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Who We Are

Ann KramerAnn Kramer-Pasadena, Calif.
Outings Leader, Angeles Chapter Chair, Desert Peak Section

"I'm an outings activist," says Ann Kramer. "I got involved in the Sierra Club to go on, and lead, outings."

Luckily for Kramer, she is part of the Angeles Chapter, which offers more than 4,000 outings each year, more than any other chapter-more even than the national outings program.

As chair of the Desert Peak Section, Kramer encourages people to climb the peaks of California and the Southwest and tries to instill in them an interest in desert conservation.

"If you take people to an endangered place-give them a physical connection to a place-that is when they start to care," says Kramer. "Our chapter has had a few very successful conservation campaigns and each one has featured a strong outings component."

The outdoor life of an outings enthusiast provides a nice contrast to her professional life-she's a lawyer involved in small business litigation, collections, and bankruptcy proceedings. "People always ask 'Why not environmental law?'" says Kramer. "But I was already doing law when I discovered outings."

When she's not filing a brief or climbing a peak, you might find Kramer volunteering with "Chamber Music and Historic Places," a group that organizes concerts at architecturally appropriate venues, such as Union Station and the public library. "The logistics are quite similar to organizing an outing," she notes.

Dxter and Betsy PerkinsDexter and Betsy Perkins - Grand Forks, North Dakota
Dacotah Chapter Chair, Chapter Treasurer

"We call this part of the country the 'empty quarter,'" says Dexter Perkins, Professor of Geology at the University of North Dakota. "There aren't a lot of people around here."

Born and raised in Boston, Perkins and his wife Betsy, a native Tennessean who now runs a natural foods cooperative, have taken to life on the prairie with a palpable fervor. "When we're out camping everything is so peaceful, so quiet. Sometimes we call the coyotes and they answer us back. I got into a conversation with a barred owl just last week. Where else can you do that?"

The couple met in upstate New York in 1969. "Dexter and I were both students at the University of Rochester," Betsy explains, "but we didn't meet at school. We were on separate trips to go caving near Albany and we met in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night. I found the Great Pumpkin and we've been together ever since."

The Perkins' moved to Grand Forks 22 years ago. "A Sierra Club leader from the other end of the state contacted us shortly after we moved here, and suddenly we were chair and vice chair for our local group," Betsy recalls.

"Both of us initially became involved with conservation issues because our families were involved," Dexter says. "Our parents were supporters, both monetarily and as volunteers, and they took us on outings when we were kids. These days we do a lot of hiking and backpacking; last year I hiked the John Muir Trail for the third time, and this year I hiked the Appalachian Trail for the second time, with my son."

The Perkins' are proud of their success in reaching the instinctively taciturn residents of their adopted state and galvanizing them into action. "Are you familiar with Prairie Home Companion?" Dexter asks. "Well, we live in Lake Wobegon. There aren't a lot of activists in these parts; people don't like to be confrontational. But they're responsive if you can make a connection with them. Betsy and I do a lot of schmoozing, and eventually people realize they share our conservation values. Then they realize they can write to their senator, call up their congressman, make a difference on issues they care about."

Recently the Perkins' have been working to preserve the native prairie and the northern plains grasslands, organizing local group meetings, getting people to contact their congressional delegation, and leading tours of the surrounding prairies. "We've always been organizers," Dexter says, "and we've taken on a lot of the administrative tasks that are necessary for effective conservation. These chores aren't particularly fun or glamorous, but they might be just as important as activism."

As to life in a part of the country not known for its conservation ethic, this native New Englander replies: "We find the coasts-and a lot of the country-way too crowded. Out here on the prairie there's hardly any crime, poverty, or pollution. Life in North Dakota is very fine and relaxing."

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