The founder of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Susan Tixier, died last week. She was 73.
In 1989, Tixier founded Great Old Broads while she was living in southern Utah. Since then, the Durango-based organization matured into a national conservation group.
Tixier led the nonprofit as executive director from 1989 through 2000. During her career, she also helped found the New Mexico Environmental Legal Center, Western Lands Advocates and WildEarth Guardians. She was living in Santa Fe when she died Thursday, said Shelley Silbert, current executive director of Great Old Broads. Tixier had been in declining health after a fall.
Since its start as an informal hiking group, the Great Old Broads has grown into 36 chapters with 5,200 members and supporters, Silbert said. “She never imagined the organization would still be around 25 years later. ... Her vision was very immediate.”
Tixier was inspired to start the nonprofit after Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, opposed a wilderness designation for an area in Utah because the elderly were unable to access the wilderness without roads.
“Several of us took umbrage and decided the honorable senator from Utah, as well as others in Congress, should hear from some Great Old Broads for Wilderness about how we felt about roads in wild places,” she wrote in a 2001 story published in Grist, a nonprofit news website.
After she left the nonprofit, it continued to build on her passion for activism, fun and humor.
“So much of who we are today really comes from the ideas she put in place,” Silbert said.
For example, Tixier organized a protest near Moab where the Broads came out to metaphorically sweep up after the Jeeps, said MB McAfee, who took over as executive director after Tixier.
After a Jeep crashed and spilled transmission fluid, the Broads helped mop up the mess, while the local news media covered the scene.
In addition to her sense of humor, Tixier brought to the organization, she also gave older women an outlet to enjoy the wilderness and have their voices heard.
She offered advice to her peers: “You can go out there and walk. If you walk slowly, that’s OK; others are walking slowly, too.”