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.

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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

Oregon Desert Trail

Oregon Desert Trail

I have an exciting development to share with you all…I’ve accepted a position as the Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator here in Bend! The 800 mile Oregon Desert Trail is one of the newest long distance trails in the country, and begins right outside of Bend  and connects a series of remote mountain ranges in the high desert of south eastern Oregon.

This is an incredible opportunity to combine everything I love doing to help shape a long trail. Ever since my friend Sage Clegg was the first to hike the ODT in 2013, I have watched with envy as other friends and hikers jump on the trail. Before I even heard about the new position I wanted to hike the ODT next. It’s exciting to be on the other side of the trail community and really be able to dive into something I am passionate about.

It will be fun to keep this blog going and share my experiences on the other side of the hike, and yes, take you with me as I hike it as well.

 

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):

raffle swag

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.

showing off gear

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

renee umbrella

Even the bug condom!

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Raffle time!

ladies

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!!!

Finishing up the Ski Tour

January 2-3

The last two days of our New Year Ski tour we basked under blue skies.

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I watched the sunrise from our tarp for a good hour.

 

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Then chased the first traces sun…the snow was absolutely beautiful

 

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We skied around a bit.

 

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And enjoyed the stunning views.

 

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Taking a break with the best show on earth.

 

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How can I not kiss this man?

 

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The view from camp isn’t bad on the other side either.

 

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The hardest part of the whole trip was putting on cold ski boots.

 

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But all good things must come to an end.

 

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We skied out.

 

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And headed back towards Bend.

Beneath Broken Top

January 1, 2015

I can officially say I’m hiking the Continental Divide Trail THIS year!

For those that have had to wait years between thru-hikes, and for friends and family that have heard me go on and on about the CDT in 2015 know what a milestone that is. Three more months of work baby!

Back to the trip…last night we skied about three miles before veering off the main trail to make camp in a small clearing near Todd Lake. We opened one of our beers to toast the New Year (and also lessen the burden in what had become a regrettably heavy pack). For some reason I had grabbed my new Western Mountaineering Ultralight sleeping bag (20 degree) instead of my -20 degree bag, and though the temps hovered around the 20s, my feet were still cold throughout the night. It’s hard to sleep with cold feet. But inspiration struck and I put on the down booties I had packed. Much better.

In the morning we lingered over coffee before hitting the snow.

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The day was crystal clear.

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And we were lucky to follow tracks most of the way up Todd Ridge.

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Our lunch spot proved our first good glimpse of Broken Top.

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We made sure to fuel our bodies with the proper nutrition.

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And I had to rock the hikertrash hat!

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Unfortunately temps rose just over freezing and the sunny patches of snow started to get sticky.

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Madness! I stopped to scrape and wax about 10 times in the next hour or two.

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And we finally called it good in a sunny meadow with a magnificent view of Broken Top.

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And celebrated with another tasty brew.

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The snow up here was more wind blown and between the stashes of pow were thick icy layers.

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We set up our new Hyperlite mid and dug in a freaking awesome camp complete with snow sofa and table.

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Peak to peak.

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As the day came to a close we enjoyed a brilliant sunset.

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And as the light faded we kept busy with a rousing game of UNO.