Protecting the Outdoor Experience

The Mountaineers has a strong conservation philosophy, focusing on education, stewardship, and advocacy. We have a powerful voice in the community and it's a great time to get involved.
Katherine Hollis Katherine Hollis
Mountaineers Director of Conservation
August 29, 2017
Protecting the Outdoor Experience
by Katherine Hollis, Mountaineers Director of Conservation

For over a century, The Mountaineers has inspired conservation and stewardship of our public lands through our outdoor education programs and books. Today, we build on this tradition by taking responsibility for protecting the places that inspire, excite, and challenge us. The Mountaineers is uniquely positioned to define and grow the modern conservation movement by providing powerful outdoor experiences that enable people to gain special connections to these places and the desire to protect them. We instill stewardship and Leave-No-Trace wilderness ethics through the educational components of our courses and provide opportunities to learn and engage in conservation issues – practices that ignite passion and action in current and future generations of conservationists. 

Our conservation program protects the outdoor experience by:

  • Ensuring we all have access to our public lands to get people outside
  • Protecting our public lands and the experiences they provide
  • Awakening the conservation ethic in our community of human-powered recreationists through education and stewardship

A substantial percentage of land in Washington State is public (estimates hover around 40% for all public lands), and the number of human-powered recreationists getting outside on these lands grows every year. It is imperative that we understand the impact our recreation can have on the natural world and that we work to protect our wild places. 

The Mountaineers impacts public lands conservation through three engagement areas: conservation education, stewardship, and advocacy.

Conservation Education

We believe that everyone — from the seasoned outdoor enthusiast to the first-time recreationist — should know the skills needed to protect our natural places and be motivated to defend them. Our courses and publications are often members’ first introduction to the outdoors and to responsible outdoor recreation. We teach people what they need to know to protect our public lands and provide the spark to help them become passionate about conservation. We believe The Mountaineers is not only uniquely positioned to provide this education, but also obligated to grow a strong community that protects the outdoor experience.

We provide education on conservation issues through books that convey the importance of our natural places, a monthly newsletter that highlights pertinent public lands issues in the Pacific Northwest and beyond and gives individuals specific opportunities to take action on these issues, and we cultivate low-impact ethics throughout our organization.


Giving back to our public lands is integral to our work as an organization and has been a part of our history from our beginnings as a club. We care for the trails and other outdoor recreation resources that allow us to enjoy our wild places. Volunteers lead our trail work and lookout tower restoration in partnership with land managers and other organizations, and completing a day of stewardship is an important requirement in many of our most popular courses. These stewardship activities reflect a hands-on approach to conservation and allow us to make an immediate impact over the course of just a day. 

We know the hiking and climbing trails in Washington take a beating each year — both from people and from weather. We steward these access resources so that mountain peaks, climbing crags and alpine lakes can continue to be enjoyed. The Mountaineers Everett Branch Lookout and Trail Maintenance Crew provides critical volunteer maintenance to the historic Pilchuck, Three Fingers, and Heybrook fire lookouts on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, keeping these structures open to the visiting public so that thousands of annual visitors may see, touch, and experience a piece of history that might otherwise be lost.

Each year, nearly 500 students volunteer on public lands as part of Mountaineers courses with stewardship requirements, contributing over 3,600 hours of volunteer labor on state and federal lands in Washington. Students participate in restoration activities, trail work or historic lookout maintenance with The Mountaineers or with community partners. 

Conservation Advocacy

The Mountaineers is Washington’s leading voice for protecting the outdoor experience in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We undertake our policy work through bringing together partners and coalitions, and working with land managers and lawmakers to educate and advocate for the protection of the natural places that inspire us. We engage on issues that improve access to our public lands and protect them, so we can better get people outside through the sports we love.

A partnership that helps us magnify our voice at the national level is our work with the Outdoor Alliance, a national nonprofit that unites the voices of outdoor recreation to conserve America’s public lands. We became the first non-founding member organization to join with other member organizations with a rich history of protecting outdoor landscapes across the country. By joining our voices, we strengthen the efforts to protect and promote human-powered enjoyment of the outdoors.

We are defining the modern conservation movement. And influencers, lawmakers, and land managers are listening. 

This article originally appeared in our September/October 2015 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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