Conservation 101: Mountaineers Conservation Education

In the fourth installment of our Conservation 101 blog series, we share our tools and resources that can help you learn more about conservation and advocacy. Equipped with the right information, Mountaineers can be strong advocates for public lands and the outdoor experiences we cherish.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
August 18, 2022

Education lies at the heart of most everything we do at The Mountaineers. As a 116-year-old outdoor education organization, we’ve found that the more you know about your environment, the more you can enjoy it. Our courses, activities, and initiatives teach outdoor enthusiasts new ways to experience and enjoy Washington’s landscapes. We educate and empower youth to connect to nature by introducing them to the many benefits of outdoor experience, including perseverance, self-confidence, and appreciation for the natural world.

We also educate our members about the importance of conservation through actions like low impact recreation, stewardship, and advocacy. Our conservation education creates backcountry stewards and conservation champions, with resources and tools including books, films, and hands-on instruction. Through this work, we can build a community of stewards and advocates to protect public lands and the outdoor experience for future generations.

WHY WE EDUCATE ABOUT CONSERVATION

We believe there’s no substitute for experiencing first-hand the wonder, beauty, and positive benefits of time in nature. The strong connection to nature drawn from time outdoors makes recreationists the perfect stewards and advocates for those places. Our early conservation education efforts included guidance on how to minimize impact in the backcountry and stressed the importance of preserving natural places from development. By creating new ways to educate our members about conservation, we can continue to cultivate careful stewards of the natural world and fierce advocates to protect public lands and waters.

HOW WE EDUCATE OUR MEMBERS

By providing comprehensive educational information through blogs, magazine articles, elearning courses, and conservation-focused events, The Mountaineers prioritizes offering something for everyone. Let’s dig a little deeper into ways we educate our members and work to build a culture of conservation across the organization.

CONSERVATION BLOG AND NEWSLETTER

Our conservation blog is one of the main ways we educate our community about public lands and the outdoors. We routinely publish new articles about policy, planning, and management issues affecting Northwest public lands and the outdoor recreation experience. These include opportunities to comment on proposed land management plans and write to lawmakers about important issues. Policy and land management can be complex, so we try our best to explain these topics in a way that folks who aren’t policy wonks can understand.

Subscribing to Conservation Currents, our monthly conservation newsletter, is the best way to receive the latest conservation news and hear about timely opportunities to contact your elected officials. We also include Mountaineers blog posts related to conservation, stewardship, and public lands management, as well as surveys and comment opportunities from Washington’s land management agencies.

E-LEARNING COURSES

Low Impact Recreation

Leave No Trace has been a longtime foundation of our outdoor education. Teaching recreationists how to tread lightly on the land is an ethos woven throughout The Mountaineers, from our courses and trips to our books and articles. To help every Mountaineer be a Leave No Trace expert, we created a Low Impact Recreation elearning course that features a video series showing how we as hikers, snowshoers, climbers, scramblers, skiers, and paddlers can lessen our impact in the outdoors while still enjoying our favorite activities. This e-course is also a requirement for some Mountaineers courses. Any member who completes the course receives the Low Impact Recreation badge on their Mountaineers profile.

Protecting Public Lands 101

Scratching your head about the difference between state Department of Natural Resources land and federal U.S. Forest Service land? Our Protecting Public Lands 101 elearning course offers recreationists a great primer on public lands and conservation. Through the modules and quizzes in this two-hour course, learners will gain a better understanding of how different public lands agencies operate, the bedrock conservation laws that protect these landscapes, and the various conservation designations that protect national public lands. We encourage all of our members to complete this e-course at their own pace. Upon completion, learners will earn the Public Lands Conservation 101 badge for their Mountaineers profile in the process.

MOUNTAINEERS BOOKS AND BRAIDED RIVER

Our publishing division, Mountaineers Books, has been a longtime driver of our conservation education. Since the 1960s, our titles have educated the public about important conservation issues and influenced the creation of national parks and protected wilderness areas through images and stories. Our guide and how-to books underscore the importance of responsible recreation habits and leave-no-trace skills. Braided River, the 15-year-old conservation imprint of Mountaineers Books, continues to tell visual stories that inspire a wide audience to protect our communities, lands, and wildlife.

CONSERVATION EVENTS AND WEBINARS

Beginning in the 1950’s, Mountaineers helped organize a series of Northwest Wilderness Conferences that popularized the idea of designated wilderness on the national stage. We echoed these efforts at our 2014 community event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

More recently this spring, Mountaineers conservation staff held our first-ever Conservation & Advocacy Town Hall to convene an engaged group of conservation-minded members from across all branches, activities, and experience levels to learn about conservation and advocacy and discuss new initiatives. In addition, our branch conservation and stewardship committees regularly offer both online and in-person opportunities for our members to learn about and engage in conservation.

NEW EDUCATION INITIATIVES

CLIMATE ACTION AND CARBON FOOTPRINT REDUCTION

Recreationists are uniquely positioned to see the impacts of a changing climate on our public lands and waters. In an effort to do our part to fight the climate crisis, The Mountaineers created an organizational climate statement and made a commitment to reduce our organization’s carbon footprint. We’ve also ramped up efforts to educate our community about the urgency of addressing the climate crisis through initiatives like our “How We’re Reducing Our Carbon Footprint” blog series and our climate change speaker series webinars. By increasing our community’s understanding of climate change, we can better advocate for strong investments in federal public lands that mitigate climate impacts. You can learn more through our climate-related resources on The Mountaineers virtual education center.

NATIVE LANDS

Most of the conservation efforts that The Mountaineers have been a part of throughout the years did not acknowledge that the places we sought to protect are Native lands. As a result, we’re currently grappling with the fact that Native stories are largely missing from both historical and contemporary narratives in The Mountaineers. One of the ways we’re working to change these narratives is through the practice of land acknowledgment - statements of respect toward Native peoples and their ancestral lands. We will soon be sharing our organizational land acknowledgment and amplifying educational resources developed by tribal members about land acknowledgment, Native lands, and how we can all recreate mindfully and respectfully during our outdoor adventures on public lands.

ADVOCACY TRAINING

Given the multitude of challenges facing our public lands and waters, we’re considering new ways for our members to learn and grow as effective advocates for the outdoors. We’ve recently heard strong interest in some form of advocacy training and mentoring through The Mountaineers. This could take the form of an advocacy course and badge program, or something different. Be sure to keep an eye out in Conservation Currents for more on new opportunities like this.

COME LEARN WITH US

The Mountaineers conservation education efforts are a shared journey between staff, volunteers, and members that care deeply about protecting our wild and natural places. We hope you take advantage of the resources discussed in this blog and share your feedback on what type of conservation education you would find most helpful. We look forward to continuing to learn and grow together in the name of protecting and stewarding the mountains, valleys, coasts, and waterways of the Pacific Northwest.


Look out for future stories in our Conservation 101 blog series to help you unpack the world of conservation and advocacy. In case you missed them, check out our earlier posts on advocacy, public lands, and The Mountaineers conservation history.

Lead image of a mountain stream. Photo by Gabrielle Orsi.