School of Lost Borders

To the Inyo Country Board of Supervisors,

We, the Staff and Board of Directors at the School of Lost Borders, are writing to express our disapproval of the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment (REGPA), which was crafted by, and recently approved, by the Inyo County Planning Commission.

The School of Lost Borders is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), dedicated to facilitating wilderness-based rites of passage for youth and adults as a means for cultivating self-trust, responsibility, and understanding about each person’s unique place within society and the natural world. Our mission is rooted in our dedication to supporting positive community practices, cultural preservation, and respect and care for the natural world. For this reason, we never turn anyone away for lack of resources. Fortunately, we have been able to maintain a scholarship fund, which is supported by a global network of donors, and more recently we received a significant grant for our youth program that will provide further opportunities for outreach to schools as well as service opportunities within local and extended communities.

Despite it’s humble beginnings, today the School of Lost Borders has a staff of fifteen very dedicated people, many who volunteer their time to support the School. We also have twelve associate and guest guides, as well as numerous apprentices. Each year, hundreds of people from far and near, and from diverse cultural backgrounds, come to Big Pine to participate in our programs and trainings. It is actually quite amazing to witness these gatherings of multi-lingual people in our small community. Our participants contribute, often quite generously, to the local economy utilizing hotels, restaurants, shops, and recreational facilities. Many camp in county campgrounds such as Baker Creek and Tinnemaha. Some of them befriend local community members, returning year after year. Some even make the Owens Valley their home.

We are telling you all this because we want you to know that our organization has far reaching consequences, and yet, so much of our work depends upon this one, exquisitely unique place called the Owens Valley. Steven Foster and Meredith Little, who founded the School of Lost Borders, chose the Owens Valley precisely because of its location. They knew, instinctively, that people need wild and unspoiled places in order to feel whole and healthy. Now, thirty-five years later, there are numerous empirical studies that support their ideas, that spending time in nature has a profound effect on psychological and personal well being. It’s no mystery, really, as land-based people have known this for thousands of years.

All to say, when we heard about the planning commission’s approval of the REGPA, we became very concerned. Not only do people need wild places, our mission depends on them. And, even more so, we feel a responsibility to protect the land that has given us, and our participants, so much. This is more than a business concern; it’s also an ethical one. After watching thousands of people travel from all over the world, just to fall in love with the Owens Valley, and after witnessing just how much this land has brought solace and healing to so many lives, we feel absolutely obligated to say “no” to any industrial scale developments, renewable or otherwise.

There are other ways to address the need for renewable energy mandates. Sure, it might require more effort, time, and forethought. We will, we assure you, support any endeavor by Inyo County to work on this issue in a positive and creative way that would avoid destroying acres of pristine land. From all the responses you have received so far, it appears that there are many others who would do the same. We ask you again, please say “no” to the REGPA.


The School of Lost Borders

Joseph Lazenka (director)

Sara Harris (board member)

Maddisen Krown (board member)

Petra Lentz-Snow (board member)


‘Oh, how can I say this: People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do. We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar. Wildness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd. It reminds us why, in those cases in which our plans might influence many future generations, we ought to choose carefully.’ –Barbara Kingslover, Author and Pulitzer Prize nominee


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