Protect Your Public Lands: A User’s Guide

We can’t hike trails without public lands, so I wrote this blog for Oboz about 5 things you can do!


by Renee Patrick

What Designations Does You Favorite Trail Have Photo By Renee Patrick

Image: Take some time to learn about public lands surrounding your favorite trails. Photo by Renee Patrick

After huffing up the 2,000-foot climb out of Big Indian Gorge, my sweat-dampened shirt quickly chilled in the sharp November wind. I was just days from finishing my Oregon Desert Trail section hike with the final 65 mile stretch up and over the monolithic Steens Mountain in eastern Oregon.

I surveyed the miles of alkaline playa 5,000 feet below Steens summit and the vast expanse of public land stretching far into the horizon. That early November morning was just days away from an election that would upset the nation, and jeopardize the future of the very land below my feet.

In the weeks that followed, one thing became clear: I need to act to protect what I love, and the question became: How can I advocate for public lands and have a real impact?

I am fortunate enough to work for a conservation organization, the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), which has been working for 30 years to protect, defend, and restore high desert landscapes in eastern Oregon. But after multiple conversations with friends who don’t directly work in the conservation field, I realized they too wanted guidance on how to be effective in advocating for the future of our public lands. So I surveyed a few of my colleagues and came up with these action points:

5 Tips on How YOU Can Advocate for Public Lands Protection

1. Focus on public lands close to home

One of the best ways to participate in the public lands debate is to become educated about some of your favorite places. Is your go-to hike on public land? If so, which agency manages it, and does it currently have any protections or designations? We often form personal connections with our favorite places, and those connections can be powerful when a place you love is at risk. Visit your Forest Service, BLM, or State Parks office. Learn more about how they steward your favorite places, ask how you can participate in trail maintenance, or in any upcoming planning processes.

Even the youngest volunteers can make a difference in a conservation organization. Photo by Allison Crotty

2. Join a local conservation organization

Most communities have a variety of nonprofit conservation organizations that work to protect important landscapes and watersheds. Each of these groups may have a specific focus, whether it is sustainability, climate change, river health, or supporting the stewardship of a specific wilderness area. These organizations give a powerful voice to important local and national public land issues, and rely on their members to help support advocacy for restoration activities in the places we all cherish. Consider becoming a member of one conservation organization in your area. Start volunteering, or join them on a hike or stewardship trip. Your donation, membership, volunteer time, or voice can make a difference.

3. Get to know your senators and representatives

Your senators and representatives represent you on the state and national level, so it’s important to let them know where you stand on public lands issues. There is a lot of debate these days about the most effective ways to reach out to your elected officials, but any action is better than no action. Call their offices, write postcards, attend town hall meetings…and make it personal. You don’t have to be an expert on public lands to have a powerful pull. It can be very meaningful for our officials to hear from everyday people who care about public lands, so share your stories, share your concerns, and if they have been supportive of keeping public lands public, thank them!

Get creative with your signs at the next town hall event in your area. Photo by Heidi Hagemeier

4. Hold small gatherings with friends/family

Since so many people take access to public lands for granted, we need as many folks as possible to simply be out talking with their friends/neighbors/family about why public lands are important. Invite some friends over, and over dinner or beers talk about a few of the current threats. One of the main issues you may want to discuss involves proposals to hand over American public lands to the states. Because most state governments can’t afford to manage millions of acres of land, a likely scenario would result in raising taxes or selling our land to the highest bidder in order to pay for costs like firefighting and management. Come up with a list of your legislators’ addresses, and then have everyone write a few postcards and make a night of it! (find more here: https://www.congress.gov/state…, https://www.congress.gov/ -search legislation).

5. Vote

Start local. City, county, state and even school boards have elections between the presidential election years, and we can build a strong voice from the bottom up. Do some research and find out where your local candidates stand on public lands issues. Then make your voice heard on Election Day.

Renee “She-ra” Patrick is the trail coordinator for the Oregon Desert Trail in Bend, OR, and a triple crown hiker, having completed the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail in addition to 6 other long distance trails. When not backpacking, she can be found packrafting, skiing or napping in the backcountry. You can read about her adventures on her blog,www.sherahikes.wordpress.com.

