Today: Kris Larson, executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization that works with communities, agencies and private property owners to preserve and restore forest, prairie, wetland and shoreland.
After a summer bucket-list trip to Alaska with my family, I’m now reading “Alaska” by James Michener. It’s an older book (and almost 900 pages), but still it brilliantly captures the interaction between the natural history of a place and its people. As someone who has dedicated a career toward protecting and restoring Minnesota’s landscapes, I’ve been given a lot to think from Michener’s books regarding how we tell an authentic story of our place.
For work, I’m following the broad movement(s) to get our kids and diverse communities outside. With sobering statistics (for example, prison inmates spend more time outside than our youth), I’ve been encouraged by how many different sectors are engaged, from the hunting and fishing community, to outdoor retailers, to the health sector, to environmental educators, and beyond. In this polarized era, it seems like this is something that we can all agree on.
Engaging people with meaningful outdoor experiences is a pathway to loving nature. This “Adventure Gap” (coined after the book by James Edward Mills) includes equipment shortages, lack of access to trails or natural areas, and a lack of role models. In 2016, the Northland Foundation and the Minnesota Land Trust helped organize a coalition of outdoor groups, youth agencies, educational institutions, and others to address this gap in Duluth. With support from the community, a new entity — Youth Outdoors Duluth — was born.
Administered by the YMCA, the outdoors program works with groups to plan activities to get underserved youth outside. In its first year, Youth Outdoors Duluth reached more than 420 children by offering activities including archery, rock climbing, canoeing, hiking, skiing and more. In all, these young people spent more than 14,000 hours getting some fresh air.
It’s football season, so I’ll be following the Vikings. And my wife is from Denmark, so most of our show-watching trends toward new Danish or Scandinavian shows. It appears as if they have the same struggles as we all do!
Because I’m on the road all over the state, I listen to podcasts like “Hidden Brain,” “Stuff You Should Know” and “Freakonomics” to pass the time. I’d like to think they’ve made me smarter, but I’m sure my wife would disagree! I also tune into various talk radio shows. Anyone looking for perspective on America should spend time listening to the diversity of our airwaves.
I enjoy getting out as much as I can, biking, skiing or running. I’ve been hooked by the endurance, gravel bike racing scene. Events like the Heck of the North (in September) and Le Grand du Nord (May) near Lake Superior are over 100 miles long and traverse some of the most remote and scenic roads in our state, combining a sense of adventure with a good old-fashioned butt-kicking. It makes you realize just how beautiful rural Minnesota can be.