Dave Anderson's Forest Journal: As summer ebbs, a naturalist reflects on the outdoors
August nights so recently punctuated by meteor showers now feature chirping crickets reminiscent of autumn. Wet weather in June and July has necessitated leaving portions of fields unmowed and made many just about abandon hopes for a bumper tomato crop. Instead, a lush growth of garden weeds and fields of wildflowers conceal a wealth of grasshoppers, fat spiders and fledgling songbirds or turkey poults that survived our June monsoon.
I've been watching people enjoying the New Hampshire outdoors all summer while traveling from the White Mountains to Mount Monadnock, to Mount Major and amid the coastal communities of Portsmouth, Rye and Hampton. I've noticed how deeply nature and outdoor recreation figure in our economy, our culture and our collective regional sense of place and well-being.
Forsaking the comforts of air conditioning or the easy entertainment of high-tech video games, people are traveling across our state's waterways and swarming into our forested mountains. Outdoor, nature-based recreation remains the preferred wellspring for wellness and a reliable lure for visitors and residents alike.
It's good to see people enjoying themselves while experiencing the best New Hampshire has to offer - discovering wildlife and physical fitness through outdoor recreation pursuits amid the stunning natural beauty of rivers, lakes, forests and mountain trails.
The role of outdoor recreation for wellness should rightfully become more prominent in the national health care debate. Policy-makers and health clinicians would do well to consider the role of the existing treasury of public lands as a support network for health and wellness. Beyond the direct benefits of clean air and clean water, a healthy environment provides opportunities for outdoor recreation, which can indirectly yield a happier and healthier human population.
From what I've witnessed, New Hampshire remains among first-in-the-nation states when it comes to appreciation for a high-quality natural environment and outdoor recreation. This is my tree-hugger version of the oft-cited "New Hampshire advantage!"
Good news: Five weeks of fine summer remain, including the long Labor Day holiday weekend. Now it's high time to check off items remaining on your summer "bucket list" of places to go and things to do. Make plans to make tracks!
Naturalist Dave Anderson is director of Education and Volunteer Services for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The column appears once a month in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Forest Society Web site: forestsociety.org.
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