Basically it's people with large social media followings who use their influence on those platforms, especially Instagram, to influence people to visit outdoor places, buy outdoor things and support outdoor causes. Their Instagrams of beautiful vistas have brought attention to environmental issues — and foot traffic to unspoiled wilderness.
According to How the rise of Outdoor Influencers is Affecting the Environment:
Outdoor influencers are a relatively new phenomenon, and their rise is largely attributable to Instagram. Adam Buchanan, who started the first influencer marketing program at Columbia Sportswear, says he thought of the idea while camping in the La Plata Mountains in Southern Colorado.
It looks like most of the complaints come from them posting pictures with geotags and then massive herds of people showing up to those locations to take the same picture. These people are afraid that all the attention will draw too many people to areas that are not able to handle the extra traffic without sacrificing the integrity and privacy.
From the same source:
On the one hand, there’s the notion that posting content on the outdoors inspires others to get outside (see: #OptOutside, et al.). On the other, there’s the very real fear that posting photos of hidden hikes and hot springs invites an influx of visitors these places lack the resources to handle.
Geotagging can also get specific, and that’s where the real issues start. “We’re having a lot of problems with people geotagging hidden or sensitive places,” Boué said, adding that these places don’t always have the infrastructure to handle a lot of new visitors.
Its sort of how the story of the man who had to cut his arm off brought more users to that specific canyon.
Except for Ralston himself, Utah officials hadn’t performed a single rescue in Blue John or the surrounding canyons between 1998 and 2005. But after Ralston published a book about his ordeal in late 2004, and especially since last January’s release of 127 Hours, starring James Franco as Ralston, the canyon has seen a jump in rescues. Since June 2005, more than two dozen hikers have been reported missing in or near Blue John. Most of them, like Richards, were trying to retrace Ralston’s route.
The part that people seem to feel positive about is when the Outdoor Influencers use their platforms to raise awareness for important causes to protect these lands.
Kate Boue, who was one of the first to be coined an Outdoor Influencer, has said that they have a social responsibility to use their Instagram power for good, meaning to help protect the land, so we can enjoy it more.
For instance, she posted a picture from inside of a sporting goods store with a simple sign that said Protect Public Land. The picture got 3,000 likes.
She included this message:
“You can either share a picture of yourself standing on a really cool summit and say, ‘Oh look, a really cool summit,’ or you can post that same picture and say, ‘Did you know that the Land and Water Conservation Fund supports our public lands with $900 million in potential funding each year? But it’s expiring on September 30, so we need you to take action,’” she said. “And then your pretty mountain picture just ended up getting a thousand signatures on a really important issue.” Source