An Evening of Advocacy 2023 Recap

On September 21 we gathered with community leaders, outdoor educators, land managers, nonprofit partners, and Mountaineers members who value the outdoor experience to raise awareness and raise funds in support of conservation and advocacy initiatives at The Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
September 23, 2023
An Evening of Advocacy 2023 Recap
Photo by Kara Hollenbeck.

The Mountaineers has a long and rich history as a regional leader advocating on behalf of the natural world, and our successes would not be possible without the persistent action and dedication of our whole community. Thanks to all of our donors and sponsors, we raised more than $25,000 to support our Conservation & Advocacy program. We also had 100% participation in our Conservation Pledge, where attendees committed to deepen support for conservation education, public lands stewardship, and advocacy engagement.

The event was held at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, where guests enjoyed the venue while savoring a delicious Indigenous-inspired meal provided by Chef Olivia Ford and Liiv For Flavor Catering and beverages donated by Ghostfish Brewing Company. During the reception some guests ventured outside into the lovely fall evening to take in the view of Puget Sound. 

DSC_0812.jpgGuests enjoy an Indigenous-inspired meal and lively conversation before the panel. Photo by Kara Hollenbeck.


As the sun set Betsy Robblee, Conservation & Advocacy Director at The Mountaineers, welcomed our panel. Speakers Kitty Craig, Kevin Skerl, and Craig Romano each brought unique perspectives about advocating at the intersection of outdoor recreation and conservation.

Betsy started with a message of gratitude to be present in the beautiful Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, which is the headquarters of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. She shared some of the history of both the Center and the land now known as Discovery Park. She reflected on how Indigenous people are still fighting for their way of life and inherent rights and that discussions about conservation and outdoor access are also critically important to Pacific Northwest Indian tribes. The Mountaineers is committed to deeply engaging with tribes as we pursue our conservation and advocacy work. We also strive to elevate the work of tribally-led initiatives, such as the Snoqualmie Tribe Ancestral Lands Movement.

Betsy thanked Chef Olivia Ford of Liiv For Flavor Catering, Ghostfish Brewing, and our conservation partners in attendance, including Washington Trails Association, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy, Mountains to Sound Greenway, National Parks Conservation Association, and Conservation Northwest

She then teed up the evening’s topic by saying “we’re grappling with tough questions with no easy answers.” The places we love are impacted by climate change and development, and public lands are woefully underfunded to support the impact of increased visitation. More people are finding that time outdoors is essential to their health and wellbeing and everyone should be able to find joy and belonging outdoors. “Fortunately, we have a terrific panel tonight that’s going to give us all the answers,” Betsy added with some lighthearted sarcasm. She then genuinely invited everyone present to approach the evening’s topic with humility and curiosity.

DSC_0941.jpgPanelists discussed the challenges at the intersection of recreation and conservation from their unique perspectives and attendees weighed in with comments and questions. Photo by Kara Hollenbeck.

To start us off, Craig talked about the benefits of the outdoors and his deep love for Washington wilderness areas, joking about his “addiction” to trails. Kitty talked about the importance of decentering ourselves in trying to find solutions to outdoor access and equity. She pointed to the need for increased partnerships with affinity groups to ensure that outdoor spaces can be easily accessed and used by a diversity of people. Kevin, spoke about the visitor management challenges he has seen at Mount Rainier National Park. We discussed how managing current use must be weighed with consideration for future users of our public lands and the iterative, data-centric processes necessary for big changes. Kevin also shared some of the ways the Park partners with Tribal Nations around access, education, and conservation.

The panel talked about the role of advocating for increased funding as a place to start, and about getting involved with “boots on the ground” help to support trail work and maintenance. Kitty brought up the importance of supporting youth to get outside and become champions of outdoor spaces. They also discussed the realities of legislative budget processes, and stressed the importance of taking ownership of our public lands, clarifying that this means taking personal and collective responsibility to steward them well. As the author of more than two dozen guidebooks, Craig wants to ensure that the resources that help people access the outdoors are infused with education about wilderness ethics and stewardship.

After the first round of questions from Betsy, the conversation continued with questions from the audience. Several attendees asked about visitor management methods being piloted at Mount Rainier and other Parks around the country, bringing up questions about inequitable impact or unintended side effects. Some attendees posed questions about our personal recreation practices, sparking discussion about the importance of education around wilderness ethics and the need to elevate the role of urban trails and state parks. One attendee reminded everyone that North Cascades National Park was formed by a relatively small group of advocates, encouraging relentless participation through public comment periods, letters, and calls to policy makers.


Elizabeth Lunney took the stage to close out the evening. Elizabeth has worked to build leadership and capacity for conservation and recreation organizations in Washington for more than 30 years, including more than a decade of service as the Executive Director of Washington Trails Association, and most recently as the Director of Mountain Education Alliance.

Elizabeth shared from her heart her love for the trails and wilderness areas of Washington and the people she has encountered there. The trails look much different than when she first started hiking. “I see a lot more women. I used to be kind of an anomaly, but that’s less and less the case. I see more people who don’t look like me out there. That’s amazing.”

“We have to rethink our relationship with the outdoors, what it means to be outside and connect in community outdoors. That’s the space that groups like The Mountaineers can occupy and lead,” Elizabeth said. “The Mountaineers is a community of people that come together to advocate for the outdoors. And whether you are talking to decision makers, emailing, writing letters, making gifts, volunteering on trail maintenance work parties or native plant restoration, you're making that impact. And when we come together, we can do more.”

Just showing up for the conversation, Elizabeth reiterated, is so important. She encouraged everyone to consider a financial gift to support our continued work to protect and conserve the places we love.

Donate to support Conservation


We are so thankful for all attendees who helped us get to 100% participation in our Conservation Pledge. This pledge translates into more Mountaineers conservation e-courses taken, Mountaineers Books conservation titles shared and read, dedicated days to stewarding of our public lands, and new advocates taking action on Mountaineer conservation initiatives.


The first $5,000 in donations made at the event were generously matched by Ghostfish Brewing Company to support our shared values in conservation and dedication to the natural world. Thank you to Ghostfish and to the donors who stepped up to meet the match challenge and helped us reach our fundraising goal. 

We are deeply grateful for your time and philanthropy, and the role you play in making the mission of The Mountaineers a reality. We couldn’t do it without you!

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