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[pct-l] National Geographic Mexico-to-Canada project

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Hello again from a longtime list lurker and section hiker.

Thought the group might want to see a news release off the National
Geographic site, dated Aug. 2:

Trekkers to Cross United States
                  Entirely on Public Lands

                  Brian Handwerk
                  for National Geographic News
                  August 1, 2002

                  An unprecedented historic adventure began Wednesday on the
Canadian and
                  Mexican borders of the western United States: Two teams
set out
                  simultaneously from each international boundary to cross
the length of the
                  United States-entirely on public land.

                  American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey celebrates a
natural heritage
                  unique in the world-but not well known among the U.S.
citizens who own it and
                  control its fate.

                  Beyond popular national parks such as Yosemite and Grand
Canyon, lies an
                  enormous tract of other U.S. public lands classified under
dozens of
                  designations. These areas are known as National Forests,
National Wildlife
                  Refuges, National Recreation Areas, and many other titles.
Together, they
                  comprise approximately a third of the land in America.

                  This vast area is owned collectively by all Americans, and
it's up to Americans
                  as a nation to determine the future of the land.

Two pairs of Alliance teachers

who started their trek across

U.S. public lands today, make

their final preparations with Ed

Foundation's program manager,

Nancee Hunter (with globe) in

Salt Lake City last week. The

women are traveling north from

the Mexico-New Mexico border;

the men are headed south from

the Canada-Montana border.

>From left to right: Kay Gandy,

Louisiana, team support,

Nancee, Bob Ashley, Illinois,

team support, and Mike

Murphy, California, the hiker.

Cathy Kiffe, Lousiana, center, is

a hiker. The teams will meet in

Salt Lake City for Public Lands

Day on September 28.

Photograph courtesy of National

Geographic Education Foundation

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                  Yet many Americans, particularly in the East where public
lands are scarce, remain
                  unaware of the extent of public lands and the special
trust they have been afforded
                  to control its fate.

                  That's why American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey was
conceived-as a way
                  to showcase the beauty, accessibility, diversity, and
diverse uses of our public lands.

                  The adventure is a cooperative effort spearheaded by the
Public Lands Interpretive
                  Association (PLIA), a non-profit organization that
distributes information about
                  public lands. Partners in the venture include the National
Geographic Society and
                  several U.S. agencies: the Department of the Interior, the
Forest Service, and the
                  Bureau of Land Management.

                  Every Step to Be on Public Land

                  The journey is an epic trek, being undertaken by two
teams. Beginning
                  simultaneously at America's northern and southern borders,
in Montana and New
                  Mexico respectively, the two groups will journey nearly
3,000 miles (4,800
                  kilometers) over the next two months.

                  Every inch of their journey will be on public lands,
making the event the first
                  recorded crossing of the United States from border to
border without setting foot on
                  privately owned property.

                  Along the way the trekkers will utilize all kinds of modes
of travel, including hiking,
                  horseback riding, backpacking, all-terrain vehicles,
canoes, mountain bikes,
                  motorboats, and dual sport motorcycles. The varied means
of conveyance illustrate
                  the many recreational opportunities available on the lands
along the route.

                  The journey will conclude when the teams meet in Salt Lake
City for a celebration
                  of National Public Lands Day on September 28.

                  Lisa Madsen, executive director of the PLIA, explained
that the concept for the trek
                  began with an employee who had a special connection to
public lands. "The idea
                  started within our organization," she said, "with a person
who came to the United
                  States in 1956 as a refugee...he had a passion for public
lands and he equated them
                  with freedom. He was the one who conceived the idea that
someone could walk
                  from border to border without ever stepping on private

                  Now that dream will become a reality.

                  The team members, or trekkers, are a diverse lot. They are
united, however, by a
                  common commitment to public lands. The trekkers, who went
through a volunteer
                  application process to be selected for the adventure,
include a New York City
                  firefighter, two teachers who are part of National
Geographic's Geography Alliance
                  Network, outdoor enthusiasts, a reporter, a registered
nurse, and a retired Marine.

                  Their exploits are being cheered by those responsible for
managing the lands they
                  will explore.

                  Highlighting "Vastness and Beauty" of Land

                  Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary
Ann Veneman were at the
                  trek's launch event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, even
as the teams stood
                  poised on the borders ready to begin their odyssey.

                  Norton pointed out that while many people are unaware of
how large the nation's
                  public land holdings are, "Through their journey, we hope
to highlight the vastness
                  and beauty of our public lands which exist in every state
and cover one-third of our
                  nation's surface." The Department of the Interior's Bureau
of Land Management
                  alone oversees 264 million acres of land, predominantly in
the West. The Bureau
                  manages these lands for recreation and environmental
stewardship but also for
                  energy and mineral development, timber, and grazing
interests. It's a tricky
                  balancing act.

                  The varied uses of such lands are the subject of constant
debate, as environmental,
                  recreational, and industry interests battle over the way
it should be utilized.

                  Ken Chapman, executive producer of American Frontiers: A
Public Lands Journey,
                  explained that the point of the trek is not to influence
land use one way or another.

                  "Our only agenda is to educate, to get the story out about
these lands and see them
                  passed on to future generations. A more informed public
will be able to make better
                  decisions about how these lands should be used," he said.

                  Chapman and many of the journey's organizers and sponsors
feel a particular sense
                  of urgency about involving youth with public lands. "I've
discovered that our
                  children, because of television, video games, and all the
other distractions we have
                  in modern society, are losing their connection with the
land," Chapman said. "If we
                  don't take action to show them the value of these lands,
the treasures we have, they
                  will not support them when they become voters."

                  Educating a New Generation of Land Stewards

                  To fulfill the journey's educational mission, the trekkers
will be reaching out to the
                  communities and schools they encounter along the way, and
passing on what they
                  learn to all who follow the journey online at
                  www.nationalgeographic.com/geographyaction/ backyard and

                  Some 106 events and classroom discussions are scheduled
along the route, during
                  which these educators will both learn and teach.

                  Near Flagstaff, Arizona, for example, the team will be
learning about fires and fire
                  management-a crucial issue recently underscored by this
year's devastating
                  Western fire season. The lessons they learn will be passed
on to students across
                  America via web dispatches and real-time online learning

                  National Geographic has designed its 2002 Geography
Action! curriculum around
                  America's public lands. The program's Web site, entitled
America's Backyard, tracks
                  the trek via dispatches from the teachers, while providing
depth with lesson plans,
                  action programs, photography, and games.

                  Catherine Kiffe, a teacher from Louisiana, is energized by
the opportunity to excite
                  students about public lands through her journey. "I've
learned so much already,"
                  she said with the trek just underway, "and the point is
lifetime learning."

                  Robert Carlo, a 38-year-old firefighter from New York
City, also sees the trek as a
                  way to share his passion and love for the outdoors with
"as many people as the
                  Internet will reach."

                  Carlo is an experienced outdoorsman who hopes to inspire
all Americans to get out
                  and enjoy their lands. "There are a lot of futures that
can be changed for the better if
                  they could only learn about our outdoors," he said.

                  He hopes people will see that the lands are for everyone,
not just skilled adventurers,
                  "They'll see a guy from New York City, who really doesn't
have any experiences
                  with horses, head out on an eight-day horse packing trip
in the Bob Marshall
                  wilderness. And he's going to get through it just fine."