Photos from my Oregon Desert Trail trips so far – 425 miles of awesomeness

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I’m hiking the Oregon Desert Trail in sections this year, and will be uploading photos periodically to the Oregon Natural Desert Association Flickr page. You can see the slideshows here:

Section 25

Section 24

Section 23

Section 22

Section 21

Section 20

McDermitt Alternate

Section 18

Section 17

Section 16

Section 15

Section 12

Section 11

Section 10

Day 5 – 4 Miles (89 miles from Mexico)

Oh town, your seductive fast food, showers, and excesses…while we thru-hikers dream of you, it’s always a relief to return to the trail. I decided to take a nero today (a nero is hiking just a few miles into or out of town…as opposed to a zero where no trail miles are hiked), and man did my feet need it. Everytime I looked at them I would discover new blisters. No lie! My feet have some catching up to do, or I have some slowing down to do so they can catch up. You need to keep those two appendages happy…the hike depends on it.

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I think the pink toe nail polish matches the bushwacking scratches well

So I lounged in the hotel room all day, chatting with Kirk, friends and family, visiting Instagram and Facebook regularly, and catching a few movies on cable TV…something I don’t even watch at home! Wow, vacation rocks!

The first few days of my hike I refrained from turning the data on for my phone, but now I’m going to use it when I want…and today that means I’m streaming my Alt-J station on Pandora! I still can’t get over how much technology changes the trail experience, and again, It’s pretty cool.

I listened to Trail Side Radio on my walk out of town… Ratatouille again featured part of the interview he did with me last month in Bend…and I got to share the air with my good friend Allgood. Check out his podcast, he’ll hit the trail soon and will be broadcasting from the PCT. I’m looking forward to listening to his adventures as I hike north. It is kind of trippy to be featured on another podcast…

I’m barely outside of Lordsburg…my four miles took me about three miles down the highway (blah to walking on the side of a highway) and into one of the last big wide open spaces I’ll be hiking through in a while. Again I’m camped in cow range land behind a bush. I actually feel quite decadent out here. I packed out some cheddar and sour cream ruffles, the tunes are playing, and my feet are feeling good after all that rest.

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Cowboy camping behind a bush, with chips!

I don’t know how many miles I’m going to do tomorrow, or the day after for that matter. All I know is I’m going to walk. Life is good.

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The great wide open

The creativity of being

I spoke a bit before about the flow of hiking, and how walking long distances seems to unlock some well of creativity, but I think it might be bigger than that. I haven’t been hiking yet this year…I’ve only been in the preparation phase the past few months (heck, really, the past few years), but the ideas keep coming.

Whether it’s new designs for hikertrash:

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I call it the Ode to Ridgewalking

Or making my own gear:

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Kirk has been gear designer for years…I enlisted his help again in my quest to get as much out of the 3 yards of cuben fiber that I ordered from Zpacks as possible. (Kirk is wearing the first design I ever screenprinted…tall bike!)

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We came up with some patterns…

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And I mapped out the cuts we’ll make so we can make sure to use every inch.

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And screenprinted the tall bike on the new stuff sack.

So I haven’t been hiking yet, but ideas keep coming…so there has to be something else. Hiking helps with the flow of ideas, but the source is probably more in the lines of: I’m living the kind of life I want to live…and a few examples happen to be making cuben fiber gear, creating new designs for hikertrash, and planning for a long, long hike. Of course freedom plays a big roll here…I’m on the cusp of having no job for the first time in years. The absence of that tether is incredibly powerful too.

I’m excited to hike, yes. Excited to grow my business (hikertrash), heck my businesses (freelance writing, designing, hikertrash), but even more excited that they are all interrelated, and all feed into one another. But even more than that, I’m excited to be. To be, and to be doing what I love.

Maybe that is where creativity comes from.

Thank YOU!

Wow, the CDTC fundraiser we put on last week was a great success! We filled the seats and raised over $1,300 for the trail. I’m grateful for friends, co-workers, and everyone who was just plain curious about these crazy people who quit their jobs to go hike across the country…again and again and again. And for all my sponsors and supporters for donating some amazing items to the raffle, thank you!

