After growing up in western Pennsylvania and then graduating from college, Gloria Flora headed west. She lived in a number of different states over the years but said she “always gravitated to the mountains, particularly the Rockies — the backbone of the world, according to the Blackfeet. I think they got it right.”
Her family had always visited parks and state forests during her childhood, so Gloria acquired a love for the outdoors at an early age. “My Barbie dolls were in the creek, climbing trees and camping far more often than dressing up for dates with Ken.”
My Barbie dolls were in the creek, climbing trees and camping far more often than dressing up for dates with Ken.
A bond with the Rockies
“I tend to live in very rural and less-developed areas, so nature is right out my back door,” Gloria says. “Of course, I have a special bond with the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana — we’ve been through a lot together. And I have a soft spot in my heart for the many national forest lands I’ve come to know and love throughout the west when I worked with the U.S. Forest Service. Then of course, there are the rivers.”
A way to unplug
Gloria got hooked on whitewater rafting decades ago, first with a trip down the Lochsa River in Idaho, then with a week-long trip down the Selway River in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness as part of her job as a district ranger.
“There was no turning back after that. I’ve had the most delightful and meaningful experiences — of nature and friends and family on river trips, particularly those through wild country — with no cell phones, email or technology. What a blessed reprieve.”
Protecting the Rockies
After years with the U.S. Forest Service, Gloria worked to protect Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. As a forest supervisor she imposed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing.
Later Gloria founded Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, a nonprofit dedicated to the sustainability of public lands. Today, she does a lot of public speaking in which she urges people to reconnect and remember their relationship with landscapes.
“We have entered uncharted waters in a perfect storm of crises: climate, energy, economic and environmental collapse,” Gloria says. “We’ve upset the balance of nature and are paying dearly in ways we’re only beginning to see and understand. Techno-fixes and geo-engineering are not going to pull our bacon out of the fire this time. We need to pause and ask ourselves how nature might address these issues, and then become humble students and hard workers under her tutelage.”