Outdoor Alliance’s Adam Cramer on the Outdoor Advocacy “Superpowers” of The Mountaineers

What impact does The Mountaineers have on regional and national work to protect public lands? Hear from Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance, on some of the advocacy “superpowers” of The Mountaineers and how we work with Outdoor Alliance to make a difference for the outdoors.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
December 21, 2020
Outdoor Alliance’s Adam Cramer on the Outdoor Advocacy “Superpowers” of The Mountaineers

For almost six years, The Mountaineers has been a proud member of Outdoor Alliance, a nonprofit organization that unites the voices of outdoor enthusiasts in order to protect the human-powered outdoor recreation experience and conserve America’s public lands. Our membership in Outdoor Alliance amplifies our ability to weigh in on national policy issues and bring regional issues to national attention.

In amplifying the collective voices of mountaineers, climbers, paddlers, mountain bikers, backcountry skiers, and more, the collective impact of Outdoor Alliance is more powerful than any individual group. We work together to advocate for stronger protections for public lands and waters and ensure they are managed in a way that embraces the human-powered experience. Through Outdoor Alliance, The Mountaineers works closely with policy experts from other national groups to track important issues and give our community meaningful opportunities to engage and make a difference. 

Recently, Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance, spoke with The Mountaineers Board of Directors about the role we play in Outdoor Alliance. While Adam lives and works in Washington, DC now, he spent his elementary and middle school years in Gig Harbor (which he credits with fostering his love for the outdoors and taking the edge off his Brooklyn accent).

Here are a few highlights from our conversation during which he spoke highly of our "advocacy superpowers":

Tell us a little bit about Outdoor Alliance and how you got started.

Outdoor Alliance began in the mid-2000s as an informal group of recreation nonprofits who realized that the overlap in their policy goals lent itself to more substantial collaboration. Whether this was protecting a special place with a permanent designation, or improving how outdoor spaces are managed for recreational use, we soon realized that by working together, our collective voice was much louder and more powerful than any individual group.

My own introduction to outdoor advocacy arose out of getting pretty deep into the DC whitewater kayaking and mountain bike scene while also working at a big corporate law firm in the early 2000s. I worked as a volunteer for American Whitewater as part of a team of locals to help renegotiate a hydropower permit for one of the best whitewater rivers in Appalachia - the Upper Youghiogheny at the western tip of Maryland. That experience shaped how we pursue our mission at Outdoor Alliance. We know that people with a personal connection to a place have a knack for collaborating and finding consensus. Our motivation to protect places is about a love of these special places and a passion for the experiences they make possible. Outdoor Alliance does just that: we harness people’s passion for the outdoors to protect places and the planet. 

adam cramer (2).jpgAdam camping this summer with his family. Photo courtesy of adam cramer.

What does The Mountaineers uniquely contribute to Outdoor Alliance and protecting public lands?

The Mountaineers has an outsized ability to effect change to protect public lands compared to similar organizations in other areas of the country. First, you’re located in Washington state, which is one of the most important states in the country for outdoor advocacy. In terms of total numbers, and as a proportion of total population, Washington has a freakishly high number of outdoor enthusiasts compared to most other states. Moreover, those enthusiasts are willing to speak up to conserve and protect public lands and waters. This potent mix is not lost on your state and federal policymakers, and puts Washington on par with states like California and Colorado in terms of informing conservation, and sustainable and equitable outdoor recreation policymaking. While there are outdoor advocates in every congressional district across the country, some of the congressional districts with the highest number of outdoor advocates are located in Washington, and include thousands of Mountaineers members. 

Washington also has outsized political power when it comes to climate and public lands policy. You’ve got two powerful senators who care about the environment and public lands. In the House, you’ve got the Chair of the House Progressive Caucus and the Chair of the New Democrat Coalition. You’ve got the climate Governor and a great Commissioner of Public Lands. Washington is uniquely positioned to act on the issues that we care about - and The Mountaineers has great relationships with your state’s elected leaders and your organization is highly respected.  

And let’s not forget about your intoxicatingly wonderful public lands and waters - you guys have a ton of resources of national importance that all of us at Outdoor Alliance are dedicated to conserving and protecting, such as Wild Olympics, and places where we helped protect like the Methow Headwaters and the Mountains to Sound Greenway. 

What do you see as the single biggest conservation and advocacy superpower of The Mountaineers?

Well, your staff is first rate and always has been - from Sarah Lange, Katherine Hollis and now Betsy ruling the school on policy to both CEO’s at The Mountaineers - Martinique Grigg and Tom, from whom I have personally learned a ton. Outdoor Alliance as an organization is better for being associated with The Mountaineers. 

It’s also the authenticity that your members bring to the debate on public lands and climate. Mountaineers are intimately connected to the landscapes where you recreate, and you’re often the first to notice when something is wrong with those places. You can speak with authority on issues like the impacts of climate change in the mountains, and that voice is really necessary and valuable to the conversation. Your publishing division also provides powerful storytelling that lays the groundwork for future policy wins in the Northwest and beyond. 

As a member of Outdoor Alliance, your voice is amplified with the voices of passionate outdoor recreationists from across the country. Your conservation staff works closely with their  counterparts in other organizations to share policy insights and discuss strategies for pursuing our joint conservation and recreation goals. By leveraging the resources and expertise of partner organizations, your impact is amplified on a national scale. 

When you combine this authentic voice with the power of the Washington delegation, The Mountaineers is uniquely positioned to move the needle on protecting public lands and the planet. You have an outsized influence on regional and national policy for the issues we care about. 

Outdoor Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit coalition of national advocacy organizations that includes American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, Access Fund, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, The Mountaineers, the American Alpine Club, the Mazamas, the Colorado Mountain Club, and the Surfrider Foundation. www.outdooralliance.org 

main photo: Carbon river at mt rainier. photo by Kevin Ouyoumjian.