Why We Need The Candidate That Hiked the 800-Mile Arizona Trail in the State Legislature
Blog Contributor Bio: Communications Director for the French for Arizona campaign and former international development worker who has traveled to 52 countries and lived on 5 continents working on education and healthcare projects.
In June of 2019, through scorching,120-degree heat, my mom (retired Army Colonel Felicia French) and I hiked from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon.
Wilderness trips are a tradition for us. We’ve hiked the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, as well as Mount Kilimanjaro and parts of the Appalachian Trail.
Each trip proved how capable and committed my mom is. But last spring, she astonished me with her sheer determination and toughness.
Despite countless bleeding blisters, a knee injury, and extreme weather, she spent 60 days trekking the entire 800-mile Arizona Trail, from Mexico to Utah.
My mom tackled this crazy effort for several reasons: to get to know her home state better, to bring awareness to water issues, and to recharge before her 2020 race for state Senate.
While we only hiked the Grand Canyon together, I resupplied her with food and water the rest of the way. Each time we met at the designated GPS coordinates, I reminded her that if the trail got too rough, she didn’t have to continue. Each time, she smiled through the pain and said she had to finish what she started.
As she crossed the Sonoran Desert, hiked through the world’s largest Ponderosa pine forest, climbed mountain ranges, and scaled the Grand Canyon, she journaled her discoveries on Facebook.
These discoveries included mining reclamation projects, where Arizona taxpayers have borne toxic waste clean-up costs ignored by private mining interests, and abandoned uranium mines, whose deadly, radioactive poisons have exposed Grand Canyon populations (especially Navajo and Hopi communities) to cancer and other diseases.
In several cases, clean-up efforts for uranium waste have actually cost 50% more than the value of uranium extracted.
But she discovered more than scars from the past. She saw countless new mines and chemical fracking wells. These projects (combined with Arizona’s 20-year drought), recklessly threaten our drinking water.
In the Holbrook Basin alone, there are 80 chemical fracking permits. This basin sits above the Coconino Aquifer—a source for Lake Mead—which provides water for 40 million people.
Last year, 42 U.S. fracking companies filed bankruptcy, dumping $26 billion of debt on taxpayers. As if this tax burden weren’t enough, just one well can deplete and poison 45 million gallons of water.
My mom recognizes that natural resources, like the Grand Canyon, are worth vastly more to Arizona’s economy through tourism than any one-time mineral and timber extraction for short-term profit.
Despite the disturbing environmental damage she witnessed, she was continuously awed by Arizona’s unique open spaces, from Saguaro National Park to the Mogollon Rim to the Vermillion Cliffs.
These experiences have inspired her to move Arizona forward with real solutions.
That’s why my mom is running for state Senate. She wants Arizona to tap into existing tourism opportunities and lead the nation in renewable energy—a sector that provides three times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. As America’s second sunniest state, she wants to bring thousands of stable, high-paying jobs and billions in economic growth (which would also save up to $63 million annually in health costs).
As a sustainability scientist, nurse, and former educator, medical evacuation helicopter pilot, and statewide Army medical advisor, she will bring not only expertise and experience to this role, she knows firsthand why Arizona is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and she wants to keep it that way.
She would also be the first Arizona representative who has actually hiked the entire Arizona Trail!
The bottom line: conservation benefits far outweigh any perceived short-term profits from mining, fracking, and deforestation. We need leaders like my mom, Felicia French, who understand that protecting our water and land puts the health and economic security of Arizonans first.