Maine North Woods - Photo credit: Zack Frank
Maine North Woods — Pho­to cred­it: Zack Frank

Amer­i­ca the beau­ti­ful. As Amer­i­cans, this is a phrase we’ve grown up with and it’s some­thing to say with pride, because come on now- this land real­ly is as stun­ning as it gets.

We’ve tak­en the fam­i­ly road trips to pro­tect­ed nat­ur­al areas across the country—been left speech­less from the sights of tow­er­ing glac­i­ers, found soli­tude explor­ing mon­strous red rock canyons and expe­ri­enced the thrill of pad­dling a mon­strous riv­er in the mid­dle of nowhere. But  there are many more nat­ur­al won­ders out there equal­ly as beau­ti­ful that are not pro­tect­ed and instead, threatened.

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Zack Frank is on a mis­sion to change that with his kick ass Kick­starter project, Undis­cov­ered Amer­i­ca. Frank hopes to raise $20,000 to trav­el to 54 iden­ti­fied sites across the coun­try for six months and snap pic­tures that will be fea­tured in a unique pho­tog­ra­phy book to help raise aware­ness about sav­ing these lands.

I chat­ted with Frank about the over­all project, why it is incred­i­bly impor­tant to give these sites our atten­tion and how indi­vid­u­als can get involved.

The Clymb: How did the idea for the Undis­cov­ered Amer­i­ca project come about?
Zack Frank: I’ve trav­eled to the Nation­al Parks my whole life and I feel that they are the high­est exam­ples of our nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment. How­ev­er, dur­ing these trips I would some­times go through areas that were just as incred­i­ble as the parks, and I had a hard time rec­on­cil­ing why these places were not pro­tect­ed in the same way. Over the last decade I’ve been com­pil­ing a list of land­scapes that could be poten­tial, future Nation­al Parks and decid­ed I could help bring aware­ness for these sites if I vis­it­ed each of them and made a pho­tog­ra­phy book show­cas­ing them.

Clymb: How did you choose these places?
ZF: It’s not an exact sci­ence, but I tried to pick envi­ron­ments that are rel­a­tive­ly unknown, cur­rent­ly unpro­tect­ed as Nation­al Parks, nat­u­ral­ly sig­nif­i­cant, and visu­al­ly beau­ti­ful. Any place unique, and impor­tant enough was added to my list.

Sca­b­lands — Pho­to cred­it: Zack Frank

Clymb: Ulti­mate­ly, what goals do you want to achieve with this project?
ZF: The goal of this project is sim­ply to raise aware­ness for amaz­ing land­scapes like the Owyhee Canyon­lands, Coal Mine Canyon, Bridger Wilder­ness and Maine North Woods. Hope­ful­ly, by spread­ing aware­ness, it might edu­cate peo­ple on the nat­ur­al world and inspire them to try to con­serve these areas for future gen­er­a­tions. Every Pres­i­dent since 1890 has cre­at­ed at least one Nation­al Park (except Tru­man and Ford, who did cre­ate Nation­al Mon­u­ments though), so there will very like­ly be more. I hope I can help to get my gen­er­a­tion to real­ize that the nat­ur­al world is just impor­tant as they feel cities and tech­nol­o­gy are.

Clymb: What are some of the threats these places face in regards to preser­va­tion?
ZF: Some of these places are at risk of being drilled, mined, logged, fracked and devel­oped. While indus­try is impor­tant, we should also be try­ing to pro­tect the best tracts of land that have not been rep­re­sent­ed in cur­rent con­ser­va­tion efforts. Just as the great plains were most­ly altered by the arrival of set­tlers, small­er Eco regions like the Sca­b­lands, Great Lakes, and bay­ous were large­ly changed as well. Still, each of those areas have places that can still be made into Nation­al Parks before all of the land is altered.

Clymb: Why is it impor­tant to raise aware­ness for the preser­va­tion of these spe­cif­ic lands?
ZF: These are endan­gered land­scapes that most peo­ple don’t even know are there. Over the last 150 years we’ve done an amaz­ing job ele­vat­ing some of our nat­ur­al won­ders to icon­ic sta­tus. Every­one knows about Nia­gara Falls, Yel­low­stone and the Grand Canyon because we’ve made them famous with pho­tos, movies and desk­top wall­pa­pers. While we ele­vat­ed these sites, we also pushed oth­er ones out of our aware­ness. As a result it makes it eas­i­er for com­pa­nies to exploit areas that are equal­ly impres­sive as the Nation­al Parks, but tru­ly unknown.

Clymb: How can peo­ple get involved and donate?
ZF: If any­one inter­est­ed in nature, pho­tog­ra­phy or con­ser­va­tion could donate a few dol­lars and tell their friends about this project, it would be fund­ed so quick­ly and I could expand the project to include addi­tion­al sites. Being a Kick­starter project, you would get rewards for back­ing the project like a copy of my pho­tog­ra­phy book, signed pho­tog­ra­phy prints, post­cards from the road, and more!