Receding Glaciers on Mont Blanc Results in Closures for Italian Side

Have you ever dreamed of climbing mixed routes on the Mont Blanc massif? Come back another time, it is closed, or at least a few roads to access much of the Northwestern side of the iconic massif are. Why is this infamous alpine area closing its doors on the Italian side? It’s due to the rapid movement, and a threatening collapse of the Planpincieux glacier. Italy’s Minister of the Environment Sergio Costa claims climate change is to blame, and states that the emergency indicates “the necessity and urgency of strong and coordinated action for the climate, to prevent extreme events that risk dramatic consequences.” 

The Planpincieux glacier resides on the Mont Blanc Massif and spreads across the borders of Italy, France, and Switzerland. This glacier is actively monitored by the Safe Mountain Foundation, and officials claim that “unusually high temperatures during August and September accelerated the ice melt.” According to Time, the glacier “which spreads 512 square miles acorss the mountain, has been moving up to 20 inches a day,” and is “at risk of collapse” threatening the residents of Courmayeur, an alpine town that rests in the valley below the glacier. 

Paralleling this development in the Alps is the release of the most recent United Nations IPCC report on Wednesday, September 24th. The report entitled, “Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate” (SROCC) predicts a rapid increase of glacial melting, similar to what is happening on Planpincieux. The SROCC warns that “human communities in close connection with polar areas and high mountains are particularly exposed” to melting glaciers. Th report also projects glacial mass and snow cover loss in non-polar regions like central Europe due to the impacts of climate change, stating that “by 2100, 80% of their current glacier mass may disappear.” Perhaps the most jarring statistic of all is the re-affirmation of findings from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report  which predicted with high confidence that due to a “pronounced imbalance” between current glacier mass and climate, glaciers will continue to melt even with no further climate change.

The findings of these reports and many others are alarming. These high mountain regions do not serve only as climbing and mountaineering areas for us to enjoy, but as homes and communities for people living in the high alpine - approximately one-tenth of the world’s population. Seeing the real impact that climate change is having on pristine mountain environments combined with the scientific data provided by the SROCC should serve as a wakeup call for action from global leaders.

Climbers for Climate: Following up on the Climate Strike

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While the American Alpine Club visited Washington DC for this year’s Climb the Hill event, many participants were able to end their time at our Nation’s Capital participating in the Global Climate Strike. The streets were filled with local youth, teachers, parents and grandparents, industry leaders like Patagonia, and advocacy groups ranging from Citizens Climate Lobby, to Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. The march made it clear that people from every generation, walk of life, and industry are coming together to fight for the future of a healthy planet.

Likely the “largest mass protest for action on global warming in history,” Vox reports that activists estimate there were four million people striking across the globe. Here are some highlights of the week of Global Climate Strike (Sept. 20-27) from 350 a non-profit identifying as an “international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all”

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  • 1.5 million protestors in Italy

  • 1.4 million protestors in Germany

  • Over 500,000 protestors in the United States

  • 20,000 protestors in Brazil

  • 13,000 protestors in Mexico

  • 13,000 protestors in India

  • 10,000 protestors in Pakistan

  • Over 7.6 million protestors worldwide

  • More than 6,100 events were held in 185 countries with the support of 73 Trade Unions, 820 civil society organizations, 3,000 companies and 8,500 websites  

While striking to bring awareness to issues can be a powerful means of collective activism, it is important to remember that having the ability to take time off of work to attend events of this nature is a privilege, and not everyone is able to participate. Because of this, it’s important to follow up with legislators to voice the why behind the protest, to speak out for those who may not have been in attendance, and to request direct action. 

Whether you marched alongside your fellow community members, followed along online for work, or were unable to participate this year, here are a few steps you can take to make sure our legislators hear us. 

  1. Contact your Representatives: Utilize this helpful tool located near the bottom of the AAC Climbers for Climate page. Enter your address and immediately find who your representatives are. Give their office a call, or shoot them an email and explain to them why you as a constituent care about taking responsible action on climate change. 

