Profile: Conrad Dobbs
Although I grew up in a large city, I have always loved being outdoors. Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to spend time in national parks and hike throughout the United States, mostly in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Northeastern, Connecticut. Since the global pandemic and the institution of stay-at-home orders, I realized how important it is to find safe, healthy open spaces closer to home. I believed that these places shouldn’t be parks with concrete walking paths, but slices of wilderness transport those who visit another natural world. However, wild areas around and inside our biggest cities are disappearing as open land is increasingly developed into high rise buildings, roadways, and shopping malls. In my search for wild spaces, I found that many state and municipal parks near my family’s house are crowded with people, littered with trash, and poorly maintained.
Additionally, I discovered smaller municipal parcels of land that are deeded ‘forever wild’ (which means they are meant to be kept free of pollution and invasive species of plants) but are instead left unmaintained. Some are still full of micro-waste from superstorm Sandy, others are used as trash dumping grounds by people passing by, and nearly all the trees and native plants are being choked by invasive species left unchecked. On the one hand, I found it frustrating that local governments are not doing the necessary work to keep up these parcels properly, but it also gave me a glimmer of hope. These pieces of land existed, nobody paid them any attention or saw their potential, but like a diamond in the rough, their potential is priceless. This is the reason that I established Forever Wild to restore these neglected parcels of land. We are currently working with organizations throughout Long Island to clean up the trash, develop a plan to remove the invasive species, and eventually plant native plants that will serve as shelter for migratory animals restoring the forever wild ecosystem. Although some may lose hope when walking past these condemned and underused parcels today, I see their potential and am filled with hope. These pieces of land can be restored and used for public benefit. Invasive species can be removed, trash can be disposed of, and ecosystems can be restored. With the help of public officials, private contractors, and organized volunteer workdays, Forever Wild works to systematically coordinate the restoration of wild places to their natural state. Wild places will reemerge as long as we continue to be inspired by nature. I heard about FXB Climate Advocates from Blair and learned about the resources that Karina can provide. Our mission with Forever Wild is daunting, and I realized that getting involved with FXB Climate Advocates Program would give me more opportunities and help me learn how to be a better advocate and activist. Through FXB Climate Advocates Program, I will develop the skills I need to muster support from local government departments, learn about other organizations with federal mandates to clean up the environment and connect with other young people with similar passions. It is up to our generation to protect and restore the ecosystems of the world around us.