News & Updates

State Advocate Spotlight: Michael Garcia

Elise Robinson - February 23, 2024

Michael Garcia has been a long-standing Leave No Trace educator and the Southern California State Advocate for nearly four years. Despite starting his Advocate role at the height of the pandemic, he has maintained a positive attitude and eagerness to share Leave No Trace practices in his home state. In his volunteer role, Michael has prioritized furthering the organization’s goal of making Leave No Trace accessible for everyone who spends time outside. One way he is doing this is by connecting with representatives from local native peoples and lands to protect the local National Monument through Leave No Trace education. In 2023 alone, Michael dedicated numerous hours to this volunteer position, reaching nearly 1100 individuals in Southern California.

Michael is the 2023 State Advocate of the Year, and we asked him to share why enjoys spending time in nature and his experience as a State Advocate.

How did you first learn about Leave No Trace?
I was involved with Outward Bound Adventures and the American Hiking Society in the early 2000s, and both organizations practiced and supported Leave No Trace. From the advocacy and educational perspective, I was fortunate enough to see both angles of the ethic.

Why did you want to become a Leave No Trace State Advocate?
I wanted to make larger connections with communities within the southern half of my state. As a State Advocate, you work with many organizations representing different human-powered activities. It challenges you to approach each organization with a unique perspective on how Leave No Trace is practiced from different environments to best match the activity.

Why is Leave No Trace important to you?
Leave No Trace is a lifestyle practiced from home to places with extraordinarily little human activity. I gain a new perspective when I challenge myself and others to raise awareness and lower the impact from the micro to the macro. It is our way to give back to Earth by minimizing our collective footprint and sharing it with future generations.

What is your favorite way to spend time outdoors?
Finding remote dark skies and staring into the universe with a comfortable chair and a favorite beverage where silence prevails and my impact is minimal.

What was your most impactful experience in nature? In the mid-1970s, a mentor named Jaime Rodelo took me to the San Gabriel River above Los Angeles. When we arrived at the river, Jaime told me that before we played, we needed to clean up the river’s edge. I questioned why we were cleaning up after others. He told me it was our trash as humans, and we needed to make it right. After cleaning the area, he asked me how I felt. I could not describe my feelings; I just knew it felt right as a 9-year-old. We finished our day by the river, and Jaime told me to carry the bags of trash back to the car. In one day, I experienced a natural watershed, stewardship for the watershed and the transference of bringing back home the trash we hauled out. I was fortunate to have the guidance of Jaime at an early age, who taught me from a genuine and action-driven perspective.

What is the biggest personal benefit you have received from volunteering for Leave No Trace?
For me, the basis of volunteering in Leave No Trace is the reward one experiences when a healthy environment is the benefactor. Whether on a site cleanup or sharing a trash timeline activity at a booth, action and education drives the volunteer engine to keep following the Leave No Trace path.

What has been the most memorable experience you have had as a Leave No Trace State Advocate?
It was at a Latino Conservation Advocacy Week event at Los Angeles Historic State Park. Leave No Trace was sharing the space with other like-minded outdoor organizations. As the music played during the event, we had a quinceanera party (sweet 15 birthday) join the festivities and celebrate our event. It was an event within an event. Many learned about a quinceanera, and the quinceanera party learned about Leave No Trace (No Dejar Huellas).

What is one low or no-cost item you can never go on an adventure without?
My GSI Leave No Trace trowel. It also doubles as a Leave No Trace “microphone” when we are doing interviews and Leave No Trace skits.

If you could sum up Leave No Trace in one sentence, what would it be?
Raise your awareness to lower your impact.

If you are in Southern California and want to get involved, you can email Michael at [email protected]. Interested in getting more involved in your state? Contact your State Advocate here.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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