  2. Support Local Organizations in your area. Patagonia Action Works created a network of nonprofits and advocacy organizations that are working on grassroots projects in your area. You can easily tap into the network by entering your address and the issues you are interested in getting involved with.

  3. Stay educated on the issues. Keep following along here by reading updates from the AAC Policy Team, and expand your network into other areas of climate science and action. Check out our partners over at Protect our Winters or the Outdoor Alliance to find more information about Climate Change news, tools, and science. Have you seen Protect our Winters Canada’s latest tool: Fact Avalanche? If not, check that out here.

  4. VOTE. Are you registered yet? One of the most impactful ways to make change is voting for representatives who share the same values as you do and who believe that climate change is real.

LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND RECEIVES $30 MILLION MORE THAN THE PREVIOUS FISCAL YEAR

Do you remember that Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) thing that has been a hot topic among conservation organizations this year? Well, back in March Congress agreed to make it a permanent program which will receive funding through the appropriations process, however, Congress could never agree on how much money it should receive. When the LWCF was first enacted, it was set up to collect $900 million annually. Unfortunately, in the 50+ years the program has been around, this has only happened twice.

Most recently, on September 24th the LWCF was granted funding through a suite of bills approved by the Senate subcommittee for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. LWCF received a whopping $465 million which is the highest it has been funded in 15 years. While this is only half of the $900 million allotted to the LWCF, it is still $30 million more than it was funded in fiscal year 2019.

Senator Udall of New Mexico was a champion for getting this bill approved. He stated to the committee that he will “keep fighting for the resources we need to protect New Mexico and the nation’s natural resources and fulfill our trust and treaty responsibilities to Native communities.” A big thanks is owed to Senator Udall and all of the members of the committee, like Senator Murkowski, who were willing to work across the aisle to fund LWCF and, as Udall mentions in his statement, keep the bill “free of new poison pill, anti-environment provisions – providing Americans with better access to outdoor recreation while protecting our air and water.”

Due to lack of permanent funding, Congress will have to determine the LWCF’s budget on an annual basis which could mean wide variations of funding from year to year. During Climb the Hill this year, we advocated for H.R. 3195 and S.B. 1081, legislation that would ensure adequate funding for LWCF in perpetuity because we believe that LWCF is a necessary tool to continue to protect the special places where we camp, climb, and recreate across the country. If you would like to learn more about LWCF check out this blog we wrote detailing what it is, how it works, and where we see it in action.

Now that LWCF has been funded for 2020, it is important to thank our representatives, and remind them that while this increase in funding is a step in the right direction, the LWCF should be receiving $900 million annually, in perpetuity. Use our easy letter writing tool below to shoot your representatives a note on why you believe LWCF should be fully funded.




Action Alert: Thank Reps. Huffman and Fitzpatrick for ANWR Win

A Big Win For The Arctic Refuge!

September 12, 2019 was a monumental day in the House of Representatives. The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act (H.R. 1146) passed in a historic 225-193 vote. This bill repeals a provision in the 2017 GOP Tax Bill mandating oil and gas lease sales in the Refuge’s coastal plain and works to protect this critical landscape from the energy dominance agenda held by the current administration.

The champions behind this bill are Reps Jared Huffman from California and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. While the battle is not yet won, as the bill will now need to make its way through the Senate, we must take a moment to appreciate the hard work and effort that has gone into protecting this American treasure. The AAC wants to thank these supporters of the Arctic for seeing the value in conservation and for reaching across the aisle to fight for this critical ecosystem and the Alaska Native communities who have been stewards of this land and rely on it to live a full life.

Please take a moment to share your thanks with Rep. Huffman and Rep. Fitzpatrick!



Climb the Hill Advocate Highlight: Shelma Jun and Pete Ward

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Shelma Jun is the founder of Flash Foxy and the Women’s Climbing Festival. Shelma is a current Board Member of the Access Fund and in 2017, was named one of 40 women who’ve made the biggest impact in the outdoor world by Outside Magazine. A leader in our community, she has written, spoken and presented on the importance of creating a climbing community that reflects and welcomes everyone who identifies as a climber. A California native currently based in Brooklyn, NY, Shelma can often be found plugging widgets into horizontal cracks at the Gunks or getting scared on granite highballs in Bishop.

