California Wilderness Coalition, otherwise known as CalWild, is a grassroots organization that is impassioned and unflagging in their efforts to preserve California’s public lands. Having just celebrated their 40 year anniversary last year, the organization is historically committed to mobilizing American citizens to stand up for their lands and rivers. We spoke to Ryan Henson of CalWild to find out about their current efforts in the Golden State.
Photo credits: Blog featured image by Jack Schlinkert. Header image and internal post images by Jeff Jones.
What is CalWild?
California is a huge state (107 million acres), and 44 percent of it is federal public land, owned by the American people. Most of these public lands are outside of parks and protected areas and are therefore open to logging, mining, and other forms of development. Founded in 1976, CalWild is the only organization that works statewide to protect, restore and care for these lands. We do so by building coalitions of local residents, elected officials, businesses, Native American tribes, veterans and others who are willing to advocate for threatened wild places.
What is your role there?
I am the Policy Director. I work with our staff to identify places that need protection and the strategies and tactics we’ll use to achieve it.
How does CalWild pursue change?
Educating officials and the public about the value of wild lands and streams, mobilizing citizens, recruiting and training activists, and building coalitions of diverse interests.
CalWild does do a lot of different work for your causes. What has been your most significant victory to date? Can you run through that?
Since our founding in 1976, our single largest victory was the passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. The bill, sponsored by California Senator Dianne Feinstein, protected over seven million acres as “wilderness” (the highest form of protection available for public land under federal law) and established two new national parks. It took over a decade to pass the measure. It became the second largest land protection bill in American history.
Wow, that is a feat also illustrates the time commitment land preservation often warrants. You’ve got quite a few campaigns running right now. All of their importance notwithstanding, which situation is the most dire?
Unfortunately, there are still a great many politicians working overtime to accelerate and expand logging, mining, oil drilling, road construction and other forms of development on federal public lands. As a result, our public land defense program is most in need of volunteer energy and additional resources at this time.
Read more about CalWild’s Public Land Defense program, for which the plans and actions of the current administration cause great alarm: https://www.calwild.org/resistance-public-lands-defense/
How can people get involved with CalWild?
Nothing can better ensure the protection of our public lands than an active and informed citizenry. Please get involved today by visiting our website at calwild.org. You can also call us at 510-451-1450 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.