Having wild spaces which are protected, accessible, and maintained for the purpose of recreation is about as American as it gets. Our love and affinity for these Public Lands is not unique in the world, but what is unique is the spirit in which we boldly continue to explore them as individuals.
I could sit here and quote thousands of writings, show you millions of images, and provide a detailed history of the various Ordinances, Acts of Congress, and Executive Orders which have created these areas for us as Americans to enjoy. But I would rather you investigate and educate yourself on those – and come to your own conclusion as to their value and worthiness to support.
These places affect all of us on a much more personal level, and that’s truly what makes them special for each of us – we each take from these places a specific feeling, emotion, and memory to share through our oral history and at times in written word and images.
In the immortal words of Steve Martin, “I was raised on the idea of the ramblin’ man and loner.” What I have come to realize is this: Ramblin’ hasn’t left me alone, in fact it has brought me closer to people than I ever could have expected. Being present and actively participating in recreational activities in those wild places while advocating their sustainable use has embedded me into the lives of both young and old.
The affect these places have on us cannot be discounted for the needs of the few who would reward themselves monetarily – the riches wild places reward us with are riches based in love. The true love we have for our children, our parents, our friends, and our ancestors who reach these places through hard work and escape to them in an effort to nourish their souls and feel connected to each other and nature.
The memories and education provided by these lands harkens to the very spirit of what it means to be Americans. We strive to innovate, to explore, and to challenge ourselves to become better as humans and to be successful as individuals. There is no fabricating what these lands provide through artificial means. There is no cage or protective barrier in these wild places, and that is the thing which fills our emotions and challenges our minds and bodies – being on the edge and embracing the fact that we are just a small piece of nature.
The images and stories of the people I meet while traveling with my dog into these places has rewarded me with a fortune that cannot be counted or tallied in any way. The openness of conversation, the hospitality given, the clearing of ignorance through education, and the kindness of the smiles I have experienced are all tied to the shared love we have by being active and adventurous.
All of us work hard to reach these places. Some are fortunate enough to use these places as a means of income. Most of us only reach them a few times a year. The rest of the time we sit and fantasize about being there, or recall memories of previous trips in an effort to distract us from our mundane day to day lives. But what would we do if those places were no longer available to us? What would we be willing to do to ensure they continue to be accessible? Would we be willing to sacrifice those places and allow them to become destroyed and lost forever?
This is where I would normally jump on my soapbox and start preaching to you about supporting this organization or another. And you should, but more important than that is the fact that you as an individual have a greater voice than perhaps you even realize. Your individual voice has more power in many instances than any organization or agency purposed to help these places.
It’s taken a long time for me to fully comprehend this fact as an individual, and my hope and the purpose for this article is to express how important it truly is.
Your individual voice, your personal story, your individual memory, that is what eventually makes the difference. Those stories and memories are made, remembered, and told through your perspective and with the true love you hold for that experience. That is what makes policy makers, stakeholders, agencies, and organizations work toward a positive future for them. Your individual memory being shared sparks a memory in their minds and causes them to reflect on their own memories. That connection is what we all share at the end of everything – the love for these places which inspire us.
You can learn more about the organizations and companies who are #publiclandsproud – you can see the diversity of them by visiting: http://sportsmensaccess.org/ and joining with the rest of us who are actively trying to protect them for all our futures.