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.
American Whitewater is a national non-profit organization with a mission “to conserve and restore America's whitewater resources and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.” It is a membership organization representing a broad diversity of individual whitewater enthusiasts, river conservationists, and more than 100 local paddling club affiliates across America. American Whitewater is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater rivers throughout the United States, and connects the interests of human-powered recreational river users with ecological and science-based data to achieve the goals within its mission.
How did AW get started?
American Whitewater began when local paddling clubs from across the country came together to form a national organization to promote safe enjoyment and protection of our nation's whitewater resources. Our founders were leaders of these local clubs with a forward thinking vision for river conservation and paddling whitewater safely. The American White Water Affiliation (AWWA) was formed in 1954, and incorporated in 1961 when it became known officially as the American Whitewater Affiliation (AWA). The name was later shortened to American Whitewater (AW).
For AW, what are the biggest public lands/water policy issues?
We stick our meat grips in a wide range of policy issues that influence our access to, and the health of our country’s rivers. Our biggest policy work currently is centered around protecting rivers through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, both legislatively with new designations and through agency planning efforts. The other big policy issues we’re working on are preserving the sanctity of the Antiquities Act, protecting the integrity of the Clean Water Act, and stopping attempts to weaken public lands planning and the public's ability to participate in public lands management.
What’s a recent/notable success for AW?
At the beginning of August, after a decades long effort, we were ecstatic to see the designation of East Rosebud Creek in Montana as a Wild and Scenic River. This was the first official designation in Montana since 1976 and is a testament to the power of active local citizens supported by national organizations to establish bipartisan support for lasting protections for rivers.
What’s one of your inspirations for protecting paddling?
As an organization, rivers are our inspiration. Rivers are the lifeblood of the planet. We see protecting rivers as protecting the entire landscapes they flow through and the living things that rely on them, including paddlers. To many paddlers, rivers give their lives meaning and we aim to cultivate those feelings into action to protect them and our opportunities to enjoy them. When paddlers connect with rivers, they make efforts to protect them.
What do you think the future of public lands and waters looks like?
The future of public lands and waters is, improved and increased public access to them, and more lasting protections aimed at keeping them in their natural state. As a country, and as a culture, there’s a growing recognition of the value of having access to, and having strong protections for our public lands. We think the intrinsic value of public land has been recognized for a long time, but as there’s more and more appreciation for, and accurate calculation of the economic value recreation on public lands provides, we see real opportunities to increase protections and access to public land.
What’s the most important thing that paddlers need to know about how to make a difference?
The most important thing to know for paddlers to make a difference is that your voice counts. However you choose to use it, whether it’s contacting your representatives, rallying the local residents, business owners and politicians to the cause, or just by supporting member groups like American Whitewater and Outdoor Alliance, your singular actions matter and can add up to big change.