ROCKLAND — A small group of “Broads and Bros” over the age of 50 gathered at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center November 14 for a specific purpose: To advocate for Maine’s wilderness and public lands, while having fun doing it.
The group is a Midcoast Maine chapter of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a national grassroots organization based out of Durango, Colorado, lead by women that engages and inspires activism to preserve and protect wilderness and wild lands. They call themselves “Broadband.”
Chapter leader Theo Pratt hosted the meeting for just over a dozen people, including men, who were curious to hear about the chapter’s mission.
“The men who are allied with the Great Old Broads are called our Great Old Bros,” she said.
The organization started in 1989 when, on the 25th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a feisty bunch of older female hikers took umbrage over Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s claim that wilderness is inaccessible to elders.
About that time, wilderness designation had been proposed for Escalante, and Senator Hatch opposed it, saying, “if for no other reason, we need roads for the aged and infirm.”
Founder Susan Tixier and her fellow activists were outraged, and with sudden clarity, saw that an important voice was missing from the environmental movement: older woman—especially those impassioned, experienced, not afraid to speak out, and definitely not needing roads.
One when group was out hiking and discussing what action to take next, they came upon a group of elderly ladies coming off a trail—dusty, tan, sinewy, and gray-haired. Someone remarked, “What a bunch of great old broads.”
The name stuck.
Pratt said that the Midcoast Maine chapter (one of 40 chapters across the United States) focuses on the same regional missions that the national chapter does, mainly, to collaborate with conservation partners to urge Congress to designate new wilderness areas, and to monitor and protect the management of designated wilderness, wildlife and public lands.
“In the six months we’ve been in existence in Maine, our first goal is to grow the chapter and then give people something to do,” said Pratt, adding they are working on local initiatives to advocate for, but in the meantime, the group is also a social outdoor club with the aim to get outside, have fun and enjoy the very resources they are working to protect.
“We’re going to partner with Sierra Club and National Resources Council of Maine and some of their current issues as well as the Georges River Land Trust,” Pratt told the group. “We’re trying to pair all of our outdoor excursions, whether its hiking, snowshoeing or any one of the numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors with a a pizza party or a beer afterwards,” she said. “Advocate, Educate and Celebrate, that’s our motto.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com