When I started this piece, it was going to be a how-to to help outdoor recreationists make the step from being users of public places to stewards of the places they love. I’d recently read a post by The Morning Fresh blogger Katie Boué called “The outdoor community must step up and become advocates & activists–NOW.” (The caps lock and that gloriously assertive period are part of the original title).
She writes about attending an EPA hearing about a clean air rule in Salt Lake City and her disappointment in the lack of representation by the outdoor recreation community, especially compared with the masses of pro-coal attendees.
After reading, I wanted to help readers (scarce and dedicated as you are) make your plan to take action.
I didn’t see myself as part of the “problem” until about halfway through writing, when I got to the part about picking your cause and taking action. I realized was telling readers to find and participate in their local causes, but I didn’t do that. I was, despite always practicing Leave No Trace and actively enjoying public land, the careless hedonist so often criticized by those who see outdoor recreationists as just land users rather than responsible stewards. Ouch.
And so I arrived at the critical junction all Internet readers confront: do we read the blurb, then click to the next video of our favorite climber doing something awesome, or do we get off our computers and do something real?
I’ve already done something different than I usually do—I’m writing about the problem I see and am a part of. Whew. I’m covered, right?
Step two: back it up with action.
This part is hard. The world has a million problems, and I get wrapped up in just solving my own daily mishaps, or just prefer to spend my time on things that are fun and personally fulfilling—like playing outside (again, careless hedonist and not totally ashamed of it).
But that response just isn’t good enough for me anymore. If I care about the places I play in, whose scents I relish and whose trails I’ve memorized, then I have to step up and take care of them. Otherwise, I’m just a bad roommate who never takes out the trash, mows the lawn, or helps out when the heater’s making weird noises. I’m just there.
So, let’s make that step together, in whatever large or small way we can, from just enjoyers of the land to activists and stewards for the land. Every action, no matter how sporadic or small, counts.
For me, that will look like staying informed about national issues and contacting my local outdoor council for resources about efforts I can participate in or contribute to.
Below are a few resources I like to use to stay informed about what’s happening in the outdoor world—they might be a helpful place for you to start, too.
And in the middle of all the activism you’re about to dive into, remember what Edward Abbey said (I get goosebumps every time I read it):
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast…a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.”
- The Outdoor Alliance: Their blog gives helpful insights about legislation concerning public lands. It’s pretty nice packaging—nothing too crazy. “Our mission is to protect, enhance, and promote the human-powered outdoor recreation experience by uniting the voices of outdoor enthusiasts to conserve America’s public lands.”
- High Country News: Covers issues in the Mountain West
- Outdoor Industry Association: a trade association for the outdoor (mainly recreation) industry, they keep an eye on Congress and stuff about outdoor recreation from a business’ perspective and the outdoor recreation economy,. Knowing the way these trends affect business is super helpful, and also have a government affairs team in D.C. to represent outdoor industry interests to congress.
- Local organizations: you’ll have to do a bit of your own searching here, but your local land trust, land management agency, conservation organization, etc., will be the best place to start with informing yourself of what’s happening and what you can do close to home.
What are you going to do (or already do) for your favorite places? Tell us in the comments below!