The Glen Canyon Natural History Association has named Martin Stamat as their new executive director. Stamat took over the position last Monday, replacing Karen Dallet who served in the position for two years.
The NHA would have been hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about America’s public lands and wild places than Stamat. Very few weekends pass that don’t find him exploring some wild pocket on the Colorado Plateau.
In the past year, he’s visited 10 national parks, 13 national monuments, three national forests and three national recreation areas, usually traveling with his dog, Paria, and his girlfriend, Paige Spowart. His favorite national park or monument is the Grand Staircase-Escalante. He loves it for its unique features and its immense size and emptiness.
“There’s so much space out there,” he said. “There could be 5,000 people out there and you’d never know it.”
He believes being caring stewards of America’s public lands is one of the best things we can do to preserve both our heritage and our future.
“This is the country’s beauty as well as our natural and cultural resources,” he said. “America pioneered the idea of setting aside land for posterity and for the public. Planning ahead is one of our greatest endeavors with our nation’s experiment with democracy. It’s never been attempted before, especially on such a large scale. I think there’s nothing better than protecting this country’s natural beauty.
“More than ever, in our digital age, being unplugged and away from it all is paramount. Large wild spaces give us a sense of perspective. People need reflection and space, and public lands offer that.”
Stamat is a firm believer in equal use for our public lands.
“National parks are wonderful but not all public lands need to be sequestered,” he said. “Equal use is equally important. I support public lands being used for responsible forestry, and grazing as well as recreation.”
Stamat says he’s very much looking forward to his new role at the NHA, and hopes to continue the organization’s vital role in assisting the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Rainbow Bridge National Monument with public outreach and involvement.
“There’s a lot we can do to reach people through our various programs and festivals,” he said, “whether it’s through our film festival, bat festival, stargazing parties or guest lecturers. All these programs help people experience the many things that make Glen Canyon unique. I’d like to see the NHA be a more present entity in the city of page. I think there are still a lot of Page residents who may not know what we do.”
Stamat grew up on a 14-acre horse farm with six horses in Midway, North Carolina, a town about half the size of Page. He grew up doing farmwork and traipsing around the woods with his older brother and younger sister. He said his love for the outdoors started there. Most of the land around the farm was developed and it led him to seek places that were less developed.
Stamat got his first good look at large swaths of undeveloped land during a family roadtrip from North Carolina to San Francisco when he was in his mid-teens. The trip included stops in New Orleans, Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, King’s Canyon, Sequoia National Park, Death Valley and Hoover Dam.
“It was exciting passing over such huge tracts of land,” he said. “It empressed upon me how big this country really is and that there’s a lot going on.”
He found it very inviting.
“The west has always appealed to me,” Stamat said. “More of the things I value I can find in the west.”
From 2008-2013, he worked as a teacher’s assistant for an anthropology professor at Appalachian State University. Part of the curriculum included visiting the places they had discussed in class, which included Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelley, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Mesa Verde and several other stops.
“That first trip solidified my interest in this region,” he said. “Back east we had streams and public lands, but out here its more accessible and better preserved.”
The other big take away from those field trips with the anthropology students was sharing his knowledge and passion with other young people.
“From that experience, I realized that I really enjoy sharing my love for the outdoors and America’s culture with others,” he said. “That led me to a string of positions where I shared these delicate, remote places with people to help foster their stewardship.”
Stamat moved to Page in July 2013 to be a river guide for Colorado River Discovery. The next year, he was promoted to river operations manager, a position he resigned last week to make way for his new position at the NHA.
On Monday, Stamat settled into his new office at the NHA offices. He met with some of his staff and co-workers, organized his desk, cleaned out the spam from his email’s inbox.
Three of his office’s four wall are blank, but the wall in front of his desk is comprised of a floor to ceiling bookshelf that’s filled with hundreds of books relating to Glen Canyon, Rainbow Bridge, Grand Staircase-Escalante and the surrounding area.
“One of the most exciting parts about this position is just the amazing amount of resources and talent that the NHA has its disposal,” Stamat said.
“This bookshelf is a really great metaphor of that. You look at passion and dedication that all these writers and photographers put into these books. The NHA is filled with same level of talented, knowledgeable people who care share the same passion for our wild, public lands that I do.”
The remaining three walls are blank.
“I hope to fill them with little mementos of what the NHA is working toward and how we’re progressing in regards to that mission.”