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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

September 14, 2004

Statement of Rebecca Giddens
2004 Olympic Silver Medalist, Womenís Slalom Kayak
On Protecting Wild Forests and Rivers for Future Generations of Kayakers

One of the most amazing things I experienced during the Olympics was a sense of national pride. Many things instill this sense of pride in Americans but we need to look no further than our mountains and canyons, deserts and wetlands, rivers and forests to realize the pride in protecting our national treasures. President Theodore Roosevelt understood the pride in protecting pristine places nearly 100 years ago when he established the National Forest System, ensuring future generations the enjoyment of our wild forests.

Rebecca Giddens addresses the roadless convention

One of the forests protected by President Roosevelt was the Sequoia National Forest. Famous for its massive trees, the Sequoia National Forest has many benefits beyond beauty. I am personally thankful for the Sequoia and its roadless areas for providing me with a tough training course, which helped me succeed in Athens.

Deep in the Sierra Nevada, not far from the highest point in the lower-48 states, the headwaters of the Kern River begin its descent. The Kern eventually enters the Sequoia National Forest where it winds through thousands of acres of untouched roadless areas. The wild forests of the Sequoia guard the Kern and many other waterways, which play a critical role in protecting fish and wildlife habitat, open space for recreation and clean drinking water. As homeowners near Sequoia National Forest my husband and I have the Kern watershed to thank for our water source, as does much of the Bakersfield, California area.

Over the years Iíve competed with the best kayakers in the world and each time I gain a greater appreciation for my training routine. Iíve come to realize the age old clichť of "practice makes perfect" wasnít just a ploy by my parents. Itís true and my work as a coach for the U.S. Junior Kayak Team has only strengthened my appreciation of practice.

We should make the practice of protecting roadless areas throughout the country a priority because protecting wild forests protects wild rivers. Whether itís the famed Colorado River, North Carolinaís Nantahala, the Salmon River of Idaho, or the Columbia River encountered by Lewis and Clark 200 years ago. National forests and untouched roadless areas help protect these rivers and thousands of other rivers and streams across the country. And, while paddling is my passion and profession, I also like to hike, climb, cross-country ski and explore our wild forests in other ways.

Iíve always believed in not taking things for granted and each time I venture into the Sequoia or put-in on the Kern River I always take a moment to soak in the serenity of wild forests and rivers and remember that without these wild places I wouldnít have a place to play. Nor would future generations of Olympic and recreational kayakers, who depend on us to protect their wild forests and rivers as part of their heritage.

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For additional information, contact Tony Iallonardo, at 202-887-8855.

The Heritage Forests Campaign is an alliance of conservationists, wildlife advocates, clergy, educators, scientists, and other Americans who are working together to uphold protection of our National Forests. To learn more, visit: ourforests.org

Photos of Forests