Climb the Hill Q&A

Q: What about the event excites you?

A: It's always exciting to have climbers come together to meet with our elected officials and let them know what's important to us. I'm especially excited this year to have the additional insight and resource that the Climb the Hill JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Taskforce are bringing to this event. Super thankful for all the Taskforce members who volunteered their time throughout the year.

Q: What are you most excited to highlight to representatives while on the Hill?

A: I'm excited to highlight how diverse climbing is getting. Also to highlight that Public Lands are for everyone and we need to not only protect them, but also make sure that everyone has access to be able to appreciate them.

Q: Where is your favorite local crag?

A: I learned to climb in the Shawangunks (thought by some to be the Munsee Lenape name of the area) and it will always be a very special place to me. Though not "local," I also spend a lot of my time in the Eastern Sierra (also known as Pamidu Toiyabe by the Paiute/Numuu tribes of the region).


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Pete Ward is a Board Member of the American Alpine Club (AAC) as well as a member of the AAC Policy Committee. He has woven climbing, its values, history, culture and global community into his life and career. He began his climbing journey as a rescue ranger at the Gunks in New Paltz, NY and continued across the US, when producing bouldering competitions with the specific aim of communicating climbing and what makes it brilliant to an urban audience. Recently, he has been living and climbing in Switzerland and Oxford, England where the limestone is proud as is the history on grit. Peter is an entrepreneur, working on blockchain and machine learning technologies.

Climb the Hill Q&A

Q: What about the event excites you?

A: I'm excited to see the depth and breadth of the climbing community advocating on the issues that matter most to us, as well as reaching out to expand our inclusivity and spread our values.

Q: What are you most excited to highlight to representatives while on the Hill?

A: The blinding priority of our time is climate change - that ship is sailing and we need to be focused on it. I'm also excited that the Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (JEDI) Task Force exists and that its perspectives are being represented in a powerful way.

Q: Where is your favorite local crag?

A: I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Farley, MA. It punches far above its weight class in its quality of bouldering problems… Of course, I learned how to climb in the Shawangunk's and I will always love that spot!

The Impact of Trade Wars and Tariffs on the Outdoor Recreation Economy 

The words “tariff” and “trade wars” are plastering the newscycle this month. With 25% tariffs in effect and more drama brewing between the U.S. and China, we wanted to unpack what tariffs are, the impact they have on the outdoor recreation economy, and what we can do to support outdoor retailers and the towns impacted by the economic blows during this time.

In short, tariffs are taxes on global imported goods received at the ports of entry. Governments utilize tariffs as a tool to keep American spending within our country to increase the national economy. By raising prices on imported products, retailers then have to sell these items for more money creating an incentive for consumers to purchase lower-cost American goods. 

The current administration has announced that it is committed to “American Protectionism,” which puts American businesses and manufacturing first in order to tax our global competitors. What complicates this notion is our modern day global economy. Many finished products purchased in the U.S. either contain material parts imported from other countries or were assembled in different countries around the world. Applying tariffs aren’t so cut and dry. 

Zooming out a bit, it is important to remember the impact that the outdoor recreation economy has on the greater U.S. economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) latest report on The Outdoor Recreation Economy, released in 2017, outdoor recreation raised over $880 billion in consumer spending and generated 7.6 million jobs, and these numbers continue to grow annually. Outdoor recreation is a powerful force in the U.S. economy and outdoor industry leaders need a spot at the table when discussing taxes that impact their industry. 

Currently, there are 25% tariffs on imported steel from select countries and 10% on imported aluminum. As an example of potential tariff impacts on the climbing community, camalots are made from steel (piece on Black Diamond cams here). Meaning it could potentially cost 25% more to manufacture cams abroad, which most companies do, including major players like Black Diamond and Metolius. The total cost of the steel tariff alone is $15.5 billion. While these numbers are jarring, according to research and reporting done by OIA, the hardest part of the ongoing tariff wars aren’t the tariffs themselves, but the “unpredictability of the Trump administration’s trade policies.” 

