Meet Lauren Berutich and the Broads Organization

There is a role every single person can play in the movement to protect public lands and waters.

May 11, 2022

Portrait of Lauren Berutich and her dog Lili next to a lake.

Lauren Berutich doesn’t mind when she is called an old broad…in fact, she embraces it as the Associate Director at Great Old Broads For Wilderness (Broads for short). She, along with Executive Director Shelley Silbert, leads a rambunctious, lively, and kickass staff of ten and over 8,500 members and supporters who all embrace their broadhood.

When we met the organization at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City years ago, we loved hearing about the incredible conservation work that they do (including advocacy, promoting appropriate planning and management, and monitoring public land management), but we were especially taken by their story.

This non-profit aims to make public lands part of the solution to climate change, though inadvertently, it acts as an empowerment tool for those who identify as a woman–especially elderly women.

The organization was founded in 1989 by, according to its website, “a feisty bunch of lady hikers who wanted to refute Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s notion that wilderness is inaccessible to elders."

This empowerment captured our hearts. They, in turn, appreciated our proclivity to sustainability, claiming that the tagline ‘Clothing with Conscious Origins’ is “spot on!” “It is essential in this day and time,” says Berutich, “that companies commit to practices that have as little impact on the planet as possible.”

Berutich and the rest of the Broads know a thing or two about taking care of our planet.
The organization focuses its attention on public lands because the Broads believe this is the secret to managing the climate crisis. “Unfortunately, public lands are leased for activities that put out tons of carbon,” explains Berutich. “In fact, as currently managed, if US public lands were considered a country, they would rank 5th in the world for carbon emissions and emit 4.5% more greenhouse gas than they can absorb.” By protecting resources on public lands, such as old-growth forests, intact wetlands, and oceans, the Broads believe the country can help mitigate and manage climate change.

Following this belief, they recently celebrated two wins with the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments restoration – “We even sued the Trump administration for slashing the two monuments!” says Berutich – and the protection of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This year’s goals are just as simple: to protect over 9.1 million acres of wildlands and waters and to fight the climate crisis by focusing on endangered species and wildlife corridors, wilderness expansion, and public policy on healthy forest management.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the organization doesn’t have its heartache as well. “This job is not easy,” Berutich explains, “and the political environment we are working in is getting even more challenging.” Through it all, she stays motivated, like many other Broads, through her love of the outdoors. “I think I am my best self outdoors,” she says highlighting the Weminuche Wilderness, the Green River, or a trail run in her backyard with her dog, Lili as her favorite places to explore and connect to nature.

She is also motivated by continuing to pour herself into the work. “I’ve seen how our trainings and grassroots work supports the growth and dedication of our members to the movement,” she explains. There are 40 chapters of the Broads across the country, called Broadbands, trained in education, advocacy, and stewardship. These chapters communicate and stay connected to decision-makers, something that the organization deems powerful and effective. “I am in awe of our wise, dedicated, passionate volunteers across the country who work with us tirelessly to fight for public lands and wildlife protections,” continues Berutich.

“I absolutely believe in women’s leadership…it’s a dream to be a part of such a fiery, fun group of people!"

You don’t have to be an Old Broad to get involved (though, as Berutich states, “we have so much to learn from our elders and older generations of movers and shakers”). The Broads encourage everyone to get involved through four simple actions: education, engagement, acting, and voting.

Perhaps Berutich’s best piece of advice:
“Don’t forget to play and have fun. Get to know your public lands, put your feet in the dirt, smell the fresh air, and fall in love with your region.”

Great old broads for wilderness logo.

"When you win, wilderness and public lands win!"