Pick of the Week

Keeping It Wild

While camping in Idaho in 1986, Nancy Zierenberg had an unexpected and unusual visitor to her campground. The setting was a Round River Rendezvous, an annual gathering of the Earth First! environmentalist group. People were gathered around the campfire one evening, and up walked a man who had traveled a great distance to get there.

"This guy just came walking in from Montana. It was pretty cool," recalls Zierenberg. He proceeded to greet others, tell stories and sing a few songs. His name was Jim Stoltz.

Known as Walkin' Jim, Stoltz has logged more than "26,000 miles of wilderness hiking on annual months-long backcountry treks through America's last wild places," according to Zierenberg's press release.

Stoltz began by walking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 1974. As detailed on his Web site, www.walkinjim.com, Stoltz is committed to "preserve the wilderness, protect the planet's creatures and fight for the right to a clean and healthy environment."

In 1985, Stoltz began his "Forever Wild" tour at a local community center in Montana. The concert is a mixture of his photography, poetry, stories and live folk music. A multimedia slide show of places Stoltz has visited is one of the highlights of the show. Stoltz is on a yearlong tour with the intent to visit every state in the union.

The "Forever Wild 2006" tour arrives in Tucson at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 6. (That's tonight for those of you picking up the Weekly on the day it officially hits the streets.) The event will be held at Pima Community College Proscenium Theater, 2202 W. Anklam Road. Flutist R. Carlos Nakai and musicians Mary Redhouse and Scotty Johnson are special guests. Admission is 39 cents--the cost of a postage stamp, or you may bring your own stamp. The stamp will be used to mail a note to your elected officials about the Endangered Species Act. For more information, call 882-7663.

"Walkin' Jim's show is inspiring," says Zierenberg. "He practically lives in the wilderness when he can. You feel it through his music and poetry. ... His music is from the heart. It's very moving. ... The message is to make people realize how important those places are."

Besides increased awareness, another goal of the evening is for audience members to pen a note to their elected officials. "There will be writing tables set up between 6 and 7 p.m.," explains Zierenberg. "We will provide everything they need to pen a note to their representative. We will even sell them a stamp. ... We are trying to let people know they do need to do something. We're hoping people will be moved to write letters and send postcards. ... The dream is to get more than 100,000 letters and phone calls out (from around the country) about the Endangered Species Act."

In the fall of 2005, Congress passed Rep. Richard Pombo's HR 3824, the so-called Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act. While the bill seeks "to amend and reauthorize the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide greater results conserving and recovering listed species, and for other purposes," opponents say it seriously weakens the original act.

"They are trying to make it voluntary to provide habitat," says Zierenberg. "If you eliminate any part of the act that forces Fish and Wildlife to protect habitat, then you are really making the act ineffectual of protecting species and bringing them back to viable populations. ... The problem is, we are developing our wild areas so rapidly without planning. We are jeopardizing some species of animals and plants. ... We are allowing development to usurp habitat. ... Does America have the will to bring back endangered species? That is going to take habitat. We need to leave some for the critters and the plants."

Zierenberg works for the Arizona Native Plant Society. According to their Web site (aznps.org), the society's mission is to "promote knowledge, appreciation, conservation and restoration of Arizona native plants and their habitats."

Zierenberg says not many rare and endangered plants have been listed on the Endangered Species Act. For the plants that have been listed, she says, Fish and Wildlife hasn't made a decision about their status in 15 years.

The Arizona Native Plant Society is one of the eight sponsors of the Forever Wild 2006 event. Other sponsors include Sky Island Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity. All of the sponsors will have tables set up and literature will be available.

The Forever Wild event is the kickoff for Community Earth Day to be held on Saturday, April 22, at Reid Park. Zierenberg encourages people to get out and experience the beauty of the Earth and wilderness. "We all hope that there is some wild that will be around for every generation."

And in his song, "Forever Wild," Walkin' Jim echoes that sentiment:

Now the Earth it holds the key to all that shall be free,
It's in the peace of the desert and the wisdom of the trees,
It's in the grace of a swan's wing and the grizzly when she's riled
It's in all the love I bear it, let it stay forever wild.
Forever wild, Forever wild,
Let it stay, forever wild.

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