Senator Udall visits The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and meets on the trail…a few military kids, backpackers.

Reported by Alyssa, A Backpack Journalist Intern/military youth/Navy, A Backpack Journalist, Interns, Reporters

Florissant, Colorado

July 27,2013

Eight military children from A Backpack Journalist ‘ “Nature Storytelling Workshop” sat down in the middle of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in an outdoor seating area with Senator Mark Udall standing in front of them. Shaded by ponderosa pines the eight kids looked at him with excitement in their eyes. He started speaking and it was if they hung off every word.

Udall interview with kids


He spoke with confidence. “I think my favorite thing about Colorado is that people in Colorado are active. People here are fit, they are outdoors oriented,” said Udall.

Senator Udall has a deep connection with the outdoors, which leads him to stay strongly involved in the National Park System. Senator Udall worked for Outward Bound for twenty years, taking on the challenges of Mother Nature in order to grow as a human being.

“Some people say America’s National Park system is America’s Best Idea,” Udall said. “I tend to agree with them. It’s a phenomenal system.” Senator Udall is a member of the National Parks Subcommittee and is highly involved with the National Park System. Senator Udall helped establish a national park in Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

“What you really get from a place like this is a connection to each other, the world, and yourself.” Udall said on the wonder of nature and national parks.

He strongly believes that national parks are important to everyone. “They are important because I believe that we don’t inherit the earth from our parents, but we are borrowing it from our children,” Udall said. He also believes we need to preserve nature so children of the future can experience the same beauty. “We have a responsibility to protect some of the national landscapes so future generations can be inspired by them.”

Senator Udall also considers that national parks also have economical and environmental benefits. People are drawn to towns to view parks and in turn this helps boost the economy. Not only do parks bring visitors, they also save the environment. Senator Udall speaks on the beneficial values of parks on the environment. “As well, if you think about the clean air, the clean water, and the wildlife that are generated and protected by our national parks that’s another important reason to have national parks,” said Udall.

“It’s interesting how a senator can be so active with nature. Without “Post to Parks” I wouldn’t have had this amazing opportunity,” said Cheyenne, one of the youth.  Note:  “Post to Parks” was developed and piloted at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

Udall with Ranger Jeff

“I think that there seemed to be a perfect match with his visit because he is known to be very supportive of the military, preservation, youth programs, and sustainability and Florissant Fossil Beds has the same alignment with his goal,” Ranger Jeff said.

Senator Udall also took the time to share with us his feelings about PTS (not the “d’).  He, as many of our backpackers believe that nature can help the healing process for service members or veterans with TBI or PTS.  Before leaving, Natalie did raise her hand and ask about sequestration.  Senator Udall responded quickly and smiled with, “Ah, the “s’ word.  Well, I am now working on a bill, with the Senator from Maine, to help bring some sense to sequestration.”

What an experience this was!  These groups of military youth, ages 12-17, were from Colorado Springs and Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas and this was their first interview.  Thank you Senator Udall for your time and sharing your love of Colorado and the outdoors!  The Senator’s final piece of advise to the backpackers, now a part of the Post to Park program at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was:

“Be sure you find time to sleep under the stars once in your life!”

Senator Udall, Park Rangers with Backpack Journalist Youth - Military Kids!
Senator Udall, Park Rangers with Backpack Journalist Youth – Military Kids!


NOTE:  The A Backpack Journalist’ Nature Storytelling Workshop was funded by a grant from the National Park Service Foundation, and supported by the Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds Monument National Park.