2018 Climb the hill recap
Climbers with the American Alpine Club, Access Fund and partner organizations just completed an impressive third ascent of Capitol Hill. On May 10th, an elite team of professional climbers, outdoor industry leaders, and grassroots partners charged the Hill to advocate for outdoor recreation and improved climbing management, with a specific focus on the Antiquities Act, the Land Water Conservation Fund and the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act. Before the event, stoke was high— listen to some pros discuss their excitement and follow #climbthehill for more.
Once on the Hill, advocates broke into multiple teams of regional constituents. Altogether, groups met with more than 60 congressional offices (30 meetings included members of Congress) as well as senior staff from the US Forest Service and National Park Service. Some of these meetings were with policymakers who already shared the advocate's priorities; many were with senators or representatives who did not.
Climbers prioritized storytelling to deliver points, describing their experiences on our public lands and how wild places have shaped their lives and careers. They also pointed to the power of the outdoor recreation economy, which depends upon access to public lands. Outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually and supplies 7.6 million American jobs, as reported by Outdoor Industry Association. This data gives climbers a solid foothold in the halls of Congress.
Climb the Hill meetings helped move the needle on several policy issues and inspired congressional office to take action. For example, a major success was after hearing from climbers, Senator Angus King (I-ME) signed on as a co-sponsor of the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (RNR). RNR is a bipartisan effort to expand recreation opportunities on public lands. It would make it easier for non-profit organizations, outfitters and guides to help people get outside, develop an appreciation for wild places, and care for our nation’s public lands, forests, parks, and rivers. As professional climber Majka Burhardt said, “We’re all really lucky. We get to get outdoors, and that is a privilege. We all would be better served to go and to reach out to get more people involved in the outdoors, because that’s how we’re going to keep growing the importance of the outdoors.”
The “star-power” of climbers like Burhardt, Alex Honnold, Margo Hayes, Sasha DiGiulian, Lynn Hill, Tommy Caldwell and many others propelled efforts into the view of mainstream climbers and outdoorists. In addition to climbing celebrities, grassroots organizations such as Brothers of Climbing, Brown Girls Climb, and Latino Outdoors added the voices of communities of color and contributed valuable perspectives. Shelma Jun of FlashFoxy recently shared in a post that she’s “Heading back to NYC with a renewed determination to continue to let our elected officials know that we want our public lands to be protected, and that the ‘we’ includes women, POC, adaptive, indigenous and queer climbers.” A key takeaway from the event was that to succeed, climbers must advocate for access to public lands for all, including those who have been historically marginalized.
“Thank you to the climbing community for helping lead the charge in advocacy for our public lands and outdoor recreation,” wrote Forrest Shearer, a professional outdoor athlete who participated in Climb the Hill, “There is still much to do, but I’m hopeful [that] by showing up and sharing our stories, we can affect change.”
We’re already seeing that change in motion.
Click through to see photos from the action:
All photos by Stephen Gosling.
What next? The four major issues we advocated for are still relevant. Check out the toolkit from the event to learn how you can affect change from wherever you are. Stay tuned in to our policy updates for more action alerts as we continue to advocate for climbers and wild places. Thank you to everyone who made this event possible!
United We Climb.