Uniting our Collective Voice - Mountaineers and Outdoor Alliance

As a community of outdoor enthusiasts passionate about our public lands, we bring an indispensable boots-on-the-ground voice to conservation work in Washington State and Washington DC.
Katherine Hollis Katherine Hollis
October 16, 2015
by Tania Lown-Hecht, Outdoor Alliance Communications Director

This August, while backpacking through the Hoover Wilderness in California with my husband and brother-in-law, I ran into a woman about my age. She was headed down the trail in our direction so we hiked together a few miles, chatting about our work, her Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike the previous summer, and our mutual love of solo trips. She was a teacher out on a three-day trip before the school year started back up. I told her about my work with Outdoor Alliance and our efforts to bring together the outdoor recreation community to protect public lands.

In a funny turn of events, my dad met the very same woman on the train in San Francisco just a few weeks later. They had struck up conversation about ultramarathons when he started talking about his daughter who works at Outdoor Alliance. “Was she recently backpacking in the Sierras?” the woman asked my father. It was a chance encounter that is also a testament to the interconnected communities of people who love the outdoors.

At Outdoor Alliance, we mobilize this community of outdoor enthusiasts to come together to protect the public lands and waters we collectively love. Outdoor Alliance began as an informal coalition of outdoor recreation groups 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 policies to improve the outdoor experience, we soon realized that by working together, our collective voice was much louder and more powerful than any individual group. By uniting the voices of mountaineers, climbers, paddlers, mountain bikers, and backcountry skiers, we have been able to strengthen our efforts to protect important places and promote smart conservation policies.

An early project that demonstrated the power of our collective voice was our work on the Colorado Roadless Rule. Outdoor Alliance brought valuable data and comments from the united outdoor recreation community to improve how National Forest land was classified and managed in Colorado. We collected detailed data from whitewater paddlers, mountain bikers, backcountry skiers, and climbers to determine the most important “parcels” that needed increased protection. By uniting outdoor recreation groups and coordinating with other stakeholders including outdoor businesses, we made a big impact on the final Rule. We more than doubled the acreage in upper tier protection, from 562,000 acres to 1.2 million acres.  Almost 40% of the increased upper tier acreage came directly from Outdoor Alliance’s joint comments and data about important parcels of land.

At Outdoor Alliance, we are mobilizing a community of people who, despite their passion for public lands and their experiences on them, tend not to be “joiners.” We are a community of people who appreciate solitary experiences, the beauty of remote places, and escapes from cities and crowds. Uniting this community requires both a broad vision of what the outdoor community can do, and an appreciation for the specificity of particular places and what they mean to people.

The Mountaineers and Outdoor Alliance —Our Partnership

Both regionally and nationally, The Mountaineers has been crucial to the work of Outdoor Alliance. We are deeply rooted in the outdoor community of the Pacific Northwest, and bring a depth of knowledge and expertise on Washington’s public lands. Our members and volunteers’ strong relationships as passionate outdoor adventurers in the Pacific Northwest enriches Outdoor Alliance’s efforts on both regional and national policy issues.

As a community of outdoor enthusiasts passionate about our public Lands, we bring an indispensable boots-on-the-ground voice to conservation work in Washington State and Washington DC. When it comes to protecting the places we love to play - like the Mountains to Sound Greenway - Outdoor Alliance supports The Mountaineers in working with other local groups, like American Whitewater, Washington Trails Association and Washington Climbers Coalition, to advocate for these special places. And our membership in Outdoor Alliance amplifies our ability to weigh in on national policy issues, like the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Over the last 50 years, the conservation community has accomplished so much, resulting in the protection of millions of acres of public lands. However, there continue to be critical challenges facing our public lands. Here in the west, wildfire reform is crucial, especially as the wildfire season is longer and more intense than it has been in the past. The recent effort to seize public lands and turn them over to states and private entities threatens our access to the places we hold dear. The human-powered outdoor recreation community has a direct and intensely personal connection with public lands and waters. By joining together our voices to speak out about places and policies that matter to us, we can have a powerful influence in how we conserve public lands and protect our experiences on them.

Outdoor Alliance is a conservation and recreation nonprofit based in Washington DC made up of the following member organizations: Access Fund, American Alpine Club, American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, International Mountain Bicycling Association, The Mountaineers, and Winter Wildlands Alliance. OA’s mission is to protect, enhance, and promote the human-powered outdoor recreation experience by uniting the voices of outdoor enthusiasts to conserve America’s public lands. www.outdooralliance.org