For many of us, these memories impact our behavior as adults, which is why Washington Wild is working hard to protect the “next generation of wilderness” in Washington: the low elevation forests and wild rivers that were left out of the initial round of wilderness protection in the 1970’s and 80’s. The potential to experience wildness in Washington’s forests and rivers is exceptional, and future generations deserve to have these wild places available to them.
Monday, August 12, 2013, is International Youth Day, an awareness day designated by the United Nations that happens every year on August 12th. It is an opportunity for governments and others to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. Thus, we are drawing attention to the youth issue of involving young people in wild land and water protection.
In Washington Wild’s Spring 2011 newsletter, then 20-year-old Aberdeen native Levi Olden expressed his thoughts on wildlands protection,
“In wilderness, you get to learn about your friends, about yourself, and about what it is you really care about. It is my time in these wild places that helped me realize what I wanted to do with my life. This is an issue that should matter to my generation, because if we protect these places now, before they are lost, they will be there for our future children and their children. I want my future generations to have the same experience that I did."
It is clear that youth learn in wild places: they learn about themselves and gain a sense of reverence and understanding about the places they visit. They create lasting memories, form bonds with wild places and want to get out there more often. This alone is cause for celebration! In many instances, trips to wild places also create a natural connection to taking ownership of one’s environmental impact during “in town” life. Ultimately, personal connections to wild places lead all of us, young and old, to a desire to protect these places for future generations to enjoy.
To demonstrate how youth enjoy nature and to engage them now in thinking about why Washington’s wild places are worth protecting, Washington Wild has started a new Youth Voices Project. We ask that youth between the ages of 5-21 go into the wild with their friends and family and have fun. Go hiking, camping, horseback riding, kayaking, backpacking, climbing, or whatever activities they like to do in the wild. Then, once they’re home, we would like them to create something that shows how amazing the trip was. We would like to see paintings, drawing, poetry, stories, photography, and other displays of creativity that show how much fun you had and why the place you visited is worth protecting.
There are millions of wild acres to explore in Washington and boundless ways to express how special those places are – the Youth Voices Project has no limits!
To submit work to the Youth Voices Project, email your work (or a photo of your work if you sculpted, sewed, or built something) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your age, phone number, the town you live in, and a brief description of your work.
All photos in this article are from 16 year-old Youth Voices participant, Erikka O. A resident of Burlington, WA, she recently captured all of these photos while backpacking and canoeing through North Cascades National Park as a participant in a program with the North Cascade Institute that focused on developing leadership and stewardship skills. These photos were taken in Mazama Campground and on Baker Lake.