Meeting the next generation who will carry the torch as wilderness, natural resource stewards

Arthur "Butch" Blazer
Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture
May 27th, 2014 at 6:45PM

While my days of adventuring into the back country are by no means over, it is becoming increasingly apparent that my generation is approaching the inevitable time when we must pass the torch on to the next generation of wilderness and natural resource stewards.

A photo of youth who were part of the filming of “Untrammeled” marvel at the stars. On my recent trip to Missoula, Montana, I was privileged and extremely pleased to see a group of young people who will help carry that torch. My heart is more at peace about our future after my experience viewing the U.S. Forest Service movie “Untrammeled” at the University of Montana.

The movie is a production of the Forest Service’s Northern Region along with a host of passionate and active partners in Western Montana. This group of intrepid wilderness and youth-focused champions set out to capture the first-hand experiences and emotions of three small groups of young adults in the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas in Montana. They rode horseback and hiked into places and to a peace that they had never known or experienced before.

“Untrammeled” captures the personal emotions that wilderness had on these young men and women, many experiencing it for the first time. Their comments, their conversations and their expressions convey in 27 minutes the profound and likely lifelong impression the great outdoors will have on them.

Their candid and unscripted reactions, and the subtle but obvious changes that come over them because of this experience, reveals itself with genuine clarity as the movie develops. Following the movie premiere, several of them spoke with the audience of more than 300 about their experiences, adding even more to the depth of the movie itself.

I can personally identify with their reactions. My own youthful first emotions and impressions of the backcountry and wilderness areas of the Mescalero Apache Reservation guided my lifelong desire for a natural resources career.

Our nation’s wilderness areas are treasures with special meaning and importance. They are filled with the spirits of my ancestors and maintaining the land as wilderness areas honors them.

The generation before us knew this as well and skillfully empowered us through the Wilderness Act to create and care for these treasures. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, we current stewards should take comfort in the generation seen and captured in “Untrammeled.

The movie is a reflection of the potential in these new torch bearers, and it should spur us on to develop more interest and awareness of wilderness. It is our only assurance that future stewardship is passed on to passionate and caring hands, and to a generation whose hearts have been forever imprinted with the indelible mark of the tranquility and sense of place that marked so many of us so many years ago.