Wilderness Workshop celebrates its half-century mark
When Connie Harvey, Dottie Fox and Joy Caudill set out 50 years ago to protect public lands in the Roaring Fork Valley, their vision likely didn’t included a three-course meal and a party at Hunter S. Thompson’s place.
This is a big week for the Wilderness Workshop, the local environmental group that is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and this week it’s in full swing.
On Wednesday night Harvey was joined by a few hundred people at a private event and Saturday many in the valley will join the party at Wildfest at Owl Farm, Thompson’s longtime residence.
“I didn’t even try to imagine anything that far in the future,” she said about Wednesday’s dinner at Aspen’s Caribou Club. “It’s very encouraging. It’s great that people care about these things. In the next 50 years, I’d like to see more of the world in tune with conservation and nature.”
Joining the party is the Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael Brune. He came to Aspen with his family and addressed the gathering Wednesday night. He plans to be at Saturday’s festivities.
Brune said the fight to protect public lands and the environment needs to be a two-pronged approach from the local and national levels.
National environmental groups can be most effective, he said, when they partner with local organizations, groups that have a good feel for what the threats are in their backyard and what the opportunities are in their own backyard.
He pointed to the Thompson Divide oil and gas drilling fight as a key example of how working together can bring results that appeal to both sides of the issue.
“The opposition was very much locally based and broad-based, but also there was pretty extensive consultation with the previous administration to figure out how we can do this in a way that works for the community where economic and environmental interests are held together in balance,” Brune said Wednesday. “We’re really excited to be partnering with Wilderness Workshop as we have for many years on issues like the Thompson Divide and up on the Roane Plateau, working to make sure oil and gas leasing on public lands is phased out and where oil and gas leasing does take place it’s done much more responsibly.”
While Wednesday’s event at the private club was a success, Workshop executive director Sloan Shoemaker will be ready for Saturday’s Wildfest.
“We’ve never done an event this elegant,” Shoemaker told Wednesday’s gathering. “It was stepping out of my comfort zone, because we’re used to a dusty barn filled with hay.”
Wildfest is the group’s annual family-friendly celebration. There will be music, locally sourced food and drinks and a social media activism tent among other activities.
“This is a home-grown party for anyone and everyone with a shared love of public lands,” Workshop board president Andy Wiessner said. “We keep the ticket price reasonable ($45) because this celebration is for all of us locals who love our clean air, clean water, ample wildlife and public lands, and aren’t afraid to show it.”
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Kevin Warner started his career with the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in 2001. Now he’s taking over the key position as Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.