Recently, when Congress proposed HR 621, a bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of public lands, we rallied against it. Outdoor enthusiasts who had never posted anything political on social media spoke out against the public land heist. After we successfully killed the bill, many of you promised to stop political chatter and return to adventure posts.
As tempting as it might be to hide in the forest for the next four years, if we want to protect our rivers and mountains, then occasionally our kayaks, bikes, and rods may need to take a backseat to our activism. Nature as we know it is on the chopping block. Public lands are at risk. We face expanding oil and gas drilling in National Parks, weakening of air pollution standards, and fewer clean water safeguards.
The peril extends to the continued existence of the Environmental Protection Agency thanks to H.R. 861. The bill consists of one chilling sentence: “The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
For those of us who take refuge in the outdoors, without public lands, we have no place to go. If clean water safeguards no longer protect us, contaminants like lead or flame-retardant chemicals could seep into our drinking water. Air pollution could decimate the tourism that small mountain towns depend on. Without the EPA, regulators at every level could face widespread confusion over how to implement environmental laws.
We must act if we want to pass along a healthy world to the little rippers we’re raising. You paddle difficult rapids, ride technical trails, and catch prized fish – you are already strong. Now it’s time to cultivate our courage.
An anonymous source at the E.P.A. said, “Know that there are literally thousands of public servants that will do everything we can to mitigate the damage.” Anticipating that the branch of the Department of Justice that enforces environmental laws will be downsized, lawyers are organizing across the country to bring lawsuits on behalf of citizens injured by corporations violating environmental laws.
We must turn our anguish into action to support those willing to risk their livelihoods. Each small thing we do multiplies in unknown ways, from inspiring others to act, to nudging our representatives to take bold steps.
The freedom to use public lands, breathe clean air, and drink clean water brings us great joy and also carries a responsibility. Our love for the outdoors requires our active participation in politics.
To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ask not what the mountains can do for you, but what you can do for the mountains.
What Can You Do?
Build on the success of public outcry to HR 621. Be relentless in contacting representatives and encouraging them to oppose laws negatively affecting the outdoors.
Write editorials and letters to local newspapers.
Consider attending the Climate March on D.C. on April 29 or other rallies in your neck of the woods.
Use your economic power to reward corporate behaviors that align with your values—and punish those that do not. For example, boycott the products and services of those companies that seek to exploit weakened environmental regulations.
A great example of our buying power is the decision of the Outdoor Retailer show to leave Utah due to the state’s withdrawal of support for Bear Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. The show director for Outdoor Retailer, Marisa Nicholson said, “We are in lockstep with the outdoor community and working on finding a new home.” The trade show brings about 40,000 visitors and $45 million to the host city and is looking to partner with a state that values public lands and believes in conserving the outdoors for the next generation, in line with the values of consumers of outdoor gear.
Show us the money. When legislation stripping us of environmental protections promises to bolster the economy, we must demand transparency. Politicians claim that if the cost of doing business is lowered, then the working class will benefit. Too often, promises of employing more people or paying higher wages go unfulfilled. Instead, corporations continue to increase their profit margins at the expense of nature and the working class.
Stay engaged on social media, which can help movements gather strength and people find their voices. As executive orders and other policies are being passed at a lightning-fast pace, we must all work together to stay informed and mobilized.