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.
The Mountaineers is a nonprofit outdoor education, conservation, and recreation organization based in Seattle, Washington. The 12,000-member Mountaineers community offers thousands of volunteer-led courses, activities, and events that help people explore the natural world. Our youth programs provide over 6,000 opportunities each year for children to get outside, and our publishing division Mountaineers Books expands our mission internationally through award-winning publications. We are a passionate, engaged, and knowledgeable community dedicated to protecting and enhancing the outdoor experience for current and future generations.
How did The Mountaineers get started?
Founded in 1906, The Mountaineers took root in Seattle when a handful of peak baggers and outdoors lovers decided to start a mountaineering club. Membership quickly grew, and in the following decades The Mountaineers pioneered alpine skiing in the Cascades, developed some of the country’s first climbing courses, and founded the national Mountain Rescue Association. Our forerunners embraced conservation values and advocated for the protection of public lands. We held pivotal roles in the formation of Olympic National Park, Washington’s state park system, and the passage of the Wilderness Act. To this day, our mission centers on helping people enjoy and conserve the wild places where we play.
For The Mountaineers, what are the biggest public lands policy issues?
Our work centers on conserving public lands and providing opportunities for human-powered recreationists to access them. A few of our top priorities include:
Saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund: Heralded as America’s best conservation program, the LWCF has invested more than $16 billion towards stewarding everything from city green spaces to National Parks. Unfortunately, Congress allowed the LWCF to expire in September, we’re rallying citizen support and working with the lawmakers to save the program. This fall we rallied over 3,000 Washingtonians to advocate for this critical program.
Stopping the Public Lands Heist: The Public Lands Heist is a far-reaching effort to undermine our public lands until the door is open for privatization. The Heist consists of bills, executive orders, and bureaucratic maneuvers aimed at dismantling public lands protections and suppressing the public’s ability to participate in planning processes. Being a part of the Outdoor Alliance coalition helps us work with partners across the nation to collectively snuff out these threats.
We’re also focused on public lands issues in Washington State. We’re working to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway – a 1.5-million acres public and private land spanning from Seattle to central Washington – as a Natural Heritage Area. In addition, we’re working to protect the Methow Valley from industrial-scale mining claims.
What’s a notable success for The Mountaineers?
In late 2014 we celebrated legislation which added 22,000 acres to Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We also celebrated the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers’ designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers. We advocated for both of these conservation designations for a number of years.
This fall we were thrilled to see the introduction of the Public Lands Recreational Opportunities Improvement Act – a piece of legislation that will improve permitting processes for groups taking people outside. We’re very excited about this legislation because we believe getting folks outside on our public lands helps inspire future conservationists.
What’s one of your inspirations for protecting public lands?
At The Mountaineers, we offer courses, activities, and events that connect people to the wonders of our public lands. We hear from our members time and time again that the outdoors changed their lives for the better. Their stories confirm our public lands are worth fighting for. Our members show us that experiencing adventure and getting stoked on public lands is a powerful first step towards becoming an outdoor advocate.
What do you think the future of public lands looks like?
We believe that public lands should be a place of unity. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the outdoors. In turn, these shared experiences can inspire a modern conservation movement. A key part of this is equity and inclusion. Traditionally, the outdoors community hasn’t done much to reach out to people of color and marginalized communities, but as we work to break down barriers, engage with diverse communities, and inspire more conservationists, the future of public lands will continue to get brighter.
What’s the most important thing that you think public lands advocates need to know about how to make a difference?
When people speak on behalf of the places they care about, policy makers listen. From the formation of Olympic National Park in 1938 to the recent expansion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, we've seen that outdoor advocates can shape the future of our public lands. If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out our new e-learning program Protecting Public Lands 101. It breaks down the basics of our national public lands system and explains how you can step up to protect the outdoor experience.