Samuel Hagler, Bicycle Activist One man is on a 10,000-mile bicycle tour from Paraguay to the U.S. in support of Paraguay’s forests

For more than a year, 27-year-old Samuel Hagler has been on a 10,000-mile bicycle tour from Paraguay to the U.S. to raise awareness and funds for endangered forests worldwide, specifically Paraguay’s San Rafael Reserve. As a Peace Corps volunteer in South America he witnessed the destruction of government-protected reserves. Hagler’s been riding at a rate of 15 miles per hour (just a few towns per day) and hopes to reach the U.S. this summer.

1. E Magazine: What made you decide to take action for Paraguay’s forests?

Samuel Hagler: I spent two years living and working in a village near the jungle in Paraguay. I learned that San Rafael is not a national park, but is owned by local people, many of whom are uninterested in its conservation. They originally invested in it to sell the wood and farm the land—mostly for genetically modified soy exported to the U.S. That destroyed 93% of Paraguay’s Upper Parana Atlantic Forest. Then, in 1992, the government passed a law making it illegal to chop trees in the new San Rafael Reserve. Environmentally it was fantastic, but it was a social and political disaster.

2. E: Why a bicycle ride through 14 countries?

S.H.: At Northern Arizona University I studied Parks and Recreation Management and Philosophy, so I suppose it was only natural to think, “How should I live? What should I do?” and then work a recreational activity into the plan to make it happen.

3. E: Why do this trek solo?

S.H.: Before the tour began I had a few friends’ names penciled in as riding partners, but timing didn’t work out. I have had the pleasure of riding with several touring cyclists along the way, sometimes for an hour, sometimes for a month.

4. E: What obstacles have you encountered?

S.H.: The biggest obstacle so far was a freak killer bee attack in Argentina that resulted in more than 150 stings and the theft of thousands of dollars of gear. The next week my camera was stolen.I have been hit by cars, bitten by dogs and one time I found dozens of ticks in my pants. In Ecuador I was captured by police and accused of head shrinking. In the Amazon rainforest I woke up covered in leaf-cutter ants.

5. E: How much have you raised and what will you do with it?

S.H.: Our goal is $100,000. We’ve received approximately $23,000 in pledges. All donations are given to World Land Trust-US, with 50% of donations going to purchase land. The other half will be used to help support and protect that land.

CONTACT: Ride for the Trees.