Military Families Gather to Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Organ Mountains
On an unseasonably warm weekend in late October, military families from Fort Bliss Army Base and White Sands Missile Range joined the Sierra Club for an overnight outing in the Organ Mountains, an area the Sierra Club would like to see permanently protected as a national monument.
The trip was an effort not only to introduce these military families to the beauty of the Organ Mountains, a stunning landscape that is literally in their own backyards but also to begin a relationship with military families in the southern New Mexico/West Texas area.
Active-duty service members and their families joined us at the Aguirre Springs campground (the only high-country campground in the Las Cruces/El Paso region) on the northeast side of the Organ Mountains for a fun day of education activities, hiking, and s'mores. Gale-force winds notwithstanding, participants had an amazing time hiking the rigorous and very steep Pine Loop Trail, climbing boulders and making "binoculars" out of recycled toilet paper rolls and camo duct tape!
Thank you to our partners at the Bureau of Land Management and Blue Star Families for all of their help organizing this event. And a very big thanks to the families that participated! Mission Outdoors apprentice Jared Robinson, one of the lead organizers, wrote more about the event.
GOP Blocks Passage of Veterans Jobs Corps Act
Just before going on recess, the U.S. Senate failed to pass the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012. The bill would have increased hiring and job training for veterans over the next five years, with a focus on jobs restoring and protecting our public lands.
Actually, the bill won a majority of U.S. Senate votes. Fifty-eight senators (including five Republicans) voted in favor of extending job opportunities to veterans. Unfortunately, procedural rules in the Senate required sixty votes to move this bill forward.
The Veterans Jobs Corps was detailed in President Obama's budget recommendations to Congress earlier this year. The bill would have increased skills training and job placement for veterans, primarily those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, while simultaneously whittling down the backlogged maintenance projects that are overwhelming our nation's public lands.
Sierra Club's Jackie Ostfeld shared her two cents in the Huffington Post.
Earlier in August, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the creation of the Midwest's newest public land: the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. Sierra Club volunteers have worked hard to protect this special place for years. Inner City Outings students played a critical role, too: They explored and enjoyed it!
Hackmatack serves as a real refuge for kids from the bustling cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. "Having a refuge so close to Chicago is a boon to our efforts to get urban kids out to enjoy and learn about nature," said Donna Hriljac, a volunteer leader with the Sierra Club's Chicago Inner City Outings.
For years, Hriljac has worked with the Friends of Hackmatack to sponsor activities in the area for teens from Chicago. Recently, Chicago ICO took 24 teens, their teachers, and volunteers out to the Hackmatack. Most students and some teachers had never camped or kayaked before. This was the first time they hiked under a full moon with no flashlights, used a latrine, or even brushed their teeth using a drinking fountain.
These Chicago teens loved it. Read more about the Hackmatack National Refuge here.
What's on the Horizon
Calling all leaders! Interested in becoming an outings leader? Join us at the Outings Leader Training in North Carolina November 30 to December 2. Check here for more information.
SAVE THE DATE! On December 5, the Mission Outdoors program will host a webinar about what's on the docket for 2013. Meet other volunteers, learn about and get involved in the movement, and ask lots of questions. More details to come!
BRRRRR! The holidays are around the corner. What better way to work off the pumpkin pie or alleviate the holiday stress than by going on a local outing?
News You Can Use
It's National Bullying Prevention Month. One of our staff shares a personal anecdote about how bullying affected her and her students.
The tide is turning! A recent report by our friends at the Outdoor Foundation shows that outings reached the highest level participation in the past five years. Read about the details.
The Natural Inquirer asks how much time kids spend outdoors. Download their most recent monograph.
MO in the News
Mission Outdoors tracked some grizzlies! Read this article from the Mission Outdoors operations and program coordinator, who participated in the trip.
Mission Outdoors Director Stacy Bare writes about why military families and vets should get outdoors and protect our special places.
Mission Outdoors Outings Leader Training makes Fox News! Check out this great clip about the healing power of the outdoors for veterans and military families.
Outings are a path to self-discovery.
The goal of Sierra Club Mission Outdoors is to get America outdoors. Explore and enjoy! Find out more on our website.
And be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for the latest with the Sierra Club Mission Outdoors!