Safety first! Do’s & Don’ts on Your Public Lands

New PSA gives important safety message and makes us smile :)

By: Amanda Smith and Lev Levy, External Affairs, USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest

Is there any better place to express your inner wild than the great outdoors? We don’t think so. With 54 national wildlife refuges and 14 national fish hatcheries in the Columbia Pacific Northwest Region, the opportunities for reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from stress are almost endless.

We are sure you don’t need a study to tell you that time outside = good vibes, but we love science so we will cite one anyway. Studies show that around two hours per week of outdoor recreation positively impacts our sense of wellbeing. From bird watching to “forest bathing” (or what some people call walking in the woods), research demonstrates that as long as we do so safely, outdoor recreation benefits our brains and bodies.

A man rests on a mountain vista
Photo: Nature is the perfect place to disconnect from stress and reconnect with your inner wild. Credit: USFWS

Safety is a key part of the equation — it’s hard to take full advantage of Mother Nature’s soothing properties when we are, say, in pain from an injury sustained from walking off trail and into a tree because we were too caught up in our binoculars. Not that we have ever done that.

With great recreation comes great responsibility so be sure to check out our helpful PSA video. Then, grab your gear and make a plan to take a walk on the wild side safely with this guide to your public lands!

Birdwatchers among the trees look through binoculars
Photo: Head to a national wildlife refuge near you for some worldclass birdwatching opportunities. Credit: USFWS

DO grab your gear and hit the trails for some epic birdwatching. Refuges in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho are excellent places for seeing wildlife and experiencing nature — find a refuge near you here.

DO NOT pay too much attention. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings. In other words, put down those binos so you don’t walk into a tree. Trust us.

A sea otter floats face up on its back in blue water
Photo: Sea otters are pretty adorable but be sure to admire them from a distance. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

DO admire Washington state’s critters like playful sea otters and majestic bald eagles from a distance.

DO NOT get too close! They are not interested in taking a selfie with you. But if you love otters, you otter learn more about them in our region here and if eagles are your thing, read more here.

A close up underwater of a chum salmon among the rock river bed
Photo: Hey chum! This chum salmon is waiting to meet you at your local national fish hatchery. Credit: Roger Tabor/USFWS

DO stop by one of your National Fish Hatcheries in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho for a visit. Hatcheries are hands-on places where you can see the fish, take a tour, and learn how salmon make the long journey from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. Find a hatchery near you here.

DO NOT try to swim that distance yourself. Not even the strongest of athletes could compete with these fit fish! Take the virtual voyage of a spawning salmon here.

A large bee with a fuzzy black body and light yellow head hovers in front of a purple flower
Photo: There’s a lot of buzz about this rare bee in Oregon. Credit: Brenden White/USFWS

DO keep your eyes peeled for the rare Franklin’s bumble bee if you are in Oregon. This endangered little guy hasn’t been seen in a long time — read his story here.

DO NOT kill it! Report it instead and “bee” a friend to conservation!

A small light brown rabbit blends in to the scrub of the sagebrush
Photo: Can you see me? The tiny pygmy rabbit is right at home among the sagebrush in Idaho. Credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWS

DO hop on a trail in Idaho where you might sneak a peek at a protected pygmy rabbit. These tiny bunnies have been seen in 24 Idaho counties! Learn more about these adorable critters here.

DO NOT try to take one home as a pet. Pygmy rabbits are protected under the Endangered Species Act and we are working with partners to conserve them for future generations.

DO have fun and enjoy nature!

DO NOT forget to be safe and share this advice with your friends!


White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019).

Link to study:

Learn more about the other ways to enjoy your public lands here



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