Spending time in nature, amidst gigantic trees, the mud-covered trails, and feeling the fresh breeze flowing through every part of the forest is a magical experience.
Everywhere you look, you’ll find a creature that calls the forest home, big or small. A deer leaps across the woodland. Then it stops for a moment and watches you from the trees before vanishing.
As you continue walking, a rabbit runs from the bush to your path, startling you. But all of a sudden, reality hits. You’ll have to do what you can to protect defenseless creatures and keep their home safe.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, national forests contribute around 4% of the manufacturing GDP of the nation. This figure is more likely to increase and will negatively impact the forests and wildlife if nothing is done to address the problem.
There are ways you can do to enhance your enjoyment of national forests and maintain a balanced ecosystem. Read on to learn how you can make a difference and make your visit to a national forest memorable.
1. Hunt responsibly
Hiking and camping may be some of the first things to do when spending time in a forest. However, some would prefer to try hunting waterfowl or other game animals. If you want to try hunting in national forests, you need to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations.
US states have their own set of rules. In Alabama, for instance, you need to have an annual or lifetime permit verified from a US Forest Service office before you can hunt in national forests legally.
In Wisconsin, you need to obtain a five-year or annual license for resident and nonresident deer hunting. Once you’re licensed, you’ll need to purchase additional permits in order to hunt certain animals, such as bears, turkeys, and waterfowl.
As long as you abide by the rules, hunting in national forests is an unforgettable experience because you can access wide areas, challenge yourself, and discover plentiful habitat like bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goat, and wild turkey.
2. Volunteer with a local group
Joining a group of like-minded people who get together to make a difference will allow you to appreciate nature more and feel fulfilled. With a team of volunteers, you can help save the environment by pulling out weeds, picking up trash, and planting more trees or flowers.
Springer Link notes that various environmental impacts of recreation on the environment can include damage to vegetation, fire hazards, disturbance of wildlife, pollution, erosion or compaction of the soil, noise, and vandalism.
Most of these are preventable when volunteers donate their time and efforts to taking care of the forest alongside visitors.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service offers volunteering opportunities, such as:
- Maintaining and hosting campgrounds: A minimum of two weeks is usually required for volunteer positions here.
- Monitoring wilderness: You can work as a wilderness ranger or steward.
- Collaborating with specialists in fisheries/watershed, wildlife, and botany research: If you want to expand your knowledge, you’ll want to grab this opportunity.
- Greeting visitors, responding to mail, and answering phones at Forest Service visitor centers and ranger stations: These tasks will help enhance your social skills.
The USDA Forest Service even invites people who want to do a community service project. Whatever volunteer project you choose to do, you’ll feel proud and happy to use your talents and skills for a meaningful mission.
3. Introduce loved ones to the forest
Depending on the stipulations of the national forest you visit, there may be some exciting activities you can take part in with loved ones. Some of these activities include bird watching, finding animal tracks, building an animal shelter, or stargazing at night.
A trip to a national forest will not only strengthen your bond with friends and family, but it will also make your experience more special. When people discover such natural beauty, they create lasting memories and understand why forests need protection.
Visiting a national forest also gives you the opportunity to unplug from technology for a while and take in the calmness that nature has to offer. Many people live busy lives, dealing with stress and pressure. So, an escape to the forest with your favorite people will do you a world of good, even if only for a few hours.
When you get home, you can share your experiences online. Your posts may inspire others to do the same and raise awareness of national forests.
4. Consider getting a membership
National forests and recreational facilities need financial support to keep everything in the best condition. If authorities don’t receive the necessary funds, the forest upkeep will deteriorate, leaving the area worse for wear.
As a result, ecosystems will suffer. Animals will lose their nesting spots and natural resources like water and food. They may even become endangered.
But there are solutions to prevent these consequences, such as getting a membership, a seasonal or day pass. Another solution is donating to organizations like the National Forest Foundation, so officials can use the funds where needed.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, successful foundations like these may abide by three ways of increasing accountability and transparency for the funds they receive.
These can include yearly plans for the funds before they are spent, regular independent audits of their operations, and involving stakeholders outside the government to oversee their spending.
Individuals or companies can donate services like cleaning or painting to improve the environment. Donations of any kind will be helpful to the forest, so discussing the needs of the national forest you’d like to support will offer more insights into how you can provide financial support or services.
5. Try hiking
People usually like to do activities that help improve their mental health. Surrounding yourself with nature is one way to care for your well-being. Enjoying the fresh air, admiring the views, and going for a walk leave you feeling refreshed.
The forest is the perfect setting for reflection, exploration, and meditation. You can go hiking here too, which is a great activity for both your physical and mental health.
Hiking helps improve blood sugar and blood pressure levels, boost strength in your leg muscles, and add stability to your core muscles. When you hike, you also feel elated, satisfied, and calm. You learn to live in the moment.
Forming a deep appreciation for a national forest isn’t just about marveling at the views. It’s also about doing your part to protect the environment and sharing wonderful experiences with others.