October 14, 2021

Outway: A Love Letter To America's Public Lands

Outway: A Love Letter To America's Public Lands

“There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

-Theodore Roosevelt in Osawatomie, Kansas, August 31, 1910.

It's easy to take aspects of our lives for granted when we're so used to seeing and feeling them everyday.  People, places, everyday comforts that weave themselves into our routines become commonplace.  It's cliché, but special things tend to go under appreciated after a while.  In the US we have over 2.27 billion acres of public land at our fingertips; protected natural parks, open spaces, and forests. How many of us stop to recognize how fundamental, special, and fragile that privilege is?

Access to wild natural areas is so imperative to our country that over the years we've developed a massive network of organizations to maintain and protect them. Surprisingly, this immensely tangled and interconnected network works quite well.  Land Managers are the foundation of the outdoor community in the US supporting access and protection to all adventurers, the entire outdoor recreation industry, non-profits, and more.  The system is comprised of organizations in federal, state, and local governments.  Organizations such as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, state park agencies, and local open spaces among many others. All working tirelessly in pursuit of two seemingly opposing goals: furthering the preservation of nature while maintaining accessibility to the ever growing population of adventurers .  This is a fine line to walk, and many adventurers never give a second thought to who is working to keep the lands accessible let alone maintained.  Sadly, our public lands, one of our most treasured natural resources, are being strained to the point of breaking.

In 2020, 161 million adventurers in the US participated in outdoor activities. Over the last four years, that number has increased by 10%, and it is expected to again next year.  While the number of adventurers is rising, the resources to manage the land are not.  An influx of adventurers of this scale is putting a tremendous stress on the land managers trying to mitigate human caused damage on public lands and their ecosystems.  Forest fires, pollution, and trail erosion are just some of the rapidly burgeoning signs that tell us the pressures on public lands are outpacing land managers' ability to preserve them.

The human impact on the land is irrefutable. Actions that may seem harmless such as veering off trail and leaving dog waste can upend ecosystems and have rippling effects on the longevity of the area.  It may seem obvious to some more experienced adventurers that these actions have environmental consequences, but the reality is that accurate  information from verified sources is not widely circulated enough to reach the masses of newcomers to the outdoor community.  We are seeing more signs of damage and missuse of public lands than ever before, and it has become apparent that many adventurers are not receiving sufficient outdoor education.

In an effort to curb the damage caused by adventurers who lack proper outdoor education, land management organizations are in a sprint to distribute updated rules, regulations, and practices.  This data mostly lives on their land management websites, local media sources, and trailhead signs.  But adventurers are turning to other sources for information such as word of mouth, aggregate sources like Google and Instagram, and other third party crowdsources apps.  There are a number of problems with people relying on these other sources for their outdoor information. The biggest issue is that the information does not come from the source, the land managers, and is therefore often diluted with misleading, inaccurate, or outdated information.  These circumstances have separated the adventurers from land managers, when collaboration and cooperation between the two parties has never been more important.

The solution is simple: we have to work together.  A door must be opened to allow for land managers to communicate their information directly to adventurers.  Proper outdoor education and real-time information are imperative to the conservation and furthered accessibillity of our public lands.  The outdoor community and public lands are in need of a single, unifying, and collaborative platform to facilitate adventurer education and open communication between all the players in the arena.

Enter: Outway.

To unite the outdoor community and ensure the preservation of our public lands, Outway provides that solution. We bridge the gap between land managers and adventurers by providing a ground-breaking technical platform that delivers a digital hub for collaboration, real time communication and elevated experiences for all. As a team of passionate adventurers and professional technologists, we are uniquely poised to empower and unite the outdoor community. We built Outway to set a new standard for outdoor education and collaboration, because we believe that public lands and the right to enjoy them should be preserved for everyone, forever.

Our platform is crafted to ensure the longevity and accessibility of our public lands by giving those who steward them the ability to control their data in a nationwide ecosystem and collaborate across jurisdictions.  Land managers are the corner stone of preserving public lands, thus it is urgent we turn our focus to their guidance.  It is our duty to protect and preserve these areas that we have come to take for granted.  Join Outway, and help build a unified home for the outdoor community.

Collaborative Stewardship Mapping Exercise
Presentation Slide Deck