I read an article in National Geographic about ten years ago that really stuck with me. The question and focus of the article was simple: are we loving our natural places to death? The answer is a little more complex. Since then, I’ve seen similar articles in numerous journals and publications, and they all point to an alarming increase in the negative impact humans are having on our natural areas. Social media platforms, particularly Instagram, have helped fuel increased visitation to special places, often at the detriment of sensitive natural resources. The closure and/or restrictions placed on commercial recreation (water/amusement parks, public beaches, etc) due to Covid, placed additional pressure on these resources. Is this a serious issue? Yes. What can we do to prevent it? Surprisingly, quite a bit.
Small behavioral changes from the humans frequenting these places can go a long way. We need to shift our thinking about natural places and re-learn how to behave in them and how to care for them. For example, if you purchase something you love, you’re very likely to take special care of it- a classic car; an expensive piece of equipment for a hobby; that new “whatever-it-is” you’ve always wanted. Why should our natural resources and special areas be any different? If you love hiking, volunteer with your local trail club, learn about low-impact behaviors, and practice Leave No Trace. If river paddling is your thing, learn about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, don’t stack rocks, and respect wildlife. If living on a lake brings you joy, learn how to lessen your impact by properly maintaining your home, reducing the use of chemicals and fertilizers, protecting vegetation, and managing your stormwater runoff. Regardless of your favorite way to explore nature and get outside, there are groups of dedicated people who can teach you the proper ways of conservation and preservation.
One such group is North American Lake Management Society. Each July, along with state and local affiliates, they host and promotes Lakes Appreciation Month. It’s a national effort to focus on lakes and learn how we can find the balance between enjoyment and protection. Locally, many natural resource agencies and non-profits host educational events, cleanups, and programs designed to help protect our natural resources. These efforts are the grassroots movement to help give everyday people the knowledge and tools to care for our special places. If you have the opportunity, attend an event, then go out there and take care of what you love!
Nick Spinelli has been serving as the Executive Director of the Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District since 2010. He oversees the District’s water quality monitoring program, provides educational programming, writes/administers grants for watershed improvement projects, and leads implementation of the Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management Plan. He has served on the Board of the Pennsylvania Lake Management Society since 2011, including two terms as President. Nick is a lifelong resident of the Lake Region. Outside of work, Nick’s hobbies include growing food and plants, paddling, and SCUBA diving with the Tafton Dive/Rescue Team. He resides in Tafton, PA.