Aimee often camps at her “second home” in New Mexico’s Quebradas Backcountry Byway
Aimee Rutledge has been protecting wild lands for The Wilderness Land Trust for more than a decade. But she’s really been working to protect it nearly three times that long. Fresh out of college, Aimee was a regular bike commuter along the Sacramento River when she caught wind of a movement to shut down the trail to the public. So she reached out to local land conservation folks and helped negotiate a compromise to keep the trail open. Aimee ended up running the local land trust for more than 20 years.
“People don’t own the earth; the earth holds us up. I believe direct experiences in wilderness and nature are the most effective way for us to get real about our place on this planet,” says Aimee of her decision to work in land conservation.
Almost 20 years later while riding a ski lift overlooking the Mokelumne Wilderness in California, Aimee learned The Wilderness Land Trust was looking for someone to help protect California lands. Two weeks later she was working on her first land project for the Trust.
“More than anything, I love cutting great deals for wilderness,” says Aimee.
Aimee recently backpacked California’s Lost Coast with her 25-year-old son
Ask any Wilderness Land Trust staff why they chose a career in land conservation, and they’ll tell you it’s because they felt personally connected with nature. For Aimee, that connection was found at a very young age when she imagined herself an early explorer and spent a great deal of time exploring the islands in the Wild and Scenic American River in Sacramento. Then, at age 15, she hiked to Lake Velma in the Desolation Wilderness above Lake Tahoe, California.
“I’ll never forget the sight of bare granite stretching as far as I could see. I fell in love with that area,” says Aimee. “Being in wilderness feels both uplifting and humbling at the same time. Wilderness is where I go to feel at home.’
Aimee also feels quite at home at The Wilderness Land Trust. As senior lands specialist, she tackles tough real estate projects and helps other staff do the same. As vice president, Aimee adds insight gleaned from her more than 20 years of land trust executive experience.
Aimee loves creating permanent conservation impacts with the Trust’s partners and building the long-term relationships that drive her work.
“I love knowing I’ve protected the most important resources in the most permanent way every time we complete a property deal and return wild land to the public,” says Aimee. “And, I love building long-standing relationships with the amazing people who help us protect wild places – land owners, agency staff, fellow conservationists, our Trust staff and supporters. We couldn’t be successful without them.”
When Aimee isn’t chasing land projects to protect our nation’s wilderness, she can be found skiing or backpacking in the Sierra or Sandia mountains in California and New Mexico, surfing in the Pacific at Rincon Point near Ventura, California, or canoeing on Lake Tahoe and the Upper Truckee River Marsh in California. On the rare occasion she’s not outside, Aimee says she enjoys doing yoga or studying maps to plan “the next wild place where I can romp around,” often with her fellow traveler or adult kids.
“Really, there’s nothing better I could be doing,” says Aimee.