Ralston turns tragedy into advocacy

Before his talk at the Conservation Alliance Breakfast at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Aron Ralston sat down with SNEWS to talk about his recent environmental advocacy work.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:


Few can turn a dire situation into something positive. Aron Ralston did.

Many of us have read Ralston’s book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” and even more of us have seen the movie based on his experience, “127 Hours.” Outdoor Retailer attendees got the chance to learn how his survival in Utah’s Blue John Canyon inspired him to work on creating the Greater Canyonlands National Monument.

“Aron is to be admired not for the situation he got himself into, but for how he survived it,” said John Sterling, executive director of the Conservation Alliance. “More impressive is that Aron has become a strong voice for the protection of wild places, like the one that almost took his life.”

Sterling added that he was thrilled Ralson was the featured guest at the organization's breakfast.

Ralston said people usually come to his lectures to hear his personal story, and doesn’t expect this time will be different. At the breakfast, though, he said he’ll include the details of his survival “mostly as it pertains to my increasing love and desire to advocate for southern Utah, which obviously is not only where my incident took place, but a place great natural beauty and recreation potential that’s facing increasing threats from more energy extraction — oil, gas, uranium mining.”

Ralston said he’s hoping to inspire more outdoor companies to get involved with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. In the past few months, he’s received a ton of press for his work with the organization, especially after discussing it at the Grassroots Alliance Outdoor show in Ogden, Utah this past June.

Outdoor Retailer is the perfect venue to recruit supporters, Ralston said, including the “climbers who love Indian Creek, the rafters that love Desolation Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon and the explorers, the canyoneers, the mountain bikers — we all adore these playgrounds and landscapes down in southern Utah and we can also be advocates for that.”

Ralston is appealing to President Barack Obama to protect the lands of the Greater Canyonlands National Park leased by the Bush administration for energy extraction. The land doesn’t just belong to Utah, it belongs to everyone, Ralston said. The Colorado resident noted that the Greater Canyonlands National Park is practically in his backyard.

“Getting the president’s attention is not easy,” Ralston said, “but it’s the best strategy to try to protect the area in a very conservative state.”

Ralston, though advocating on behalf of all adventurers, has an ulterior motive to keep the space pristine: He wants his 2-year-old son to be able to visit Blue John Canyon one day.

“[It’s] so sacred for me and for my family,” Ralston said of Blue John Canyon. “It’s important that I do this for him, who I saw for the first time in that vision all those years ago. I can’t let him see it paved over with drilling rigs because it will be hard to look him in the eye and explain why that happened to this place.”

As frequent visitors to Utah because of the Outdoor Retail markets, Ralston said, outdoor industry members have of an impetus to want to protect the state’s natural lands.

“The OR show happens every year in Utah,” Ralston said, “It’s only appropriate that we focus on that just a few hours down the road this world-class landscape is under threat and we can do something about it.”

--Ana Trujillo

Read our additional coverage on efforts by Ralston, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Peter Metcalf and OIA to help increase protections of federal lands in Utah.

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