Outdoor Alliance is a coalition of groups that represent human-powered outdoor recreation across the country. Paddlers, hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, and backcountry skiers come together to protect the places they care about. Our new blog series looks at how each of these groups is looking at public lands today, what they think are the biggest threats, what people who love the outdoors are doing well, and where we go from here.
Since its founding in 1902, the American Alpine Club has been a force in helping safeguard our country’s wild landscapes and natural treasures. Working alongside our members and partners, we focus on critical issues facing climbers and outdoor recreation nationally, such as keeping public lands pristine, wild, and open to human-powered recreation. The AAC also provides grants and volunteer opportunities to conserve climbing areas, hosts local and national climbing festivals and events, publishes two of the most sought-after climbing annuals, manages a lodging network for climbers, and cares for the world’s leading climbing library and mountaineering museum.
How did AAC get started?
The American Alpine Club was founded in 1902 with original purpose of “scientific exploration and study of higher mountain elevations and of regions lying within or about the arctic and antarctic circles.” The AAC has a long history of exploration and the development of the climbing community. The AAC was key to the formation of the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, an elite division specializing in warfare in harsh alpine conditions. It sponsored and participated in some of the most significant exploration of mountain regions in the world, including the 1939 summit attempt on K2, the 1963 first American summit of Everest, and the 1966 summit of Antarctica's Mt. Vinson. John Muir was the second President of the AAC and helped the Club play a central role in balancing land use with preservation needs by addressing ethics, access, wilderness management, registration, huts, and roads.
For AAC, what are the biggest public lands policy issues?
Working alongside our members and partners, we focus on critical issues facing climbers and outdoor recreation. Our policy priorities are:
Public Lands: that they remain public, well-resourced and that important conservation tools (like the Antiquities Act) are preserved so climbers can continue to practice their craft on the lands we love.
Recreation Permitting: that exclusionary permitting policies are improved and modernized to ensure that outfitters/guides and organizations that take people outdoors (YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, etc) can get the permits they need to provide facilitated outdoor experiences.
Fragile Mountain and Climbing Environments: To better understand fragile mountain and climbing ecosystems, to promote sustainable use and effective management and to bring awareness to the impacts of a changing climate on the landscapes that inspire us.
What’s a recent/notable success for AAC?
Climb the Hill: Organized by AAC and Access Fund, leaders of the climbing community summited Capitol Hill to advocate for public lands and sound climbing management policy. This year, we met with more than 60 congressional offices as well as senior staff from the US Forest Service and National Park Service.
Hill to Crag: AAC is working to influence public policy by inviting lawmakers to our office: the crag. This May, we took Congressman John Curtis and his staff as well as local law makers rock climbing in Emery County.
AA Research Grants: AAC is supporting scientists conducting research on high alpine environments. Our researchers are making valuable contributions to our understanding of climate change and human impacts on our fragile mountain and climbing environments. Learn more about our researchers here.
What’s one of your inspirations for protecting climbing?
All of us at the AAC find great joy and meaning in climbing. Our passion for climbing and climbing landscapes inspires us to advocate for public lands and access for climbers.
What do you think the future of public lands looks like?
We envision a future where access to public lands for climbers and other human-powered groups is significantly improved and that outfitters, guides and organizations are able to obtain the permits they need to provide facilitated experiences on public lands. We believe that with continued work with Congress and land management agencies, we will see a more streamlined and modernized recreation permitting system.
What’s the most important thing that climbers need to know about how to make a difference?
Climbers must be thoughtful about who they vote for—we need lawmakers who care about public lands and who will work to keep them public, well-resourced and open to recreation.