Rocky Mountain National Park Lyceum Series Continues May 15 & 22

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Date: May 10, 2010
Contact: Kyle Patterson, 970-586-1363

2010 Lyceum Series “Wilderness: Of What Avail Are Forty Freedoms Without A Blank Spot On The Map?”

Saturday, May 15, 7:00 p.m. - Recovering Eden: Wilderness and the Imagination

Wilderness is a powerful and fraught ideal – as our court system can attest. But what is the relationship between the physical aspect of Wilderness – the sticks, stones, plants, fauna, and more that make up these very real places – and the ideal which art, literature, and even the legislation created for it? In this talk with Kurt Gutjahr, Managing Director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, we will explore how the real becomes the ideal and the ideal real. Along the way we’ll talk about brain chemistry, myth, and religion.

In Kurt’s job with the Center of the American West, he works extensively on a variety of western issues including abandoned mine remediation and Native American identity. Although born in New Jersey, he moved to New Mexico at nine years of age and since then has lived in Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado (with brief sojourns in Prague and Iowa). His professional background is as diverse as the ecosystems he has inhabited. Among other things, Kurt has been a bartender, a green builder, a gravedigger, a college instructor, and a published fiction writer. He holds an M.A. in English from the University of New Mexico, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. In his position at the Center of the American West, he recently produced and co-wrote the Rocky Mountain PBS show, Lovers’ Guide to the West: Living with Energy. In addition, Kurt teaches at Naropa University as an adjunct professor, and spends much of his free time skiing, hiking, biking, and being raised by his eight-year-old daughter.

Saturday, May 22, 7:00 p.m. - Saving the National Parks, One Story at a Time

Please join us as we conclude our Spring 2010 Lyceum program series on Wilderness with a special presentation by author and scholar Gary Ferguson. A few years ago Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the word solastalgia, referring to the anxiety people feel in the face of increasing threats to their environment. Little could he have imagined how fast the idea would roll around the world. In the United States alone, over the past six months, mental health organizations like the American Psychological Association, along with media outlets from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, have made mainstream the psychological consequences of an unraveling planet.

In America, such unease is firmly tethered to the perceived health of our national parks. As popular best-selling author Henry George noted in the 1880s, wild lands like Yellowstone, as well as those that would one day form Rocky Mountain National Park, were essential to the well being of the culture - even for those who would never set foot in them. The mere thought of such preserves, said George, would forever serve as “wellsprings of hope” for the nation. Not surprisingly, recent news of climate-related threats to the parks is extremely unsettling: half the coral in Virgin Islands National Park gone since 2006, due to rising carbon dioxide levels in the Caribbean; Yellowstone’s grizzlies facing the possible local extinction of a major food source, the nuts of the whitebark pine, due to drought-related insect infestation and disease.

This talk will begin by chronicling the inspiring, humorous, and often passionate history of Americans coming to understand themselves through nature. But the presentation is more than just a trip down memory lane. Only by reweaving such story lines for a modern audience, by joining them to cutting edge principles of modern ecology, will we be truly ready to meet the thorny conservation challenges of the coming century.

Gary Ferguson has written for a variety of national publications, including Vanity Fair and the Los Angeles Times, and is the author of sixteen books on nature and science. Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone (National Geographic Adventure Press), was the first nonfiction work in history to win both the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award for Nonfiction. Decade of the Wolf (Lyons Press) was chosen as the Montana Book of the Year, while The Great Divide (W.W. Norton) was an Audubon Magazine Editor’s Choice selection.

Ferguson was the 2002 Seigle Scholar at Washington University, St. Louis; he also served as the William Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana, and will be the 2010 Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Idaho. He is currently on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, and is a member of the National Geographic Speakers Bureau.

Growing up in the corn and rust of northern Indiana, at age nine Gary announced to his parents that he was moving West, to the Rockies. He has been in the West for the past 32 years, mostly in southern Montana, at the edge of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

In March, 2009, President Obama signed legislation providing additional protection to Rocky Mountain National Park by designating most of the park’s backcountry as wilderness, which encompasses roughly 95 percent of the park. Park staff joined the gateway communities of Grand Lake and Estes Park in welcoming the passage by the Congress of the wilderness designation for the park’s backcountry. This was the culmination of an effort that began in 1974 by President Richard Nixon and was jump started in recent years through the efforts of many.

The theme of the 2010 Lyceum Series is “Wilderness: Of What Avail Are Forty Freedoms Without A Blank Spot On The Map?” the famous quote from Aldo Leopold. This year’s series will focus on how wilderness influences what we do as stewards of this incredible national park. Speakers will highlight what wilderness means spiritually, physically, as part of naturally functioning systems, as part of our psyche as a nation, and how it guides our decisions on management actions at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Lyceum schedule runs through May. Financial support for the lyceum series is provided by the park’s nonprofit partner, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association. Programs are free and open to the public. They are held at 7:00 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center auditorium in Rocky Mountain National Park.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park please call (970) 586-1206.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517


(970) 586-1206
Through winter, the Information Office is open 8:00 am–4:30 pm Mon–Fri. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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