Nearly one-third of the United States belongs to US citizens in the form of public lands. As the nation's urban and suburban populations expand, public lands and open spaces become ever more important. In spite of the importance of public lands, they are unknown to millions of Americans.

In 2002 the nonprofit Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA) partnered with the National Geographic Society, federal and state land management agencies, private businesses and other organizations to focus national attention on American public estate through the experiences of two groups of travelers who followed a route from Mexico to Canada, which stayed on public lands the entire way, a feat never before accomplished. This journey, known as American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey, aimed to create a broad national exposure about the role and relevancy of public lands.[1]

The TrekEdit

On July 31, 2002 two teams of travelers started simultaneously from the Mexican and the Canadian borders in New Mexico and Montana. During the following two months they traversed more than 2600 miles and crossed six states, entirely on public lands.

To demonstrate the different ways people enjoy and get about on public lands, the trekkers traveled on foot, horseback, mountain bikes, ATVs and off-road motorcycles, in canoes, whitewater rafts, motorboats and four wheel drive vehicles.

The teams met sixty days later on National Public Lands Day in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest near Salt Lake City, Utah.

The TeamsEdit

The North Team left from the Canadian border in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Montana, and traveled south toward Salt Lake City, Utah.

North Team Trekkers
Name Trek Duties Home State
Michael Murphy National Geographic Society (NGS) Teacher California
Roberto Carlo Trekker New York
Dana Bell Trekker California
Charlotte Tally Trekker North Carolina
North Support Team
Name Trek Duties Home State
Charlie Thorpe Team Leader Alabama
Robert Ashley Education Outreach Coordinator/ NGS Teacher Alternate Illinois
Bob Van Deven Media & Special Events Coordinator/ 1st Alternate Arizona
Stephen Braunlich General Logistics Virginia
Cheryl Fusco Route Logistics/ Supply & Equipment Manager Florida
Sidna Small Food and Beverage Manager Kansas
Paul Bucca Food and Beverage Manager Alabama
Ravinda Gupta Medical Suppot North Carolina
Michelle Wiliams Medical Support New York

The South Team left from the Mexican border west of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and traveled north to Salt Lake City, Utah.

South Team Trekkers
Name Trek Duties Home State
Catherine Kiffe National Geographic Society Teacher Louisiana
Jan Nesset Trekker Montana
Richard Tyrrell Trekker Pennsylvania
Juli Over Baugh Trekker Alaska
South Support Team
Name Trek Duties Home State
Bob Hammond Team Leader Washington, DC
Kay Gandy Education Outreach Coordinator/ NGS Teacher Alternate Louisiana
Jessica Terrell PR/Media & Special Events Coordinator/ 1st Alternate Missouri
Jacob McLeod General Logistics/ 2nd Alternate Florida
Rob Monnig Route Logistics/ Supply & Equipment Manager Kentucky
Sam Altman Food and Beverage Manager Kentucky
Lori McGraw Technical Support South Carolina
Vipul Lakhami Medical Suppot North Carolina


By presenting a balanced view of America’s public lands—their history and their uses—American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey helped people better understand the multiple dimensions of public lands.

Along the route the two teams attended special public land showcase events, round table discussions, back country classrooms and en-route visits to schools and communities to learn about public land issues. Trek updates were shown on the television show “National Geographic Today” and through daily postings by team members at the American Frontiers website.

Trek EventsEdit

Both Teams took part in educational events along their trek. These events were hosted by US Fish& Wildlife , US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Geological Survey, and others.

Some of the North Team trek events included a tour of the OCI Trona Mine mine near Green River, WY, attending a wild horse and burro adoption event in Jackson, WY, and paddling across Clark Canyon Reservoir in a dugout canoe, following the steps (or paddle strokes) of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Some of the South Team’s events ranged from a Wilderness Roundtable discussion in Silver City, NM about the importance of the Gila Wilderness in the lives of surrounding communities, a discussion about ATV use in the Fishlake National Forest in Utah, and a presentation on Condor reintroduction in the Kaibab National Forest.

Lesson Plans and Educational ResourcesEdit

Interpretive and educational materials, including a 45 minute slide show about the history of public lands and lesson plans to be used in the classroom, can be found at the American Frontiers website.

Geography Action! 2002Edit

American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey inspired the National Geographic Society’s Geography Action! 2002 curriculum, aimed at teaching school-aged children the beauty and the benefits of America's public lands.


American Frontier’s approach to informing the public about public lands attracted many sponsors, including National Geographic Society, Coleman, Coca-Cola Company, American Honda, and the Bureau of Land Management. A complete list of sponsors can be found at the American Frontiers website.[2]


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External linksEdit

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