About

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.

Vic Thasiah

Vic Thasiah

Executive Director, Runners for Public Lands; learn more about RPL on the Social Sport podcast 

Board of Directors

Kate Furlong

Kate Furlong

RPL Vice President; and Stewardship Director,
Ventura Land Trust

Michelle Libman

Michelle Libman

Race Director, RaceFox Events

Laura Ochoa

Laura Ochoa

RPL Co-President; and School Counselor, Architecture, Construction, Engineering Charter High School; Sales Associate, REI

Jess Rogers

Jess Rogers

RPL Vice President; and Product Line Manager for Trail Running and Performance Knits Categories, Patagonia

Dr. Leigh Scarber

Dr. Leigh Scarber

RPL Social Media Director; and Physical Therapist and Owner, Ascent Wellness

Liz Thasiah

Liz Thasiah

Program Officer,
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

François Appéré

François Appéré

North America BIM Manager, Arcadis US Inc.

Bryant Baker

Bryant Baker

Conservation Director, Los Padres ForestWatch

Steve Doll

Steve Doll

Senior Vice President,
NAI Capital

Stephen Efner

Stephen Efner

IT Systems Analyst, Ventura County Transportation Commission

Tim Garvey

Tim Garvey

Chief Operations Officer, Oneida ESC Group

Mike Scarber

Mike Scarber

RPL Co-President; Physical Therapist and Rehab Manager, Mission Home Health

Josh Spiker

Josh Spiker

Owner,
Mile 26 Running Co.

History

I

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).

II

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.

III

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.

IV

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.

Vic Thasiah

Founder, RPL

 

Hey, let’s talk!

Runners for Public Lands is a 100% volunteer organization, and a member of the 1% for the Planet nonprofit network. You can financially support our work here. If you’d like to do something like what RPL does in your community, see Uprising, and we’d love to hear from you.