Ever wondered how you can do more for public lands but you aren’t sure where to start? Outdoor Alliance’s Outdoor Allies series explores how other outdoor adventurers got their start in advocacy work and their advice for how you can harness your passion for the outdoors into advocacy for the land and water you love. James Edward Mills is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin who for 15 years has specialized in stories about outdoor recreation and environmental conservation.
Tell us about what you like to do outside.
I am particularly a fan of walking outside. I enjoy backpacking of course, but I also like walking along a trail to trout stream for fly fishing or the approach to a rock climbing area or carrying my stand up paddle board to the lake shore. I just like to be outside.
You’ve been in the industry a long time. When did you start getting involved in advocacy work?
My work in advocacy started in earnest when I became a journalist full time. Though I try to retain a high level in objectivity in my reporting I’m certain that as a writer I betray a bias toward environmental protection and stewardship.
As a journalist, how have you seen the conversations around outdoor advocacy change in the last few years?
I think the biggest change I have seen has been in the emergence of social media. Ordinary people on a variety of different online platforms are sharing their stories and images to reveal a much more diverse population of environmental advocates than most people probably realized. With this expansion of representation across several communities that have been previously unrecognized in the mainstream media I think we are seeing more and more people finding their voices to share their enthusiasm for the natural world as well as their outrage for those who are trying to destroy it.
Tell us about some of the recent issues you’ve been working on.
For more than a decade I’ve been working on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in outdoor recreation. Now that we’re well aware that there is a racial, cultural and socio-economic divide between those who spend time in nature and those who do not that I call in my book of the same title The Adventure Gap, I’m looking into the many ways that individuals, government agencies and nonprofits can do a better job of reaching out to and engaging an emerging population of citizens who will soon be the majority. I’m addressing the question of how do we make access to both natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities equitable.
What do you hope the future of public lands and the outdoors looks like?
To me, I hope the future of public lands and the outdoors look like a lush and verdant world where everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate in its sustainable longevity .
Best recent read on advocacy:
Trace by Lauret Savoy or Black Faces White Spaces by Carolyn Finney
Next destination on your bucket list:
The Joy Trip Café in Fukuoka, Japan
Current favorite piece of gear:
The Peak Design Capture Camera Mount