This year, get involved in a good cause.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’ve been roped into tying a box of smallmouth bugs for a local conservation nonprofit’s silent auction.

Wednesday, the local Trout Unlimited chapter wanted insight on where they could plan a tree planting, or some sort of stream habitat work, to benefit coldwater streams in the state.

Last fall I went to a two-day roundtable with everyone from state agencies to local governments to farmers and nonprofits, all with an interest in protecting clean water. Topics covered everything from stormwater runoff to cover crops in agriculture to management of impaired waterways under the Clean Water Act. I wound up on the planning committee for this year’s roundtable.

There’s no shortage of good causes. During the pandemic, when everything went online, it was easy to find a Zoom meeting and discuss conservation issues with like-minded folks. As people became more comfortable meeting in-person, there have been incredible opportunities to engage with people who share my interest in healthy water and diverse ecosystems.

And they do work, whether it’s planting trees, clearing invasives, or pushing agencies for accountability. Having worked in the conservation field professionally, it’s often the folks outside the agency who have the most influence. They can speak freely. They can contact a journalist. They can file suit.

It’s deeply gratifying spending a day working with volunteers. Sometimes they’re over the top or performative, but mostly they’re fundamentally decent, passionate about the resource, and want to pass on their experience to future generations. Recent efforts to curtail wild camping opportunities in Britain highlight the need for outdoor advocacy, now more than ever.

But I’m busy.

Everyone’s busy. Everyone has jobs and owns businesses and has kids and families and prior engagements. Every single person you’ll meet would rather be fishing or paddling or hiking or otherwise enjoying the outdoors, instead of sitting in a meeting. Instead of writing public comment letters. Instead of presenting to a group of strangers. People show up, and people invest time, so they can keep going fishing and paddling and hiking or otherwise enjoy the outdoors in the places they love.

When everyone is busy, being busy isn’t an excuse. This year, for the sake of the places and things you love…get involved.

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