10th Annual Gila River Festival:

September 18-21, 2014

Celebrating America’s First Wilderness River

Gila River Festival

“Untrammeled by man,” America’s wilderness areas are breathing spaces where we can reconnect to nature and satisfy our souls.  Likewise wilderness rivers by their very essence have not been manipulated by man and are free to meander and flow without barrier or restraint. With our nation’s first wilderness area and first wilderness river in our own backyard, we have a responsibility to uphold the ideals of the Wilderness Act not only for ourselves, but also for the larger community of life.

In 2014, we commemorate two momentous wilderness milestones. Across the country, conservationists will honor the Wilderness Act’s 50th anniversary.  In southwest New Mexico, we’ll also celebrate the Gila Wilderness Area’s 90th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of the Gila River Festival. As America’s first wilderness river, the Gila’s verdant thread of life weaves through these celebrations.

Many of our nation’s greatest rivers have been dammed, diverted, or otherwise altered for economic benefit. Yet our free-flowing Gila River has survived multiple attempts to dam, divert and constrain its flow. The headwaters of the Gila River lie in the heart of the 558,000 acre Gila Wilderness, a refuge for native plants and wildlife and a special place of solitude and quiet for humans.  It’s not too late to save the Gila and preserve its outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values for wildlife and for present and future generations.

There is no more crucial time for concerted action than now, as 2014 marks the year that New Mexico will make its decision under the Arizona Water Settlements Act. Will New Mexico decide to divert the Gila River and destroy its fragile ecology and beauty? Or will we have the wisdom to follow in the footsteps of conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold, Wilderness Act author Howard Zahniser, and other visionaries who understood the intrinsic value of our beloved river and the surrounding wilderness?

As members of the community of life that is sustained by a healthy Gila River, we must take a stand for our river. After all, as David Brower said, “The wild places are where we began. When they end, so do we.”

 

 For more information, please visit the Gila Conservation Coalition website or contact them at 575.538.8078 or info@gilaconservation.org.