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Forward Paddle

A letter from the editor of our June 2017 issue.

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So many of us Westerners love the wilderness for the solitude it provides, and for its ability to remind us that we are small and insignificant—in the best possible way. But as we learned last year, there are those in the outdoor industry, specifically a few male white-water rafting guides in the Grand Canyon River District, who have used this seclusion as an opportunity to sexually harass their female colleagues and clients. In a 2016 report, the federal government outlined how for years river guides and their supervisors in the national park turned what so many of us consider a sanctuary into a place where women weren’t safe. It was these revelations—sexual propositioning, unwanted touching, and allegations of rape—that spurred journalist Jayme Moye to investigate the potential for such conduct in Colorado, which has one of the largest rafting industries in the nation. Although the commercial rafting sector here has so far avoided problems approaching those exposed in Arizona, what Moye did find is troubling. During months of research for “Is Colorado’s Rafting Industry Guilty Of Misogyny?,” Moye discovered an industry that largely eschews the protections, such as anti-harassment training and clear company policies on sexual misconduct and gender discrimination, that have come to be pro forma in other workplaces. Moye highlights a small number of people in Colorado who are working to change that. But it often takes more voices to incite true transformation, which is where those of us who see Colorado’s wilderness as a haven come in. It’s incumbent upon us—the paying customers of backcountry outfitters—to make sure our great outdoors is a safe place for everyone. Reading Moye’s story is a good first step.

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