The PLHC’s community storytelling project recently gained attention in one of the most widely-recognized nature publications anywhere: National Geographic. Freelance photojournalist, Andria Hautamaki, authored the article. The Colorado-based reporter discovered the PLHC’s Public Landemic project online. The project and the PLHC sparked her curiosity. In developing the article, the reporter noticed that the Public Landemic project reflected her own observation: visitation to public lands, especially in the Mountain West, was increasing during the COIVD-19 pandemic. Speaking with land managers confirmed her suspicions, and they noted that even seldom-visited areas were receiving record-breaking numbers of visitors, with weekday traffic more closely resembling that of weekends or holidays.
In developing the article, Hautamaki also found that many visitors to public lands were doing so for the first time, and were in the process of learning how to minimize their impact on the landscapes they accessed. She reached out to the PLHC’s program manager, Ariel Schnee, for comment and historical perspective on this phenomenon. Schnee noted that relocating closer to resources or desirable landscapes during times of crisis has plenty of historical precedent, both in terms of pervious pandemics like the Spanish Flu, and environmental crises like the Dust Bowl. In the interview, Hautamaki also learned that Schnee and other PLHC personnel developed the Public Landemic project as an informal platform to allow community members to share their experiences on public land. It also provided the public with a space to reflect on public land as a resource for solace, recreation, and diversion during the global pandemic.
Schnee is quoted in the article alongside officials from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, land managers from various units of the US Forest Service, and other public lands experts. A long-time reader and subscriber to National Geographic, Schnee remembers stacks of the magazine around her house while she was growing up. She was thrilled when she learned where the article would be published. She remarked, “I’ve been reading National Geographic since I was tiny. I never thought I’d be one of the people quoted in it. It’s unreal.” The article also represents an important career accomplishment for Hautamaki as well. It is her first publication in National Geographic. Her past work has been featured in numerous other high-profile publications including the New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR.
To read the article, click here.