In the past ten years, the outdoor recreation community has punched way above its weight to protect public lands and waters, and most importantly, to help outdoor recreationists become more civically engaged participants in our democracy as it relates to conservation.
As a lean and relatively young organization, Outdoor Alliance has not been able to work on all the issues we care about. So far, we work on issues that matter deeply to the outdoor community, where no one else is likely to speak on our behalf, and where we have the best odds of seeing the result we’re looking for. In making that calculus over the past few years, there’s one huge, standout area where we could be doing more: climate change.
Climate change is the defining environmental and conservation issue of our generation, with life-or-death consequences for millions of people across the globe. People who love to get outside are already bearing witness to climate change with longer fire seasons, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and hotter days are all going to affect the experiences we value.
While climate has been an indirect part of all of our work – limiting unnecessary development and defending clean air, clean water, and protected habitat are crucial measures to protect the climate – we are at a point now where it’s time to do more. We’ve helped build an engaged community that knows how to take action on issues we care about; we’ve built credibility with lawmakers, and key relationships in D.C. and around the country; and in 2019, the outdoor community can take its powerful voice and make a difference on the biggest conservation issue we face.
Climate can feel like an overwhelming problem without a clear solution. Unlike a lot of the issues we work on, the “fix” is not as simple as advocating for a single bill or solution. Instead, we view our role as being part of a necessary groundswell of support that will motivate lawmakers to do something to solve climate change. We don’t claim to be climate experts, and we don’t think you need to be either. Instead, we think the most important thing right now is to generate energy on climate, and use the power of our community to make this a top priority for lawmakers.
What is that going to look like? Basically, we want to use the same approach we always have: help outdoor recreationists become more educated on the issues; connect people with relevant and timely opportunities to engage decision makers; and share personal stories of why this issue needs to be a political priority.
We also recognize that public lands and waters aren’t just being hurt by climate change—they’re also going to be a part of the solution. As a community with expertise in land use planning, ocean planning, and rivers and hydropower, we also have an obligation to be part of a constructive process around renewable energy development, from offshore wind, to utility-scale wind and solar on public lands, to (in some circumstances) hydropower. That transition won’t be without challenges, and we need to be at the table making sure we’re saying yes to policies and proposals that make sense, and no to those that are too costly to other values.
On Earth Day, we’re launching a campaign to tell lawmakers that the outdoor community expects action on climate change. We have a powerful voice and now is the time to use it. Together with our member groups, we’re on a mission to bring together 50,000 outdoor adventurers to speak up about climate solutions.