Trip Report: Outdoor Alliance Washington talks Climate Action and Outdoor Access with Rep. Pramila Jayapal

Outdoor Alliance Washington recently convened a policy meeting with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), representatives of the outdoor industry, and local advocates for equitable outdoor access and community development. Read on to hear more about our discussion and how we celebrated a historic climate victory.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
August 16, 2022

Last year, we announced that The Mountaineers is leading Outdoor Alliance Washington, a group of organizations representing the human-powered outdoor recreation community in Washington State. The goal of Outdoor Alliance Washington is to forge strong relationships with lawmakers and land managers to effectively advocate for shared conservation, recreation, and climate priorities. By amplifying the voices of more than 75,000 recreationists across the state, we can achieve a more sustainable future for Washington’s outdoors.

The month of August - when lawmakers are typically back in their districts - presented a great opportunity for Outdoor Alliance Washington to bring together voices from Seattle’s outdoor community to meet with U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07). On August 10, we hosted a policy roundtable at The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center. This was a great chance for OA Washington partners and local stakeholders to discuss climate change and access to the outdoors.

SEATTLE: A HOTBED FOR OUTDOOR ADVOCACY

The crowds of recreationists that call Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region home don’t just love to get outdoors, they take action to protect the places that make our adventures possible. Washington’s 7th congressional district - which includes a large swath of the city of Seattle and the neighboring municipalities of Shoreline,  Edmonds, and Burien - boasts more than 10,000 Outdoor Alliance advocates, many of which are also Mountaineers members. That’s more than any other congressional district in the country. These advocates have used their voices time and time again to protect public lands and the outdoor experience, moving elected officials to champion our issues in Congress.

A CLIMATE CHAMPION IN CONGRESS

Given those numbers, it’s not a surprise that Congresswoman Jayapal is a powerful champion for the outdoors. Currently serving her third term in the House, Rep. Jayapal is a strong advocate for addressing the climate crisis and environmental injustice. She currently serves on the House committees on Budget, Judiciary, and Education and Labor. As head of the House Progressive Caucus and a co-founder of United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force, her leadership has helped secure investments in climate and clean energy that were included in the Inflation Reduction Act. She also helped introduce the THRIVE Act, and other legislation to transition our economy to 100% clean energy and address the crisis of climate justice.

As an influential member of the congressional leadership, we were eager for the opportunity to share our policy priorities with Rep. Jayapal. When we arranged this roundtable talk to share with the Congresswoman why action on climate is so important to recreationists in her district, the fate of federal climate negotiations were uncertain. We didn’t know just how perfect our timing would be, and that we would have the chance to celebrate an imminent victory for the climate and our public lands.

TALKING CLIMATE ACTION

After welcoming the Congresswoman and introducing the roundtable participants, Outdoor Alliance partners shared with Rep. Jayapal why making public lands and waters part of climate solutions is a top priority for our community.

“Climate change directly impacts our activities; whether it’s climbing, access to glaciers, or whitewater paddling opportunities that depend on snowpack. We’re very pleased Congress is taking action to address these issues,” shared Tom O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater.

At the time of our meeting, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) had already passed the Senate and was poised to pass the House later that week. The IRA contains $369 billion in climate investments, making it the largest effort to address the climate crisis in our nation’s history. This historic legislation will allow us to cut our net carbon emissions 40% by 2030. The bill also gives federal land managers additional resources to continue to leverage public lands in the fight against the climate crisis.

We were pleased to have representatives from REI Co-op and Outdoor Research attend the meeting to represent the local outdoor industry, as each has a large presence in the 7th District. REI Co-op Senior Government Affairs Manager Taldi Harrison reiterated the company’s support for addressing the climate crisis and, in particular, investments in forest conservation and urban tree planting included in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Congresswoman Jayapal was eager to share her perspective on these issues and how we arrived at this critical moment. “Addressing the climate crisis has been such a priority for me personally and for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Passing the Inflation Reduction Act will be the biggest investment we've ever made in addressing climate change and climate justice. It’s a giant step forward. There are some people who are saying this is a baby step forward. It’s not baby steps, I don’t believe that. It's a huge success.”

Roundtable_Photo by Conor Marshall.jpgPolicy Roundtable Discussion with Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Photo by Conor Marshall

OUTDOOR ACCESS AND INVESTING IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR

Increasing equitable access to the outdoors is a goal shared by all of OA Washington’s member groups. We believe that everyone deserves to have access to outdoor opportunities and the mental, emotional, and physical benefits they provide.

Roundtable participant Chevon Powell, owner of Golden Bricks Events and the sole BIPOC vendor for Washington State Parks, shared that as a small business owner, it can be difficult to know how to take advantage of grants and other federal funding. James King from the Central District Community Preservation & Development Authority spoke about the unfortunate reality that very little federal funding finds its way to communities of color. Rep. Jayapal reiterated her priority that communities of color in the 7th District see an impact from the IRA and the 9 million jobs that it will create.

Many of Outdoor Alliance Washington’s partners work to eliminate barriers to outdoor access through programs, advocacy, and partnering with community groups, but we acknowledge that there is so much more work to do to create more equitable communities and outdoor spaces.

VICTORY FOR CLIMATE AND PUBLIC LANDS

Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Inflation Reduction Act. Read more about what’s in this bill for climate and public lands, and thank your lawmakers for finally securing critical investments that will help chart a course toward a more sustainable future for all.

Like many bills that pass Congress, this package is a compromise. The reality is the IRA is a mixed bag for oil and gas leasing. While we regret these problematic fossil fuel provisions, overall, we still believe that the IRA is crucial to tackling climate change.

Days prior, at our roundtable, Rep. Jayapal reflected on the IRA’s impact: “For every ton of carbon emissions associated with the Inflation Reduction Act, there are at least 24 tons of carbon reductions. The net effect of this bill is going to be significantly better.”

Now that the package has fully passed through Congress and will soon be signed into law, The Mountaineers and Outdoor Alliance Washington are thrilled to see these investments come to fruition, but also recognize the need for continued advocacy for public lands and climate justice during the law’s implementation.

JOIN US

As we work to grow Outdoor Alliance Washington, we’re hoping to build a coalition of Mountaineers who can use their connection to our region’s landscapes to help achieve policy wins for the public lands we love. Email our conservation team if you’re interested in getting more involved in OA Washington advocacy efforts.

A version of this post will also appear on the Outdoor Alliance Blog.

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Lead image of Outdoor Alliance Washington partners and other roundtable participants with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) at The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center. Photo by Jenna Behringer.