The Conservation Alliance joins Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, and other conservation leaders on the Gila River

March 23 – March 26, 2024

Photo: Ben MacAskill

Celebrating Conservation: A Glimpse into Protecting the Gila River
Last month, in the heart of New Mexico, I had the privilege of joining a group of conservation leaders on a transformative journey along the Gila River. The Gila River served as the ancestral homeland of indigenous peoples and boasts unparalleled ecological significance, and this trip coincided with the centennial anniversary of its designation as the nation’s first Wilderness Area. Moreover, the trip galvanized participants around a collective push to advocate for the Gila’s designation as a Wild and Scenic River. The Gila is the last free-flowing river in New Mexico and is home to recreation activities for locals year-round.

Bridging Connections for Conservation
The trip was more than just a scenic excursion; it was an opportunity to forge connections with grassroots leaders and to deepen my understanding of conservation efforts in New Mexico and the surrounding region. I journeyed alongside esteemed leaders from organizations like Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project (NTCP), the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC), the American Indian College Fund, Natives Outdoors, and others to experience the Gila River firsthand. Flickr – a devoted TCA member – also participated in the trip, eager to gain firsthand insight into the remarkable work of local conservation organizations. The Conservation Alliance is dedicated to linking businesses with on-the-ground leaders, and this journey was an ideal platform for fostering collaboration and learning from individuals with deep knowledge and a close relationship with the river. Put simply, there is nothing as powerful as getting our business members on the lands and waters we are asking them to work to protect.

Immersed in Nature’s Splendor
The journey began with a community event near Silver City, New Mexico, where NTCP and CDTC convened local leaders, citizens young and old, and partners to celebrate the cultural and ecological significance of the Gila River. This event set the tone for the expedition, blending an appreciation for nature with a shared commitment to the river’s preservation, and a celebration of the people who have long worked to honor and protect the Gila and surrounding regions.

Within the first few moments of the trip, embarking on the river, I felt a sense of reverence for the land and those communities who are close to it. Guided by Àngel, NTCP’s Executive Director, we had the opportunity to explore cultural sites, delving into the rich history of indigenous inhabitants. As our group traversed the river flanked by towering rock walls, we marveled at the region’s natural splendor. Hiking through slot canyons and listening to the chorus of birds overhead, we strengthened bonds forged by a shared connection to the outdoors, and a desire to move forward in partnership – with each other and local community –  to reach our shared conservation goals.

Calls-to-Action: Elevating the Business Voice to Support the Gila
Inspired by our experience, I emerged from the canyons of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers with a renewed sense of purpose and several actionable steps to continue moving existing efforts forward. Firstly, I will encourage TCA’s business members tol continue rallying behind organizations like NTCP and CDTC, recognizing them as both frontline defenders of the Gila’s ecosystem as well as deeply-committed and wise community builders focused on increasing access to this beautiful region. Additionally, we at TCA can and will continue to urge our business members to champion legislative initiatives such as Representative Vasquez’s proposed legislation, the M.H. Dutch Salmon Great Gila Wild and Scenic River Act, amplifying the voices of those advocating for protections. As many of us who work in advocacy know, this work can span across years, but with a harmonized approach and strategy our TCA members can work alongside coalition leaders and elected officials to get this piece of legislation across the finish line.

Paving the Way Forward
As I reflect on my expedition to the Gila River, I am more committed than ever to supporting locally-led conservation initiatives in New Mexico and beyond. The journey served as a poignant reminder of the importance of bridging connections between businesses, on-the-ground leaders, and grassroots efforts. By amplifying the voices of business leaders – especially in the outdoor industry, which relies on the durable protections of our nation’s natural and cultural resources – and fostering meaningful partnerships, TCA remains determined in our mission to protect wild places and outdoor spaces.

Photo: Ben MacAskill

Thank yous:
Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, Continental Divide Trail Coalition, American Indian College Fund, Natives Outdoors, Flickr and Far Flung Adventures. 

More information:
Learn more about the efforts to protect the Gila River and a Wild and Scenic designation here. Want to take additional action? Reach out to Rebecca Gillis, Senior Director of Advocacy and Outreach here.