Manistee River Trail. Photo by Brielle Jaglowski.

Brielle Jaglowski is a conservation science fellow at National Wildlife Federation

Spending nearly every hour of daylight — catching butterflies, climbing trees, wading through creeks — was the norm for me growing up in southwestern Michigan. It was no secret that I loved being outside. Exploring wooded parks, bogs hidden down winding dirt roads, near-forgotten paths through prairies bursting with wildflowers are some of the places I discovered just a short drive or bike ride outside of my hometown. I was always inspired by the tales of Charles Darwin, and eagerly toted around various field guides in hopes I would identify a new species.

As much as I loved the outdoors…


The author (left) clearing a trail leading to Scotchman Peak in the Scotchman Peaks Proposed Wilderness area.

Phil Hough is the executive director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness in Idaho.

Dear Mother Earth,

What a year it has been! Last April as the Covid-19 pandemic ramped up, many of us went home in isolation from each other and — at first — from you. We struggled with adapting to new ways to work, to attend school, to have dinner and to pursue our happiness amid a cloudy future. Individuals living alone became isolated, living like hermits. Families and their new found closeness brought both joy and struggles.

Unsure of when, where and whether we could go out we stayed close to home, working and worrying. Days were filled with uncertainty…


Dylan Carey loves to ski, hike, backpack, bike, and explore the great outdoors of Colorado and Utah.

I know that I was extremely lucky: growing up in Denver meant that spectacular mountain ranges, national forests, and state and national parks were a stone’s throw away. Due to their proximity and accessibility, these public lands played an integral role in my life. From as early as I can remember, I was visiting the Great Sand Dunes, driving across the state to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah, or skiing in the Arapahoe National Forest at Winter Park Resort.

Each of these public lands provided its own unique experience of adventure, scenery and solitude. Looking out over…


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. …

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.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store