Alumni Journeys: conservation watchdog
March 4, 2022
Will Roush ’98, executive director of Wilderness Workshop
“Having kids puts a fine point on the importance of working to protect our environment — wanting our kids to have that same opportunity to spend time in wild places and to experience winter.”– Will Roush
Today Will is executive director of Wilderness Workshop, the conservation watchdog of nearly 4 million acres of public lands in Western Colorado. After his family moved away from the Roaring Fork Valley, he returned for several winters during college to work on the ski patrol. He moved back to the Roaring Fork Valley full time in 2010, joined Wilderness Workshop, and served as conservation director for four years before becoming executive director in 2018. Starting out with a staff of five, Will now guides 12-14 people who work to determine and execute conservation priorities and programs, raise funds for the organization, and oversee its community and outreach programs.
- Aspen Country Day School: Kindergarten to Seventh Grade (moved in 1993)
- High school: Lakeside School, Seattle (graduated in 1998)
- Undergrad: Middlebury College
- Grad school: University of Victoria, British Columbia, MA in geography and environmental science
How did this school influence the life you lead today?
I built an early connection to wild places and public land. The outdoor ed program was a big part of that. I remember sleeping in a snow cave, as well as doing a bit of backcountry skiing and skinning to the McNamara Hut. These days we do a lot of hut trips with our friends and our kids (ages two and six), but my first hut trip was with Country Day. I also remember that we did a trip out to Canyonlands, and now we spend time in the desert with family as well.
Best memory of the school?
I do remember the intimate community. Having a class of probably about 10 to 12 kids, there was that closeness with the other kids. And I remember all the teachers, from Margaretta Bruegger, who was our Kindergarten teacher, to Bruce Gabow, a Second Grade teacher who taught us how to launch rockets, and Shelley Supplee, who was our Fifth and Sixth Grade English teacher; Helene Gude, my science teacher, Skip Hamilton – so many teachers all had an impact on my life.
In your work today, what is the biggest problem you are trying to solve?
Our core mission is to protect public lands and wildlife habitat. It’s wonderful to work in a place where a lot of people appreciate our public lands and support our mission, yet there is ever-increasing development pressure on those lands, so there is challenge and opportunity in that.
One of the big challenges we have been working on is equity in the use and management of public lands. Obviously those issues have been heightened in our country in the past couple years, when you look at how race impacts all of our lives and social change efforts. Wilderness Workshop is committed to making the environmental movement, public lands, and wild spaces more diverse and available to everybody.
And lastly, climate change is obviously a critical global issue, but it takes action everywhere. There are shared solutions that will protect big chunks of public land and also be good for our climate, good for wild species, and also good for our community and economy. So there are challenges and opportunities here as well.
Favorite place on campus?
It’s probably not there anymore, but the big lower school playground area. There was a cool old structure with a rope and a big wooden ramp.
Blue team or Green team?