How to Advocate for Less-Glamorous Public Lands

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

There are some states that you may instinctively associate with the outdoors– California, Colorado, North Carolina, Utah to name a few. These places have majestic mountains, badass rock formations, the most amazing forests, or waterfalls that gush for days. In addition to their natural beauty, they have well-known and outspoken advocacy for their public lands.  

On the flip side, there are states where you have to look a bit harder. I realized this when I moved from Washington to Ohio. Friends teased me about moving to the flat state, once known for its river that caught on fire for being so polluted. Ohio, of course, has beautiful natural places and passionate advocates to match–you just need to know where to look. If you’re seeking spaces and resources in your state, here are some ways to start: 

Take some time to learn about your state & its public lands. 

It’s easy to start with places that people are in love with – because those are definitely the ones they will fight to protect. Social media will point you in the right direction. Beyond that, a quick internet search for “best natural spot in any state” or “best hiking” will return articles from Outdoor to Prevention Magazine. Once you know about your state’s favorite places, look into the lesser-known, hidden gems. Check out the state’s Department of Natural Resources or its State Parks list. Additionally, REI’s Co-Op Journal also has a series of articles grouped by region highlighting spaces, activities, and issues.   

Learn about the issues from national and state-level sources.

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) website is a good starting point, providing information at both the national and state-wide levels. Issues are listed, along with easy-to-consume, state-specific reports with quick facts (Number of Outdoor Recreation Jobs, Amount in Consumer Spending & more). With this knowledge in hand, you can then use their links to reach out to your legislators. Similarly, national non-profits like The Sierra Club & The Nature Conservancy have local chapters, which will connect you to issues and people in the community. Finally, seek out local environmental groups. Ohio’s Environmental Council, as an example, provides an Advocacy Toolkit which highlights weekly statehouse activities as well as provides tips on how to connect with lawmakers.  

Tap into or create grassroots efforts.

Beyond the organized efforts of a Sierra Club or Nature Conservancy, there are likely grassroots groups doing good things to protect public lands in your state. 

  • Check out, Facebook, or other groups/event listings to see what might be going on in your area. If there’s not an event scheduled, this could be your time to step up & get one organized. 
  • A rally, clean-up, or letter-writing campaign can all be useful ways to start small and mobilize your community. Check out the river clean-ups done by Hashtag 59 in Columbus Ohio as an example. 

Remember as Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” 

Here are a few resources so you can dive deeper: 

Rita Volpi
Rita Volpi

Rita Volpi is a midwesterner with a passion for the outdoors, traveling and a good donut. She splits her time between consulting, planning events for the two local movie theaters she owns with her husband and hanging out with her pup, Titan. Rita enjoys meeting other outdoorsy peeps through local clean-ups & serving on the board for Friends of the Columbus Metro Parks.  

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail to write your own.

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