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Committed #4: Our Public Lands

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
In a climate where the sanctity of America's public lands is increasingly threatened, The Trust for Public Land's CEO Will Rogers and Black Diamond's CEO and Founder Peter Metcalf muse on their connection to the public lands we cherish.

One of my favorite quotes about the value of forming a deep connection with nature is from Robert Michael Pyle’s memoir The Thunder Tree. “Those who care, conserve,” Pyle writes. “Those who don’t know, don’t care. What is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never known a wren?”

I can trace my own joy in nature—and resulting commitment to conservation—back to a lifelong relationship with the outdoors. As a child, I played in the neighborhood creek, went to summer camp on a New Hampshire Lake and took family hikes in state parks and family road trips to National Parks out west. Even my early career as a commercial beekeeper gave me a special and unusual connection with nature, helping foster a lasting reverence for the natural world. It was that relationship that led me to my work with The Trust for Public Land.

Photo: Eco Photography

And now, I see things coming to a head in this space, with two issues of particular concern. The first is summed up by what Richard Louv calls the “Nature Deficit Disorder.” We are losing our connection to nature. Not enough children, especially in cities, are getting to “know the wren,” as children in America spend an average of seven hours a day indoors. For so many kids in cities nationwide, healthy places to play and connect with nature aren’t accessible. And unless we can help kids to connect with close-to-home nature on a daily basis, their lives will be diminished. They won’t care about—or for—the wild and natural lands well outside the city limits. That’s why I, along with so many others, believe there should be a park within a 10-minute walk of home for everyone in urban America. Today, about 100 million of us don’t have that access.

The second issue currently at play is our elected leadership’s apparent disregard for public support of land conservation and the importance of public lands. Many in Congress and our state legislatures are out of touch with the public—and this puts the public land legacy that truly is “America’s best idea” at risk. Whether by trying to hand our federal lands and forests over to extraction industries or by undermining important protections for land, our leadership is not listening to the people.

Photo: Andy Mann

But here’s the silver lining: At a time when politics are so polarized, when people agree on so little, one concern bringing together both red states and blue states is the desire to protect and conserve the places that are special to them and their communities. Given the chance, voters across the political spectrum—Republicans, Democrats and Independents from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt and spanning all ages, ethnicities and income levels—will vote to tax themselves 80 percent of the time if it means parks will be created and wild places will be protected. This is something we as Americans care deeply about.

The problems facing us are not impossible to solve. The Trust for Public Land has helped to craft nearly 500 conservation funding measures across America, and we continue to protect and save as many landscapes as possible. And growing public sentiment in our favor can only help. You can help by making your voice heard. Write to your representative. Sign our petition. Commit to protecting the wild places you love. Learn more at

—Will Rogers, CEO, The Trust for Public Land