An inclusive running community dedicated to environmental justice, advocacy, and stewardship
Launched on Earth Day, 2019, and based in Ventura, California, Runners for Public Lands is 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice
Board of Directors
RPL Co-Vice President
RPL Co-Vice President
Dr. Leigh Scarber
RPL Social Media Director
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 my community did not.) The air remained unbreathable for weeks, and the region, totally 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 dedicated 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 Brewing Company in Ventura, a community of runners gathered to discuss starting Runners for Public Lands (RPL). Sketchfolio generously built our website; I registered RPL 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.
RPL is led by recreational and competitive runners (trail and road), environmental scientists, conservation and environmental stewardship professionals, race directors, personal trainers, physical therapists, corporate leaders in the outdoor industry, and people passionate about the environment. RPL’s Advocacy and Education Committee plans both our advocacy campaigns and educational opportunities for runners; the Events and Outreach Committee plans our events and conservation work in partnership with regional nonprofits and businesses; and the Development Committee raises money for RPL and networks nationally to build a grassroots movement of runners dedicated to environmental advocacy and stewardship.
Executive Director: Vic Thasiah; Social Media Director: Leigh Scarber
Executive Board: Laura Ochoa (co-president), Mike Scarber (co-president), Kate Furlong (co-vice president), Jess Rogers (co-vice president)
Board of Directors: François Appéré, Bryant Baker, Stephen Efner, Michelle Libman, Leigh Scarber, Josh Spiker
Advocacy and Education Committee: Bryant Baker (chair), Kate Furlong, Katie Gialketsis, Marjolaine Mazurier, Elise Pescheret, Preston Ryan, Nancy Switzler
Events and Outreach Committee: Michelle Libman (chair), Tylar Harrison, Kyle O’Kelley, Emily Redfield, Jess Rogers, Preston Ryan, Mike Scarber, Lori Sharp
Development Committee: Françios Appéré (chair), Bianca Botta, Stephen Efner, Kate Furlong, Laura Ochoa, Josh Spiker
Sponsors: AllWeDoIsRun, Ascent Wellness, HOKA ONE ONE, Los Padres ForestWatch, Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, Patagonia, REI, Sage Trail Alliance, Spartan Trail, Topa Topa Brewing Company, Ventura Land Trust
The vision of inclusive running communities everywhere dedicated to environmental justice, advocacy, and stewardship continues to guide our work.