A Walk in the Woods Leads to a Life of Conservation Activism

Amy Lindholm’s Camp Fire experiences took her on a career path she never could have imagined…one through the woods.

An early encounter with a quiet forest trail eventually led Amy to her current role as Director of Federal Affairs, Conservation Funding, for the Appalachian Mountain Club and the National Coordinator of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Amy’s parents were “working-class city kids” who moved to the suburbs. She didn’t grow up with any regular outdoor practices beyond camping with her high school buddies, which makes her a bit of an anomaly in the environmental nonprofit world.

“When I got into this work, I noticed how many of the people around me were hardcore outdoor enthusiasts,” said Amy. “It skews backcountry badass—backcountry campers and whitewater kayakers. I love them, and I’ve stretched myself in that area. But I definitely did not grow up in that environment.”

“We had a town forest right behind the house, but I grew up watching that slowly disappear,” said Amy. “The work I do now centers on making sure there’s enough funds for conservation to expand or protect green space.”

How did she go from a bookworm in the ‘burbs to a passionate protector of nature? Her first deep experiences with nature were with Camp Fire.

“I give a ton of credit to Camp Fire for leveling the playing field for somebody like me,” said Amy, “I had a lot of privilege (I’m white, my parents were working class but kind of rose up), but I didn’t have the outdoor opportunities that most of my colleagues had growing up.”

She joined Camp Fire in elementary school and began attending Camp Nawaka in East Otis, Massachusetts, in the summers. As a 7-year-old, Amy went to a four-day camp, then returned every summer for longer and longer, until she was staying for three weeks at a time in middle school.

Camp Nawaka closed in 2009, but its impact lives on. As a first-year camper, Amy says a long forest walk from the camp’s dorms to athletic fields changed her relationship with the outdoors.

“I remember walking up that long hill through the woods, and it was very dense,” said Amy. “You got to a point where you couldn’t hear anybody. You’re far enough from the lower camp and the athletic fields that all you hear is the wind and the trees. It was very intimidating to me, and I was proud of myself for being brave enough to walk up there by myself.

“I remember the feeling of calm and realizing I didn’t have to be afraid of the loneliness or isolation. I could handle it. It was a really empowering experience.”

Amy’s camp experiences raised her outdoor confidence as a “reasonably athletic but not particularly adventurous” kid. She’s carried that attitude forward into her adulthood. She and her family live in Vermont now, where they don’t have a local Camp Fire affiliate, but they do have other scouting programs that her children are involved in. Recently, she climbed Mount Hunger with her son’s scout troop and leaned into that Camp Fire confidence.

“The kids left me in the dust. I just hadn’t been out enough,” laughed Amy. “I was like, ‘I cannot keep up with these people.’ I told the leader, ‘I’m a very experienced hiker, I know where we are, go ahead.’ I had a very lovely solo hike.”

Amy also canoes, kayaks, snowshoes and is beginning to cross country ski, too. She reflected on the way Camp Fire taught her how to persevere toward goals and pass on what she learned.

“They gave you progressive responsibilities and leadership opportunities,” said Amy. “By the end of it, I felt like I was the experienced camper and had something to offer others.”

As a teenager, Amy wanted to become an English professor, but high school biology trips to the area’s vernal pools sparked her interest in field science. She ended up doing a dual degree in environmental studies and government at Connecticut College, then working at the Justice Department in the Environment and Natural Resources Division and the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives.

From there, The Wilderness Society recruited her to work on a campaign for the LWCF, a collaborative effort to conserve land and outdoor recreation opportunities across the country. When Amy recently moved back to New England, she brought that work to another LWCF Coalition partner, the Appalachian Mountain Club.