Companies often release pricing for next years’ product line in advance, so any modifications may present a challenge. Once tariffs are in place, companies are forced to either raise prices significantly for the consumer or to simply absorb the cost internally. Companies are then required to be reactive rather than proactive in their planning, negatively impacting innovation, design, customer service, and internal human resources.

When it comes to getting outdoors, The American Alpine Club doesn’t want to see tariffs creating additional barriers. According to an article recently published by OIA, Patricia Rojas-Ungar, OIA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, stated that all sorts of gear from “jackets to backpacks to hiking boots will see increases in tariffs of up to 30%.” She goes on to warn that due to these dramatic increases, businesses in the outdoor industry will be forced to make “drastic decisions” like hiring fewer employees. Or for smaller businesses, potentially closing their doors all together. She concludes by stating that the trade wars “have to stop, and real trade negotiations need to begin in earnest. . . . [k]nee-jerk reactions have long term devastating impacts on Americans, and we need Congress to stand up for its constituents.”  

OIA has created an Action Alert - tell your representatives that the tariff wars are negatively impacting you and your greater outdoor recreation industry.




Action Alert: Keep the Climbing Community's Voice in Public Land Management

The Forest Service is Proposing Changes to NEPA: Please Sign Our Action Alert to Ask Them to Stop!

Signed into law January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was the first major environmental law in the United States and is often referred to as the “Magna Carta” of environmental laws. While it created the Council on Environmental Quality, NEPA is most well-known for requiring the federal government to analyze the environmental impact of its decisions. Which decisions you ask?

NEPA requires that actions by “all agencies of the Federal Government” which are deemed to be “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment” must be accompanied by “a detailed statement by the responsible official on the environmental impact of the proposed action.” By requiring this environmental review process, agencies like the National Forest Service must “…use all practicable means, consistent with other essential considerations of national policy’ to avoid environmental degradation, preserve ‘historic, cultural and natural’ resources and promote ‘the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without…undesirable and unintended consequences.”

Whether through an Environmental Assessment (EA), or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the review process provides an opportunity for the public to weigh in on Federal decision making and offer thoughts on agency analysis as well as to propose alternatives to chosen actions. These public comment periods are critical to the work we do at the American Alpine Club, alongside the members of the Outdoor Alliance, on such important public land management issues as Forest Plan Revisions or Forest Service Projects.

Currently, the U.S. Forest Service is considering sweeping changes to how it implements NEPA that would drastically limit public engagement on up to 93% of USFS projects, allowing actions like logging and road building to proceed without environmental review or public comment. This would be accomplished by the addition of several new Categorical Exclusions (CE’s), which require limited environmental analysis and public involvement. If a project is granted a CE, extended amount of environmental review, either through and EA or more extensive EIS, is not required. For climbers these changes would be detrimental considering that, according to the Access Fund, there are over 10,000 climbing areas located on USFS lands across the country. These proposed changes could cut the climbing community out of the planning process and a risk degradation to our cherished climbing environment.

Supporters of this “fast-tracking” of agency actions claim the Forest Service is simply increasing the efficiency of its review process. While there may be legitimate reasons to increase the efficiency of agency reviews, they should not come at the cost of public involvement or at the quality of our clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and recreation access on federal lands.

The Forest Service is accepting public comments on this proposed rule change until this coming Monday, August 26th. At the AAC, we want our public land managers to provide proper opportunities for public comment and the evaluation of agency impacts to the environment. The proposed changes by the Forest Service do not provide the necessary transparency, community engagement or agency accountability that we expect of our land managers.

Please take a moment to let the US Forest Service know that you disagree with their changes to NEPA.

AAC Volunteer Major Byron Harvison joins state Governors & OREC Directors at the Outdoor Recreation Learning Network

Major Byron Harvison (center in green) at the 2018 Hill to Crag in North Carolina.

