NCEL Guest Blog

National Get Outdoors Day Reflections from Maine Legislator Michelle Dunphy

June 10, 2022

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Northeast

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Maine State Rep. Michelle Dunphy Reflects on the Importance of Time Outside and Improving Outdoor Access

This is a guest blog written by Maine State Representative Michellle Dunphy as part of a larger project on the ways NCEL’s Outdoor Working Group is improving equitable outdoor engagement. The full interactive and multimedia resource can be viewed on NCEL’s website here.

National Get Outdoors Day, on its face, seems strange; after all, is it really our goal to stay inside all day long? Who doesn’t love a walk in the woods, a glide on cross-country skis, or a late summer day of lazy fishing? But it is an opportunity to stop and reflect; one day, after a long public hearing on agricultural issues, a scientist who had carpooled with me reflected on our day. “Michelle,” he said, “we live this stuff; but you and I have only been outside long enough to walk to and from this car.” The outdoors can only feed our souls if we get outside. 

Outdoors day presents us with a wonderful opportunity to stop for a minute and reflect on what our natural wonders mean and how we can support everyone making the best use of them to feed their body, mind and soul.

Rep. Dunphy taking part in Maine Maple Sunday with Maine House Speaker Representative Ryan Fecteau.

Long before I served as Maine’s House Majority Leader, I cared about the outdoors. Living in Old Town, Maine with the Penobscot River running through the middle of my district, it was easy to enjoy many aspects of the outdoors with very little effort.  I was certified as an instructor for Hooked On Fishing, Not On Drugs to introduce kids to the joy of fishing, and I was active in the work of nutrition and healthy habits when I was an active high school English teacher. Additionally, as a teacher I worked in conjunction with a local canoe club to incorporate aspects of the environment into the classroom. It was a big success and seeing kids paddling down the river who had never before experienced canoeing was fun and inspiring.

In the legislative work I’ve engaged in with my colleagues, we’ve worked hard to enhance access to and appreciation of our natural resources; on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee along with the rest of the Legislature, we passed America’s first Food Sovereignty bill to allow people to have control over where they get their food from, and followed that up with a constitutional amendment enshrining that right for all time; we improved the training and equipment of Forest Rangers to help keep them and the public safe; we’ve worked to promote access for fishing and hunting, and to improve outdoor recreation with better biking and hiking trails.  

The pandemic brought greatly heightened interest in outdoor activity that provides remarkable benefits (and who ever thought social distancing could be so refreshing?) and greater awareness of the value of our natural resources. Hiking, biking, camping, and fishing brought a significant number of people to the  outdoors and continues to be a huge draw.

I’m lucky in that I live in an area that values such resources. I can walk out my door and enjoy miles of rivers, streams, and walking paths that are accessible all year. With our attention as policymakers increasingly being drawn to the issues of climate change, the increased public awareness of natural resource conservation will inform these policy discussions for many years to come.  The importance of National Outdoors Day is to bring to our attention to what is already laying at our feet; the great outdoors.


State Representative Michelle Dunphy is Maine’s House Majority Leader and represents Maine House District #122. In her spare time, Dunphy enjoys traveling and all outdoor recreation and is a life member of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. She lives in Old Town, Maine with her husband, Matt, and daughter, Emily. Read her full bio here.