Wild PAC: A voice protecting the
May 9, 2002
Simarano, executive director of Wild PAC, works in her
office Wednesday. Simarano founded the political-action
committee in Washington, D.C., in June 2001 to protect
the environment . A month later, she moved to Durango to
live in the kind of place the organization seeks to
By Jennifer Reeder
Special to the
Durango may be a long way from Washington,
D.C., but it is now home to a political-action committee, or
PAC. Wild PAC is an environmental organization that supports
elected officials at the local, state and federal levels who
advocate protection of public lands, especially
"We want to create a political voice for
wilderness," said Vicki Simarano, founder and executive
director of Wild PAC.
Simarano said she formed the group because of
the disparity between the amount of money extraction
industries donate to political campaigns, and the amount of
money environmental groups contribute.
|Wild PAC is a
Durango-based political-action committee that supports
elected officials at the local, state and federal levels
who advocate protection of public lands, especially
wilderness. For more information, visit
She said that in 2000, oil, mining and timber
interests invested more than $41 million in political
campaigns, while environmental PACs only contributed about $3
million to $4 million.
"Weíll never be able to match them dollar for
dollar, so thatís why we have the people power," she said.
Simarano founded Wild PAC in Washington,
D.C., in June 2001 after eight years working there on various
House and Senate campaigns, including one for Sen. John Kerry,
D-Mass. She was also deputy political director of the Sierra
Club for six years.
"I love working in politics and campaigns and
wanted to do it to protect the environment," Simarano
A month after Wild PACís inception, Simarano
moved to Durango in order to live in the kind of place the
organization seeks to protect. She spends a good deal of time
traveling the country, trying to raise awareness and money for
the political-action committee.
"Our support has come from over a thousand
individuals in less than a year, and weíve raised over
$150,000," she said. "Itís been busy."
This will be the first election year in which
Wild PAC will participate. Its contributions to endorsed
candidates can take the form of direct contributions,
providing campaign staff, volunteers and publicity, and
"getting the vote out," Simarano said.
She said Wild PAC members donate money, time
and frequent flier miles, which help cut down on travel costs
for the organization.
Wild PAC is a nonpartisan organization, but
so far, its endorsements in Colorado have been for Democrats
in the U.S. Congress Ė Reps. Diane DeGette and Mark Udall.
Simarano said they were selected because they
are champions of wilderness.
"I am honored to have the support of Wild
PAC," Udall said in a news release, when he announced his
endorsement in March. "Grassroots organizations such as Wild
PAC are the backbone of a successful democracy, and they need
to be applauded for continuing to fight for public lands and
A top priority for Wild PAC is working to
help protect the Rocky Mountains from gas and oil exploitation
now that the Arctic Refuge will not be opened for drilling,
The organization is focusing on 10 tight congressional
races across the nation and a few at the state and local