On July 15, I attended the America’s Great Outdoors listening session in Asheville, North Carolina. Hundreds of people came from across the region to speak about the conservation issues they care about, including protecting, connecting and restoring our public lands.
Each year an estimated 180 million visitors recreate on national forests and grasslands. In order to serve the needs of these millions of people, the Forest Service manages an existing investment of approximately $4.1 billion in outdoor recreation infrastructure. Recreation is also a key economic driver, representing an estimated 60% of the national forest service’s total contribution to the United States gross domestic product (GDP) — significantly more than logging and other resource extraction activities combined.
In a recent bout of Googling, I fortuitously found the wonderful Web site and blog, Outdoor Afro. Outdoor Afro is a “website community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities.” The owner and operator of the website, Rue Mapp, sat down (virtually, of course) and talked to me about the passion behind Outdoor Afro and why conservation organizations should play a role in encouraging people of color to get outside and care about our wild places.
If you think today’s youth are up to no good, you obviously haven’t been at Newhalem Crags in the North Cascades National Park recently. A group of 8 young climbers and 16 others volunteered a coveted Saturday in September to build an access path to the Crags in Washington.
Here I am at one of the West’s wildest and most spectacular waterways — eastern Oregon’s Owyhee River will offer the chance to escape to a remote desert canyon for six days, where I’ll enjoy stunning towers and rock formations, soak in natural hot springs, catch glimpses of soaring raptors and California bighorn sheep, and test my skill against exciting whitewater rapids.