Sundance promotes environmental preservation with Voices of Nature series

A flyer for the Voices of Nature series put together by the Sundance Nature Alliance hangs just inside the Sundance screening room. One of the series’ films, “Path of the Panther,” was shown Oct. 28. (Nathan Beitler)

The Sundance Nature Alliance showcased six different books and films by authors and filmmakers meant to inspire audiences to preserve the natural world.

According to the event page on the Sundance Nature Alliance’s website, the Voices of Nature series, put on in collaboration with the Sundance Mountain Resort and The Redford Center, sought to highlight the works of environmental artists and storytellers in an effort to spark public interest in preserving the natural world.

Executive Director Julie Mack and the Sundance Nature Alliance have worked closely with Robert Redford and The Redford Center to facilitate solutions for environmental issues in Utah. According to its website, The Redford Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to making films aimed at covering environmental impact around the world.

“It just feels really incredible to have Julie (Mack) … and the Sundance Nature Alliance doing the preservation work in this canyon … (and) to be at the heart of the conservation work of the Redford family,” Jill Tidman said, executive director of The Redford Center. “It’s a real gift.”

Tidman described how the goal of these films is to drive education, awareness, community empowerment and policy change in the environmental movement. The Redford Center has supported more than 150 films on the subject of environmental change.

This map of Utah wilderness shows nature preserves east of Mt. Timpanogos and who owns them. The Sundance Nature Alliance works to preserve the natural world in the canyon. (Courtesy of the Sundance Nature Alliance)

The Voices of Nature series included six free individual events where authors such as Priyanka Kumar and filmmakers such as Holly Morris were able to present their works to the public and have an open discussion afterward.

Eric Bendick is the director of the film “Path of the Panther.” The film was shown at the Sundance Mountain Resort as part of the Voices of Nature series. (Courtesy of the Sundance Nature Alliance)

The last showcase of the series was the screening of “Path of the Panther,” a documentary by Emmy award-winning director Eric Bendick which explored the battle between survival and extinction for the Florida Panther in the Southern Everglades of Florida. The film focuses on the desire to rebuild wildlife corridors for the panthers to safely navigate further north. The film was shown in the Sundance Mountain Resort’s Screening Room and there was a Q&A afterward with Bendick.

In the documentary, the Florida legislature was able to unanimously pass a bill preventing the building of a toll road straight through Florida Panther territory which could have spelled disaster for the species. Benidck talked about how Utah needs the same unanimity to protect local wildlife.

“We need that same sort of unanimous spirit from both sides … to keep the U.S., the character and the spirit of the place we all live those (wildlife corridors) all across the country,” Bendick said. “There is a window right now to make the politics align.”

In March 2023, the Utah Legislature passed a bill that allows for the year-round hunting of mountain lions across the state for those with a valid hunting license. Environmentalist groups like the Sundance Nature Alliance are still pushing back on this new law, saying it could considerably hurt the species’ population.

“One of the reasons we wanted to screen [“Path of the Panther”] this evening is because … the Utah Legislature has passed a bill allowing for year-round hunting of mountain lions,” Mack said. “I do think that there is always hope, and what has happened in Texas and what has happened in Florida shows that diverse voices can make a difference.”

The Sundance Nature Alliance is headed by Mack and Creative Director Megan Ah You. Mack currently works with landowners, conservation partners and the state of Utah to help promote and develop programs aimed at conserving and sustaining the biodiversity in Utah.

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