Impact Giving | Expanding Our Conservation and Advocacy Program

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we discuss the importance of conservation and advocacy throughout The Mountaineers history. Now celebrating 10 years as a 501(c)(3), we are excited to share how today’s program is expanding.
Bri Vanderlinden Bri Vanderlinden
Associate Director of Development
September 14, 2021

Five years ago, I made my first donation to The Mountaineers. At the time, I was seeking organizations that elevated our region's quality of life and were committed to improving our collective environmental impact. Initially drawn in through the conservation and advocacy program, I was inspired to join the members and donors who give back to fully fund the department. Charitable giving supports 75% of The Mountaineers Conservation and Advocacy program, and the remainder is funded through membership renewals.

Conservation and advocacy has been an enduring priority throughout The Mountaineers 115-year history. From our early days, Mountaineers Books titles have influenced national policies, and 16 years ago, our conservation imprint Braided River was established to further leverage the impact that our books hold on a national scale. In 2011, our members enthusiastically voted to transition our organization into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, allowing us to integrate fundraising capabilities to fuel our mission-driven efforts. Now celebrating 10 years as a 501(c)(3), we are excited to share how today’s conservation and advocacy program is expanding.

Mountaineers impacts

We've been advocating on behalf of wild places for over a century and have influenced significant outcomes in our region, from the formation of Olympic National Park in 1938 to the more recent expansion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. In 2019, with over 5,000 of your voices, The Mountaineers joined other partners to help 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. This year we contributed to the passing of the Great American Outdoors Act, one of the most significant conservation funding bills in decades, with an overwhelming bipartisan vote.

On a more individual level, we offer free low-impact recreation training programs, a Public Lands Conservation 101 eLearning course, a monthly Conservation Currents e-newsletter, and countless Mountaineers Books titles. Our volunteers organize and participate in trail maintenance and other stewardship activities as a hands-on way to give back to our natural world and develop deeper connections to the places we love.

Punching above our weight

One of the inherent advantages of The Mountaineers is that we approach our work at the intersection of outdoor recreation and conservation. We also have a reputation for being bipartisan, moderate, and pragmatic. Because of this, we are well-equipped to bring together diverse voices and receive an audience with a wide variety of decision makers.

In November of 2020, Outdoor Alliance Executive Director Adam Cramer spoke to our Board of Directors about the incredible advocacy abilities of The Mountaineers. As Adam shared in that presentation, The Mountaineers has demonstrated an outsized ability to effect change to protect public lands compared to similarly-sized organizations across the country. Our location in Washington State holds a significant advantage as one of the most important states in the country for outdoor advocacy. Washington has an astonishingly high number of outdoor enthusiasts, and Washingtonians are willing to speak up to conserve and protect public lands and waters.

The passion of our membership, pragmatic reputation, and leadership within the Pacific Northwest are some of the many reasons The Mountaineers carries a unique responsibility to guide public action on behalf of our wild places. We have made great strides over the last decade to increase member engagement, cultivate strong partnerships, and deepen our policy expertise, but we know there's more work to be done. Thanks to the support of our community of passionate donors, our Board of Directors, and our Conservation and Advocacy Committee, we're excited to expand our staff capacity to further elevate the program and the outcomes it makes possible.

Expanding program staff capacity

Through our 2019 Evening of Advocacy fall fundraising events, we launched a focused campaign to expand our team and position us to take full advantage of our outsized conservation influence. As I write this, we are in the final stages of hiring an Advocacy and Engagement Manager. Our newest team member will support a more comprehensive advocacy and engagement effort by educating our 40,000-member conservation community on emerging outdoor recreation issues involving state and federal public lands, maintaining a steady drumbeat of action alerts on current conservation policy priorities, and developing well-researched comment letters to our legislative leaders and land managers. Additionally, added staff capacity will enable us to deepen community education, further leverage engagement through Braided River, help to center our advocacy efforts through the lens of equity and inclusion, and enhance our focus on the climate crisis.

Deepen community education and engagement

Through partnerships with organizations like Outdoor Alliance, we will work to recruit a diverse cohort of emerging grassroots leaders from the greater outdoor community. Building from current Mountaineers resources, our vision is to create an advocacy education and training program available on a national scale. With expanded support, we can increase opportunities to engage through action alerts, as well as collaborate with adult and youth program teams to better integrate conservation and advocacy work into Mountaineers trips and courses.

Further leverage the impact of Braided River

The Mountaineers conservation work and the work of Braided River have complementary areas of focus and target audiences. Through breathtaking photography and passionate storytelling, Braided River has the reach to engage international audiences to learn more about protecting our last remaining wild landscapes. With both focus areas of the organization already doing great work, our expanded capacity will allow us to collaborate in a more intentional way.

Center conservation and advocacy through a lens of equity and inclusion

With support from our Equity and Inclusion Committee, we seek to more overtly view our climate advocacy through the lens of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We will work to identify ways our conservation and advocacy priorities can incorporate diverse perspectives and use our privilege to advocate for policies that promote more equitable access to the outdoors.

Focus efforts to address the climate crisis

As part of our Vision 2022 strategic plan, we focused our approach to climate change by first reducing our organization’s own carbon footprint. This led to the formation of the Carbon Footprint Reduction Committee (CFRC) and The Mountaineers official statement on climate change. The work of the CFRC provides strategic input on how we can actively engage on climate issues and organizes events and education opportunities for members to think critically about their individual impact. The urgency of the climate crisis demands an acceleration of our efforts. With our expanded program capacity, our goal is to implement new and innovative ways to educate and advocate for climate solutions.

Looking ahead

The work ahead of us is vast, and our ability to maintain our expanded team will rely on the continued investment from our community. We are grateful to have received grant funding to support this initial program expansion and will seek major gift opportunities to maintain momentum and stay on the leading edge of conservation and advocacy. It's inspiring to think about how much has been achieved through our collective voices and philanthropy, yet there is still much to be done. I’m grateful for The Mountaineers conservation and advocacy program for providing a way for me to be part of an incredible community influencing positive change for our people and planet.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • Opt in to our monthly Conservation Currents newsletter through your Mountaineers profile.
  • Join us on Sept. 22 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the REI Seattle Flagship store. 100% of ticket sale proceeds will directly benefit our Conservation and Advocacy program. Visit the donation link below to find more details and register to attend.
  • Volunteer for a day of stewardship or organize one of your own.
  • Make a gift today to directly support our conservation and advocacy efforts by visiting mountaineers.org/donate/conservationfund.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, gifts made to The Mountaineers are 100% tax-deductible. For questions about making a gift or getting more involved, contact development@mountaineers.org


This article originally appeared in our Fall 2021 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

Lead image of a trail in the North Cascades. Photo by Ida Vincent.