Indian Peaks Groups Executive Committee; Representative to RMC Executive Committee

By Mary Coday Edwards

Linda Batlin

“I joined the Sierra Club because of a quarter horse named Lady,” Linda jokes.

Explaining further, Linda said how in 1974 she participated in a National Sierra Club horseback trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, which required membership in the Club.

”I was so struck and awed by the natural beauty I experienced in those two weeks that I decided I needed to work to protect places like this so people could also experience the wilderness. This is what I have tried to do since then.

“It was a trip that literally changed my life; I wanted to make sure there was more land like that.”

Club founder John Muir had it right when he said that if people would just spend time in the wilderness areas, they would be so moved that they would work to preserve them.And Linda follows in Muir’s footsteps.

“I used to lead a lot of outings, and years ago when the Indian Peaks Group went into a decline, we needed new leadership to come forward and I ended up establishing an Outings Program. What I found was that people would come on outings, and then kept coming on the outings and having a good time. Eventually they’d say, ‘Well, you know I really should do something more about this’. They began to come to program meetings, business meetings, ExCom meetings and then they became the next leaders of the group.”

Critical Mass: The James Peak Wilderness Area
Linda was part of the collaborative effort that established the 14,000-acre James Peak Wilderness Area, located east of the Continental Divide.

“It’s a place I’ve hiked in many times and it’s important to me.  We may not have gotten the best deal that we could have but it felt like an accomplishment. And whenever I go there and see the sign that says ‘James Creek Wilderness’ I think, ‘I helped put that there’.”

A seven-year process, Linda stressed that many environmental groups pushed this effort along, and that she “was just one person and there were many more people who deserve more credit.”

Linda Batlin snowshoeing

Protecting the wilds
Almost four decades later, Linda remains a member because “There is still a lot of work to do, probably even more now than 38 years ago. There are new threats to protecting wilderness than there used to be and it seems to be more complicated with an emphasis on recreation in protected areas that leads to new conflicts. There are new issues to address such as energy and oil and gas.”

Today’s issues seem to be more urban; when Linda joined the Club “the issues were more traditional – the Sierra Club was founded to protect land as dedicated wilderness areas. Now with this emphasis on recreation, people who years ago may have been our allies are on the other side of the table from us.”

And even though at times the grassroots activist in Linda gets a bit frustrated with the Club’s “corporate structure,” she still believes it is “more effective to work through an organization like Sierra Club than to work as an individual.”

Telling the tale
A storyteller by profession, Linda weaves her passion for mountain climbing and the environment into her narratives. One of her “Living History” programs centers around Isabella Bird, who in 1873 was the third woman to climb Long’s Peak. Linda’s scaled the peak herself, the second time climbing it for “research, so I could refresh my memory and get more details for the story.”

In her folktales, she includes stories of the natural world, “explaining why things came to be.”

And the future
It’s important to just keep going, Linda said. “You can’t give up. With the economy the way it is, the environment is not high on people’s radar these days, and the threats are increasing. We can all do our part, no matter how small it is.”

A World of Mountain Tales
“The mountains are filled with stories and folklore whether you are in the Rockies, the Alps or the Himalaya. You just need to listen for the stories and they will find you. They will tell you about the small folk, the spirits who live in the mountains like the Toggeli of Switzerland or the Tommyknockers of Cornwall. They will tell you about the big folk like the Yeti who roam the high valleys of the Himalaya and they will tell you much more.”
-Linda Batlin, storyteller

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