We’re building an inclusive global community around protecting and restoring the natural places we run and love.
Launched on Earth Day, 2019, Runners for Public Lands is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in its conservation work and environmental advocacy.
Board of Directors
RPL Vice President; and Stewardship Director,
Ventura Land Trust
Race Director, RaceFox Events
RPL Co-President; and School Counselor, Architecture, Construction, Engineering Charter High School; Sales Associate, REI
RPL Vice President; and Product Line Manager for Trail Running and Performance Knits Categories, Patagonia
Dr. Leigh Scarber
RPL Social Media Director; and Physical Therapist and Owner, Ascent Wellness
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
North America BIM Manager, Arcadis US Inc.
Conservation Director, Los Padres ForestWatch
IT Systems Analyst, Ventura County Transportation Commission
Chief Operations Officer, Oneida ESC Group
RPL Co-President; Physical Therapist and Rehab Manager, Mission Home Health
Mile 26 Running Co.
The 2016 Water Protectors Movement at Standing Rock inspired many people, including me. I’d been hanging out with runners and activists for years, but hadn’t put the two together until I saw the Oceti Sakowin youth, carrying their people’s prayers and petitions, run over 2000 miles in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
As government threats to public lands mounted, Mike Foote’s 2017 Trail Runner Magazine article “No Free Lunch: Trail Running and the Public Lands Debate” called trail runners to step up and join the fight. Runners were the largest outdoor recreational group in the United States (they still are) and didn’t have an organized, collective, national voice in conservation work and environmental advocacy (they still don’t).
So, I experimented with a trail running and public lands event co-hosted by Bryant Baker, Conservation Director of Los Padres ForestWatch, and Josh Spiker, President of Mile 26 Running Company, in Ventura, California, on November 7, 2017; started training as a community organizer and California Naturalist; and interviewed over 100 people across the country on connecting running and environmental stewardship.
A month later, the Thomas Fire ravaged the city of Ventura and surrounding communities, scorching nearly 300,000 acres. On the night of December 4, 2017, my family and I said goodbye to our home and fled the city. (Our home luckily survived the fire, though more than 1000 structures in the area did not.) The air remained unbreathable for weeks, and the region, unrunnable. Flooding followed with mudslides killing 23 people and destroying 130 more homes. Climate change had intensified everything. With an average temperature rise of 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels, Ventura County is the fastest warming county in the lower 48, heating up at double the rate of the rest of the nation.
Around the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published what’s become its most influential report, confirming the difference an average temperature increase of just a half-degree Celsius makes in human suffering, ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, and mass extinction. This report, and another group of Indigenous prayer runners – organized by Wings of America, Bears Ears Prayer Run Alliance, Utah Diné Bikéyah, and the Seventh Generation Fund – running nearly 800 miles to Bears Ears National Monument in resistance to similar corporate-government interests as before, called for action.
Finally, on September 24, 2018, hosted by Ventura Land Trust at Topa Topa Brewery in Ventura, a community of runners gathered to discuss starting Runners for Public Lands (RPL). Sketchfolio generously built our website; Liz Thasiah, Stephen Efner, and I registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization; and we launched on Earth Day, April 20, 2019, with a trail run and habitat restoration event at Harmon Canyon in Ventura.
Early work by Bryant Baker, Steve Doll, Stephen Efner, Kate Furlong, Tim Garvey, Mark Kirwin, Michelle Libman, Dan Pizano, Jess Rogers, Leigh Scarber, Mike Scarber, Jason Simpson, Josh Spiker, Athena Thasiah, Chris Thasiah, Eden Thasiah, and Liz Thasiah made everything possible. Bryant Baker’s work on place-based environmental literacy, conservation, and advocacy; Chris Thasiah’s work on graphic design; and Leigh Scarber’s work on social media helped us take off.
The vision of runners everywhere becoming better stewards of the environment has guided RPL ever since.