By Katie Ledermann
Editor’s note: Katie Ledermann is the 2013 recipient of the MAGI/Wildwood Lions Environmental Leadership Award.
We call ourselves Women on Wheels for Wildlands. We are four Minnesota women who are biking 4,800 miles across the southern United States in Fall 2017 for America’s public lands, Katie Ledermann, Hannah Field, Alex Benjamin and Ariana Amini. We are passionate about getting outside in America’s beautiful natural areas. Katie, Hannah and Alex became friends while skiing on the Mahtomedi High School Nordic Ski team for four years they went their separate ways to attend college. Having graduated college this spring, we are ready and excited to join this community of activists and do our part in advocating for public lands.
We are outraged by the current political threats facing public lands in this country. The four of us care deeply about wild places, outdoor recreation, and continuing to have public land to enjoy for generations to come. We know that many United States citizens appreciate and enjoy our public lands and share a similar hope we do. Yet somehow, these places are facing a huge risk. These quiet places need our loud voices now more than ever.
What’s more, in this fast-paced, technology driven world where we face the current and looming threats of climate change, children are spending on average seven hours in front of electronic screens and only 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day. Children today are not only losing their connection to nature and the environment because of a lack of time spent outdoors, but are also experiencing an increase in physical and behavioral issues because of it, an issue coined Nature Deficit Disorder. We want to live in a world of citizens who are connected to their environment and care about what happens to it, and a country that ensures its people access to outdoor opportunities to make this possible. Also, we hope to emphasize not only the importance of public lands, but also how crucial the outdoors is in being an equal playing field for all people to enjoy. We want to celebrate diversity and gender equity because public lands are for everyone!
We will be taking a 100-day bike trip coast to coast across the country from San Francisco, California to Columbia, South Carolina. This will be an unassisted trip where we will be carrying all our own camping, cooking, biking and technological gear with us on our bikes. We have planned our 4,871-mile route to stop in as many public lands as possible. At each public land we visit, we will talk with and interview individuals and organizations who visit, work in, and advocate for that land. We will ask them about why they visit, what they like about the place, and why these lands are important.
We believe that the prosperity of our future as a nation and a planet lies in the defense and conservation of our natural surroundings. In sharing these public land stories as we go, we hope to remind the general public of how important our public lands are to so many Americans, and that we as a nation can never falter in our mission to maintain and protect them. Please visit our Women on Wheels for Wildlands website for more details and to find out how you can get involved!