Giving Back: Outdoor Organizations Worthy of Supporting
This is the year you’re going to be more involved. That was the resolution, right? Whether it’s political, donating time, money, or resources, why not use your love of the outdoors as a place to start?
Most of the organizations listed below will accept time, money, or resources, but I’ve sorted them based on their primary means of collecting assistance. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to use it as a jumping-off point for your own research.
Volunteering with National Organizations
Virtually everyone is familiar with this federal agency for our National Parks. However, you may not be familiar with all the volunteer opportunities they offer. The Park Service offers stints of varying lengths and types, some of which even include housing. Usually you get at least some free NPS swag, plus after 250 hours of service you can get a free annual Parks pass!
Ask a park ranger where they got their start, and many of them will mention SCA. This non-profit pairs applicants with volunteer/internship openings in federal, state, and local parks, anywhere from a few weeks to over a year. A few opportunities are age-based, but most are open to anyone.
The American Hiking Society organizes for advocacy, education, and stewardship in relation to hiking and public lands. Of particular note are their “volunteer vacations,” weeklong trail building and maintenance trips on public lands. Their web site also has great resources for finding smaller hiking organizations near you.
Volunteering with State/Regional Organizations
State/County/City Parks Departments
If you have a public park near you, chances are there are volunteer opportunities available in it. This could mean anything from staffing the phones to helping with school programs to maintaining the disc golf course. Stop by your local park or check the government’s web site (usually under Parks or Environment) to get started.
These clubs help to maintain, advocate for, and spread the word about trails in their jurisdiction. This could mean anything from your local park all the way to hundreds of miles of the AT. These clubs might hold work days or let you adopt a specific section of trail. Some trail clubs have a public online presence, but many smaller ones are more old-school, so if you can’t find yours through Google you may have to scour your local trailhead bulletin board.
Maybe you don’t have an extensive trail network in your area, but there is probably a natural resource near you that needs protection. Organizations like this are often the ones behind stream clean-ups, fundraisers, and the like. You may be able to find these organizations with some Googling, or by going to a scheduling/registration site like Eventbrite and filtering for volunteer events near you.
Making Financial Donations:
There are hundreds of organizations that will gladly turn your money into helping protect our parks and natural resources. Here are a few that come to mind.
Love the AT, but don’t live close enough to volunteer your time? Donate to the ATC to support the Conservancy’s work, plus get a nice magazine and discounts on AT gear. Many trail volunteer opportunities are available as well as financial donations.
The PCTA does for the PCT what the ATC does for the AT. Keep in mind that the PCTA and the ATC run frequent trail volunteer and maintenance days throughout the hiking seasons, and are always looking for volunteers.
EJ’s tagline is “Because the Earth needs a good lawyer,” and that aptly sums up what this group stands for. Earthjustice presents legal challenges when there are threats to natural resources, parks, and human health.
The official charity partner of the National Park Service.
National Parks Conservation Association
NPCA is another advocate for our National Parks. They sponsor events and initiatives, and produce a very informative National Parks magazine.
NRDC’s aim is to protect the broader environment, not just on public lands and not just in the U.S.
Surfrider focuses on protecting our shorelines. They break their main mission into specific campaigns, so it’s easy to donate to an issue close to you or somewhere you love.
TRCP represents the interests of sportsmen and women when it comes to conservation. Even if you don’t hunt or fish yourself, you can probably agree it’s important having these users as allies in protecting public lands.
Do you have a favorite outdoor charitable organization? Feel free to share it in the comments!
Feature image courtesy The Potomac Conservancy (one of my favorite local advocacy organizations), used with permission
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