The Conservation Alliance Storms Washington, DC

Kelly Neel (REI), Josie Norris (The Conservation Alliance), Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), Thomas O’Keefe (American Whitewater), Katherine Hollis (The Mountaineers) and Eric Hayes (Superfeet)

The Conservation Alliance teamed up with Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance to bring more than 100 outdoor business and recreation leaders to Washington, DC to meet with Congressional offices and Obama Administration representatives about the importance of protecting public lands for their recreation and habitat values. The Conservation Alliance’s group totaled 30 people, including the board of directors and additional representatives from member companies.
The group spent a full day learning about conservation policy from DC-based experts and from our grantees working to protect specific places. The group received an update on the political lay-of-the-land, and what conservation initiatives might succeed with Congress and the Obama Administration. The trainings then shifted to a focus on specific conservation issues, including: the Land and Water Conservation Fund; National Monuments; and Wilderness legislation. Because it is the final year of the Obama Administration, we scheduled extra time to discuss proposed National Monuments that the President might designate before he leaves office. That conversation focused on four places: Bears Ears (Utah); Grand Canyon Watershed (Arizona); Owyhee Canyonlands (Oregon); and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska).
The following day, we broke the large group into smaller lobby teams, which met with Congressional and Obama Administration offices to demonstrate business support for conservation that benefits recreation. Together, the teams completed 30 meetings in one day. Each of the teams reported that their meetings went well, and that they sensed general enthusiasm for conservation, particularly within the Obama Administration. Even with a dysfunctional Congress, we saw reasons to be hopeful. The week before we arrived, the Senate held a hearing for three bills that together would protect more nearly 500,000 acres of Wilderness and 1,000 river miles in Washington, Oregon, and California. Stay tuned!
We coordinated our DC effort with OIA and Outdoor Alliance, co-hosting social events, and integrating each organizations into joint lobby teams. The result was a critical mass of outdoor business and recreation voices in town for a few days. Aside from the trainings and lobby meetings, it was great to see so many outdoor industry leaders in, looking sharp — and sometimes uncomfortable — in fancy clothes.
We are already looking forward to our 2017 trip, which will involve meetings with a brand new Presidential administration, and several new faces in Congress. The work of securing protection for our federal lands requires regular engagement with our elected officials, and it’s great to see our industry stepping up to advocate for conservation and recreation.