Fresh air, sunshine and nature’s beauty are powerful tonics to the anxiety we feel in these uncertain times. That’s why resources from local trails to state and national parks have seen a substantial increase in use as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted daily life. In some cases, the increase has been too much for social distancing, causing managers to make the difficult decision to close access.

In this time of stress, let’s celebrate and enjoy Maine’s beautiful outdoors, which is both a big part of why we love our state and a keystone of our economy. Gov. Mills’ Stay Healthy at Home mandate specifically designates activities like walking, hiking, running and biking as essential personal activities. Further, the governor waived the need for a fishing license throughout the month of April, saying, “There’s nothing better for the heart and soul than a little fishing.”

More important than ever is knowing our own abilities and planning well. Let’s stay within our abilities and not put any strain on staff, search and rescue operations or local health systems. If we spread out instead of putting too much pressure on popular spots, we can continue to enjoy the outdoors until the health emergency passes. For example, it’s good to have more than one destination in mind so that we can move on if the first is too full. Maine Trail Finder is a helpful resource and is tracking closures to allow you to recreate close to home. Additionally, the state’s guidance on enjoying the outdoors responsibly can be found at

Many of these treasured places in Maine at both the local and state levels have been made available for use by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the state-based Land for Maine’s Future program. Both are worth investing in at this pivotal time.

Companies that drill offshore for oil and gas pay royalties into the Land and Water Conservation Fund to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage. LWCF protects and enhances national parks including both Acadia and the Appalachian Trail; national wildlife refuges, like the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge; and state lands like the Bigelow Preserve and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Close to home, LWCF funds local parks, playgrounds and ballfields. A component fund, the Forest Legacy grant program, protects working forests and helps conserve land while supporting Maine’s forest products industry.

Congress should include appropriations for the LWCF and our beloved national parks in the next stimulus package, investing in the physical and mental well-being of all Americans while injecting spending into our economy.

Land for Maine’s Future has helped to conserve over 600,000 acres across all 16 counties, from nearby resources like Bradbury Mountain to iconic destinations like Mount Kineo. Whatever you like to do outside – hike, paddle, hunt, fish or picnic – you can find a place to visit not far from you.

At a moment when we’re all thinking about the availability of local, fresh, healthy food, it’s good to know that LMF has helped protect 40 Maine farms and 24 properties that support seafood harvesting along the length of our coast.

This year, when we are reminded of the value of close-to-home outdoor recreation, state lawmakers should forward to the voters a bond question to recapitalize this proven program and to invest in maintenance of our spectacular state parks. Sen. Cathy Breen’s bill to do that deserves strong support.

Finally, managing public spaces to prevent problems, as the Press Herald Editorial Board suggests, requires adequate staffing. Gov. Mills responsibly proposed to restore 24 ranger positions unwisely cut from our chronically underfunded state parks. Lawmakers should agree, so that these remarkable places can meet the desire by Mainers and visitors for the physical and mental benefit they provide.

Being outdoors is good for us. Let’s invest in our health and our economy by ensuring that every American can enjoy nature’s benefits.

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