LUKE KOENIG’S CIRCUITOUS ROUTE from Maryland to Silver City included stops in several western states. While working with Wild Arizona, he regularly tuned in to the Gila Mimbres Community Radio Station KURU-89.1 FM from across the state line. Koenig rented a casita in Silver City and commuted to work for a year, until landing his dream job in November 2023. As the Gila grassroots organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Koenig conducts outreach and education by leading hikes, site visits, and discussions to ensure further environmental protections. 

MY FIRST STEP TOWARD a career in conservation was joining the Utah Conservation Corps. I was gaining lots of skills to do riparian restoration and invasive species removal. When I had that job, I remember watching the rampant pace of development in the Southwest. I had this realization that we’re not going to have any wild places left to restore if we rely on last-ditch [preservation] efforts. We need to start setting down our tools and knocking on doors if we’re going to protect wild places.

I’ll say this about the Gila: The more you get to know it, the bigger it becomes. Around every corner is a whole world unto itself. Wherever you are, the beauty and opportunity for solitude is overwhelming. I’ve lived in places that are famously wild, and they don’t compare to the Gila, where that wild character is so well preserved.

You have to backpack or be prepared for very long day trips for any recreation opportunity. For some people, that might come as inconvenient, but it adds so much meaning to the experience. If you want to go fishing in the Gila, you really need to grab your backpacking gear too. You really have to put in work in the Gila. You have to sit down and look at maps and be prepared for what truly wild country is going to throw at you.

Read more: In addition to Aldo Leopold’s classic "A Sand County Almanac," these recent Gila page-turners are worth a spin.