Inside the Source: USFS Recreation: Renewing Body and Spirit 

July 17, 2019 

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US Forest Service Recreation: Renewing Body and Spirit
By Steve Wilent 

At the top of the US Forest Service’s Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources web page is this 1919 quote by Arthur Carhart, a Forest Service landscape architect:

Perhaps the rebuilding of the body and spirit is the greatest service derivable from our forests, for what worth are material things if we lose the character and quality of people that are the soul of America.

In the following paragraphs, the agency explains that “The National Forests and Grasslands provide the greatest diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities in the world, connecting you with nature in an unmatched variety of settings and activities. You hike, bike, ride horses, and drive off-highway vehicles. You picnic, camp, hunt, fish, and navigate waterways. You view wildlife and scenery, and explore historic places. You glide though powder at world-class alpine resorts and challenge yourselves on primitive cross-country ski or snowmobile routes.

“Outdoor recreation is fun—and so much more. It provides physical challenge, requires development of life-long skills, provokes interest and inquiry, and inspires wonder and awe of the natural world. Recreation thereby contributes greatly to the physical, mental, and spiritual health of individuals, bonds family and friends, instills pride in heritage, and provides economic benefits to communities, regions, and the nation. Indeed, outdoor recreation has become an essential part of our American culture.”

I recently spoke with Michiko Martin, director, Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources, about the agency’s work to maintain and perhaps improve and expand its offerings of recreational opportunities. She and her colleagues face a daunting challenge: a $5-billion deferred-maintenance backlog and a shrinking recreation budget.

Martin has worked for the Forest Service for about five years. During the previous 30 years or so, she worked for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Sanctuaries System, which encompasses more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters; she also served in the US Navy as a meteorologist and oceanographer. What follows are excerpts from our conversation.

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