Jim Austin is a photographer, educator, artist, sailor and naturalist. He has lived aboard the sailing catamaran Salty Paws for the past two decades.

Enchanted. Stephanie Courtney loves her work as a master naturalist. When she guided us on an educational tour in the environmental center in Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, her stories enchanted me. I fell in love with the area as she taught me to see and love its biodiversity. In this special place, she shared her gift for illuminating the webs of life that surrounded us.


Chimney Rock is located in Capitol Reef National Park. Photo by Jake Byk.

Jake Byk is the marketing coordinator for the Climbing Wall Association and an outdoor adventurer who lives in Colorado.

There’s something profound about returning to the same place and seeing it unchanged. This isn’t a luxury afforded without cost — but the payout grows when you have changed. It’s grounding, metaphorical, powerful.

During times of struggle, I unconsciously find myself driving west. In March 2020, I made it to the border of Utah before even thinking about where I was headed. I watched the sunset over the distant red rocks of Arches National Park and decided to stop near the border of Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Park. I pitched my tent on public lands along the Fremont River.


Portia Bharath is a climate and energy fellow at the National Wildlife Federation.

In September of 2019, I traveled almost five hours by car to visit my partner, Brad. At the time, he was attending college in West Virginia and we had decided to enjoy the late summer weather by visiting Cooper’s Rock State Forest. Being the environmentalist, I was the one to suggest we “get out and enjoy nature!” Brad reluctantly acquiesced, as he has a pretty strong fear of eight-legged creepy crawlies — which we encountered SEVERAL times that day.


Stephanie Garcia Richard is the first woman, the first Latina, and the first educator to serve as New Mexico’s Commissioner of Public Lands.

I find the greatest sense of peace and calm in the mountains of New Mexico. I was raised in Silver City, with the Gila National Forest in my backyard. That’s where my love note starts. I can remember the sense of wonder and amazement that I had as a kid — standing in the box canyons with my family and friends as the wild Gila River raged before our eyes.

That feeling has carried into my life as a public servant and as New Mexico’s first woman to serve as Commissioner of Public Lands. The spaces that we fall in…


Rev. David Shelor serves the First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Located just north of heavily developed Clearwater Beach, Florida, the Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands State Parks are the most visited parks in Florida — and for good reason. The islands boast pristine wildlife habitat, award winning beaches, and incredible hiking and kayaking trails. They are a birder’s paradise, a beautiful destination for family occasions and a fantastic place to seek solace. …


Daniel Boone National Forest. (photo credit Kelli Michaels)

Anna Groover is a communications fellow at the National Wildlife Federation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught me that there are at least two types of uncertainty, one more desirable than the other: the anxiety-inducing, pull-out-your-hair uncertainty of a global pandemic, and the mesmerizing, calming uncertainty of staring into the darkness of a cave. In Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, I escaped the former — if but for a few moments — to find the latter.

My friend Kelli and I had just reached the cave and the river that flows from it at the midpoint of our out-and-back hike, and before turning back, we decided to peek inside the mouth…


Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has been a public lands champion in Congress and is an avid hiker, hunter, and angler.

The Gila country in New Mexico — from the steep canyon walls and ponderosa forests of the Gila and Aldo Leopold Wildernesses to the sweeping vistas over the high-elevation grasslands of the Bureau of Land Management’s Continental Divide Wilderness Study Area — will always be near and dear to my heart.

I still remember my first trips into the huge and dynamic landscapes of the Gila like they were yesterday. When I was in my early twenties, I took on an AmeriCorps position with the U.S. …


The Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana.

Tracy Stone-Manning is the associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation.

My husband and I started our marriage by walking across the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The lead up was rushed: the falling, fast, unfathomably head over heels and gathering our friends and family just months later to profess commitment. Wilderness for two weeks seemed the exact right metaphor for embarking on marriage: big, uncharted, shared, hard, beautiful. Besides, wilderness reminds us that we’re small.


Ashley Chance is the southeast regional coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s Artemis Sportswomen initiative.

When my husband and I decided to get married he asked if we could be wed in the place where he had experienced “the best day of his life” two years earlier. Wanting to usurp that infamous day in his memory with our wedding, I heartily agreed. We were married near the Valles Caldera in New Mexico and spent our honeymoon fly fishing its narrow streams and listening to elk bugle — in awe of the beauty around us.

The Valles Caldera is thirteen miles in diameter and is part of a large volcano field. It was formed around 1.2…


Carmichael Dominguez is a former city councilman from Santa Fe and a passionate advocate for public lands.

Hermit Peak in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico was a mystical place for me growing up. It is named for an Italian religious recluse, Giovanni Maria de Agostini, who lived in a cave on a narrow ledge on the southeast side of the mountain in the 1860s. He lived in self-imposed isolation, foraging for food and getting water from a nearby spring. People who visited him said he could cure ailments.

I spent much of my childhood in a little village just west of that peak. The lands, the wildlife and the vegetation below the peak were…

National Wildlife Federation — Our Public Lands

The National Wildlife Federation public lands program advocates for our public lands and waters, wildlife and the right of every American to enjoy them.

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