Community Spotlights on Engagement & Conservation Campaigns
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Written by Celia Settlemyer, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Major
About the Community Spotlights
Tourism Extension is wrapping up a program, Outdoor Recreation Stewards (ORS), a community-led initiative in Montgomery County, North Carolina. It seeks to empower county residents to be stewards of the Uwharrie National Forest and develop a deeper understanding of the value associated with recreation, nature preservation, and potential tourism development. ORS brings together community members to share their valuable expertise while providing a space to glean useful information from guest speakers. Participants in the program have voiced the desire to increase tourism within the area, promote equitable outdoor recreation access, and spur rural development. This presents the opportunity to launch a new environmental campaign while also recognizing the current challenges that must be addressed to meet their collective goals.
Seeking to fill this gap, a resource (PDF linked here) was created to share the experiences and efforts of community engagement and conservation-focused campaigns across the country from other communities bordering US National Forests and other natural areas. This one-pager provides information that could be useful to members of the public hoping to get inspiration on ways to improve the sustainability of forest ecosystems and discover how national forests can enrich their local community.
Community Engagement Campaigns
Community engagement can take on many different forms and utilize many different strategies. It ultimately serves to increase the visibility and understanding of issues and empowers local residents to have a say in decisions that affect their towns, surrounding environment, and everyday lives. To achieve this, it is beneficial to have a clear direction and communicate goals, as this unites a community around shared efforts. Building engagement can increase a sense of belonging and build a culture of collaboration among residents. For example, the Mon Forest Towns (website linked) aims to promote a sustainable recreation economy through relationship-building, resource-sharing efforts, and increased resident awareness. They provide the people they serve with concrete, relevant goals and communicate steps they are taking to achieve them.
Community Engagement Campaigns:
Community Conservation Campaigns
Community involvement is also an integral part of forest conservation. Litter tends to be more common in places that lack community ownership or pride (Pennsylvania DOT, 2023). Involving the community at every stage of change boosts recognition of the value that tourism and the national forests contribute to the area. It can easily be integrated into public events such as the Zero Waste Art Campaign (website linked), hosted by the Boulder County Resource Conservation Division. The public was invited to turn single-use plastic waste into art in an effort to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution. This not only served as an educational resource for the local community but can inspire others to create campaigns aimed at attracting and engaging the younger generations and shaping positive, long-term anti-litter habits.
Leveraging existing online resources and social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter, is an easy way to share ongoing efforts and initiatives. Activities funded by the ‘Love Our NY Lands’ campaign (website linked) include Instagram posts, litter-related education events such as hiker safety and sustainable recreation education from Forest Rangers, as well as outreach and partnerships with local environmental advocacy groups. Building awareness is the foundation for increasing public support of forest conservation and advocacy.
Community Conservation Campaigns:
- Leave It Better
- Zero Waste Art Contest
- Love Our NY Lands
Spotlights in Your Community
Natural areas like forest considerably impact the economy, the natural environment, and the people in gateway communities. Therefore, any individual, group or organization should be interested in their preservation. The campaigns highlighted in this resource occur within North Carolina and throughout the country. They demonstrate the success of many different scales of community engagement and conservation campaigns. These examples highlight the importance of individual efforts being brought together collaboratively to create bigger, lasting impacts on the community as a whole.
- Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. (2023). Litter Facts and myths. PennDOT.