Last week, Outdoor Alliance hosted its first Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC for 24 trailblazers in outdoor recreation from around the west. We brought together mountain bikers, climbers, backcountry skiers, paddlers, and hikers to voice their concerns about access, recreation, and public lands to major players in the capitol. The Summit convened leaders from the Mountaineers, Winter Wildlands Alliance, American Canoe Association, American Whitewater, Access Fund, Mazamas, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, and the Washington Trails Association. The three days included a crash course in advocacy communications; meetings with congressional delegates for Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah; and sessions with the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 leadership team, and the Council on Environmental Equality.
The goal of the summit was to bring the voices of regional leaders to Washington DC to shape policy efforts around outdoor recreation and access. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting with David Jayo, the senior advisor to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Jayo shared Secretary Jewell’s goals for her term and her plans to revitalize the Civilian Conservation Corps. He also brought the team to the roof deck of the DOI to witness a spectacular sunset over the Washington Monument.
The five state teams also met with their individual state delegations to discuss regional conservation and outdoor recreation issues. The team representing Idaho met with their entire state’s delegation, and the Washington team conference included Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell.
The Summit included brief talks from leaders at major conservation organizations, including the Wilderness Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Outdoor Industry Association. Some of the key issues for the Advocacy Summit included wildfire funding, state takeover of public lands, renewable energy development, and major programs and bills like the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). Major regional issues included the protection of Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho and Browns Canyon in Colorado through national monument designation. The Idaho delegation, in particular, was effective in bringing these issues to a number of major players. Brett Stevenson, from the Wood River Bike Coalition, illustrated the importance of Boulder-White Clouds by describing the exhilaration of mountain biking there.
For the people that play, work, and live close to America’s public lands, their voice is a critical part of the conversation. The Advocacy Summit was the first of ongoing opportunities to provide important regional voices the opportunity to speak to decision makers about how the lands they love should be used.