Major Byron Harvison (center in green) at the 2018 Hill to Crag in North Carolina.

Byron Harvison is an active duty Army major, an avid climber, and a passionate member of the American Alpine Club. He has also played a leading role in the AAC’s Hill to Crag campaign which is an annual event series that brings together veterans, active duty service members, AAC volunteers, state offices of outdoor recreation, and local, state, and national policymakers for a day spent climbing at local crags. This past week, Byron had the opportunity to represent the AAC at the National Governors Association (NGA) Outdoor Recreation Learning Network held in Salt Lake City. The network’s mission is to “advance the outdoor economy and workforce, conservation and wellness” and was created to “help governors and their staffs explore strategies to leverage their unique natural, cultural and historical resources and help promote economic, social and environmental benefits”.

The inaugural meeting was held at the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City, UT, with governors from UT, MT, OR, VT, ME, and NV in attendance. Each state’s respective Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation was in attendance as well. Eric Artz, the CEO of REI, David Weinstein, OIA’s state and local policy director, and Jessica Wahl, Executive Director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable attended the event and shared closing remarks following the governors. After the media event, select invitees from the outdoor recreation community walked the Red Butte Gardens to carry on discussions and hear from Dr. David Strayer about the behavioral health benefits of time spent outdoors.

Byron had the opportunity to speak substantively with several Outdoor Recreation Directors about hosting future Hill to Crag events in their states as well as build connections with potential sponsors and attendees. Following an extremely successful partnership with REI on the 2018 North Carolina Hill to Crag event, the AAC is excited to launch into another year of Hill to Crag events very soon. Stay tuned to see this event coming to a state near you!

In the meantime, check out this video highlighting the Hill to Crag event held in Colorado in 2018.


A Brief Update on Bears Ears

On July 26th the Bureau of Land Management released the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed Monument Management Plans (MMPs) for Bears Ears National Monument. This document is 800 pages in length, and while we have yet to read the full document, the AAC believes that the shrinking of the Monument was an illegal move made by the administration. We believe the BLM should work to protect and conserve the whole monument that was protected in 2016. A management plan should not have been completed prior to the court ruling of the lawsuits that are currently in the federal courts system.

The NRDC, one of the organizations who chose to sue alongside the Hopi and Utah Diné Bikéyah tribes has written a brief update of the EIS information here. Several other tribes and environmental groups have also filed suit against the Trump Administration, many of them claiming that the reduction in the monument size was an abuse of Presidential power and an illegal application of the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Access Fund also agrees that the management plan “fails climbers”. In their latest update, AF announced that they are “evaluating options to appeal the BLM’s flawed plan to the Department of Interior” in the name of appropriate management for not only world class climbing areas, but also the cultural, scientific, and natural resources of the landscape. You can read the comments written by Access Fund, Friends of Indian Creek, and Salk Lake Climbers Alliance on the draft management plan here.

You may recall that the AAC, in conjunction with our partners at the Outdoor Alliance, submitted an Amicus Brief on the case last year. You can review our comments to the court here. You can also read the AAC’s stance on the fight for Bears Ears National Monument here, and be sure to keep following the policy blog for future updates and action alerts as they arise.

Climate solutions: A new look at carbon sequestration and the renewable energy sector

Farm and forest land in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Photo credit: Taylor Luneau

Articles about climate change solutions are hitting personal news feeds across the country. One of the most recent viral solutions highlights how trees really were the answer after all. In the highlighted study, a group of scientists took forest inventory data from 1.2 million locations across the globe and created a model of forest restoration potential. Their mapping highlights where new trees could be planted without having to take over agricultural or urban spaces and discovered that there is potential for 0.9 billion hectares of additional forest space which is more than 500 billion trees. Collectively, these trees have the potential to capture an additional 200 gigatons of carbon when they reach maturity and potentially cut atmospheric carbon by 25%. That is a lot of carbon capture! Tom Crowther, senior author of the study was quoted in the Independent stating “Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today and it provides hard evidence to justify investment.” This is an amazing discovery and many are pointing to this as the most effective climate solution to date.

