Trip Report: Outdoor Alliance Washington Tours Olympic National Forest with Representative Kilmer

The Mountaineers Conservation and Advocacy team and Outdoor Alliance Washington partners recently met with Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Forest Service staff in the Olympic National Forest to celebrate implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act. Read more about how GAOA projects will positively impact outdoor recreation on the Olympic Peninsula.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
October 14, 2021

Thanks to support from outdoor enthusiasts like you, we’re able to successfully advocate for public lands protections and outdoor access. It starts with building relationships with lawmakers, management agencies, and their staff at the federal and local level in order to influence legislation and advocate for critical funding to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities and protect our beloved Pacific Northwest landscapes.

We routinely encourage you to engage your elected officials on these important issues through advocacy tools like action alerts because we’ve seen first-hand how your anecdotes and connection to the landscape provide a compelling narrative of support for recreation and conservation.

More Powerful Together

In order to amplify our impact, The Mountaineers conservation and advocacy team leads a coalition of human-powered outdoor recreationists through Outdoor Alliance (OA) Washington. We recently hit the ground running with efforts to empower and organize the state’s outdoor recreation community toward securing the strongest policy outcomes for conservation, climate, and outdoor recreation.

In mid-September, OA Washington partners from The Mountaineers, American Whitewater, Surfrider Foundation, Washington Trails Association, and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance met with Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and U.S. Forest Service staff in the Olympic National Forest to celebrate local implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).

A Public Lands Champion on the Peninsula

Over the past several years, we’ve built a strong relationship with Derek Kilmer, who represents a district that includes the diverse landscapes conserved in Olympic National Park and National Forest. In his more than eight years in Congress, Rep. Kilmer - an avid hiker and current member of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Committee - has been a strong champion for the Pacific Northwest’s public lands and renowned outdoor recreation opportunities. Hailing from Port Angeles, a gateway town to Olympic National Park, his lifelong connection to those unique landscapes and the communities that depend on them makes him feel privileged to work on conservation and recreation issues. His leadership was critical to the passage of the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in the House as well as in the efforts to chip away at the deferred maintenance backlog on public lands through the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.

As our community knows well, the forests, waters, and trails of the Olympic Peninsula provide myriad opportunities for recreationists to get outside and connect to nature. OA Washington groups came together as a unified voice for human-powered recreation, to urge continued support for policy and funding solutions for conservation and climate on the Olympic Peninsula and beyond.

Outdoor Alliance Washington Partners meet with Rep. Kilmer in Olympic National Forest_Big Creek Campground, Hoodsport, WA_Photo Credit_Katy Crabtree.jpgOutdoor Alliance Washington Partners meeting with Rep. Kilmer in Olympic NF, Big Creek Campground, Hoodsport, WA. Photo by Katy Crabtree.

Critical Funding Delivered 

Gathered in a circle near a campground pavilion in Big Creek campground on a rare cloudless fall day, OA Washington opened by thanking Rep. Kilmer for his support of the Great American Outdoors Act, then transitioned to a fruitful discussion of local GAOA project implementation and agency funding and staffing challenges affecting the Olympic National Forest (ONF).

U.S. Forest Service staff working in the ONF were able to utilize the first round of GAOA funding for three projects that will improve outdoor recreation amenities across the Forest: critically-needed campground restroom replacement, recreation amenity improvements at all three campgrounds in the Lake Quinault area, and a rapid condition trails assessment that will help create a stock of recreation projects and better position staff to take further advantage of future rounds of GAOA funding.

In reflecting on the first year of the GAOA, Rep. Kilmer noted that the legislation is “a good example of Congress doing something, and these are the results.” He also emphasized that outdoor recreation is key to economic recovery and building healthy communities.

Olympic NF Recreation staff member Nicole LaGioia discussing recreation project and planning in Olympic..jpgOlympic NF Recreation staff member Nicole LaGioia discussing recreation project and planning in Olympic.

Forest Service Funding Gap

As demand for recreation increases, non-fire staffing levels at the Forest Service have declined. This unfortunate trend, combined with increased wildfire threats, result in agency staff members regularly performing the duties of multiple roles. This illustrates the need for increased appropriations for the Forest Service to better manage recreation and conservation priorities.

“Public lands should be good investments with efficient systems. We’re excited about new funding streams, but increased dedicated appropriations for the Forest Service is greatly needed,” stressed James Moschella of Washington Trails Association. Building on our Forest Service funding report, the OA Washington network will continue to make the case to lawmakers for increasing Forest Service funding to better manage recreation and protect landscapes in Washington state.

“Groups like yours can help tell and amplify the story about what the Forest Service is doing. It can be impactful if user groups are all talking together about what lack of Forest Service staff capacity means for the inability to secure funds over GAOA’s current five-year period,” added Rep. Kilmer.

Sustainable Recreation

In addition to GAOA implementation, federal land managers throughout the region recently launched a Sustainable Recreation Strategy stakeholder engagement process to inform a Peninsula-wide approach to outdoor recreation planning that would work across agencies and land management units to more efficiently manage recreation.

Relationships with members of Congress and Forest Service staff on the ground are key to shaping a better future for our treasured public lands. OA Washington looks forward to advocating for increased Forest Service funding, participating in the Sustainable Recreation Strategy process, and doing all we can to help the Forest Service take advantage of future GAOA funding opportunities across the state.

Join us

As we work to grow Outdoor Alliance Washington, we’re hoping to build a deep bench of Mountaineers who can use their connection to our region’s landscapes to help achieve policy wins for the public lands we love. Email our conservation team if you’re interested in getting more involved in our conservation and advocacy efforts.

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A VERSION OF THIS POST ALSO APPEARS ON THE OUTDOOR ALLIANCE BLOG.

Lead image of Outdoor Alliance Washington partners on a hike with Rep. Kilmer in Big Creek Campground, Olympic National Forest, Hoodsport, WA.