There’s one key to understanding how Public Lands lives up to its name. It helps the brand and outdoor resource fulfill a bold mission—that is, to protect, celebrate, and explore America’s 640 million acres of public lands, while working together to leave a lasting impact on the communities that define them. To find the means that can effect such broad change, look no further than the Public Lands Fund.
This 501(c)(3) charity, a program of The DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation, fuels a diverse suite of nonprofit organizations that are actively protecting public lands, reducing barriers and getting more people (and different types) out to experience them. Public Lands donates a full 1% of all its sales (based on purchase price) to the fund, which annually names a list of partner-grantees.
The fund’s goal, says Carla Fox, Public Lands Corporate Responsibility Manager, is to provide financial support to select organizations making a real impact on those dual fronts of public lands conservation as well as access to and equity within the outdoors. That support is layered to help organizations working at different levels: the national level; the grassroots level in local communities; and the critical-landscape level in areas of iconic value facing existential threats, such as Bears Ears National Monument and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“Ultimately, the number of organizations doesn’t matter as much as the impact,” says Fox, “keeping the focus on hyper-local impact while continuing the work with key national and landscape-level partners.”
What exactly does that impact look like?
Take the Conservation Lands Foundation, which used 2021 partnership funds to support ecological restoration efforts and educational programming in New Mexico via the Acoma Pueblo Traditional Farm Corps of the Indigenous-led Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps (a member of CLF’s Friends Grassroots Network). The programming helps keep traditional land practices alive while providing the community (especially youth participants) with paths forward in leadership roles—not to mention healthy, fresh vegetables. And as the CLF points out, teaching sustainable techniques honed by generations of local Indigenous farmers is more relevant than ever in a drought-beleaguered region.
On other local levels, the partner-grantee Student Conservation Association (SCA) expanded its Urban Green program in Pittsburgh with a Young Adult BIPOC Roving Crew that rehabilitated trails and transformed local hiking corridors in greenspaces across the city. Meanwhile, the Allegheny Land Trust leveraged Public Lands Fund support to continue its transformation of the Churchill Valley Greenway (east of Pittsburgh) from a formerly blighted property into an invaluable community and environmental asset to be forever preserved, free and open to all.