EN EL CAMPO, EXPLORING PUBLIC LANDS: A Q&A WITH ALEX BISWAS OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
Monday, June 27, 2022
Alex is the Strategic Partnerships Manager for The Wilderness Society, one of the founding convening members of the People, Public Lands and Climate Collaborative (Collaborative).
Tell us about yourself, your role in the Collaborative and how The Wilderness Society envisions your presence within this effort:
My role in the collaborative is to represent The Wilderness Society’s interest in providing unity and support for the intersection between people, public lands, and climate – three parts of the conservation solution that aren’t always supported or managed together. This Collaborative is where organizations representing a diversity of interests and values in our movement can collaborate and support each other in the fight for systemic change and create enduring conservation solutions.
What do you believe is The Wilderness Society’s convening role in supporting such a versatile group as this one, which is distinct in the public lands movement?
The Wilderness Society is a multimillion-dollar legacy organization with a wealth of resources available to us. One of our roles is to share those resources with others to strengthen our collective efforts and the movement, especially communities and organizations that have not historically been included and may be underfunded. Together, we can develop a shared approach to addressing barriers and disparities that exist on public lands and in the outdoors.
How do you enjoy public lands?
Lately, I’ve been trying to gain confidence in my fishing and hunting skills. The idea of harvesting my own food and being accountable for my meat consumption really resonates with me. These activities also really force me to listen to and connect with my surroundings. It’s brought about a newfound appreciation for being in nature and feeling like I’m really a part of it – not solely experiencing it. I also love to explore new community parks with my wonderful German shepherd, Graham. There’s nothing better than seeing the face of a happy dog!
What is the connection between public lands, climate action, and the work of your organization? How does it connect your organization’s mission?
The Wilderness Society’s goal is to unite people to protect America’s wild places, to create a future where people and nature can flourish together. The People, Public Lands and Climate Collaborative gets its strength from the relationships that its members forge while working towards shared goals. We, at The Wilderness Society, want to help cultivate a space where everyone can see that there is room for them at the conservation table where decisions are being made and work is being done. A large piece to that puzzle for us is learning how The Wilderness Society can effectively support that.
Why do you believe we need to protect public lands?
First, public lands are critical for the survival of wildlife. Widespread habitat loss and fragmentation is a one of the leading causes of wildlife and insect species decline. Though the impact may not be immediately evident, the disappearance of wildlife and insects will have detrimental effects on the environment and to humans. Second, I think public lands are largely how people discover their connection to the outdoors – something I think is a defining experience that changes how an individual sees and interacts with the world. We need to foster an appreciation for and stewardship of nature by the public if we expect them to fight to protect it. That means we must cultivate opportunities outdoors that are inclusive and encourage curiosity and discovery. Public lands offer themselves to creating these personal connections with nature that are the foundation to uniting people around conservation.
What actions can individuals take to help advocate for public lands, our natural world and especially for all people to access these spaces?
I think it depends on what’s important to you, personally. There are tons of ways to contribute and get involved, but I think finding something that you find interesting, and fulfilling is most effective.If you love hiking, invite someone new or encourage your friends and family to join you. If you live in the Pacific Northwest and love bees, volunteer as part of Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas. If you want to make the outdoors more inclusive, support or join an organization that is working to facilitate this transformation. If you love gardening, use native plants to benefit local wildlife. If you enjoy writing, write to Congress or your state officials about the change you’d like to see implemented. The bottom line is that people protect the things they care about, so if nothing else, help others discover their passion for the outdoors and your own, too.
Prioritizing wellness and self-care is important in the work we do. How do you create space to connect with the outdoors?
To be honest, it’s been very difficult for me lately, especially with the pandemic changing the way we do everything. Gardening is how I connect with the outdoors most often these days but finding people to enjoy nature with is what is most motivating for me to make the time to get outside. I find it doesn’t much matter what I’m doing outside, as long as I’m with people I trust and have fun with. So, I usually start with that!