Save the Date! 12th Annual Gila River Festival

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The 12th Annual Gila River Festival Honoring Our Heritage: The Natural and Cultural History of the Gila is scheduled for September 22 – 25, 2016 and will look at the importance of preserving our region’s cultural and natural history. This year’s centennial of the National Park Service provides an opportunity to explore the philosophy behind our nation’s accomplishments in preserving our cultural and natural heritage and to understand future challenges to preserving biologically important landscapes, such as the Gila River watershed, and to protecting public lands held in trust for all Americans.

One of the Southwest’s premier nature festivals, the Gila River Festival attracts an audience of nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts eager to learn about and experience the Gila’s natural wonders. The festival offers a range of guided hikes, birding, fishing and kayaking in the Gila National Forest and along the Gila River, as well as guest speakers, spoken word poetry, performance art, puppet parade, a downtown art walk and more.

2f34b5e6-555b-4cd3-9811-d0dc5caeb7e1-bannerScheduled for Friday night September 23rd, festival keynote speaker Audrey Peterman is the author of Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care and Our True Nature: Finding a Zest for Life in the National Park System. She will speak about the philosophy behind and the need for preservation of public lands, the repositories of much of our cultural and natural history. Peterman will also highlight the contributions of the unsung heroes of the conservation movement: women and people of color.

Foreman2-2Conservation icon and author Dave Foreman will speak on Thursday night September 22 and provide us with historical perspectives on Gila protection.  From the opposition to the Hooker and Conner dams and current Gila River diversion to wilderness protection, Dave has been at the forefront of these battles and will provide us with a front row seat to the successes of the past and the challenges yet to come.

7475187Renowned author of Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout, Phil Connors will speak Sunday morning September 25 at a special fundraising brunch. Connors will survey the importance of the Gila as both symbol and tangible enactment of the conservation impulse. His talk will also scan the future for a glimpse of how the “world’s first wilderness” will continue to accrue and evolve meaning in a changing climate on a crowded planet.

Hakim_BellamyHakim Bellamy, the inaugural poet laureate of Albuquerque, will perform his spoken word piece, “Everywhere Is a Gila,” accompanied by musician Colin Hazelbaker. Last year, these two collaborated on a video of the same title with Santa Fe-based filmmaker David Smith, which went viral, generating thousands of views in support of Gila River protection. Local spoken word performers will join Bellamy at an outdoor film projection/spoken word event produced by Western New Mexico University New Media professor, artist and filmmaker Peter Bill. His projections of films, images, and animations on the Murray Hotel in downtown Silver City, will explore our relationship to the wild Gila River that is the lifeblood of our area.

Other festival speakers to date include Jeff Haozous and Michael Darrow of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Teresa Martinez from the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Rita Garcia from the National Park Service, Dr. Esteban Muldavin of Natural Heritage New Mexico, The Nature Conservancy’s Martha Cooper, botanist Dr. Richard Felger, rock art expert Alex Mares, Rick Quezada of Ysleta del Sur, photographer Diana Molina, WNMU Museum’s Dr. Cynthia Bettison, and author Ron Hamm.

The full festival schedule will be available August 1 at

For more information, contact the Gila Conservation Coalition at 575.538.8078 or