Clockwise from upper left: Katie Ledermann, Hannah Field, Alex Benjamin and Ariana Amini, aka "Women on Wheels for Wild Lands" or WOWFWL ("wow-full")
The U.S. boasts 59 national parks, 129 national monuments and other designated wilderness areas to protect what little unsoiled "wilderness" remains from our own capitalist conquests. ... Our mission is to educate and raise awareness of the importance of and threats to America's public lands. - Hannah Field
by Hannah Field
In August 2016, I biked two thousand miles from my home in Minneapolis to Seattle. Over the course of 23 days, I experienced the northern United States landscape up close and personal, with nothing but my own two legs keeping my wheels rolling across it.
If I close my eyes, I can retrace the entire route in my mind's eye, recall every uphill I endured, every downhill that I thanked God for and every endless road stretching off into the distance. From the rolling hills of North Dakota, to the vast, empty plains of eastern Montana, to the cool forests in the Rockies and the Cascade mountains, to the deserts of eastern Washington, I was amazed at how many different environments could fit inside the span of just half of the country.
Equally astonishing to me was how empty the land seemed to be of humans, but completely full of human activity. It seemed every inch of land was devoted to agriculture and resources. Acres of crops planted in perfect rows stretched as far as the eye could see. The only sound I heard, other than my wheels on the pavement, was that of far-off trains, carrying oil, lumber and coal from industrial metropolis to industrial metropolis. This country is made up of cities and farm fields, I decided.
But thanks to the likes of environmentalists Mardy Murie, Celia Hunter and others who saw the necessity to protect and preserve the incredibly diverse American landscape and ecology, the United States has put aside some of the land. The U.S. boasts 59 national parks, 129 national monuments and other designated wilderness areas to protect what little unsoiled "wilderness" remains from our own capitalist conquests.
As you read this in October, I will be biking across the United States yet again, this time for three and a half months and 4,800 miles. This time with my teammates: Katie Ledermann, Alex Benjamin and Ariana Amini. The four of us call ourselves Women on Wheels for Wild Lands, or WOWFWL ("wow-full"). Our mission is to educate and raise awareness of the importance of and threats to America's public lands.
The biggest threat facing public lands is the transfer of federally-owned lands to the hands of the states. Managing public lands takes money and resources that states don't always have.
States know they can lease or sell these lands for a hefty sum, especially to gas, oil, timber and mining companies. When this happens, American citizens lose out. These lands can be closed to the public, used for mining or drilling, intensive agriculture, or turned into shopping or housing developments, altering their health and landscape forever.
We will be spending time in as many public lands along our route as we can. We will hear the stories of individuals, organizations, communities, companies and lawmakers and share them in weekly blog posts and videos. We will also include information about what people can do in the fight to protect these lands.
We will include as many voices as possible, including those who may not agree with us. Someone recently told me, politics is like dating: You gotta meet the people you agree with, be willing to listen to those you don't, and be willing to say "Thank you, but I need to go now" when your boundaries are threatened.
We hope to promote the value of consuming experiences, rather than land, resources and goods, and to remind folks that when we sell these lands for companies to consume, we lose them forever, as they will never again exist as they do in their natural way of being.
With the help of many American voices, we will speak as loudly as we can for these quiet places.
FFI: To learn more about the WOWFWL team, mission and route, visit womenonwheelsforwildlands.com, or follow their journey on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, @wowfwl