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Global Hot Spots

NOLS operates all over the world and each location has a unique set of challenges. We interact with different governments and different cultures.

Maintaining river water levels may be our main concern in one area, while permitting processes are what we’re working on in another. Whatever our focus, NOLS does its best to build relationships with local organizations and management agencies and to involve our students, staff, and communities in our efforts to maintain the wilderness for future generations.

For the latest on NOLS’ advocacy efforts around the world, check the stewardship blog and subscribe to the Stewardship News.

Curious about what issues we’re working on in our various course areas? Take a look at what’s going on in a few key regions:

Coastal Baja California (NOLS Mexico)

Sailing south along the coast of Baja California, instructors and students bear witness to the steady march of progress and the related changing landscape. Remote beaches, which once held only traditional fishing camps, have given way to resorts, golf courses, and subdivisions. But, as the regional government seeks to turn Baja California into a global tourism destination, local groups are pushing back by appealing for eco-tourism, controlled growth, and the preservation of traditional economies.

While NOLS still enjoys an extensive sea-based wilderness classroom, proposed developments could threaten the long-term viability of NOLS Mexico programs and other environmentally sustainable operators.

Chilean Patagonia (NOLS Patagonia)

Rather than pay adjacent countries for power to make up for its annual shortage, the country of Chile would like to harness the abundant hydroelectric potential in its southern regions. An ambitious development project, dubbed Hydro Aysen, would install hydroelectric dams on the Pascua and Baker rivers, and transmit the harnessed energy 1,000 miles north to its population and industrial centers.

There are, of course, consequences. Should the project proceed as planned, vast farming regions would be flooded, an estimated four thousand people would be displaced, and pristine wilderness lands would be submerged. A wide array of international conservation groups are working to amend the proposal, or to block the project.

Peel Watershed (NOLS Yukon)

In the untrammeled expanses of northwest Yukon, the Peel Watershed beckons to river explorers from all over the world. Its five principle tributaries—the Blackstone, the Hart, the Wind, the Bonnet Plume, and the Snake—travel through landscapes both remote and unique. The lucky NOLS courses that get to float these remote corridors are treated to sights and experiences known to very few in the modern world.

In late 2009, the Yukon government finalized the first planning effort ever undertaken for the Peel Watershed. NOLS, along with other wilderness outfitters, First Nations, and regional conservation groups, pushed for a management plan that would preserve the rugged nature of these remote rivers. Now that a good plan has been drafted, it is up to the territorial government to sign it into law.


While NOLS still enjoys an extensive sea-based wilderness classroom, proposed developments could threaten the long-term viability of NOLS Mexico programs and other environmentally sustainable operators.
Photo: TC Rammelkamp

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