Walking through a still and silent canyon, bounded by towering cliffs bordered by ancient rockfall, nothing moves, and everything within your gaze seems timeless and unchanging. Of course, this is all an illusion. More accurately, your eyes are only capturing a few frames of nature’s eternally running motion picture.
Organizations exhibit a similar dynamic. Transformation is to be expected, and Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is experiencing an important change as we enter the new year. Our remarkable Executive Director, Sarah Bauman, is moving on to new adventures in 2024, turning over her chair to our incoming Executive Director, Jackie Grant.
Sarah joined GSEP in 2018 at a difficult moment. GSEP was intensely focused on challenging the diminishment of the monument ordered by President Trump. Our organizational relationship with the BLM, the managing agency, and local governments, was troubled. Our key “on the ground” program, the removal of Russian Olive from the Escalante River corridor was coming to an end, with no obvious replacement program in sight.
Under Sarah’s leadership, GSEP successfully met each of these challenges, an accomplishment grounded in her passionate attachment to the life, landscapes, and communities of Grand Staircase / Escalante. By bringing her vibrant writing skills to all of our organizational communications, Sarah succeeded in transmitting her unique vision of this special place to our local and national supporters, and to the conservation community.
Engaging with new leadership at the Department of the Interior and the local BLM districts, Sarah and GSEP were able to begin the repair of a strong working relationship with these agencies. Sarah led GSEP to begin new “on the ground” programs, focused on land restoration, the mitigation of human impacts, and visitor education in “leave no trace principles”.
Perhaps most importantly, under Sarah’s leadership, GSEP developed new relationships with the Indigenous and Tribal representatives with ancient historical ties to the monument, encouraging the inclusion of these missing voices in management decisions at GSENM. The tribal “listening sessions” that Sarah organized helped us all to listen, truly listen.
There were many high points, but the one I remember best is watching Sarah, representing GSEP, attend the ceremony held at the White House on October 4, 2021, in which President Biden announced the new proclamation restoring GSENM to its original boundaries.
The GSEP Board of Directors extends its heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Sarah for all her contributions in building the GSEP team, growing the organization, restoring an excellent working partnership with BLM, and creating and improving relationships to bring in Indigenous voices, all toward the protection and conservation of a remarkable place, truly building reality into the “geography of hope.”
We extend heartfelt best wishes to Sarah for success in her upcoming endeavors.
Scott Berry, President, GSEP Board of Directors