L.L.Bean, Recreational Lands and Environmentalism

May 29, 2015

by Peter Reese
L.L.Bean, Recreational Lands and Environmentalism

L.L.Bean’s been a household name for over a century, especially in those households that also happen to have a garage or a shed filled with outdoor gear. We spoke with Mac McKever, longtime outdoorsmen, fisherman and head of L.L.Bean’s Public Relations team about the company’s history and future plans for protecting the forests we love to explore.

Active Junky:  How do L.L.Bean's origins affect how the company views both preserving and enjoying the natural environment?

Mac McKever: Our company was born from a love of the outdoors. Our founder, Leon Leonwood Bean was an avid outdoorsman. And after too many jaunts in the Maine woods in cold, wet feet, he stumbled upon a revolutionary idea – to develop a boot that could be worn in all seasons of the rugged Maine woods and beyond that would keep feet warm and dry by sewing a leather upper to a rubber bottom. Over a century later, we have grown to become one of America’s most beloved family-owned outdoor companies. Leon had an incredible affinity and respect for the outdoors and as a result, cared for the environment deeply. He once mentioned that outdoor recreation has “added years to my life span.” As an organization, we have embraced our founder’s sentiments regarding the outdoors and then some. As a company that sells outdoor gear and apparel and one that has courses, seminars and demonstrations that help people enjoy the outdoors, we know that clean air, water and land enhance the outdoor recreational experience, and as a result, participants are more likely to continue to engage in outdoor experiences and foster a deeper appreciation of the outdoors. We also know that the more people we can introduce to the outdoors and empower to engage in outdoor activities, the more people who will come to revere the natural environment and become advocates for conserving it.   

AJ:  What are the three biggest challenges you see to gaining – and maintaining – access to recreational acreage across the U.S.?

MM: Much of the land that people adventure on is privately owned, especially here in Maine. It’s absolutely crucial that people respect these landowners and their land by keeping it clean and not abusing the privilege of using the land for recreation. It’s important that strong thought be given to responsible consideration of competing activities on public and private lands, based on environmental and ethical principles. It’s also important to work closely with the government, both local and federal, and their corresponding agencies, as well as the citizens who care about maintaining access to public lands and waterways. In considering how best to go about gaining access to recreational lands and preserving them, we need to understand all of the various stakeholders in the equation and their interests, many of which may be in conflict. We need to avoid a tragedy of the commons scenario by working collaboratively and creatively.     

AJ:  How does LL Bean express its commitment to finding the balance between protection and access of wild lands as well as more urban environments?

MM: L.L.Bean has donated tens of millions of dollars to a variety of conservation and environmental organizations that ensure access to and good stewardship of the natural resources. In addition, these nonprofit groups encourage the engagement of young people in the outdoors. L.L.Bean grant recipients include local, regional and national organizations whose work encompasses urban, rural and remote areas. For instance, we recently donated several thousand dollars to a group in Denver called Environmental Learning For Kids. Their mission is to ensure youth in urban areas have access to outdoor recreational opportunities. We also fund the Appalachian Mountain Club whose traditional work in the White Mountains of New Hampshire has expanded to include programs in New York City and Philadelphia. Another group we also support is the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. Our recent donation is also aimed at youth outdoor programming.


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