However, what many articles are failing to include in their reporting on this story, is that our current climate trajectory is negatively impacting our forest ecosystems, and will continue to shrink global canopy cover if we don’t change our ways, and fast. It seems the last sentence of the project report’s abstract was left out in many of the mainstream articles that circulated about the study: “Our results highlight the opportunity of climate change mitigation through global tree restoration but also the urgent need for action.” While planting trees to save the world is an exciting idea, many professionals in the field of climate science and climate policy are skeptical of the study and agree, tree planting alone is not going to save us from the errors of our ways, but most certainly can be a part of the solution. Many different actions need to be taken when we approach the pressing issue of our changing climate.

We recently posted a blog that touched on the importance of reducing our personal air travel, and if we can’t, choosing to then offset travel costs through either a donation based approach or a process called carbon offsetting.

While it's important for individuals to make informed changes to address the issue of climate change, systemic change is necessary if the world is to make the significant strides necessary to move the needle. An important part of this change will inevitably involve addressing how we manage our energy resources, specifically within the oil and gas industries. The current administration stands for an “energy dominance” agenda, and because of this, energy companies are producing record amounts of crude oil and natural gas. With over 12 million barrels being produced a day in the US, one would assume that the industry is booming, however, many of these companies are selling off assets and taking on debt, and six companies have declared bankruptcy this year. Yet when we look at the growth in the renewable energy sector, economic predictions show that new wind and solar will be cheaper than 96% of existing coal power by 2030. It seems then, that it’s time to start investing in clean, renewable energy, and divesting from dirtier, outdated energy sources.

At the end of the day, we need to continue taking personal measures to reduce our use and divest from the carbon economy. This could look like joining a volunteer day to plant trees in your neighborhood as the climate study above suggests, but it could also look like driving less, or purchasing an electric car (have you seen the new Rivian truck Alex Honnold is raving about?). You could commit to purchasing carbon offsets every time you fly, or using a donation based offset approach like Jet Set Offset. Another important action is supporting lawmakers who are actively working towards carbon reduction in their legislation. Decision makers hold a lot of power, but we vote them in. Get your friends to commit to doing their research and get them to the polls during your next local election, and start getting excited for the 2020 election.

AAC Board Member Len Necefer testifies before Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee to discuss H.R. 3225

The West and East Mitten in Monument Valley, Arizona at sunset. Photo Credit: Dana Buchholz

“The provisions in H.R. 3225 are a necessary first step to improving transparency, protecting natural and cultural resources, protecting land owners, and slowing down the rush to lease in the name of “energy dominance.” This is how AAC board member Len Necefer Ph.D. concluded his powerful testimony to the Committee on Natural Resources on behalf of H.R. 3225, the Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2019. During the past few years, public lands are being sold off to developers with minimal to no say from the public. Typically these leases are happening quickly and at a very low price point, even for as little as $2 an acre. This has detrimental impacts on not only the public’s ability to recreate on our public lands, it also impacts those who rely on the land itself, not to mention the impact that energy development on federal lands has on climate change.

Len wears many hats. He serves on the AAC Board, is the founder of Colorado based apparel company Natives Outdoors, is an assistant professor with joint appointments with the American Indian Studies program and the Udall Center for Public Policy, and is an avid skier, climber, and conservationist. He was brought in as an expert witness to speak about the current policies of the Trump administration’s leasing process and how it impacts indigenous tribes in the United States with a specific focus on Bears Ears and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You can read the entirety of his powerful testimony here. This bill would make a big difference when it comes to the protection of public lands and those relying on them by amending the Mineral Leasing Act and creating new requirements of the BLM prior to allowing the leasing of the proposed land to developers. One of these proposed changes would be to uphold the public process that is required of the BLM before making decisions that impact public land.

