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Courtney Aber

Why I’m on the steering committee:
I am a firm believer in the power of the outdoors.  I have seen what time outside can do for others and I have experienced it myself.  I love to spend time outside. It helps me find hope for the world. It helps me remember what is possible.  I want others to have that same opportunity. Natural places need to have advocates and without a connection to these special places I am not sure we will have that.

Your stakeholder group and why COA is important:
The stakeholder group I represent work to introduce young people to the outdoors.  We bring many youth out for their first camping trip. We want them to experience the beautiful natural places in this country, but we can’t legally take them there.  Without a permit we are unable to help young people discover what the outdoors has to offer.

What is an example of a problem your organization has had with permitting:
We have had several issues with getting permits.  Our program based in Seattle has had to take youth to Canada for rock climbing programs even though there is great climbing less than 2 hours away because we could not get a permit locally – there haven’t been permits issued in some National Forests near us in over 20 years.  We had a group in Idaho that was based hiking out of a camp. The camp is surrounded by lightly used National Forest lands, but they were not able to get a permit and had to backpack around the perimeter of the camp all week.

Why do you think getting outside is important for people?
The outdoors is an amazing tool to solve several of the issues we are facing as a society.  It’s a place where people come together to get to know each other as people not based on what they look like or how much money they make or where they live, but based on what they care about and who they are.  It’s a place for being and getting healthy – whether that’s through being active physically or calming down to reset our busy minds. It’s a place where we can go to get perspective on the world.

Tell us about an amazing time you have had in the outdoors as part of a permitted group.
I led a group of young people on a 3 week adventure doing a combination of backpacking, water water kayaking, and canoeing.  For many of them it was their first time in the backcountry. One girl on our trip was struggling with mental health issues and had been diagnosed with depression.  Others had struggled in school and with creating strong, positive friendships. It rained every day of our trip, but this group that struggled in so many other ways in their lives was amazing – they were positive and happy.  They took initiative and helped out without needing to be asked. They were full of wonder and appreciation for the beauty around us. They never complained despite the weather and other obstacles we faced. They taught me what a group working together in the wilderness can do – they can bring out the best in each of us.