being, but I personally had the luck of access to this beautiful wilderness, and experienced this appreciation by being outdoors a lot. Today, there definitely is hope that we’ll keep the mining companies out”.
This interview was conducted by Gilles Havik – Gilles, who is from the Netherlands, graduated in Biology & Forest and Nature Conservation and is currently working for the municipality of Amsterdam on various conservation projects. He writes a blog called Sailing On Dreams.