In our current administration, the leasing process has been altered in favor of irresponsible development. As Len pointed out in his testimony, “poor government oversight, loose regulations, and a far too cozy relationship between regulators and industry,” are all negatively impacting native communities as well as the conservation of public lands. The administration has shortened timelines for public comment allowing leases to often be signed, sealed, and delivered to developers before the media catches wind of the proposal. Unless you are checking the federal register every morning as you sip your first cup of coffee, it is likely that there are proposals that you are missing. A ten day time limit for public comment only reiterates that this current administration is speeding through the process to prioritize development and essentially eliminate the public engagement process. Federal lands are required by law to maintain a proper balance of use, and while mineral extraction is a valid use according to the law, economics prove that the outdoor recreation economy makes up 2% of the GDP, making it a greater economic driver than the oil and gas industry. These numbers suggest that prioritizing recreation on federal lands is a more profitable economic driver than oil and gas. The bill would require longer, more adequate, comment periods that would allow time for folks to identify potential conflicts and allow public land owners (the general public) to have their say.



Sometimes Flying is Inevitable: Here are some ways to reduce your guilt

Hitting the 50 lb baggage limit on the dot!  Photo Credit: Taylor Luneau

Hitting the 50 lb baggage limit on the dot!
Photo Credit: Taylor Luneau

As climbers we are inherently drawn to travel. We want to explore new regions, summit far-off peaks, and send inspirational lines all over the world. Whether we are setting off on an alpine trip to climb Denali, or spending the fall clipping bolts on perfect Spanish limestone, taking a plane to go on destination climbing adventures is pretty common in  our community. However the research is clear that carbon emissions from aircraft are detrimental to our atmosphere. It’s predicted that in thirty years, 25% of global carbon emissions will come from air travel. We tend to romanticize destination climbing trips, but the significant impact of air travel on the environment is a real buzzkill. If that dream trip takes you beyond your local crag or mountain range, and you are concerned about your carbon footprint, you’re not alone.

It is hard to think about climate change in relation to our own behavior, but there are ways to quantify our impact on the planet. According to climatologists Dirk Notz and Julienne Stroeve, 32 square feet of Arctic summer sea ice melts per one passenger on a 2,500 mile flight. Reducing or eliminating air travel is one of the most impactful ways we can combat climate change in our own lives. However, air travel may be unavoidable. If we can't give up flying completely, but are concerned that our premium round-trip flight to Joshua Tree from New York is emitting roughly 1.2 tons of carbon (calculate your next trip’s carbon footprint here), then how can we make up for this large spike in our carbon-footprint? 

We’ve looked into a few options: 1) a donation-based approach and, 2) carbon-offsets.

Donation-Based Approach

On the donation front, we are pleased to announce that we have partnered with Jet-Set Offset in order to give climbers an easy, reliable, and verified way to support organizations combating climate change. When you sign up with JSOS, one cent per every mile flown is donated to the environmental cause of your choice. In our case, donations from JSOS will be used to help us take action on climate change through: 

  • Advocating for smart climate policy and clean, renewable energy

  • Educating and engaging climbers on the issues

  • Developing research on climate impacts to recreation-based communities 

Each time you make a contribution, the Club will receive one cent per mile, which is the estimated cost required to offset the carbon footprint of air travel - taking into account the fuel efficiency of the aircraft and where a passenger is sitting (first class vs economy). So, back to that J Tree trip, for a 4,936 mile round trip flight, the donation to the Club’s climate work would be $49 dollars. Not a lot but it all adds up and makes a big difference in our ability to do our work.

Signing up once and making a donation is easy with JSOS and can fit neatly within the rest of your pre-trip planning. Once you’re done collecting beta on the route, sharpening your ice tools, packing the second rack, and somehow keeping your checked bag under 50 lbs - you can make your JSOS donation manually from your online profile, by emailing the flight itinerary to JSOS, or by an automatic donation with the flight purchase. 

If you’d rather go the route of traditional carbon offsets, here’s what we learned:

Traditional Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsets are a way to compensate for carbon emissions by contributing to projects that sequester or store carbon emissions on a local or global scale. While there are many carbon offset programs-- from local wind farm creation to reforestation efforts and wetland restoration, the impact of offset programs are varied and can be hard to track. It’s tough to decide what type of offset to support and it’s hard to know if your contribution will be effective in the long-term. For example, how do you know if the $36 you donated to plant a tree in the Amazon will be cut down a few years later?

