Learn about BREAKTHOUGH: expect the unexpected fundraising event, and why it's relevant to our conservation efforts.
Mary Hsue Mary Hsue
March 17, 2015

You’d be hard pressed to miss the invitations and communications over the past couple of months about our Mountaineers BREAKTHROUGH fundraising event on April 11. With an all-star lineup of climbers in the program, you’re probably wondering why we’re writing about it in relationship to conservation. Well, underlying the climbing theme of the evening is the impact story about why anyone should care about The Mountaineers efforts to get people outside – conservation is a primary driver of that story.

“Going out on a Mountaineers’ trip was like seeing Washington’s environment with new eyes. This organization provides a platform for people from all walks of life to appreciate and experience the outdoors, meet and build friendships with others with shared interests, and learn about issues affecting the amazing places where our courses and activities take people. The old adage ‘Out of sight, Out of mind’ is all too true when it comes to conservation and protection of Washington’s very special outdoor places. Seeing these incredible places first hand has made me feel personally responsible to protect these places and be a good caretaker." --Erin M. 28 year old Mountaineer and conservation advocate

These words from a recent graduate of our basic climbing course could have just as easily been said by our very first members over 100 years ago. Because it’s what happens when we connect young adults to the natural world: we learn to love the outdoors and want to work hard to protect our cherished wild places.

These efforts are important today - more than ever - because while the conservation movement has accomplished so much in the past half a century, from the Wilderness Act to establishing State and National Parks and Wilderness areas, we might be facing our biggest challenge yet: an aging demographic and increasingly lower engagement among today’s Millennial generation.

Current research shows Millennials are forging a distinct path into adulthood. Ranging in age from 18 to 33, they are relatively unattached to organized politics, marriage and religion, linked primarily by social media, and burdened by debt — they're also America’s most racially diverse generation.

This means we're seeing fewer and fewer Millennials joining organizations, and thus fewer taking up worthy causes like conservation. If no one cares about the persistent issues and threats to the natural world, the places we love and have worked so hard to protect could be at risk of disappearing sooner than we think.

To create the broad-based involvement and support the conservation movement needs in the next decade, we must create opportunities for the Millennial generation to discover that conservation is in their own self-interest. The Mountaineers does that by providing powerful outdoor experiences enabling people to gain a special connection to the wild places and the building a burning desire to protect it.

We focus our conservation efforts in three spheres: education, stewardship and advocacy. These areas create different access points through which we can engage the greatest number of members. Because our courses and trips depend on the health and welfare of the outdoors, we teach Leave No Trace ethics and integrate a stewardship ethic into all our activities. In 2014, 550 students and volunteers received training in Leave No Trace ethics through our Backcountry Impact Skills classes, and they contributed nearly 5,000 hours of conservation work, helping protect public lands for future generations.

Research shows that Millennials are hopeful. Building on this hope by connecting Millennials to the outdoors while passing along a conservation ethic, and encouraging this group to take a key role in the preservation and stewardship of our public lands and waters, will create a new generation of conservationists who will play a critical role in the future health of our region.

To learn more about the impact of private support on The Mountaineers programs, click here to see our 2014 Annual Report.

To attend Breakthrough: expect the unexpected, click here to buy your ticket. If you are unable to join us at the event, but would like to make a donation, click here and write Breakthrough donation in the Additional Notes text box. Thank you!