The importance of places to explore
I grew up in Northwest Montana with wilderness just beyond my back door. I could get off the school bus and walk past my house into hundreds of thousands of acres of publicly accessible land in the Kootenai National Forest.
When I went to college at the University of Montana, outdoor access was available in every direction from our campus, including trails that departed directly from behind our football stadium. Some of the best memories of my childhood are grounded in the forests and mountains of the Northwest.
When my wife and I had children, we continued to realize the value of public lands and wild spaces, getting out as often as we could. When we moved to Iowa in 2018, it was important for us to continue to make sure that our children were connected to the wilderness. We have taken the opportunity to visit many state, county and city parks around Iowa, but we find ourselves longing for the wide-open spaces of the Mountain West.
99% of Iowa land is in private hands. Farming is key to our economy and our culture here in Iowa. Our farms are more productive than ever, our cities grow larger and more people move out of our rural communities changing the demographics. I hope we find ways to take advantage of these changes to increase our open space, improve our water and air quality and provide our children and their children with more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Jerek Wolcott is the assistant athletics director for communications at the University of Northern Iowa. He and his wife, Ashley, were raised in Montana and moved to Iowa in 2018. They have two boys, Calvin (6) and Holland (3).