But don’t take my word for it, here some some pics (courtesy of Robert Curzon):

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Tons of items were donated to the raffle

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This ladies package was really popular! Jewelry by Bronwen Jewelry, Sierra Sage products, Go Macro bars, Salazon Chocolate, a Purple Rain Skirt & Pro Knot card.

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Our breakfast raffle bundle had coffee & hazelnuts from Strictly Organic, Breakfast oatmeal/cereal from Straw Propeller, mugs from Stanley & a CDTC shirt!

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And the prizes keep getting better, $100 to Desperado, Stanley flask & more…

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I put everything in giant zip locks, because zip locks are GOLD on a trail!

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Patagonia @ Bend was very welcoming and let us use their beautiful store for the talk.

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I shared a bit about why I hike.

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And invited Kim (SOL), Sage & Mary (Speedstick) to tell stories from their CDT hikes.

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I shared all the gear that I’ll be taking on the trail.

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Even the bug condom!

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Raffle time!

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This little pup really wanted to win the Ruffwear dog bed.

Grady won

Grady (Fun Size) won the Stanley lunch box, I expect to see him carry that on the CDT this year…

So much fun, now for the hike!!!

Continental Divide Trail Coalition Fundraiser in Bend March 12

After the great suggestion from Brenda and Candace at Nevado Mountain Adventures, I’ve decided to hold a fundraiser for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition in Bend before I leave for the hike.

Join me and three other bad-ass local ladies who have already thru-hiked the CDT at Patagonia @ Bend, 1000 NW Wall St., on Thursday, March 12 at 7pm to learn more about the trail, raise funds for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, enter the gear raffle, and drink free beer. (Below is the press release)

badass ladies

As the Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s first Trail Ambassador, Renee will share the story of the organization’s mission to complete and protect America’s wildest and most remote long distance trail along the backbone of the Continental Divide. Learn about the youngest and longest of the “Triple Crown” trails: a path that stretches from Mexico to Canada and passes through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The trail isn’t complete, so in addition to raising awareness of the incredibly scenic and difficult endeavor of thru-hiking (completing the entire trail in one trip), she will raise money for the Coalition’s efforts through a gear raffle.

Enjoy free beer and hear stories from three local women who have already thru-hiked the CDT: Sage Clegg, Mary Moynihan, and Kim Geisreiter. Sage was the first woman to have completed the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail) in 18 months; Mary was the only women to successfully complete a north-bound thru-hike of the CDT in 2011, a year with some of the highest snow levels in recent history; and Kim not only completed a south-bound CDT hike in 2011, but will be thru-hiking the trail again this year north-bound.

The CDT will be Renee’s 8th long-distance backpacking trail, and she will not only talk about what it means to hike the trail in one trip, (long waterless stretches, high snow levels, grizzly territory) but will have a “show and tell” with the gear she will be carrying, including some unique homemade items.

Come support America’s longest backpacking trail and learn more about the intrepid folks who hike it.

The raffle will include items from: Hikertrash, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, Namaspa Yoga & Massage, The Trail Show, Lava Love, Silipint,Oregon Natural Desert Association, Oboz Footwear, TurboPUP, GoMacro Macrobars, Point6, STANLEY, Embrace the Brutality: A Continental Divide Trail Adventure, squatchfilms.com, Cairn, Hikertrash: Life on the Pacific Crest Trail, Nevado Mountain Adventures, Bronwen Jewelry, Pizza Mondo and more.

I like to Packraft too

Kirk and I went packrafting last weekend.

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Me and big yellow, my 6ish pound packraft.

And in addition to this blog, I’ve been keeping a blog of our packraft adventures (strangely enough called Adventures with Packraft) for the past three years to chronicle trips we’ve done all over Oregon. You can read about our trip on the Chewaukan River here. (I got to calling it the She-ra-can River).

Thanks to some insomnia tonight I finally was able to get the post up. I really really really can’t wait for the simplicity of the trail. My schedule has just been killer lately (killer as in exhausting), and sometimes the only chance I get to work on some of my other interests, like maintaining the other blog, is when I can’t sleep.

The full time job, 2 businesses, 3 board positions, a relationship, friends, and trying to find time for myself is making life a bit crushing lately. I can’t complain too much as it’s all amazing and very fulfilling, but I’m tired.

I’m ready to slow down and just walk for a while.

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