A running community that loves the natural world
Runners for Public Lands, launched on Earth Day, 2019, is a laboratory for experiments in runner environmental activism.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization, we are committed to learning more about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, and doing conservation work and environmental advocacy based on what we learn.
Founder and Executive Director of RPL; Professor, Religion and Environmental Studies, California Lutheran University
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
Senior Vice President,
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.
Experiencing runner activism
The Water Protectors Movement at Standing Rock in 2016 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 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 Trail Runner Magazine article “No Free Lunch: Trail Running and the Public Lands Debate” in 2017 called trail runners to step up. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that runners are the largest outdoor recreational group in the United States and don’t have a national, collective voice in conservation work and environmental advocacy. We have so much potential.
Becoming a runner activist
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; and started training as a community organizer and California Naturalist. Over the next 18 months, I interviewed more than 100 people across the country somehow connected to the phenomenon I was calling runner environmentalism.
Indigenous prayer runners – organized by Wings of America, Bears Ears Prayer Run Alliance, Utah Diné Bikéyah, and the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples – further inspired me by running nearly 800 miles to Bears Ears in 2018. Their “Sacred Strides of Healing” run was beautifully orchestrated to honor the land; heal relationships with one another; and protect the sacredness of Bears Ears from government and corporate interests.
A community steps up
Finally, on September 24, 2018, hosted by Ventura Land Trust at Topa Topa Brewing Company, I shared plans to start Runners for Public Lands (RPL) with runners in my region. Sketchfolio generously built a website for RPL; 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 community trail run and habitat restoration event at Harmon Canyon in Ventura.
Making it happen
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 environmental literacy, conservation, and advocacy; Chris Thasiah’s work on graphic design; and Leigh Scarber’s work on social media really helped us take off. The vision of runners everywhere giving back by protecting and restoring the environment has guided RPL ever since.
Thanks to everyone who helped us along the way,