For backpackers, it’s easy math: more protected land means more places to play. That’s why we celebrated when the president declared three new national monuments earlier this month, and why we’re stoked about KEEN’s new “Live Monumental" campaign, which hopes to convince him to add five more. And with the carefully chosen sites encompassing 3 million acres (as opposed to the 1 million acres added on July 10), backpackers will have a more extensive patchwork of adventure playground than ever.
On Wednesday, July 29, KEEN deployed a "monumentally yellow" RV to accomplish this "monumental" task. The van’s journey starts at the company’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon, then heads down the west coast and across the country, with the crew collecting petition signatures as they go. On the way, the RV will stop at the sites KEEN hopes to protect: Mojave Trails in California, Gold Butte in Nevada, Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon, Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho, and Birthplace of Rivers in West Virginia.
The van’s journey will end on the steps of the nation’s capital, where the team will present the signed petition to the president in hopes of convincing him to name five new national monuments—therefore protecting those areas from mining, excessive logging, and other forms of environmental degradation.
The campaign organizers consulted a number of environmental protection groups, including The Conservation Alliance, The Wilderness Society, PEW Charitable Trust, and Conservation Lands Foundation to determine which five sites were most in need of protection. Each site has unique ecological, cultural, and geological features that make it well-worth a coveted spot on your trip bucket list.
Mojave Trails, California
These 941,000 acres of stark desert connect Joshua Tree with the Mojave National Preserve. Hike through the Cady Mountains to see bighorn sheep or the Marble Mountain Fossil beds to see 550 million-year-old trilobites. The area is also home to desert tortoises, lava flows, and Californian cactus gardens. Too hot to hike? Travel down Route 66, one of America's most iconic highways, the pristine windshield views of which National Monument designation would permanently preserve. Info: wildlandsconservancy.org
Gold Butte, Nevada
Gold Butte is covered with cultural landmarks like petroglyphs and ancient Native American shelters. Wander through Joshua tree and Yucca forests, desert wildflowers, and slot canyons. Without any official trail guides, this is a spot for the adventurous route-finder. If you prefer exploring with wheels at your aid, try mountain biking or off-roading on the 62-mile Gold Butte Backcountry highway. Info: friendsofgoldbutte.org
Owhyee Canyonlands, Oregon
Wildlife like bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and sage grouse call Owyhee Canyonlands their home. About twice the size of Yellowstone, this vast labyrinth of 1,000-foot-deep canyons includes a super-remote, 46-mile-long slot canyon (keep an eye out for trip details in BACKPACKER's September issue). Camp by hardened lava flows stemming from the Coffeepot Crater, hike the 8.5-mile Painted Canyon Loop through red rock and sage brush, or paddle through Owyhee River-carved rhyolite canyons. Info: wildowyhee.org
Boulder-White Clouds, Idaho
Salmon and steelhead navigate from the ocean to their spawning grounds in the gushing streams of Boulder-White Clouds. That makes the waters of this mountain-biking wonderland a fisherman's paradise as well. And with 150 peaks over 10,000 feet to choose from—including 11,800-footer Castle Peak along the White Clouds loop—hikers will feel just as at home. Info: boulderwhiteclouds.org
Birthplace of Rivers, West Virginia.
Within the Monongahela National Forest lay the headwaters of six rivers that cascade in waterfalls and runnels down the flanks of the Yew Mountains. Birthplace of Rivers lies within one of the largest contiguous tracts of forest in the eastern United States, and at its center lies the 36,000-acre Cranberry Wilderness. While parts of the area are already designated as National Forest, this isn't a strict protection. National Monument status would preserve these trout-rich headwaters and the expansive trailed backcountry surrounding them for years to come. Info:birthplaceofrivers.org
Learn more, sign the petition, or stay updated on the journey: www.keenfootwear.com/livemonumental/