CSU chapter of Women for Wild Lands promotes activism in the wilderness

Linc Thomas

The outdoors is meant for everyone to share, but for many the outdoors doesn’t seem as inviting. Women for Wild Lands is changing the perception of wilderness, especially for women, in order to reconnect to the world around us. 

Women for Wild Lands began in 2016 in Carbondale, Colorado. The Colorado State University chapter was started the same year as an extension of the organization, yet still embodies the fundamental creed: protect public lands and provide a welcoming environment where women can experience the outdoors without intimidation.

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W4WL is not gender-exclusive, but it is women-led. They meet bi-weekly on Wednesdays, either in the Warner College building or at members’ homes for potlucks. For more information, contact Caitlin Cunningham at 1caitlinc@gmail.com.

“Our main purpose is to protect to public lands,”  co-President of Women for Wild Lands Caitlin Cunningham said. “The motto we’re centered around is ‘keeping public lands in public hands.’”

‘Wildlands’ refer to federal and public lands that are preserved by taxpayer dollars.

“We have more freedom to utilize our public lands than federal lands,” said Kerrigan Reading, the other co-president for the group. “We need to take advantage of the lands we already own. Our most recent trip was this past weekend at Canyonlands National Park Needles district. 12 club members caravaned to a Bureau of Land Management campsite near Hamburger Rock. We hiked 10 miles on Big Spring Squall Trail, and it was the dopest group site I’ve ever seen. We camped in a pristine valley underneath the Wooden Shoe Arch surrounded by wilderness.”

Members of W4WL enjoying a hike through a rock and a hard place. Courtesy of Caitlin Cunningham.

The BLM is the government organization that manages the public lands. A significant benefit of public lands is that campsites are free to all. For any college student looking for a unique place to get away, the free campsites are a great place to go, especially since booking a campsite elsewhere can be expensive.

“W4WL is pro-BLM campsites,” Reading said. “Most people don’t know about them, and they surround most national parks. The only rules are that you must be 200 feet from a water source or roads.” 

The BLM allows free-range cattle, campsites and biking trails. Women for Wild Lands kindly ask that when you take advantage of BLM sites, you respect the sites and don’t feed the wildlife. 

The club also writes letters to senators. Last year, prior to Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments being shrunk courtesy of the Trump administration and while The Continental Divide Act sought to be passed, Women for Wild Lands reached out to elected officials to fight for their public lands.  They believe that letter-writing meetings are an activity that positively impacts the CSU community by educating students on how to ensure their voices are heard by their representatives.

“We are always looking for advocates and allies to promote women in the outdoors,” said Claire Goldstein, member of W4WL. “Women can climb, women can hike and women can do math.” 

Linc Thomas can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @lincthomas1.