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7 Simple Ways to Give Back to Public Lands

When we venture into the great outdoors, we are often greeted by stunning landscapes and breathtaking views. We face challenges that build resilience and confidence, while creating memories with friends and family we cherish forever. These experiences are made possible by the beauty and preservation of our public lands: National parks and forests, BLM land, state parks and wildlife preserves, tribal land, wilderness areas, and local parks and conservation areas – just to name a few.

As hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, it is our duty to give back to the places that provide us with so much joy. In this blog post, we will explore seven simple ways that we can contribute to the conservation and maintenance of these precious public lands.

1. Participate in Clean-up Events

One of the easiest and most effective ways to give back to public lands is by participating in clean-up events. These events are usually organized by local communities or environmental organizations and involve picking up litter, removing invasive species, and restoring damaged trails.

By dedicating a few hours of your time, you can make a significant impact on the cleanliness and preservation of these lands. See local clean up events near you to sign up and attend.

14er Peak Steward

2. Follow Leave No Trace Principles

As hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, it is crucial to follow the Leave No Trace principles. These principles encourage responsible outdoor practices such as packing out all trash, staying on designated trails, and minimizing campfire impacts. By adhering to these guidelines, we can ensure that our presence in public lands does not harm the fragile ecosystems and wildlife that depend on them.

Take the free LNT beginner course online to get started.

3. Support Conservation Organizations

Another way to give back to public lands is by supporting conservation organizations. These organizations work tirelessly to protect and preserve our natural spaces. Consider donating to or volunteering with organizations like the Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, National Forest Foundation, or local land trusts. Your contribution can help fund critical conservation projects and advocacy efforts.

Click here for a comprehensive list of conservation groups in Colorado.

4. Educate Yourself and Others

Knowledge is power, and by educating yourself and others about the importance of public lands, you can make a lasting impact. Learn about the history, biodiversity, and cultural significance of the lands you visit. Share your knowledge with friends, family, and fellow outdoor enthusiasts to promote a greater understanding of the value of these spaces.

Two great ways to do this: Become a Colorado Fourteeners Initiative Peak Steward to share tips and info at trailheads; Or get trained as a certified Leave No Trace trainer to run training events and programs for your own organization and network.

5. Make the Outdoors Inclusive & Equitable

In order to give back to public lands, it is important to make the outdoors inclusive and equitable for all. This means actively working to remove barriers that prevent certain groups from accessing and enjoying these spaces. Support initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion in outdoor activities, such as providing resources and opportunities for underrepresented communities to experience the benefits of nature.

By creating a welcoming and inclusive outdoor environment, we can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to connect with and appreciate public lands.

Image Credit: Colorado Fourteeners Initiative

6. Volunteer for Trail Maintenance

Trails in public lands require regular maintenance to ensure their longevity and safety. Consider volunteering for trail maintenance projects organized by local authorities or hiking clubs. By lending a hand in trail upkeep, you contribute to the accessibility and preservation of these outdoor spaces. Here are several organizations you can volunteer with in Colorado:

  • Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
  • Salida Mountain Trails
  • Volunteers For Outdoor Colorado
  • Colorado Trail Foundation
  • Trails and Open Space Coalition

7. Advocate for Public Lands

Lastly, advocate for public lands and their protection. Stay informed about legislation and policies that affect these spaces. Write to your elected officials, sign petitions, and support initiatives that aim to safeguard public lands. By using your voice, you can help shape the future of these invaluable natural resources.

Consider getting involved with the Fix CRUS Coalition, fighting to protect 14er access, or support the advocacy work done by the CMC, AAC, POW, Conservation Colorado, and the Outdoor Alliance on behalf of the outdoor recreation community.

The Mountains Are Calling… For Help

As hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the public lands that we explore. By participating in clean-up events, following Leave No Trace principles, supporting conservation organizations, educating ourselves and others, practicing sustainable outdoor recreation, volunteering for trail maintenance, and advocating for public lands, we can make a positive impact on these precious landscapes. Let’s ensure that future generations can experience the same wonders of nature that we enjoy today.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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