October 2019
Broads’ Blog

Our National Parks Are Being Loved to Death

By Suez Jacobson, Broads Board Member

I’m a Broad and I also serve on the Great Old Broads for Wilderness (Broads) board. Broads is a national grassroots organization, led by women, that inspires advocacy to preserve and protect wilderness and public lands. Conceived by older women who love wilderness, Broads gives voice to the millions of Americans who want to protect their public lands and wilderness for this and future generations. As a women-led conservation organization, we bring knowledge, leadership, and humor to the environmental and wilderness preservation movements.

Today, I share my voice as a Broad on an issue facing our public lands that is of great concern. Last weekend, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the National Park Service (NPS), without doing any analysis or listening to input from citizens and National Park visitors, is planning to open all primary access and back roads in Utah’s national parks to off road vehicles (OHVs) as of November 1st.


Acting regional director Palmer “Chip” Jenkins announced this policy change with a memo to Utah park superintendents using the argument that this will align policy in the parks with Utah law. This reverses a policy by the NPS to keep these vehicles off the crowded park roads despite Utah’s law, passed in 2008, which allowed them on state and county roads if these vehicles were “street legal”—registered and insured.

Conservationists were alarmed. To get an idea of what this might mean in Arches National Park, take a look at the webcams installed because of the incredible traffic jams of visitors trying to get into the park. https://www.nps.gov/arch/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm

Our parks are already being loved to death.

More seriously, OHVs can easily be driven off-road—the very intent of their existence. For the fragile desert in Utah parks this is ecocide. Even walking on fragile living biological soil crust destroys the foundation for life in the desert. That’s why there’s so much on the web telling us, “Don’t Bust the Crust.”



And imagine the noise.

As with most recent assaults on our public lands, this decision caters to narrow interests. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that this decision was prompted by a request to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt from Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding (and 13 other Utah officials). Lyman was convicted in 2015 of trespass and conspiracy for riding into Recapture Canyon after it was closed to protect cultural resources. His intentions are clear.

This is just one more assault on our democracy and our public lands. We must fight back. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Send a message to the administrators in your favorite Utah National Park. Be bold. Be a Broad.

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August 2019
Broads’ Blog

Bigger Than Ourselves

By Shelley Silbert
Executive Director, Great Old Broads for Wilderness

It’s hard to fathom that our scrappy and growing organization celebrates thirty years in 2019! In this issue, we preview opportunities to commemorate this special year: September festivities at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch at the edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, new membership specials, and expanded opportunities to catalyze public land protection where you live.


Southern_San_Juan_BroadbandThree decades ago, our founders chose our very particular name—Great Old Broads for Wilderness—to project a certain proclivity to laugh together even as we deal with serious issues, not to mention the ability to handle mud, dust, heat, cold, or wildness. It’s not beneath us to handle crusty old politicians either. We use our wit and wisdom, strategy, tenacity, and persuasion to get them behind wilderness designation, forest protection, keeping roadless areas intact, fighting climate change, and other measures to defend the wild places we love. We let them know we’re not going away and won’t take no for an answer!For older broads, “dirty thirties” conjures up the devastating Dust Bowl decade. As Ken Burns’ PBS documentary described it, the Dust Bowl was “the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history,” and “a morality tale about our relationship with the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our own peril.”

As an organization entering our thirties, what lesson could be more appropriate as we fight today’s ecological disasters, and the dirty politics that go hand in hand with them? Younger broads describe the dirty thirties as the decade in which women revel in their full complement of power and prowess. Indeed, we are hitting our stride as an organization in our dirty thirties, and we intend to use everything in our power to prevent any disaster reminiscent of the Dust Bowl on U.S. public lands or anywhere on the planet.


We continue to sharpen the tools of advocacy work, aiming to be bigger than ourselves as we tackle mission-driven work, inspire activism, and develop partnerships to multiply our efforts in this endlessly challenging period. We train a new cohort of Broadband leaders in March, surpassing 40 total chapters and adding in states where we’ve never had a presence, like Alaska, New Hampshire, and Texas. Reports from our Broadband leaders tell us there is inspiring work going on in their communities. More people are getting involved: over 7,000 participants last year and nearly 43,000 volunteer hours— a whopping 47% increase in boots on the ground and 19% more hours. Taking on an astounding array of activities, our Broadbands:

  • Actively engage in Forest Plan Revisions and wilderness campaigns
  • Write formal comments on the impacts of fossil fuel and infrastructure development, grazing, mining, and roads
  • Monitor water quality and solitude (or lack thereof)
  • Advocate for wetlands protection
  • Teach nature studies to children
  • Author opinion pieces and letters to the editor to educate the community
  • Host and attend rallies
  • Take the lead on climate issues…and so much more.


In November, a group of Broadband leaders will descend on the halls of Congress for a national grassroots training and lobbying event. Guided by our strategic plan, we’ve honed key campaigns to guide our work, both nationally and on specific public lands near and dear to our members. We continue to go to court as needed, which sadly seems more often of late. A litigation screening tool we’ve just developed will help decide when legal action is critical.


As Broads, we know that reconnecting with wild places and our wild selves motivates our passion like nothing else. When difficult work drains and depletes us, a retreat to celebrate what we love uplifts the soul. My year started with a recharge in a mountain hut at 10,000’ elevation, enjoying good friends and the chance to ski where quiet rules and motorized vehicles can’t follow. To enjoy no sound but the push of skis and the occasional junco’s trill or hawk’s cry; my ski poles softly whooshing through ice crystals, like sifting through tiny shards of glass. We marvel at the feathered hoar crystals mounded as if marmots sleep beneath the snow, their frosty fur curling at the surface. I think of the Navajo/Diné concept of Hozho: beauty and balance, and the need to restore it when disrupted. Beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty above me, beauty around me. I carry these images home as inspiration. We gain resilience as we celebrate these moments and wake our senses to the urgency to restore the beauty, in every possible way.

This has been the work of Broads for thirty years—to restore what has been disrupted and protect what remains in its most intact and balanced condition. Hell yes, we are still here and persistent as ever —kicking up our heels with passion for wilderness, and kicking mightily against some of the harshest political attacks ever seen on public lands and waters, let alone our democracy. Walking in beauty, we are bigger than ourselves, and we walk together, growing stronger in our thirtieth year—and counting!

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