Rumbling for America’s Greatest Athletes

This past September, our founder at Altitude Seven, Georgina Miranda, had the honor of speaking at the RumbleX-The 1st Annual Conservation Athlete Rendezvous, presented by Kahtoola, Inc., led by Wildlands Network and supported by Grand Canyon Wildlands CouncilSierra Cluband Center for Biological Diversity, at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Brand ambassador athletes and their friends and family, were joined by event organizers, outdoor industry brand representatives, leading conservationists and other spirited supporters for a weekend of conservation advocacy training, fellowship, and outdoor exploration. We learned about the threats to the Grand Canyon’s watershed, its role as a critical wildlife corridor, and actionable steps we can all take that will lead to permanent protection of the area through the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. While many lives are at risk in this area, for now we share the story of the Mountain Lion, arguably one of America’s greatest Athletes and most persecuted cat.

By: John Davis |Contributor and Editor: Georgina Miranda

She can outrun Usain Bolt. She can match the grace and agility of Simone Biles, the power and precision of Venus Williams. She can out-jump Michael Jordan, out-climb Chris Sharma. She could shred the best mixed-martial-arts fighters … but she never would. She shies away from conflict. She journeys often alone and widely, but will give her life to save her family. Too often she must do so, for she is Puma concolor, also known as Cougar, Panther, or Mountain Lion — most powerful, but also most persecuted cat in temperate North America. One of our country’s greatest athletes.

The hunting season in Arizona allows unlimited tags with a bag limit of one mountain lion per hunter per year. Occasionally, bag limits are increased in limited areas for the purpose of management or research.

She has often been a symbol for things wild, powerful and free. She has lent her name and image to Puma athletic shoes, the Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions and other sports teams, computer programs, and many other businesses — few of which have given her anything in return. Indeed, she remains unprotected from guns and traps across most of the West, and has been nearly eliminated from the East. She needs big wild interconnected places to survive, but equally important, she needs us to accept her. Pumas, like most big wild animals, need wild cores, corridors, and co-existence. They need for us to give them space and to welcome them home.

That is what fifty of us conservation athletes, biologists, naturalists, and wildlife advocates, representing groups and businesses varying in size from Grand Canyon Wildlands Council to Patagonia, aimed to do with our recent rendezvous on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Our goals are many and include:

  • Expanding and better protecting public lands
  • Encouraging quiet, muscle-powered recreation and wildways exploration
  • Getting more people outside and out in wild places-ALL PEOPLE- young and old and across all demographics. Nature is for everyone.
  • Reforming wildlife management so that it serves all native species, not just “game” species
  • Most ambitiously, reversing the extinction and climate crises

Like Puma, then, we range widely; but also like Puma, we focus when necessary on a specific target. Sometimes that may be winning a back-country ultra-marathon or putting in a first ascent. This time it is protecting enough habitat on America’s public lands so that Puma and her family are safe.

The tangible goal for this first annual Conservation in Motion gathering, dubbed RumbleX to foreshadow the growing roar that conservation athletes are sounding for wild places, was to complete the protection of one of Earth’s most spectacular landscapes, the Grand Canyon. We wildland athletes, activists, scientists and countless friends, are all collaborating to convince President Obama to declare a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, to buffer Grand Canyon National Park from harmful activities like uranium mining and logging of old-growth forests — both of which have been occurring on or near the Kaibab Plateau, even on public lands adjacent to the Park.

Photo courtesy of Danny Giovale

Our RumbleX gathering confirmed for us and others the urgent need to finish the security work begun during the administration of Teddy Roosevelt, who declared the National Monument that became Grand Canyon National Park, one of our nation’s crown jewels. Many of us already had beloved experiences with this place, while others created new lifelong memories at this event. Some of us had hiked from deep canyons to the lofty rim, roughly tracing routes used by Puma following their Mule Deer prey — in lands as spectacular as the National Park, but unprotected. The hikers confirmed ample prey and cover for Puma on their traverse, and were lucky enough to see a smaller cousin of Puma, Bobcat, crossing a high ledge cross-canyon.

Photo courtesy of Danny Giovale

Some, including tribal leaders and legendary ultra-marathon runner Scott Jurek and Kahtoola founder Danny Giovale, ran South Rim to North Rim, in little more time than it takes one collared Puma to do the same — with the notable advantage of running trails, whereas the great cat does the traverse off-trail and off-bridge.

One esteemed conservation athlete, Georgina Miranda, founder of Altitude Seven, was lucky enough to see the glowing eyes of a Puma at night, as she had hiked the Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon starting on the South Rim in 19 hours on her R2R2R Sufferfest challenge back in 2008. The challenge consisted of give or take 46 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation gain.

Georgina Miranda as she set off to hike the Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon in 2008 in 20 hours or less.

Other conservation athletes experienced this place for the first time, but after epic runs, climbs or rides through this wild country, it was no doubt that this is home and should be home to America’s greatest athletes, such as our regarded Puma.

We all felt empowered and emboldened by our time on the North Rim, imagining ourselves Puma or Lobo or Goshawk or Apache Trout or Monkey Grasshopper or endemic butterfly. “We may not be as well funded or politically-connected as our land-despoiling opponents, but we can run them into the ground!” said one RumbleX participant.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Reinhart

Our RumbleX tribe all agreed it was a roaring success, one to be repeated next year on the southeastern end of the proposed Aldo Leopold (or Mogollon Plateau) Wildlife Corridor. By then, if enough of us-tribal members, athletes, scientists, and countless friends across North America have spoken out, we will have achieved our goal of a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, honoring all native residents, from several human tribes and thousands of wild species. Puma and her family will enjoy greater homeland security, and we will be piecing back together a wildway all along the Spine of the Continent, the Rocky Mountains, for wide-ranging animals, four-legged, two-legged, finned, feathered, and furred.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Reinhart

3 Ways to rumble for the Grand Canyon and wildlife far and wide:

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