LONNIE DUPRE

Dupre, of Grand Marais, is a polar explorer. In 2015, he became the first person to make a solo summit of Alaska’s Mount McKinley (aka Denali) in January.

When I was 10 years old and curious about the future, the year 2000 seemed too impossible to imagine. I was sure I would be long dead. Here I am now at 54, having leapt over the impossible 16 years ago — and still very much alive. As a boy I watched movies portraying ominous outcomes for our planet. Now I am seeing those dark predictions becoming a reality as our planet heats up unnaturally. I remember Neil Armstrong’s crisp, blue image of Earth in a sea of pitch-black infinity, and wonder how we could be so lucky to land in such a place. How in trillions of years this lonely rock could develop into a haven for life. Much like a blanket a mother would wrap around her child, Mother Nature surrounded Earth in an atmosphere for life. This precious gift deserves to be treated with love and respect.

I’m not a religious man; for me, Earth is literally our heaven and our home. Without a healthy planet there can be no us. Today, our life decisions are too often dominated by short-term greed. How to make more money or pay less. As a result, our environment suffers. Our blanket is getting tattered and thin. I feel humbled and grateful to be on this Earth, and want to be optimistic and inspired. If we use our hearts to lead us, this year, 2016, will take care of itself.

 

JESSIE DIGGINS

Diggins, of Afton, is currently Nordic skiing for the U.S. team in World Cup competition, and was a member of the Olympic team in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Looking forward to 2016 means, for me, a tightly knotted stomach of nervous butterflies and an early morning wake-up to review my game plan for the day. The first day of the new year also brings the first stage race of the Tour de Ski, in which I compete and represent the United States at the highest level of cross-country ski racing: the World Cup. The Tour is an eight-stage race across four different cities in three different countries, beginning in a mountain town hidden in Switzerland. 2016 is something I look forward to not only for the opportunity to score World Cup points for my country, but the thrill of new races, challenges and countries to race my heart out in.

The new year also brings up new questions for the future of the sport. Last year, from November to March, I raced on natural snow only once, and that was deep in the middle of nowhere in Russia. The rest of the World Cups, (including the World Championships in Sweden, a country deeply rooted in cross country skiing), were carried out on man-made snow that was slushy and falling apart under above-freezing temperatures. Erasing winter needs to change — and fast — if I want to be able to share this healthful, lifelong and exciting sport with future generations. So while 2016 brings hopes and dreams, it also brings up questions about the survival of this dynamic sport I love so much.

 

ANTHONY TAYLOR

Taylor, of Minneapolis, is the Loppet Foundation’s adventures director. He also co-founded the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota.

In my reflections on my work in the community with Major Taylor and the Loppet Foundation, I am challenging myself and other equity advocates by asking, “Are we acting as missionaries?” What must we do as advocates committed to increase equitable participation or outcomes in health care, transportation, economics, education, or engaging the outdoors in 2016 and beyond? How do we create genuine engagement and support communities to heal themselves?

First, we acknowledge the reality of what communities of color experience in this country. We must not turn away, minimize or dismiss it, but tackle it square on to change it. Second, see these disparities as results of inequitable public policy and underinvestment in communities of color, not as symptoms of poor decisionmaking or values. Third, recognize the complexity of the lived experience of race by considering the cumulative, comprehensive effects of different forms of racism on communities and individuals over the generations, both black and white. And finally, maintain hope! Working with youth reminds me that we must maintain hope. In 2016, we live in the greatest time in history for a small group of committed citizens to change the course of history.

 

SUE LEAF

Leaf, of Center City, is an author. Her most recent book is “Portage,” chronicling her 35 years of canoe outings.

My dearest wish is that in 2016, the state of Minnesota says “no” to copper-nickel/sulfide mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, that we finally value our natural world as finite and precious. For 157 years, our inclination has been to see fresh water, forests and wildlife as resources — resources that we own — and that somehow, we “manage” for profit. As Minnesotans, we took possession even before statehood. First we cut the pines — nearly all of them. We destroyed the only waterfall on the Mississippi River, St. Anthony Falls. We obliterated the wondrous tall grass prairie and we continue to mine its soil, which washes out to the Gulf of Mexico. We killed off the passenger pigeon and nearly exterminated the bald eagle. And we are killing our beloved lakes with excessive phosphorus.

My husband and I canoed the upper St. Louis River this summer, a beautiful river emptying into Lake Superior, which would be ground zero should the proposed PolyMet mine operation happen and, with it, the potential for leaks and great environmental risk. Isn’t it time to value fresh water not as a resource but as an irreplaceable gift?

 

JOHN STORKAMP

Storkamp, of Hastings, is the race director of the Superior 100 and other trail races of varying distances across Minnesota. He also is an elite ultrarunner.

Kevin and I grew up on a blue-collar street in a small town. We did the things you would expect of boys: Cops and robbers, epic battles with green, plastic Army men. But the one thing that we did above all else — we walked. Without a specific goal or destination, we simply explored, covering countless miles in the process. Somewhere in this, nearly 30 years ago, we stumbled into something. We had discovered freedom.

When we got older, we started running, effectively re-creating that same experience. First marathons, then ultramarathons. Kevin, now closing in on 50 completed; me, 100. We live in different states now, but meet annually (this past year in the Pacific Northwest) and spend the weekend running a marathon and exploring the area. It could be anywhere, just like those days spent in our hometown. The destination is of minor significance, the action still simply about finding freedom. The two of us are already making plans for our next adventure.

I encourage you to grab a friend and find your freedom in 2016.

 

MANDY UHRICH

Uhrich, of Brainerd, is a professional bass angler, and works to empower women in outdoors pursuits.

 

Recently, I had a friend who asked me, “Where do you find the time to do it all? When do you have time for a life?” I was taken aback, almost offended. This is my life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. I am blessed with amazing people and opportunities. 2016 promises to top them all. Fishing, filming, and speaking here and internationally with the greatest fishing professionals in North America. Hunting from the southern border of the U.S. to northern Ontario. Volunteering for so many amazing nonprofits: Pink Boats for Hope, Woman In Need of Kindness, and Keeping Kids In Outdoor Sports. This also is my 15-year anniversary as a biologist; I will fish 30 tournaments, film weekly fishing features for Lakeland News; make cameo appearances for outdoors TV shows; write for Classic Bass; and much more.

None would be possible without my sponsors (13 Fishing, Lund Boats, Evinrude, Power Lodge among them), who support my platform to recruit, retain and empower women and children in fishing and the outdoors. For me, 2016 is 365 days to make an impact, and share my passion and enthusiasm for the outdoors with as many people as possible.