When H.R. 621 — a bill that threatened 3.3 million acres of public lands in 10 western states to be transferred to the mercy of state and local governments — was introduced, protests, petitions, and public outcry soon followed. HR 621 was soon withdrawn, due in large part to vocal opposition from the outdoors community.
The warning shot was enough to motivate a group of trail-runners to take action by creating Run Wild, an initiative that focuses on land preservation and activism through trail running. “We recognized that, as trail-runners, we are connected to a vast community of people who care deeply about access to public land,” co-founder Hallie Fox says. “With shifting priorities in Washington, it's more important now than ever that we become protectors of the land we love and are lucky enough to enjoy as runners.”
Run Wild has partnered with The Wilderness Society, an organization that has been working on protecting public land since 1935, to raise money to fund representation and education about public lands from the capital in Washington to the Tetons. Aside from raising money for TWS, the founders of Run Wild is working to connect running groups with outdoor groups, providing awareness of how those trails came to be — and asking runners to voice their support.
Some say it's about time. "We've often talked about how seemingly non-engaged the trail-running community is on public lands access, despite the fact that a single locked gate could destroy many of our most cherished ultra-races,” says John Kaeding, a supporter of Run Wild and a member of the Idaho Conservation League. "On the contrary, hunters, anglers, and motorsports groups seem fully engaged at both the local and national levels. They understand the risk while we runners seem oblivious to the fact that we need more than just a pair of shoes to be a trail-runner. We need the land.”
Currently, Run Wild is focusing efforts on quick activism (like rallying around the continued protection of Bear's Ears National Monument) and longer-term commitments to preservation of public land access and increased recreational opportunities. They are hosting a "Run-In Day" on April 22 in celebration of Earth Day, and asking people to run on their favorite public trails, take a photo, and share a bit about these special places with the wider community.
To support the group or get involved, Fox encourages anyone to follow @runwild on Instagram. “By partnering with TWS, we are able to get the word out quickly about issues as they arise via social media,” she says. Additionally, you can donate directly to TWS or buy a Run Wild T-shirt, with all proceeds going to TWS.