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How to Support the Great Outdoors while Stuck Indoors: Become an Outdoor Advocate

Tired of being stuck inside? Sick of walking the same miles of local trail every day? Pining for your favorite and far-flung outdoor spots?

Regardless of how near or far we're able to roam during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can remain connected to the outdoors we love to hike, run, ski, climb, and paddle. Whether you have some time, money, or skills to share, you can become an outdoor advocate for the places you value, even while staying safe at home. 

Here are some ways to get involved and stay engaged, even if the farthest you're traveling for now is in your outdoor imaginations.


Start Local: Hey, where'd that trail sign come from?

Whether your local trailheads and parks are overcrowded or closed, soothing havens or sources of pandemic stress, there's likely a land trust, trail group, or other entity that owns, supports, or helps maintain the outdoor spaces you enjoy.

Someone helped build those trails, put up those signs, and raise funds for their protection. Look around—at the trailhead and online—find out who's involved, and thank them by supporting their work. Nonprofits always appreciate a monetary donation, but especially now when giving is down and local use has gone up.

I have no excuse not to support my local land trust, since I live in its watershed and regularly run, bike, and ski on its trails. Find your local land trusts through the Land Trust Alliance. Then pass the word on to friends who are getting out and discovering these places for the first time. 


Share Your Skills: Um, does anyone know how to use QuickBooks?

If you use trails (and if you're here you likely do), trailwork is an obvious way to give back, but it's not the only way. What are your personal and professional skills? From accounting to graphic design, nonprofits and recreation groups are often in need of individuals to help with membership, fundraising, outreach, social media, education, and other needs.

Offer up your specialized skills and interest to a local organization or chapter and you will make someone's day. Commitment can be as small as proofreading a brochure or cleaning a trailhead, or as big as heading a committee or joining a board. Follow your unique interests and skills.


Join the Club: From a social distance, please

What do you care about? The outdoors is probably up there, right? Well what specifically about the outdoors? Is it outdoor access, climate change's effect on skiing, your local river or crag, increasing diversity, protecting grizzly bear habitat, getting kids outside...getting kids outside with grizzly bears (well, maybe not the last)?

Take a moment to identify the specific causes and places that matter most to you. Then find the nonprofits addressing and protecting them and join. It's a cliché, but your donation of any size will make a difference. There may even be a tote bag and sticker in it for you. 

For me, I love watching and photographing birds, and while I've been a member of many outdoor organizations, somehow I never joined Audubon. That's a ridiculous oversight. So, this month I became a member of our state chapter.

There are a lot of organizations out there, so you may want help narrowing it down. You can discover nonprofits working on climate, food, land, pollution, water, and wildlife issues through 1% for the Planet. You also can visit Charity NavigatorBBB Wise Giving Alliance, and CharityWatch for independent ratings of nonprofit organizations.


Become an Advocate: How can I be an #OutdoorInfluencer?

Coronavirus, politics, the economy—right now the news and life itself can feel overwhelming and doomsie (I just made that word up, but I think it fits the times we live in). None of us can keep up with all of the issues all the time, but lots of little actions can add up to big movements.

Once you've found trustworthy nonprofit organizations (see above) learn about the issues they're addressing that impact you and the places and activities you care most about. Then take action by contacting your representatives, submitting public comments, voting in elections, and spreading the word. 

Here are just a few examples of how outdoor nonprofits can keep us informed, engaged, and socially active:

None of us can do it all, but all of us can do something for the outdoor areas we personally love and value, even when stuck indoors. As POW states, "find the campaigns that connect with you, then make moves." Whether on the ground or at the computer, we can all be outdoor influencers for the special lands and waters that move and sustain us.


Wow great stuff Alicia, thank you for the effort of putting this together. I'm inspired!

