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The Great Outdoors is Calling: Will You Answer?

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Posted: Jun 01, 2020 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
The Great Outdoors is Calling: Will You Answer?

Source: Eric Paul Zamora /The Fresno Bee via AP,

It’s time to dust off your hiking boots, grab your fishing pole, scout out a campsite, and hit the water.

Today marks the official start of Great Outdoors Month. From now until June 30th, Americans can pay homage to and celebrate our nation’s outdoor heritage—something we should all pride ourselves in. 

And this celebration couldn’t arrive at a better time. With great upheaval across the country and a global pandemic looming overhead, this is the perfect opportunity to become one with nature and explore your natural surroundings. 

Great Outdoors Month was first acknowledged in 1998 during President Bill Clinton’s administration. In the 22 years since that initial celebration, it’s grown into a popular event online and offline with presidents, governors, private businesses, nonprofits, and individuals joining in on the fun. 

As I wrote here at Townhall recently, more Americans are fishing and hunting for fun and sustenance. They also are hiking, biking, boating, and birding too. 

Throughout June, Americans are greatly encouraged to discover and enjoy our country’s vast natural wonders. Even for the 80.7 percent of Americans who reside close to cities, nature is actually within reach. They just need to seek it out.  

 A Priority for the Trump Administration 

Last week, President Trump issued this year’s Great Outdoors Month proclamation. To his supporters and even objective observers, he has done a surprisingly good job for conservation by involving different stakeholders, advancing stewardship, and expanding public lands access for fishing, hunting, and similar recreational activities. 

It’s no surprise to see him issue a statement reaffirming the importance of our nation’s natural treasures.

His proclamation began like this: “During Great Outdoors Month, we celebrate the majestic mountains, forests, canyons, beaches, and rivers that provide recreation and renewal for all Americans, enriching our lives and strengthening an enduring connection to our national heritage.” 

It added, “Whether hiking on world-class trails, camping under the stars, or fishing our Nation’s abundant waterways, exploring the great outdoors provides adventurers of all ages endless opportunities to create lifelong memories. This month, we pause to appreciate the extraordinary natural beauty of our country, and we recommit to protecting and preserving our natural wonders for future generations.”

Outdoor Recreation Economy Grew Fastest of Any Sector

Not only is enhancing access to public outdoor spaces important, but it’s also supported by a burgeoning outdoor recreation sector. While the industry has suffered under the pandemic like other sectors, it’s expected to recover and experience the biggest comeback imaginable—especially as more Americans buy fishing and hunting licenses. 

According to a September 2019 Bureau of Economic Analysis report, outdoor recreation accounted for 2.2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP)— valued at $427.2 billion. Boating and fishing rounded out the top spot of nominal added value followed by RVing, motorcycling/ATVing, hunting/shooting/trapping, equestrian, and snow activities. 

How cool is that? 

Time Outdoors Has Innumerable Health Benefits

Spending time outdoors is not only in our blood and an integral part of the economy, but there are also many innumerable benefits associated with it.

First, as Harvard Medical School notes, spending time outdoors increases our vitamin D levels—which is essential for combating disease. The institution explains vitamin D is a “sunshine vitamin because sunlight hitting the skin begins the circuitous process — the liver and kidneys get involved — that eventually leads to the creation of the biologically active form of the vitamin.”

Second, “green exercise”—or physical exercise in natural environments— boasts “significant improvements in self-esteem and mood measures, as well as leading to significant reductions in blood pressure.” The term was first coined in 2003 by a University of Essex researcher. 

Third, consistently being outdoors leads to greater levels of happiness, health, and improved concentration. For more stress-prone city dwellers, it’s important to seek out green spaces or drive out to outdoor spaces. It provides balance and gives one a necessary escape from the heyday of work and life. 

Conclusion

Spending time outdoors allows us to break bread, develop new memories, and bolster interpersonal relationships. The Great Outdoors unites us more than we know and can provide a backdrop for healing. 

I’ll leave you with these inspiring words from naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who penned the following in his 1862 essay “Walking”: “I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”