How to Be a Hero

Here are six ways you can change the world.

Dec 1, 2009
Outside Magazine
San Isabel National Forest Mosquito Range

San Isabel National Forest Mosquito Range

Keep It Wild
Want to protect your favorite hiking area from cookie-cutter homes or oil-and-gas leases? Buy the place.

Assemble a posse: If you care about a threatened wilderness area, chances are other people do, too. Recruit them through local groups, like a recreation club or conservation organization.

Make a plan: A business plan, that is, stating your intent to preserve the area in question. "You need to know money in, money out, basic business things," says Brad McLeod, founding member of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC), which has purchased five climbing areas endangered by development since 2003. "If you have a $100,000 project, you still have taxes, insurance, the debt service on your note." The Small Business Administration has guidelines on its Web site ( Look to partner with a national organization like the Nature Conservancy or the Access Fund for resources and advice. Or start your own nonprofit with 501(c)(3) (charitable) status so your donors get tax write-offs.

Fundraise creatively: When the town of Telluride, Colorado, was faced with raising $17 million in three months to purchase land from a developer in 2007, a local nonprofit built a bulletproof-glass wishing well in the middle of town that raised $1 million. The SCC has sold T-shirts designed by a sympathetic climber-artist and once held a party in a swanky Atlanta club, raising $18,000 in a night.

Court the media: Distribute press releases for media with any accomplishments, even small steps. Sites like can get the word out to a broader audience. Call your local newspaper, radio, and TV stations and find a reporter who's covered similar beats. And it's imperative to have a Web site or blog. (Set up free ones at or

Filed To: Nature, Telluride