It’s easy to despair about the environment. The World Wildlife Fund reported that 60 percent of wildlife has died off since 1970. That’s on top of an October climate report by the United Nations saying that we basically have a decade and a half to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming.
And yet, if you look outside, the sun is still shining. The mountains still beckon. And if you venture out into nature, you’ll find that the air is still sweet and the views are still magnificent, even if the birdsong’s a little quieter than it once was.
All is not lost. There are still tons of fun ways to help Mother Earth while enjoying the great outdoors. Here’s what you can do:
Do No Harm
This seems obvious, but so many people mess this one up by trashing the very nature they set out to enjoy. Don’t be a jerk, and follow the seven principles put forth by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:
1. Plan ahead and prepare.
2. Stay on durable surfaces (i.e, keep to trails and don’t trample on delicate nature, such as dry lake beds).
3. Dispose of waste properly (i.e, if you brought it in, bring it out; don’t litter).
4. Leave what you find (i.e, photos are fine, but don’t take souvenirs).
5. Minimize campfire impacts.
6. Respect wildlife (i.e, don’t approach wild animals or feed them; don’t dump unwanted pets).
7. Be considerate of other visitors.
Learn more at lnt.org.
Be Selfish, Volunteer
“The most basic thing is that volunteering feels good,” says Mauricia Baca, executive director of Get Outdoors Nevada, a foundation devoted to education, volunteerism and outreach programs connecting the local community with nature. “It makes you feel better about yourself and the rest of the world when you go out and volunteer. It’s both selfless and selfish at the same time.”
Baca says that there is a massive range of outdoor volunteer opportunities in Nevada, “things you can do that will make you feel good, healthy and fit but give back to the outdoors at the same time.”
Of course, a cornucopia of volunteer options can be intimidating for newcomers. Where to start? Baca suggests visiting her group’s website, getoutdoorsnevada.org, which acts as a clearinghouse for local volunteer opportunities.
A trail cleanup is a great way to get started; it gets you outdoors among potential new friends and generally only involves a time commitment of a few hours. Many upcoming cleanups are listed on the Get Outdoors website; others are sponsored periodically by various organizations.
Clark County also hosts monthly community stewardship events, such as Wetlands: Hands On! at Clark County Wetlands Park (upcoming events are December 8, January 12 and February 9). Since 2013, Wetlands Hands On! Has benefited from the help of more than 3,000 volunteers.
There are volunteer opportunities to match all skill types. Baca says the most elaborate volunteer cleanups involve kayaks, scuba gear and backcountry equestrians. But that’s hardly the norm. For those who can’t or don’t want to spend too much time getting sweaty outdoors, Baca suggests volunteering in one of the park’s visitor centers. Education, gardening, clerical and even artistic volunteer opportunities also abound.
For local ecologist and birdandhike.com author Jim Boone, nature is his happy place, where he goes to “find solace and soothe my soul from the woes of the world.” Because he adores the outdoors, he feels a duty to give back to and protect the nature he loves. “In order to fight for something you have to love it, if you’ve never been there or haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to love a place. But after you have a personal connection to it, it’s a lot easier and a lot more satisfying to take care of it, whatever the it happens to be.”
In addition to projects such as removing outdated mining claim markers that kill birds, Boone encourages political activism to help protect the environment on a larger scale: “Contact your elected officials and tell them how you feel and vote that conviction.”
VOLUNTEER QUICK START GUIDE
Find more info about some of the coolest volunteer opportunities in the Valley:
Public Lands/Bureau of Land Management 775-861-6588 or blm.gov/get-involved/volunteers
Clark County Parks and Recreation Volunteer Program 702-455-8200.
Clark County cleanup projects 702-455-4191.
Friends of Nevada Wilderness nevadawilderness.org/volunteer
Get Outdoors Nevada getoutdoorsnevada.org/events
Gold Butte National Monument friendsofgoldbutte.org/events
Lake Mead 702-293-8714 or nps.gov/lake/getinvolved/volunteer.htm
Mount Charleston gomtcharleston.com/lasvegas/volunteer
Nevada Department of Wildlife ndow.org/Education/Volunteer
Nevada State Parks parks.nv.gov/about/volunteer-and-support
Red Rock Canyon: friendsredrock.org/join
Sloan Canyon friendsofsloan.org/volunteers
Wetlands: Hands On! 702-455-7522