Trip Report: Outdoor Alliance Washington Advocates for Public Lands and Recreation in D.C. - Oct 2023

Conservation & Advocacy Director Betsy Robblee reports back from her recent advocacy trip to Washington, D.C. with our Outdoor Alliance partners. Learn more about our latest efforts to advocate for public lands and the outdoor experience with lawmakers and administration officials in our nation’s capital.
Betsy Robblee Betsy Robblee
October 20, 2023
Trip Report: Outdoor Alliance Washington Advocates for Public Lands and Recreation in D.C. - Oct 2023
Outdoor Alliance partners meeting with National Park Service leadership. Photo by Betsy Robblee.

Outdoor advocacy can take many forms: from virtual meetings and policy letters, to events with members of Congress. These individual advocacy actions build momentum over time to address challenges facing our public lands, climate, and outdoor recreation.

While Congress has been unpredictable lately and is struggling to pass the next federal budget, we see an opportunity to pass bipartisan recreation and public lands legislation over the next year. The Mountaineers and our partners continue to flex our collective advocacy to keep these important initiatives moving. Through Outdoor Alliance Washington, The Mountaineers leverages the voices of 75,000 human-powered recreationists across Washington state to advance landscape protections and recreation and climate policy.

Conservation Advocacy Powered by Outdoor Recreation

Last week, I joined Outdoor Alliance partners from recreation organizations across the country for our latest advocacy “fly-in” visit to Washington, D.C. to advocate with lawmakers and administration officials. These trips to the “other Washington” are great opportunities to build relationships with lawmakers and their staff and convey our policy priorities. Last week’s trip was a follow-up to our last Outdoor Alliance advocacy trip to D.C. in December 2022, and some of our longtime policy priorities - the Wild Olympics Bill, the SOAR Act, and America’s Outdoor Recreation Act - headlined our advocacy agenda again.

Washington State’s congressional delegation is filled with champions of conservation and recreation issues in part because recreationists like you take action to protect public lands and the outdoor recreation experience. There are many important issues to work on in Congress, and lawmakers and their staff have a finite amount of time, resources, and political capital to leverage to make a difference for their community and constituents. These in-person advocacy meetings are key to maintaining support for the issues our community cares about.

Throughout my three days in D.C., Tom O’Keefe from American Whitewater and I met with staff from the offices of Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representatives Larsen, DelBene, Schrier, Jayapal, Kilmer, Smith, and Gluesenkamp Perez. We reiterated our support for the Wild Olympics Bill and an outdoor recreation package, and I updated them on a pending climate-smart amendment to the Northwest Forest Plan. We were positively received by each of the offices, and staff shared their commitment to supporting these priorities moving forward.

Betsy with hill staffers outside of Senator Maria Cantwell's office.jpg

Betsy sharing Braided River's new Olympic Peninsula Book, Salmon, Cedar, Rock & Rain. with Senator Maria Cantwell's Staff.

Where Our Priorities Stand

After making considerable progress in Congress over the last two years, we’re hopeful that the Wild Olympics Bill could advance in the Senate this year. The next milestone for the legislation may be coming soon, as we’re urging the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to pass the bill and move it along to the full Senate later this fall.

We’ve also seen progress this year for one of our top recreation policy priorities: the Simplifying Outdoor Access to Recreation (SOAR) Act, which would secure much-needed reform to the federal recreational permitting system. The SOAR Act was included in a larger package of recreation bills, called the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA). The Senate Energy and Natural Resources passed AORA out of committee earlier this year. AORA could be considered by the full Senate soon, and we heard in D.C. that the House may put together their own package of bipartisan recreation bills, including the SOAR Act.

We also had a great opportunity to discuss climate policy and how public lands can be leveraged as natural climate solutions with leadership from the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, and the White House Center for Environmental Quality. We received a positive reception during our Administration meetings, and agency staff encouraged our community to keep speaking up on behalf of conservation and climate.

We’ll keep you updated as our priorities continue to move this Congress and share future opportunities to advocate for Wild Olympics, AORA, and the SOAR Act with your representatives in our Conservation Currents newsletter. In the meantime, we encourage you to take a few minutes to send a personalized letter to lawmakers in support of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act to keep up the momentum.

Take Action

OA Washington continues to advocate for three main policy priorities: investing in the outdoors, protecting special places through land and water conservation, and ensuring an equitable and sustainable future for public lands and waters. Read more about our recent trip to D.C. in Outdoor Alliance's trip report blog.