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A walk to honor water; a gathering to honor land

How many miles would a community of people walk to ensure future generations have access to quality water? Those participating in this year's Aldo Leopold and Earth Week celebrations are prepared to walk 150 miles over six days to honor the land ethic of Aldo Leopold and raise awareness for water quality and environmental issues.

The 10th annual Aldo Leopold Gathering has a new feature this year. Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Environmental Adventure Center and American Indian studies department, the event has partnered with Sharon Day, an Ojibwe elder, for the Chippewa River Water Walk beginning on April 20 in New Post, Wisconsin, and ending on April 25 in Wabasha, Minnesota. The gathering and walk are free and open to the public.

"This year's event draws upon Wisconsin's strong Native American heritage," said Dan Langlois, UW-Eau Claire assistant director of recreation and sport facilities. "The walk is intended to honor the life-giving properties of water. The spiritual dimension is very much a part of Native American tradition."

The design of the Chippewa River Water Walk allows people to join in where they can for as long as they can, and it allows cities and towns along the way to celebrate the Chippewa River's impact on their communities, Langlois said.

Along the last three miles, the walkers will move from Wisconsin into Minnesota. The two states share a great deal in common on conservation issues, so it's a fitting tribute, Langlois said.

The theme of this year's Aldo Leopold Gathering and Chippewa River Water Walk is "A gathering at the two big rivers and planning ahead seven generations."

"With so many people in the world lacking access to quality water and the concerns about water contamination, we should take time to respect and appreciate the Earth's water," Langlois said. "Let's talk about the implications for kids and families who are coming behind us."

The Aldo Leopold Conservation Gathering will be held from 5-9 p.m. on April 25 in Wabasha and will feature a wide variety of speakers from both Native American and conservationist associations, including UW-Eau Claire professor Dr. John Hildebrand and "The Last River Rat" Kenny Salwey. The event also will include music and food.

Chippewa River Water Walk schedule:

April 20: Walk from New Post to nine miles north of Bruce.

April 21: Walk from nine miles north of Bruce to Holcomb.

April 22: Walk from Holcomb to Chippewa Falls.

April 23: Walk from Chippewa Falls to Eau Claire.

April 24: Walk from Eau Claire to Durand.

April 25: Walk from Durand to Wabasha, Minnesota.

For more information about the events surrounding the Aldo Leopold Gathering, contact Dan Langlois at 715-836-3616 or langlodt@uwec.edu, or visit the recreation and sports facilities website or www.nibiwalk.org.