It's no secret that the recent government shutdown took a toll on our national parks. For 34 days straight, new and disturbing developments from parks that remained open without federal employees made headlines ("Joshua Tree National Park has been trashed in the shutdown. Now visitors are cutting down trees"; "In shutdown, national parks transform into Wild West").
Looking back on the wreckage, it's clear that a few weeks of neglect can leave real and reverberating damage on our wild lands. Joshua Tree may not fully recover for up to 300 years; tracks left by off-roading vehicles still scar the fragile desert land like a wound.
Like most tragedies, we can only hope that this one ends up becoming a wake-up call. Hundreds of people have already rallied to mourn the devastation and demand a new way forward, where parks are protected in the case of a future shutdown. It's more important than ever to practice Leave No Trace principles, guidelines on how to minimize your footprint on nature, when you are visiting protected lands, and make donations to the National Park Foundation when you can.
Another way to get involved is by supporting brands working to keep the great outdoors great. These six outdoor gear retailers have impressive initiatives in place to keep nature pristine into the future.
REI's Co-op program costs $20 to join and gives you access to special sales and discounts on gear and outdoor trips. The philanthropic arm of the company gives back nearly 70 percent of its proceeds to nonprofits working to protect the outdoors. In 2017 alone, the Co-op donated $8.8 million. REI also recently pledged to donate at least $250,000 to help with national park restoration efforts following the shutdown.
Over the past few years, Patagonia has found its voice as a political force, and the company has been very vocal against policies that threaten protected lands. Its founder, Yvon Chouinard, is also the force behind 1% for the Planet, a nonprofit he launched in 2002 to gather companies willing to donate 1 percent of their profits to environmental organization. Patagonia is a member of the organization, which has put over $175 million toward environmental advocacy over its lifetime. Patagonia also recently launched the Action Works Company, an online resource that shows users how to get involved with environmental issues in their area.
The North Face
As a co-founder of the Conservation Alliance (along with Patagonia, REI, and camping gear company Kelty), The North Face has given millions of dollars in grants to conserve wild places around the world. The North Face was also a founding partner with the Access Fund on the Land Conservation Campaign, which focuses on keeping climbing areas in the United States pristine.
L.L. Bean, a company that has long celebrated the healing power of nature, announced it will be donating directly to national park restoration projects following the shutdown, with company employees volunteering to personally lend a hand where they can. "L.L. Bean is committed to supporting public access to the outdoors, not just because that is our business but because that is who we are. Enjoyment of the natural world is our core value," Stephen Smith, president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.
Since its founding in 2003, the outdoor gear brand has donated more than $15 million to nonprofit partners such as Leave No Trace, Forest Park Conservancy, and American Whitewater. "Public lands and open spaces are treasures around the world and we feel a responsibility to protect them for future generations," says Chris Enlow, the Corporate Responsibility Director at KEEN. "So, we are walking the walk by getting involved wherever we do business, and making sure that the places where we live, work, and play are protected."
United By Blue
For every product sold, United By Blue removes 1 pound of trash. So far, the company has managed to remove over 1.5 million pounds across the United States and abroad. In 2018, it hosted cleanups in 20 different states and its first overseas one in the Netherlands. "It's vital to make sure we are reducing our impact, providing educational opportunities, and committing to using eco-friendly materials so we can continue to preserve the places where we play," says company rep Ethan Peck. Keep tabs on the company's cleanup calendar to see if any are planned for your area in 2019.
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