Nice ideas, I hope those being paid to stay home get inspired.  I have repurposed some of my garden waste into fund raising merchandise.  I've been potting cactus cuttings for years, which I "donate" to local funds raisers.  They cost about $10 each to make (for the soil and 5 gal pot), which I ask be paid back.  Typically that earns the fundraiser $20 - $40 per cactus.  The typical specimen stands 3 - 4' tall.  I currently have around 40 that will be ready to sell by fall.  I also throw in a bunch of small, potted, cacti and succulents, just for fun.

As for me, my wife and I have lost our business and are very busy trying to figure out how to meet financial obligations, and get jobs that replace the business.  I will let you in on a secret: You have to work impossibly hard to start most businesses, at great expense, too.  But I am finding it takes even more effort to close a business, and lots of  money, too.


Sorry to hear that, Ed.  But it reminds me of the old saying: the two happiest days in a boat owners life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells the boat...

I retired and sold my business a few years ago, but that is a process that still involves me every single day...sigh.

Great article, Alicia! 

I stopped by my local gear shop for a curb-side pick, and asked what they're hearing and seeing locally. Most local trails are open, with the obvious caveat of "if the parking lot is full, find a different trail."

Nearly all organized trail building and maintenance efforts have been shut down for the spring (for both the local mtn bike trails and hiking trails). Once things open back up, I'm hoping to spend a day (or weekend) joining a local trail crew. Things will certainly be overgrown if crews don't get out all summer. 

Thanks, all! 

Ed, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your business. I know running one's own business is challenging at any time, but these times are especially tough for so many. It's unfortunate that your business is a casualty. I hope you and your wife are able to find work that satisfies you personally and professionally. Good luck!

Sorry about your business Ed. I think you were in the restaurant business? Here in NC best estimate from the restaurant industry is 30 percent or more will not of the toughest hits out there. I don't know if misery loving company helps at all but you are not alone.

Other business areas may not be far behind...we weren't forced to close ours as an essential support to public projects but are stringing things together barely month to month right now as state funds get depleted and projects put on hold. Good luck to you and I hope many of us are not going to follow that path too in the near future. 

Bummer Ed. Good luck navigating this strange place impact that came out of nowhere. 

FlipNC said:

"..I don't know if misery loving company helps at all but you are not alone.

Other business areas may not be far behind...we weren't forced to close ours as an essential support to public projects but are stringing things together barely month to month right now as state funds get depleted and projects put on hold. Good luck to you and I hope many of us are not going to follow that path too in the near future."

 As Paul alludes, for some of us losing the business is akin to a divorce.  The business was not a passion, it was just a way to make money for me.  Let's just say I am a far way from any of my preferred lines of work.  In fact we got into the restaurant business in the post 911 era, because opportunities in my former career had evaporated.  Alas the economy has kicked my ass out one formerly well paying career  after another, six times over my lifetime.  I was cornered into the restaurant option, for lack of better paying gigs at the time.  Hopefully my portfolio of skills that spanning a very broad range will bode well, as I compete among others, whose ship has also sunk, for a dry spot on the life boat.

The reach of economic distress the pandemic is causing is profound.  I have friends in aerospace (deemed a necessary service) whose companies are closing because their supply chain included single source vendors who have been closed (domestically and abroad) due to the virus.  Covid 19 has grown into a very tall adversary, capable of casting a long shadow to cover even businesses that should be otherwise unaffected.  Thus no parts, no sales, no jobs...

It makes me sad some folks are making this into a political issue.  The one thing I'd appreciate less than losing my means to earn a living, is for certain folks to protest en masse the closures, spreading the disease and death, making my sacrifice (and others) in vain.  Reopening the economy probably isn't such a great idea, either.  Not now, anyway.   Please keep your distance folks.  And don't open your business if doing so may place your employees or third parties at risk.  EVERYONE knows someone who is at risk; BE A HERO, by not placing these people in danger, all for a buck.

Those who think this is a hoax or a thing to make Trump look bad: 
Explain why significantly more people are dying today, than prior to the pandemic era.  And as for making the President look bad - a fake pandemic is unnecessary to accomplish that...


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