Greetings from Arizona: Introducing Desmond Johns

It’s Michael once again, and it’s my great pleasure to introduce you all to our other Wild Forever Future Fellow, Desmond Johns.

We couldn’t be more grateful to have attracted two such incredibly capable and thoughtful people (you can learn more about Fabiola Lao in the previous blog entry), and we hope you enjoy getting to know them better over the next year.

Here’s Desmond.


One month. I can’t believe it’s only been one month since I began my tenure as one of the first Wild Forever Future fellows with the Wilderness Society. One month that I’ve been working on passing wilderness and other special land designation legislation near Phoenix Arizona. In only one month I’ve immersed myself in getting to know the unique character of the proposed area, helping with the outreach effort, and learning the regional and local politics of land conservation. And yet I sense I’ve only dipped my toe into a pool that is a vast network with diverse histories.

I’m headed down this new career path because wild places are part of my identity. Hiking through mountains and splashing in streams were a huge part of my childhood in Colorado. Skiing alone through silent spruce forests and running from moose and mosquitos in Alaska are some of my best memories. Open space has become something my sanity requires. I think this need is what sent me scampering back to the Western United States after scoring a master’s degree in Oceanography in Maryland. I ran home to the West despite the fact that during my five years on the East Coast I had amazing experiences. I met many of my best friends, met my dude, and connected with my national heritage. I suppose nature called me back to the West. I think it’s called me again to shift away from research and towards conservation.

I’m excited to be a fellow with The Wilderness Society because it’s now my job to work towards preserving the most wild and unique landscapes that have shaped Arizona’s heritage. Arizonan’s somehow balances a gung-ho attitude with utter pragmatism in their region shaped by rich ethnic diversity and boom and bust cycles, all perched in an extreme and stunningly beautiful environment. Since moving back West, I’ve started to think that open space in the Western U.S. is being developed faster than we realize. I suspect as a society we don’t expect to ever run out of room, and I fear that our stout and unique character may diminish if we lose touch with our natural heritage. I hope to help make real contributions to conserving some of the West’s most amazing wild places and can’t wait to tell you about the laughter and frustrations that I encounter along the way.

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