VetsWork: Public Lands, Playing and Paying it Back

by | VetsWork

Think of your favorite movie, or just a scene or quotable line from a movie.

Now, try to conjure up a monetary figure for the overall cost of producing that movie.  Don’t forget about the make-up artists, construction workers creating sets, and the person that cleans the bathroom.  There is an extraordinary amount of behind the scenes cost.  Fortunately, a good movie can make over 1 billion dollars.  You enjoyed that movie for 2 hours, maybe 4 if you are one of those re-watch type people.

Now think of your favorite trail, swimming hole, or camping spot.  More often than not these beautiful natural places are on public lands.  In the past, if I would have tried to imagine the cost of maintaining such places my estimate would have been far too low.  In my VetsWork internship with Mt. Adams Institute I’ve come to understand that something as simple as a trail, which I have enjoyed countless hours on, has a surprisingly high “behind the scenes” cost.  Is that trail bringing in billions or even hundreds of dollars? No, it’s not really bringing in any revenue.  Don’t read me wrong, I’m not saying that there should be a fee for walking a trail.  I am however realizing that each public land user needs to do their part to help maintain the exquisiteness of these natural settings. I understand that comparing movie production to public land management is not like comparing apples to oranges, it’s more like apples to a cheeseburger but hey it’s all food, or in this case it is all recreation.

It is with these thoughts in my head that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and do my part in paying it back to the land.  My husband and I are avid users of public lands.  From trail running, to mountain biking, rock climbing, and backpacking we love it all.  We move around quite a bit, but we have always had a National Forest just a hop skip or jump away. Our current backyard forest is Land Between the Lakes, and we also enjoy our neighboring forest, the Shawnee National Forest.  A bit farther, and to our east is the Daniel Boone and Nantahala National Forests, all wonderful places that we love to play in.

My internship has been much different than expected with the Covid-19 outbreak.  I have spent many hours working from home.  Although this is not ideal it’s given me time to research and understand some of the history of the Forest Service and therefore have a deeper respect for the work that is being done.  My favorite workdays have been my time spent out on the trails of Land Between the Lakes.  I was given the task of documenting areas on the trail that need improvement such as new signs, erosion areas, or bridge work.  I was also able to assist the Forest Protection Officers in cutting down on resource damage from careless visitors.  I’ve only been involved in a very small part of the work that is being done here but I’m glad that I can pay it back to the land that I so often enjoy playing in.


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