Baba Dioum said, “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.‘


Nature Disconnect

The greatest challenges today for the stewardship community is to make caring for air, water, soil and nature (natural resources) a core American value again. With people increasingly disconnected from the outdoors, we face the growing reality that Americans will no longer view conservation stewardship or the presence of natural areas as a value to society.

Considering how disconnected people are from nature, the hook on technology and gadgets keeps growing. People spend more time in the digital world than the natural one. Technology in some cases can improve people’s experience in nature — like geocaching, which is the use of technology for outdoor scavenger hunts. If the connection with nature is lost, what will it mean for the future of our natural resources?


Personal Mission

I’ve always been fond of the outdoors, growing up with an outdoors-woman as my mother; getting on the trail was like a spiritual experience. I learned through experiencing the outdoors that being a good steward to the environment was a responsibility for the love of it.

Even with that, I never pictured myself working in conservation because I didn’t even know such a word existed nor opportunity. It’s my personal mission to connect more people with the outdoors and their environment. The life skills, larger perspective and appreciation of our natural surroundings cannot be replicated anywhere else.


Conservation (?)

Conservation is the use of natural resources in a way that makes sure they are healthy for future generations. “We will only conserve what we love‘ (Dioum). It isn’t possible to build love for something that people don’t have connection to. Connection comes with exposure and exposure happens through discovery.

Opportunity to discover what each of us love about being outdoors will lead to connecting the community to the outdoors and inspire future conservation leaders and environmental stewards. If people never experience nature and don't understand the services that nature provides, it is unlikely people will choose a sustainable future.

It takes an entire community to protect our natural resources — professionals can’t do it on their own. The driving force of conservation efforts is the community. Citizen scientists and outdoor recreationalists are the first responders, the on-the-ground lookouts that see things happening first.


Missaukee County Appreciation

Missaukee County is abundant in healthy natural resources — our lakes, rivers, forests, beaches, trails, parks, disc golf course and more. The next generation’s leaders in our area are overlooking resources that could connect them to knowing the value of the outdoors better.  There is a general understanding due to nature appreciating families and outreach through, school programs, Missaukee Conservation District programs, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, MSU Extension and others, but our community’s detachment from nature is still apparent.

In order to build a connection or love for what is being conserved (water, air, soil, and nature), we must create opportunity for discovery. So how can yoga, backpacking, photography, or geocaching, conserve our natural resources, you ask?

This summer the first ever "On-The-Trail" series takes place right on Missaukee County Fitness Trail, 6180 W. Sanborn Road, Lake City (commonly known as the Health Department building). This outdoor series was kicked-off with a ‘Backpacking Basics’ workshop led by Maria Kinney. Then a "Gentle Yoga and Meditation" practice with Jason McCoy. Coming up is "Self-Defense On-The-Trail" with David Anscomb, "Geocaching 101" taught by Gordon and Linda Kimbel, and lastly a "Photo Walk" with Allen and Kent Photography and Photo Club.

Each event is different from the other, but all ‘On-The-Trail’ are open to all walks and ages of life. These are opportunities to discover what being in nature means to you and a chance to get to know Missaukee Conservation District as a community resource. Events like this summer’s "On-The-Trail" series can inspire people to care for and become involved in our natural resources.

Missaukee Conservation District wants to be the catalyst for the community for the greater good. Real change is first created locally. Community understanding of what real change means to each one of us is vital to conservation efforts; to change the concept of human vs. the environment, to human connection with the environment. “The purpose of conservation is the greatest good to the greatest number of people for the longest time‘ (Gifford Pinchot). The greatest good is, of course, ever evolving to suit the needs of the community. Where will the trail lead you?


Dru Mark-Wilson is the AmeriCorps Member for Missaukee County. She can be reached at or 231-839-7193.