By Sarah Wootton
You don't have to run rivers to join the Sierra Student Coalition, but it sure doesn't hurt.
For seven days last summer, Becca Ciccone and 24 other SSC volunteers lived and breathed Utah's Green River. Under blazing sun and buzzing mosquitoes, they manned oar rigs, a paddle raft and a two-person inflatable kayak, taking to the rapids as part of the SSC's Wild Utah Campaign.
It wasn't all hard work. In the evenings they ate gourmet fare, including sweet potato quesadillas. And as night came, they climbed into sleeping bags on the beach and slept under the stars -- no tents.
"The mosquitoes were horrible the first night, but you miss a lot if you have a tent over your head," says Ciccone.
The participants floated through a proposed wilderness area, then headed back to their respective campuses to rally support for the America's Redrock Wilderness Act, which currently has 155 co-sponsors in the House and 15 co-sponsors in the Senate.
But the SSC isn't all fun and games. Or is it?
Oil-barrel costumes were the outfit of choice and picket signs the de rigueur accessory last February when dozens of SSC members gathered in Washington, D.C., for their third annual Public Lands Summit. More than 150 students lobbied legislators to protect public lands in Utah and Alaska and to stop destructive logging practices in our national forests.
"The Summit is the culmination of a year's worth of grassroots efforts on nearly 200 campuses in all 50 states," says Myke Bybee, national director of the SSC. "Student groups across the country who've been writing letters, making phone calls and reaching out to their communities, all come together in D.C. to show our officials that young people care about their future."
Students aren't expected to know how to lobby, organize letter-writing campaigns or design oil-barrel costumes when they sign up with the SSC. The SSC has an extensive training program.
"Whatever a student's interests or knowledge is, experienced volunteers are available to answer questions, offer advice and help make sure they're on the right track," he says.
Ciccone says the challenges are daunting, but students are ready.
"I figure if we could paddle easily through the craziest of rapids, we'll be able to tackle anything [the Wild Utah] campaign throws our way," she says.
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