Be Safe. Be Well. Be Local.

Step away from hiking hotspots and step into the nature of your own neighborhoods.

(Courtesy: The Nature Conservancy)

Nature is our ally during this difficult time. It has the power to soothe, uplift and restore. Governor Sununu has acknowledged the physical and mental health benefits of getting outside as we live under the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, while recommending that all of us play a role in ensuring the health and safety of our people and natural areas by recreating locally and responsibly.

Collectively, NH AudubonThe Nature Conservancy, and the Society for the Protection of NH Forests own and manage more than 90,000 acres of conservation land across New Hampshire. Currently, we are keeping our lands and trails open for public use, with drive-by monitoring to assess use levels. While overcrowding is a challenge we are monitoring closely, we believe natural areas offer outdoor experiences that are needed now more than ever. We are pleased to see people across the Granite State experiencing the restorative powers of a simple walk in the woods, and are equally pleased that most are heeding the message to enjoy those benefits locally and only when a place is not crowded.

It’s no secret that getting outside is good for you. And, in this time of social distancing, nature does not have to be far away. Now is an opportune time to explore your backyard or neighborhood, looking for nature in unexpected places. Spring’s arrival coincides with the return of migratory birds, providing the perfect setting to learn different species and their calls. Consider planting flowers or a garden. Live in an apartment? Try a planter of herbs in a sunny window.

While there is nothing like the real thing, there are online options too. Your favorite conservation organizations around the state are offering all types of nature-based content and opportunities online, typically through their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. From virtual field trips and story hours, to backyard bioblitzes and photo challenges, there’s something for everyone to enjoy just outside—or inside—their front door.

If you simply must get a little deeper into the woods, please avoid popular spots, choose places that are close to home, and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Do your research — use our websites or those of a local land trust or conservation commission to identify open spaces near you. Have a plan B — if you find the parking area full, try a different location where social distancing will be easier.

This is a tough time when all we want to do is stretch our legs, get a little exercise and begin to enjoy the nicer weather. By stepping away from hiking hotspots and stepping into the nature of our own neighborhoods, we can help protect the people — and the places — we hold so dearly. Be Safe. Be Well. Be Local.

Doug Bechtel, NH Audubon
Doug Bechtel
New Hampshire Audubon    

Mark Zankel, The Nature Conservancy
Mark Zankel
State Director
The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire

Jack Savage poses in the forest outside of the Conservation Center.
Jack Savage, Forest Society
Jack Savage
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests



This op-ed can also be read in the Concord Monitor and