So I urge you to get involved with the natural resources where you live. Have you visited your public lands lately? Take a trip to the nearest BLM, US Forest Service, or national wildlife refuge area and appreciate these places held in trust for everyone to hike, camp, bird watch, photograph, and, at appropriate times, hunt and fish—and if you have a friend or relative who’s never visited public lands before, take them with you. Many wildlife refuges as well as state and regional parks and natural areas have Friends groups—volunteer-based organizations that adopt an area and work together to restore habitat, educate the public, and advocate for their patch of ecosystem. If there’s a place you love to visit, ask if they have a Friends group you can join, and if they don’t, think about organizing one. Many places have natural resource programs such as Stream Team and Master Naturalist that offer environmental stewardship opportunities; explore the directory at the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs to see if there are programs in your state. Contact your state, county, or city parks to see if they have programs for underserved youth (and advocate for such programs if they don’t), and be a volunteer to help create the next generation of conservationists. If your city or county parks have signs and interpretive materials only in English and you speak more than one language, contact the managers and ask if they’d like help with translation to make these sites more welcoming and accessible for everyone. If you are able to garden around your home, whether you rent or own, explore planting more native species and reducing or eliminating pesticides. Even small patches of habitat can make a big difference in the lives of native insect populations, and since these insects are a huge food base for songbirds and other animals, your yard or community garden plot can have a much wider impact—especially if you urge your friends and neighbors to do the same.
Aldo Leopold wrote “A handful of individuals have always taken care of the resources at their feet – not always because it was fashionable but because it was right.” With over 300 million people in the United States, if we all do whatever we can, in big efforts or small, to promote and engage in conservation and stewardship at the local as well as the state and national level, we can do a lot to ensure that we pass on the places we love today to the generations that follow.