Persistent and determined, Connie Harvey has always believed in doing her part. She is a rancher in Colorado and a writer for the Aspen Daily News and the High Country News. Connie has been an activist for wilderness issues since the 1960s when she was approached by the President of the Sierra Club. Her efforts significantly affected the creation of Redwood National Park in Northern California.
Grit and determination have always been Connie’s trademark. Ms. Harvey founded the Aspen Wilderness Workshop and has led efforts to protect wilderness areas in Colorado and around the West. She continues to oversee a Pitkin County Colorado cattle ranch and writes a monthly environmental column for the Aspen Daily News. Ms. Harvey is also a regular contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). As determined as they come, one of her sons said, “I feel sorry for whoever she takes on.”
Connie Harvey: My personal philosophy is it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness and then I just do my little bit. If everybody would do that much, then we’d be in a little better place. But I think it would be good to have some maybe Constitutional Amendments that would help to preserve the environment for example. If we could make the Clean Air and Clean Water Act part of the Constitution so they wouldn’t be so easy to undermine and the Endangered Species Act, those three things would go a long way and we might want to have a real Environmental Bill of Rights. In fact, we wrote one up for Aspen once a long time ago, it’s not honored very well. There seem to be enemies that crop up from time to time that would like to tear everything down, but then there’s also a constituency for it.
Huey Johnson: Yeah.
Connie Harvey: In say, an existing wilderness that would try to stop that. So it’s a contest and it goes on. It’s too bad; it’s too bad some things can’t just be sacred and left alone. Ed Wayburn was a sort of mentor to me, head of the Sierra Club, and in fact he found me when I was standing around waiting for my ski class one day out at Aspen Highlands and he said “You’re Connie Harvey, aren’t you?” And I said “Yes.” And he said “You’re a member of the Sierra Club.” And I didn’t know how he knew that but I said “Yes,” I didn’t know who he was. And he said “This is my wife Peggy and we’re here because your congressman is blocking our Redwoods National Park,” and he said “We need letters.” And we ended up with 300 letters to Wayne Aspinall.
Huey Johnson: Wow.
Connie Harvey: And sure enough, we got a Redwood Park. So of course that made, turned me into an activist from that moment on.
Huey Johnson Yeah, you were tagged.
Connie Harvey: It was a great triumph.
Huey Johnson: You have been involved in projects in environmental affairs; did you work on the Wilderness Bill for instance?
Connie Harvey: Yes. From the time we proposed some wilderness designation to the time we got it might have been 20 years to get an overnight success as they say in the theaters, so…-
Huey Johnson: Yeah. How are you doing on your stream project?
Connie Harvey: Well, we just had a modest victory there. The attempt is being made by the city to put in a hydro project that will divert a lot of water from the streams for several miles and it will take them way below a healthy level. So I think it’s a great mistake and so do a number of other people, and we got into a campaign to try to win that vote and we did. So it’s a step, it’s not over.
Huey Johnson: If you can recommend something for the younger generation.
Connie Harvey: I think the big thing is to be very persistent, never quit and sometimes the stars will align and sometimes they don’t, but if you hang in there, you can get a lot done. So some things go fast and quick and easily and others take forever. But if you really want something to happen, you have to work for it.