Happy Great Outdoors America Week! Wow! What a crazy week. From meetings on Capitol Hill to receptions honoring our congressional champions (hooray free food!), Great Outdoors America Week has been jam-packed with goings-on and, for me, a boatload of fantastic opportunities – to talk about the importance of nature and the role of Mission Outdoors, to learn more about how DC works, and to meet a lot of people whose dedication to the outdoors is absolutely inspirational.
My favorite day had to be Wednesday, though, when I got to be a part of two particularly awesome events. First, the EPA was kind enough to host over 60 high school students from Baltimore who came with Nicole, our superstar Baltimore Inner City Outings chair. We all got to hear from EPA employees and learn about everything from environmental justice to climate change, as well as learn about some career paths in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. But by far the best part was getting to hear EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson speak! She met the students, heard about what they’re doing with BICO and in the classroom, and then spoke to them about the importance of caring for the environment, especially in urban areas, and thinking about future generations. Administrator Jackson is such an engaging speaker and a really great champion for the environment, so the chance to meet her was something I won’t forget any time soon.
Getting to meet the Administrator of the EPA was already plenty of excitement for one day, but just a couple of hours later, I also got to talk to my representative! Congressman Charlie Bass hails from New Hampshire’s beautiful 2nd district, home to the Presidentials, the White Mountain National Forest, and hundreds of miles of the Appalachian Trail. It’s also home to Dartmouth College, Congressman Bass’ alma mater and my home for the last three years. This was the first time I had ever met any member of the US Congress, and I was pretty nervous, especially because, as the constituent, I was expected to lead the meeting. But Congressman Bass is a great supporter of wilderness and outdoor recreation and was a receptive listener to my message. I ended up really enjoying getting to talk to him about why I think access to and protection of the outdoors are important, and what the House can do to further that mission. What I think I enjoyed the most about GOA week, though, wasn’t meeting important people or seeing democracy in action – although those were pretty darn cool. It was getting to meet and speak with hundreds of other people of all ages who deeply care about our nation’s beautiful wild places and encouraging Americans to get out there and use them. From ICO leaders to the director of The Wilderness Society to other interns, the enthusiasm of the people I met and heard from this week was infectious – so it’s time for me to go on a hike this weekend!
--Amanda Wheelock, Mission Outdoors Intern