As we go to the polls on November 8, we will have the opportunity to make a lasting difference for the outdoors we all enjoy.
We are able to enjoy public lands and access our favorite mountains, forests, and rivers because citizens spoke up for their protection and, in most cases, elected representatives took action. Important decisions are made at every level of government—within our towns, cities, states, and in Washington, DC—that impact the protection of lands and waters and our ability to enjoy them.
The quality of our outdoor experiences – from the healthy rivers and forests we enjoy to the clean air we breathe while we are out—is in part driven by elected officials, their priorities, and their leadership. Lands and waters are also often protected through ballot measures, with citizens directly voting in support of public bonds or other revenues dedicated for land protection and recreation.
Communities across our region will decide whether to raise local funds for land protection and recreationally critical places. For example…
A love for the outdoors, be it a walk or ride to a local park or a multi-day adventure in the backcountry, transcends party lines. And it is our responsibility to know who is on the ballot, what issues they stand for, and to consider the implications for the places we hold dear, including those places that are already under some form of protection, and those that are vulnerable.
For example, the White Mountain National Forest was created as a result of citizens’ advocacy, but it was the Weeks Act, passed by Congress that enabled the creation of eastern National Forests. Likewise, it has been the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was enacted by Congress and is annually appropriated by Congress, that has secured many other critical places in the Northeast – places across the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Region with the support of the Highlands Conservation Act, the Androscoggin River’s headwaters, and hundreds of thousands of acres of working forest through the associated Forest Legacy Program. Funding for trail building programs, like the Recreational Trails Program, exists because our representatives in Congress authorized the program.
Even when I take my young son to Ipswich River Park this fall, where our current adventure involves learning to ride a two-wheeler along river paths, I am reminded that this is possible because of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with local funding to match.
These lands are available to everyone today for adventures, solitude, and spiritual renewal through legislation and funding passed by elected officials, because people like us got engaged, voted, and expressed our support.
It often takes a combination of support at the federal and local level to protect our favorite places. So it’s important to know ballot and what they stand for, and to also support municipal and state funding efforts for land protection.
As outdoors recreationists, we have a stake in the outcome of these votes and the representatives we elect. Learn where your candidates stand on the outdoors and get out to vote.
Heather Clish is AMC’s Director of Conservation & Recreation Policy, where she coordinates AMC’s conservation policy and advocacy activities as well as AMC’s trails and recreation planning and protection effort across 1,800 miles of trail (and growing). When not working for the outdoors, Heather can be found out hiking, skiing, or kayaking with her two sons and husband, enjoying the results of over a century of conservation efforts in the northeast.