Advocacy 101: Best Practices for Engaging With Land Managers

Earlier this year, we launched Advocacy 101, a new Mountaineers eLearning course to take you from outdoor enthusiast to outdoor advocate. In this second blog of a two-part series, we share why it’s important to engage with land managers and preview some best practices for engagement.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
May 06, 2024
Advocacy 101: Best Practices for Engaging With Land Managers
Recreationists enjoy a peaceful view of Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake. Photo by U.S. Forest Service - PNW Region.

Public land management. While it may not sound like the most exciting subject, Mountaineers courses and programs depend on well-managed public lands and waters. From trail maintenance to wildfire protection, an effective land management plan is the foundation for a good day spent outside. That’s where land managers come in.

Land managers are the federal, state, or local government agencies who work to protect natural and cultural resources like lands, waters, and wildlife. While lawmakers make laws and regulations, land managers apply those laws to create management plans for our public lands, including managing recreation and access. 

It’s important for the public - and especially for the recreation community - to weigh in on how our shared lands are managed. That’s why our Advocacy 101 eLearning course teaches you the basics of engaging with lawmakers and land managers. With just a little training, you’ll develop the skills you need to participate in land management planning processes, helping shape the future of outdoor recreation access throughout our beautiful state. 

Why Engage With Land Managers?

Federal, state, and local agencies manage 19.8 million acres of public land across Washington. These land managers provide recreation access to our public lands and waters, so that we can experience the benefits of time spent outdoors. 

While land managers may not represent you in the same way your elected officials do, they play a huge role in how you experience public lands. From road and trail maintenance to fighting wildfires, our land managers have a hand in each step of your outdoor adventure. They’re the experts on the ground ensuring that our outdoor spaces are protected today and for future generations. 

By engaging with land managers, you have an opportunity to shape how our lands are managed. Do you want a road to open earlier in the spring so you can access spring corn skiing? Is there a trailhead that you think would benefit from additional parking or toilet facilities? How about a campsite that needs more formally-designated tent sites to prevent further erosion? If that road, trailhead, or campsite is on public land, then engaging with land managers is a great way to advance your sustainable recreation priorities. 

The good news is that opportunities to engage with these agencies are common - our public land managers consistently solicit input from the public through surveys and more formal comment periods. From successfully protecting the Methow Valley from mining, to speaking up for climate-resilient forests, The Mountaineers community has a long history of shaping management outcomes for our public lands and waters by submitting feedback and comments to land managers. 

Best Practices for Land Manager Engagement 

In Advocacy 101, we discuss key opportunities to engage with land managers, and best practices for sharing your input. Many of these opportunities are low cost, high reward: with just a little time and effort, you can influence the way our public lands are managed for outdoor recreation and conservation. 

There are four primary ways to engage with land managers:

  • Sharing your feedback and experiences through land manager surveys.
  • Providing written or spoken public comment on land management planning processes, including federal environmental reviews triggered by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
  • Participating in National Forest planning processes.
  • Developing relationships with our land managers. 

Land managers deeply value feedback from the public. For more formal requests for input such as public comment periods, federal agencies are often required by law to collect public comments before making a final decision. Land managers use these comments to inform project decisions, meaning your voice will play a critical role in helping shape a final public lands proposal. 

The more comments a land manager receives on a particular issue, the more likely they are to incorporate that feedback into a final management decision or action. If you look back at The Mountaineers history of conservation and advocacy success, you’ll find a recurring theme: we’re most successful when a large percentage of our community mobilizes in support or opposition to an issue.

While our Advocacy 101 course dives into greater detail and nuance about how to engage with land managers, here are some engagement best practices that can get you started: 

  • Keep an eye out for land manager survey and comment opportunities by subscribing to The Mountaineers conservation newsletter, or by checking out land manager newsletters and social media accounts. 
  • Educate yourself on an issue before providing public comment by researching your issue thoroughly, attending a public meeting, and/or reading Mountaineers conservation blogs. An informed perspective will translate into effective advocacy. 
  • Spend time drafting your comments. Remember to reference the public comment period you are responding to, if applicable. 
  • Incorporate relevant personal stories into your comments. Land managers want to know why you care about an issue, and how it impacts you personally. 
  • Build relationships with land managers. Consider reaching out to a local land manager and sharing feedback on issues you’re finding with trails or roads in their jurisdiction, or strike up a conversation with a land manager when you encounter them on your next outdoor adventure.

Remember, you don’t need to be a policy expert to take these actions. Land managers value your perspective as a user of our public lands. As you begin engaging with land managers, leaning into these best practices will make your advocacy much more effective, and help you play a pivotal role in protecting our public lands for sustainable recreational use for generations to come.

Getting Started 

From researching public engagement opportunities on the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Planning page, to taking action on current issues through The Mountaineers, there are many ways to get started. But first, take our Advocacy 101 e-Learning course to learn the ins and outs of both lawmaker and land manager engagement and get the tools you need to create your own outdoor advocacy plan. With more Mountaineers trained as outdoor advocates, we can make a greater impact for the special outdoor places we cherish.


Learn best practices for engaging with lawmakers in our first Advocacy 101 blog.