Recent medical and economic research has revealed two things. First, time spent in nature is critical to our health in more ways than we’ve ever imagined. Second, the economic impact of the outdoor industry is huge. It’s the perfect time for outdoor lovers to speak up.
Here are seven quick—and surprisingly effective—things you can do to help protect the places you play.
Help Kids Get Outside
Playing outside is critical to both our health and saving the outdoors. But not everyone gets outside or feels comfortable there. Affinity for nature is formed at a young age. Screen media, urbanizing populations, and busy schedules make it harder to get kids out in mother nature. “If you don’t have a connection to something, you won’t fight for it, “says Kate Ross of Willamette Riverkeeper. Conservations organizations have renewed their efforts to help people have fun outside, as well as the classic means of protecting the outdoors via science, policy, and issues work. Outdoor junkies can help introduce others to camping, hiking, paddling, and sharing their love of what they do.
Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is
The Outdoor Recreation industry in the U.S. is enormous: $646 billion in economic impact. Outdoor recreation is larger than the GDP of Switzerland and employs more Americans than Apple. Every outdoors person should share stories about outdoor-related businesses, jobs, economic development, and tourism with their friends.
Travel—and Talk About It
Most of the economic impact from the Outdoor Recreation industry is in travel. When you go somewhere to hike, cycle, ski, or paddle, the restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other businesses often never find out how much of their income is related to the outdoors. Let them know why you’re there.
One Short Email
Land managers and officials need to hear regularly from outdoor enthusiasts. One of the most impactful—and quickest—things you can do, according to the Sitka Conservation Society’s Adam Andis, is to send one quick email when you get back from a trip. “Write a very short email that says, “I went to this place and really appreciated that it’s kept wild,” he says. “Send it to two people: the manager of that park or national forest and your Congressman.”
Connect With Experts
You don’t have to be a biologist, legal expert, or invasive plant whiz to help protect the places you play. “Contrary to what most people think, conservation is easy,” says Jay Morrison, an Ontario-based paddler and wild river advocate. “You probably already have skills that you can use.” Conservation groups will provide technical skills and direction.
Use the Social Network
Conservation groups rely enormously on their ability to rally people to clean up rivers, restore wetlands, and speak out on policy issues. They always need people who can reach other people who love the outdoors and can spread the word about events, key decisions, and ways to get involved. Most outdoors lovers are networked into groups of people these groups aren’t. You can help them extend their reach.
Most of all, being an outdoor advocate is fun. It’s a tribe of like-minded souls who care about the outdoors and know how to enjoy themselves.