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Veronica Egan and the 'Great Old Broads' keep vigil over endangered wild lands.

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Egan learned early about the destruction humans can do to the natural environment. As a child in Cleveland, she grew up near the shore of Lake Erie. While she had freedom as a kid to ramble through the ravines and wooded areas near her home, her parents forbade her to go near the lake. Because of its severe pollution, the government deemed Erie a "dead" body of water. Egan remembers seeing the banks lined with dead fish. That image made a deep impression on her.

Later, when her family was preparing to move to New Mexico – and Egan set off for college – Ohio's Cuyahoga River caught fire, fueled by petrochemicals in the water. Coincidentally, Egan discovered Rachel Carson's landmark book on the environment, "Silent Spring."

These events ignited a passion in Egan to become an advocate for natural resources. Living in Santa Fe, N.M., on her family's dude ranch – "a hotel with horses," she says, laughing – she became a professional guide and outfitter for 30 years, which helped her understand the wisdom of conservation and good stewardship of the land, something she began to share.

"I used my saddle as my soapbox," she says.

Much later, when she decided to make a change, she felt drawn to Great Old Broads. "The mission spoke to my passion. And, of course, there's the name of the group – I loved the humor."

In the rough-and-tumble world of environmental activism, the age factor can be a plus, Egan says. Broads in 22 chapters – "Broadbands" – in 18 states join with other environmental groups to ensure that wilderness areas will be preserved for future generations.

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