ROCKPORT — Seventeen minutes. It’s not much time to share all you’ve learned reporting on Maine’s outdoors for nearly 20 years. But what my brief appearance on the newly relaunched “Wildfire” television show taught me was what writing about Maine’s outdoors does to a person.

It gives you hope.

I was the first guest on the relaunching of “Wildfire,” the cable show that airs on Time Warner Cable Channel 9 statewide at 7 p.m. Tuesday, 6:30 Thursday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday. It also can be seen at

Until a few years ago the outdoor talk show ran for 15 years with co-hosts George Smith, the former Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine director, and Harry Vanderweide, who interviewed outdoor guests. It’s back on television this spring with Smith and co-host James Cote. And I was asked to be the first guest, in part because after each show George will run in his outdoor blog a survey called “Sportsmen Say,” in honor of my predecessor at this newspaper, longtime outdoor columnist Gene Letourneau.

For decades, Letourneau asked sportsmen to share their opinions on outdoor issues. Things have changed a lot, and that’s exactly the point George and Cote made on “Wildfire” when they gave the media poor marks for outdoor coverage.

I argued that in this changing world our media company does a better job than most. In fact, I believe the spotlight we shine on the outdoor world offers solutions to many problems.

Which brings me to what I’ve learned in covering Maine’s outdoors. For almost two decades I’ve heard from every corner of Maine how children don’t spend time outside anymore, except for organized sports. On too many assignments around the state, I hear that children are scared of the woods. I know there are children in Maine who have never seen the ocean, and too many who have never been to Acadia National Park. There are youth in York County who don’t know that a town or two away, there’s more than 10,000 acres of forestland around Mount Agamenticus, and 40 miles of trails and views await.

How did we get to this place?

My Outdoors feature this Sunday is on what’s believed to be the state’s first outdoor elementary school, where children are taught part of their lessons in the woods and along waterways every day. Chewonki’s pilot program is not just about making school fun, it is aimed at larger problems like depression, attention disorders and childhood obesity. As Richard Louve argues in his award-winning book “The Last Child in the Woods,” nature is a natural antidepressant, and it’s a heck of a lot healthier than medication.

Newspapers are charged with reflecting a spotlight on where society is heading, the problems we face and the successes we enjoy. I believe the stories on my beat hold some solutions.

Maine has more land trusts per capita than any other state. It ranks second to California in the amount of land protected by this conservation community. We have more moose than any state in the Lower 48, as big a black bear population as anyone, and nearly all of the wild brook trout lakes and ponds in the East. And York County, which boasts about an easy commute to Boston, is one of the most forested counties in the state.

Wilderness sits near each and every one of us. And every week I get to remind people that. Maybe it’s not enough for some, but it gives me hope.