Natural landscapes have always inspired the free expression of music. And now music has its chance to help those landscapes stay protected and free, thanks to the efforts of Sustain Music & Nature, a nonprofit that partners the music industry with environmental organizations. The goal: to raise awareness about enjoying and protecting our nation’s public lands. With the worlds of music-making and land-saving linked, you can expect to hear more songs promoting everything from mountains and rivers to wildlife refuges.
As Sustain co-founder Betsy Mortensen sees it, the music community can play a key cultural leadership role in promoting environmental responsibility and awareness. To break through the noise with a message, Sustain pairs musicians with specific, protected land areas to create new music inspired by them. Ideally, the work creates “new audiences for both musicians and public lands,” Mortensen says, “celebrating our nation’s beautiful landscapes while generating an appreciation for public lands through music.”
So far, the songs speak for themselves as the group has worked with several high-profile musicians, including Nashville-based Conner Youngblood, that it recently connected with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Youngblood, who had previously written a song about Badlands National Park, signed on this time to write a song revolving around birds. With guitar and banjo in hand, he headed to Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge for a week of immersion and inspiration. The result is in his song named after the refuge, which captures his experience in the hopes of encouraging others to enjoy and protect the outdoors. Proceeds from the song will support Sustain as well as the Friends of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
“There’s nothing like being out on the marsh, surrounded by a hundred thousand birds of various types and hearing the sights and the sounds and smelling the smells,” says Youngblood. “It’s a completely immersive experience that has profound impacts on people.”