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North Cascades, Ross Lake Excursion

ross lake

The Youth Leadership Adventures has got to be one of the best youth
programs for empowering youth to be the next generation’s stewards of the
environment.

My morning started off at 4:30am on August 9th, 2014 with a 3-hour solo drive to Ross Lake in the North Cascades. I had a lot of time to think about the day ahead yet had no idea how much this day was going to change my life. A month earlier I had accepted the invitation to participate in a day trip with the Youth Leadership Adventures to which I had no prior knowledge of Youth Leadership Adventures. But the offer to hike the North Cascades and explore Ross Lake on a guided boat tour was a chance I couldn’t pass on and I am glad that I didn’t.

By 7:30am the sun was rising over the mountains peaks, which made the lake, sparkle like diamonds. At the trailhead an energetic group of strangers prepared for a hike down to the lake. The strangers were just friends that I had not met and they warmly welcomed me into their group. We tightened our hiking boots, stretched out the legs, and began to make our way down to the “mule”. The hike was an easy scenic stroll on well-kept switchbacks. We took our time to observe wildlife, take photographs, and learn about the history of the North Cascades Institute.

Once we reached the dam we could see that the lake stretched all the way up to the Canadian border. Being an avid hiker who has hiked 4 out of the Mighty 5, Utah’s National Parks I thought I had seen all the colors that nature could provide, but Ross Lake’s naturally blue-green color is surreal and the water is so clear that fish can be seen 10 feet below the water’s surface. This protected land is so pure and raw it cannot be reproduced through photographs.

Before boarding the mule, which is a more of a barge than a boat we discussed the activities for the remainder of the day. Amy Brown from the North Cascades Institute leads the conversation and let’s us in on why we are here. “The YLA is a hands-on outdoor leadership program focused on mentoring students in field science, communications, and public speaking. It is our goal to listen, learn, and support them in their passion for the conservation”.

After about an hour on the boat we arrive at the campsite where the youth leaders have called home for the past ten days. Their campsite is primitive with no running water or restrooms, but has an incredible view that sits on a bluff, which overlooks the lake. I mentally add this as a place to camp to my bucket list. We pick up a number of youth leaders and return to the mule to troll northward to a secluded shoal. This remote area is heavily shaded with overgrown trees and lichens are thriving. It’s lunchtime and we break into small groups to learn why the youth have chosen to participate in YLA. It is at this point that I learn why I made the three-hour drive…

These youth leaders felt empowered to take responsibility for the environment and hearing them speak about conversation, sustainable practices, and stewardship was truly awe-inspiring. Standing before us were the next stewards of the environment. What they needed from us is support, leadership, awareness, and access to resources. What they already had was the determination to protect the environment; they just needed to know how to do it. Thanks to the Youth Leadership Adventures these passionate environmentalist now have the leadership skills to make an impact in their local communities.

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How To Make Environmental Change At The Local Level

mountain top

Lincoln Peak, looking to the Southwest Photo credit: http://chattermarks.ncascades.org/adventures/scurlocks-snow-spire/

Protecting the environmental is a monumental task and it can be overwhelming just thinking about where to start. To be effective at preserving our environment it is important to start small and set your sights on preserving your environment at the local level. If you adopt the mantra “Think Globally, Act Locally” you will be more successful at administering change.

So where do you start? It depends on how you want to contribute. If planting trees or rebuilding streams are not something you can do contact your elected officials and tell them that you need their support in protecting our environment.

Start at the top of the food chain with most important being the president.
Twitter: @BarackObama
Email: president@whitehouse.gov

Next work your way down to the state and local levels. Here is how to contact Washington state representatives.
Twitter: @CantwellPress
Email: maria@cantwell.senate.gov

Twitter: @PattyMurray
Email: patty@murray.senate.gov

Twitter: @BLMdirector
Email: director@blm.gov (Neil Kornze)

If you are an educator at any level an easy acronym to teach is T.R.E.E.S. which will empowers others to become stewards of the environment.

    T = Teach
    R = Recycle
    E = Establish protected areas
    E = Energy conservation
    S = Stewardship

Lastly, once you have contacted your local representatives and inspired others to preserve their local environment it is time to get your hands dirty and begin protecting the environment. No matter where you live these are the top 10 ways to protect your local environment.

What you can do locally:
1. Trail (path) restoration
2. Indigenous tree and shrub planting
3. Greenscaping
4. Grow your own garden
5. Adopt a watershed
6. Organize a trash clean up
7. Monitor air quality
8. Take shorter showers
9. Sign up for the P3 Expo
10. Carpool, take mass transit, ride a skateboard

I look forward to reading your comments.