Public lands may be an unfamiliar term to you, but chances are good that if you like to play outside, you’re very familiar with our country’s public lands!
The United States federal government owns 640 acres of land, nearly 28% of the total country. This includes national parks, national forests, national grasslands, national monuments...the list goes on and on! That number doesn’t cover all the land owned by states, counties and cities: your state parks, county open spaces and city parks. And the best part? These lands are public, meaning they belong to you and me!
When Bears Ears and Grand Escalante National Monuments were shrunk this past year, it was the first time many Americans realized that our public lands need protecting. The wild places we love to play in don’t come without effort. They are at risk from many things including being sold for private purposes (ie, development, mining), human impact (ie, trash, overuse) and natural impact (ie, drought, fires).
So, how can you get involved in protecting our public lands?
Volunteer or Donate
It may surprise you, but much of the hard work it takes to keep your favorite places beautiful is done by volunteers. It takes a lot of work to maintain trails - with thousands of people walking on them each year and natural erosion occuring, trails are in need of constant maintenance. Unfortunately, another reality of humans using public lands is that trash often gets left behind. To help keep our wild places wild, clean-ups are also an important part of maintaining public lands.
There are many organizations across the United States that organize volunteer trail building or restoration outings and clean-ups. Use Google to find a way to get involved in your area and, of course, if you’re in Arizona check out Keep It Wild’s Cleanups! Don’t forget that you don’t need a group outing to help keep your public lands beautiful! You can help every time you go outside by picking up trash you see along the way and sticking to the middle of the main trails to help keep down erosion! If you don’t have the time, or ability, to volunteer, many organizations appreciate donations as well!
Get Involved in Policy
Those who hold the fate of our public lands in their hands - our Congressmen and Senators - work for you and me! Don’t wait until something big is on the chopping block, write your Congressperson or Senator today to let them know how you feel about public lands. Your voice matters and there’s someone in that office whose job it is to read your opinions. You will be heard! Democracy.io makes it easy to contact your representatives.
Show The Love
Your friend who doesn’t understand how you could consider a Cliff Bar on the side of a mountain “brunch” may not get why you’re upset that some local open space is being demolished for a strip mall - there’s going to be a new Starbucks, what's the big deal?
That’s why sharing the love for our public lands is so important. To get someone to take action, they first have to care and to get someone to care, they first have to appreciate. So, show them the love! Introduce them to your favorite outdoor sport, post pictures on social media that will make them jealous or invite them to go “brunch” with you next weekend. The best way to get others involved is to get them to appreciate our public places.
Our wild places don’t protect themselves! If you love them, show it and make a commitment to get involved today!
Narrator: This blog was thoughtfully written by Mikaela Ruland. You can find her on Instagram @airundermyheels.