Conservation Currents | Conservation and Recreation Intersect in Washington, D.C.

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine we discuss a trip to Washington D.C. to advocate for our wild places.
Katherine Hollis Katherine Hollis
Director of Conservation and Advocacy
June 01, 2015
Conservation Currents | Conservation and Recreation Intersect in Washington, D.C.

I made my first trip to Washington, D.C. for The Mountaineers about five months into my job here. As I coordinated with partner organizations to schedule meeting with legislators, I was a bit surprised — I was easily able to get meetings as a representative of The Mountaineers that other organizations couldn’t. I say only ‘a bit’ surprised because I knew I was walking in the footsteps of giants; that our organization’s reputation as a leader in outdoor education and conservation far preceded any of my work here. Indeed, The Mountaineers’ legacy of leadership is why I joined and took on the role of defining and amplifying our conservation work as we move forward.

I started climbing as a college student in New England. It was in Vermont, New Hampshire and Upstate New York that experienced my first real winters, real snow, learned what great cross-training cross-country skiing was for my spring track season, and climbed ice not because I really enjoyed it that much, but because there were so few women doing it. I constantly checked Freedom of the Hills out of the library, often talking to my dad over the phone about what I was getting into on the weekends and how I much I was utilizing that library book. For Christmas that year I received what would be the first of many Mountaineers books I’ve come to own (long before I worked here) Freedom of The Hills, Edition 6. So I was only a bit surprised at the time our legislators gave The Mountaineers on that first trip to D.C. Our reputation as an authentic, qualified voice for our public lands and waters is foundational to who we are: we protect the outdoor experience.

This past April, our CEO Tom Vogl and I traveled to D.C. to join other organizations and companies that support public land and water conservation. This trip reflects much of the work we’ve been able to accomplish over the past two and a half years — we are now a part of a conversation with leaders and partners in regional and national organizations on conservation.

We joined over 100 outdoor advocates and business executives, and over three days, attended trainings, met to discuss outdoor policy, and took to the Hill to discuss outdoor recreation policy and conservation with lawmakers from across the country.

Cantwell April 2016.jpgSenator Cantwell holding Prophets and Moguls (in red) and Katherine Hollis (second from right) in D.C. Photo courtesy of The Mountaineers.

This was a historic gathering of leaders in the outdoor world and we joined the executive directors of Access Fund, American Whitewater, International Mountain Bike Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, and American Alpine Club; as well as leaders from Osprey Packs, REI, Patagonia, Columbia, Brooklyn Boulders, Klean Kanteen, SuperFeet, and more. We also met with staff at the Department of the Interior and Forest Service. Collectively, this crew of outdoor activists had over 125 meetings with lawmakers in states across the country, including Washington, Colorado, Oregon, California, West Virginia, Utah, and Arkansas.

Strength in numbers

Coming together on issues where conservation and recreation intersect show our lawmakers the breadth of support, importance and interest in this work. These meetings were an unprecedented gathering of outdoor activists, advocates, and businesses, and a show of force from the outdoor community.

Issues we focused on include:

  • The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which seeks to designate 127,000 acres of new Wilderness in the Olympic National Forest and 19 new Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Olympic Peninsula is home to some of our favorite outdoor spaces containing old growth trees, lush rain forests, ocean views, and towering mountains. Our history on the peninsula started early with our members advocating for the establishment of Olympic National Park in the early 1900s. We feel lucky to continue educating, advocating, and providing stewardship opportunities to ensure that the greater community falls in love with the Olympics too. We’ve been working with a diverse group of interested parties to advocate for the Wild Olympics Act so we’ve shared our passion for this place with our legislators and partners in D.C.
  • Supporting the REC Act, which would measure the economic contribution of outdoor recreation to the national economy, including outdoor industry jobs and our economic impact, are measured by the federal government and accounted for as part of the national Gross Domestic Product. We gave special thanks to our home-state legislators who championed this bill. Making this economic connection links recreation and conservation is very important to conservation successes.
  • The Centennial Bill, which proposes further funding for critical infrastructure projects, leveraging public-private donations and partnerships to enhance visitor experiences, and expanding volunteer and job opportunities in national parks and historic sites across the country. As we celebrate the first hundred years of our national parks, we believe it is important to ensure these places are here for another hundred years and become accessible, approachable places for all Americans.

As we advocated for the future of our national parks, we were able to highlight the centennial and The Mountaineer’s unique role and our unique role and voice in protecting our public lands by sharing the new book Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears, by Heather Hansen (Mountaineers Books, 2015). In our meeting with Washington Senator Cantwell, she took the time to leaf through the book, stopping at a photo of Polly Dyer. She commented on how individuals like Dyer fought so hard for the wild places we currently enjoy and the incredible importance to carrying this legacy forward.

I  often talk about my work with The Mountaineers as stewarding a legacy and following in the footsteps of giants, and Senator Cantwell’s remarks about Polly Dyer illustrate that perfectly. We have the amazing places where we hike, climb, ski, and paddle because passionate, dedicated folks who knew the importance of these places to all of us.

Want to learn how to advocate for the places where we play? Take the Outdoor Advocates Network eLearning course Protecting Public Lands 101 and start engaging in advocacy efforts today! Mountaineers members can access the course here and earn their Public Lands Conservation 101 badge. Non-members can access all of the same information here

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