Conservation Currents | Conservation and Advocacy, Together

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we discuss our conservation efforts and why involving our community is key to protecting our public lands.
Katherine Hollis Katherine Hollis
Conservation & Advocacy Director
December 31, 2019

In the six years I’ve served as The Mountaineers Conservation and Advocacy Director, I’ve watched our community come together time and again to speak up for the places we hold dear. Together, we’ve enjoyed a number of successes, and suffered a few setbacks. Threats to our public lands, including the climate crisis, are mounting, and as someone whose life has been formed by adventuring in nature, I am concerned about what our planet will be like for future generations.

At The Mountaineers, our advocacy is, and has always been, where conservation and recreation overlap. Our work focuses on protecting public lands and the experiences they provide. And that’s because the core of our mission is the idea that connecting people to each other and the outdoors enriches the greater community as a whole.

To help ensure the future of recreation, we’ve looked at how we’re sharing information with you under the guise of “it doesn’t have to be bad to be better”. We recently revamped the conservation pages on mountaineers.org to put a finer point on what we’re trying to achieve, and why. We are sharing that information here as well to invite you to join the conversation. Whether you’re a policy expert or coming off of your first-ever stewardship activity, it’s important that you understand the power of your voice and influence you have in protecting the outdoor experience. Your participation in our advocacy efforts matters, and we could not do this work without you.

What we do

We fiercely advocate for outdoor spaces. Our conservation advocacy focuses on protecting public lands, encouraging responsible recreation access, bringing vast landscapes to life, and engaging future generations. In short: we protect the outdoor experience.

To do this, we seek to inspire and empower you to use your voice to support the places you care about. We provide educational opportunities to help you gain a solid understanding of conservation and public lands policies. We publish books that bring landscapes alive to show you what we have – and what is at stake. We offer and share stewardship opportunities for you to take care of the places you love. We collaborate with land managers to improve land planning processes and decisions. And we work with legislators to shape conservation and recreation policy to assure the future of recreational opportunities for you.

To make an even broader impact, we partner with other organizations who are experts with complimentary missions. We work with national conservation and recreation organizations like Outdoor Alliance and the Wilderness Society, state-based organizations like Washington Trails Association and Washington Wild, and public lands recreation partners like the Access Fund and Washington Climber’s Coalition to build support for important issues. Helping bring this larger community together creates a longer-lasting and more meaningful impact. 

How we seek to empower you

One of our biggest priorities is offering opportunities for you to understand and meaningfully engage on outdoor issues. We use our blogs and monthly e-newsletters to translate sometimes convoluted policy issues into digestible information you can take action on. We also share opportunities (like our Action Alerts) for you to contact your legislators and land managers on urgent matters, creating a united voice for our public lands. We create legislative trail maps to guide you through the conservation and recreation bills in congress right now. And we represent our outdoor community at events and meetings to share your voices and experiences with officials and legislators.

Put another way, we:

  • Engage in land planning processes and comment periods.
  • Shape legislation to protect public lands and outdoor recreation.
  • Advocate for public lands funding in national and Washington State budget processes.
  • Engage on state issues, specifically with State Parks and WA  Department of Natural Resources
  • Provide conservation education and engagement opportunities to outdoor enthusiasts.

What we’ve accomplished together

We have protected outdoor spaces together for over a hundred years. Conservation is, and always has been, one of our deepestheld values. In 1938 we played a key role in the formation of the Olympic National Park; in 1968 we helped to create the North Cascades National Park; in 1976 we successfully advocated for the designation the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Our history in public lands conservation inspires us for the future. 

This past year, with over 5,000 of your individual actions, The Mountaineers helped to protect the Methow Valley from industrial-scale mining, designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway a National Heritage Area, and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. These bills were a part of the public lands conservation package that passed this Congress and was signed into law by the President. In a time where there is so little common ground and understanding in Congress, our public lands can – and should – be a uniting force. Your voices make this possible.

But the work is not done. We have issues at hand threatening access, responsible management, environmental protection, and even the ‘public’ in our public lands. So, we’ll continue to ask you to join us as we work to protect the places we love. Without these lands, we will not only lose important recreational access, but how we experience the natural world, escape our day-to-day lives, and form meaningful communities.

What’s coming up next

You – Mountaineers members and our greater outdoor community – have made it clear that you want to be informed, take action, and be empowered to do more. To accomplish this, The Mountaineers will be expanding our conservation team in 2020. With this growth, we plan to increase our conservation and advocacy work in three key areas:

  • Engaging in national and state public lands planning processes and legislation, especially in comment periods and public meetings. This will help us provide more information and takeaction opportunities for you, and allow us further influence public lands management for conservation and recreation.
  • Accelerating our focus and impact in addressing the climate crisis. Our Mountaineers community is actively experiencing the impacts of the global climate crisis. From melting glaciers to intensifying wildfires, the places we hold most dear are changing, resulting in more perilous access, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of wilderness. We will work to find where our community can have an impact in addressing these issues.
  • Strengthening our voice for threatened western North American landscapes in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, such as those highlighted by Braided River, Mountaineers Books’ conservation imprint. Our books help bring these landscapes alive and we hope to better connect some of the issues our publications spotlight to ways you can take action.

Why it matters

The collective memory of our 14,000-member community is long, and our voices our powerful. Our conservation work is integral to all aspects of our organization, because without this work the places where our programs and activities take place, and that our books illustrate, are at risk. We must continue to come together as a community on these issues.

We each have a different and personal reason why the outdoors is important to us, and our individual experiences in the outdoors are a unifying force. These are the moments that teach us about the power of people and places. Regardless of your reason, thank you for joining hands with us in the past, and we look forward to creating a brighter future together with you.

How to get engaged

You can become an advocate today by participating in one (or all) of these steps:

Step 1: Stay up-to-date

Sign up for our Conservation Currents enewsletter (on the “preferences” tab of your My Profile page). We use it to send Action Alerts – updates that offer you breaking news and an opportunity to contact your legislators and land managers on urgent matters. And be sure to visit our advocacy page to get the latest conservation and advocacy news.

Step 2: Take the Protecting Public Lands eLearning Course

This free 2-hour online course breaks down the basics of our national public lands system and explains how you can best advocate for our wild places.

Step 3: Give a day of stewardship

Check out one of our many upcoming stewardship opportunities and sign up for a stewardship day. Make a big difference in just a day by getting your hands dirty and enjoying some fresh air.

Step 4: Visit our Legislative Trail Map

We work with legislators and partners to shape conservation policy. Our Legislative Trail Map serves to guide you through some of the legislation we’re working on and supporting in the current session of congress.

Step 5: Earn your Low Impact Recreation Badge

Take a look at our video series based around Leave No Trace Principles to learn more about your impact on the wild places you play. After you’ve watched, take our quiz to earn the badge for your profile.

All this and more at mountaineers.org/conservation


This article originally appeared in our Winter 2020 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication in our archives.


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Louis Coglas
Louis Coglas says:
Tue, Dec 31, 2019 7:37 AM

Thank you katherine for all your work.

Eric Burr
Eric Burr says:
Mon, Jan 20, 2020 8:04 AM

Thank ypu for this increasing emphasis on conservation and restoration. This is why, as an old retired ranger and heli-ski guide in Mazama, I finally joined the Mountaineers.