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How A Segmented Outdoor Community Can Unite To Save Public Lands

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune

The outdoor community has the potential to be the most influential community in the United States. With over 142 million U.S. citizens participating in outdoor activities regularly, the outdoor community comprises 48.4 percent of the entire U.S. population.

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to public lands that are protected because of their natural beauty and adventure potential; however, with a recent push by the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress to sell public lands to private investors, these territories are in danger of losing their protection.

The outdoor community (which includes, hunters, fishers, hikers, backpackers, trail runner, and more) has the capacity to shape public policy when it comes to land protection, if it can unite.
Currently, the outdoor community is fractured; it consists of multiple sub-groups that differ on plenty of hot-button topics.

“Sportsmen, as a group, live under a big tent. There is, however, a regrettable and deep divide within that tent—between gun-rights advocates and environmentalists—that has been present for many years,” said Monte Burke of Forbes magazine.

The unifying factor for this half of the U.S. population can come through advocacy for the protection of public lands; without lands like National Forests, no one can participate in outdoor activities, no matter what that activity may be.

As time passes, the outdoor community continues to grow more powerful. According to the Outdoor Participation Report by The Outdoor Foundation, 10.8 million Americans started participating in one or more outdoor activities in 2015. Young adults (new voters), ages 18 to 24, experienced a five percent increase in outdoor adventures. This gives the community that many more voices to campaign for the protection of public lands.

Most outdoor enthusiasts require public lands to enjoy their 11.7 billion outdoor outings each year. These adventures include: trail running (51.5 million participants), fishing (45.7 million participants), biking (43.1 million participants), and hiking (37.2 million participants).

With this many factions of the outdoor community focusing on a common goal of public land protection, the community’s voice can’t go unnoticed. And, with a rapid increase of potential legislation aimed to slash public lands, the outdoor community’s voice will only grow louder.

“President Trump’s first budget completely disregards our environment and the public lands which millions of American families use for recreation,” said Will Rogers of The Huffington Post.

Trump’s proposed budget cuts would slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Parks Service, among other less-popular public land protection organizations.

“There is absolutely no economic justification for pulling the rug out from ongoing collaborative local, state and federal efforts aimed at supporting parks, trails and other outdoor recreation needs, all of which sustain a burgeoning $646 billion economy that supports 6.1 million American jobs,” said Rogers.

Trump has inspired some Republican members of Congress to push for the sale of public lands to private investors, especially oil and natural gas producers. These bills have the potential to decimate natural landscapes and ecosystems that members of the outdoor community need in order to enjoy their outdoor activities, whether that’s hunting, fishing, hiking, or camping.

Though a proposed bill to sell 3.3 million acres of public land has been revoked, other bills remain on the table; these proposed bills specifically aim to encourage drilling in National Parks and lessen restrictions on the use of all federally protected lands.

And it’s the beauty of public lands that encourage many members of the outdoor community to participate in outdoor activities. According to the Outdoor Participation Report, 48 percent of outdoor enthusiasts participate in outdoor activities to “be close to nature” or “ enjoy the sounds and smells of nature.”

Imagine how much more beautiful Yellowstone National Park would be with 14 oil wells surrounding Old Faithful? Kids will forever see Arches National Park’s natural arches surrounded by natural gas pipelines.

Studies show that more young people (ages 6 to 17) are beginning to join the outdoor community as well: 10.9 million of U.S. young people (21 percent) camp and backpack, 21 percent fish, and 7.7 million hike regularly.

To deprive the upcoming generation of genuine outdoor experiences in order to stimulate the economy for short-sighted growth would be a tragedy. If outdoor enthusiasts want future generations to have the opportunity to adventure through beautiful nature territories, the outdoor community must unite and stand against the destruction of public lands.

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Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.
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