Geary Hund has been appointed executive director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. He brings with him an exemplary background in this field, from his work as California Desert and Monuments Program Director for the Wilderness Society to his most recent position as senior wildlife biologist for US Fish and Wildlife.
What drew you to this opportunity to become MDLT’s Executive Director?
My love for the California deserts and the Mojave in particular, combined with a desire to see their unique and irreplaceable resources protected and managed in a way that they will be preserved for this and future generations, inspired me to serve MDLT, first as a board member and now as executive director.
I’ve experienced first-hand the remarkable beauty of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, having camped and hiked in them since the late 1970’s. From the lush palm oases of Joshua Tree National Park, to the Kelso Dunes, to the rugged mountain ranges, like the Providence and the New Yorks, its diversity and beauty are unparalleled.
Our deserts are both a vast and intimate place. Standing on the summit of a desert peak one can see wave after wave of mountain ranges stretching far into the distance, while at one’s feet, there may be a carpet of Wallace’s daisies, so diminutive that they could easily be missed. In another setting one might find a petroglyph hidden in a rock shelter, conveying a message from an ancient inhabitant and reminding us of the history and importance of our deserts to indigenous peoples.
It’s incredibly important that we ensure the long-term preservation of our deserts. To do that, we must convey the message and the magic of the Mojave and Colorado to all; we must provide opportunities for everyone to understand and experience them. MDLT is very dedicated to working with our partners throughout the desert to provide opportunities for a broad diversity of people and communities to discover the wonders of the desert.
We must also ensure that our community leaders and elected officials understand the intrinsic values of our deserts, how they serve a place of renewal and respite from the often frenetic pace of modern life, and how those values translate to economic benefits for our communities. Our parks, monuments and wilderness areas are truly the future economic engines of the west.
Lastly, I was drawn to the job because of the dedicated, hard-working staff and volunteers, and the community support for what we do. Our success can be directly measured and traced to you and your love and support our deserts.
What would you like your legacy to be in the Mojave Desert?
I would like to build on the tremendous work that has been accomplished to conserve the desert. Just recently, with bipartisan support, California Desert Protection and Recreation Act was just passed into law. Building on the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 and conservation work before that, this was a tremendous victory for conservation including the addition of 375,000 acres of new wilderness and 39,860 acres of additions to National Park Units including Death Valley, Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve. But there still much more to do!
MDLT with your support, will continue to acquire important conservation lands in the desert to complete wildlife corridors between designated parks, monuments and wilderness, and to increase their integrity by purchasing private inholdings from willing sellers. We, with partners, will also be laying the foundation for potential future conservation designations in the Western Mojave and elsewhere, to ensure that there is an interconnected system of reserves throughout the Mojave and Colorado deserts.
I would also like MDLT to be a leader in desert restoration and the development of sound policy, including around water and the adequate staffing, funding and management of our parks and monuments. Lastly, I would like MDLT to play a part in rewilding the deserts, for example, by supporting the reintroduction of pronghorn antelope into their former range on the Chuckwalla Bench and elsewhere.