The Natural Resource Defence Council (NRDC) outlines a few things consumers should consider prior to participating in carbon offset programs: 

  1. Real: Does the program exist? Is the tree farm that your tree is supposed to be planted on real? Is the innovative project in progress?

  2. Verified and Enforceable: Has a third party verified this program for legitimacy and can enforce the terms of the agreement?

  3. Permanent: Will the program have a permanent impact or will it cease to exist before the carbon is captured? 

  4. Additional: Is this project happening in addition to what is already being done, or is it just playing into an existing program? 

Here are a few third-party greenhouse gas (GHG) Project Certification Programs that ensure that GHG reduction projects are real, verified, enforceable, and result in permanent reductions. These will help you to identify a suitable Carbon Offset program for your next adventure. 

Seeking out the unknown through travel is part of our culture of adventure-- a way to gain perspective, experience different cultures, and see the world. However, with a growing population of air travelers and a changing climate, it is becoming increasingly important that when making plans to travel,  we do so with thought and intention. The next time you plan to fly, we encourage you to donate to the Club through JSOS and explore carbon offset programs to find a way to contribute that works best for you.

~The AAC policy Team

Conrad Anker Shares His Thoughts On The Changing Climate

A climber on Responsible Family Man, WI5, in Hyalite Canyon, MT during the Bozeman Ice Festival. Photo Credit: Alden Pellet

A climber on Responsible Family Man, WI5, in Hyalite Canyon, MT during the Bozeman Ice Festival.
Photo Credit: Alden Pellet

Conrad Anker 
June 2019

Like many others, I am drawn to the mountains to find solace, take on challenging objectives, and feel whole. A deep connection to these mountainous landscapes takes me climbing all over the world. It's a privilege to see high peaks at sunrise, glaciers shimmering in the moonlight, and the beauty of all that is wild. With these cherished experiences I have also witnessed dramatic shifts in these pristine landscapes over the years. Wild places are in peril due to a number of threats including extraction, development and overuse. Climate change is adding fuel to the fire. 

Imagine life without our favorite ice climbs and with snow fields unfit for snow travel, ski areas with closed gates too early in the season and crags too hot for climbing. All of these things are happening in various places at an alarming rate, and we need to act quickly to stop the degradation of our planet.

Climate change feels overwhelming but there are a number of organizations working hard to address it and mitigate its effects. I’m a longtime member of the American Alpine Club and value its deep roots in supporting scientific exploration and conserving climbing landscapes. In response to the overwhelming concern that climbers have about our changing climate, the Club is again stepping up its efforts to educate and galvanize the climbing community. Read the Club’s Climate Policy Position Statement to learn more about how climate is impacting our community and what the Club is doing in response.

There are many steps that we as climbers can take together to help in this fight in order to create change. Rather than meeting your climbing partner at the crag, carpool from town. Bike or take public transit to the climbing gym. Consider taking trips to climbing areas that do not require air travel. If you do take that international climbing trip you’ve been dreaming up for years, consider participating in carbon offset programs. Shop locally, eat less meat. Buy less stuff. Fix the stuff you already have. In isolation these steps may not feel significant, but if we commit to being a little more intentional in our own lives, it can make a difference. Talk about climate issues with others and keep educating yourself about the issues. If you’re not already, become a member of the AAC and support their policy work. 

It’s a shame that climate change is so controversial in Washington and in the media. The climbing community is unique in that it represents many political ideologies. But ultimately, as explorers and lovers of wild places, we have to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change. We confront the reality of it every time we go into the mountains. By telling our stories, talking about the issues, voting, and communicating with our lawmakers and representatives, we can help shift the national rhetoric. 

We find endless joy in the mountains. They provide us with inspiration, challenge us to be our best selves, and give us a perspective that cannot be found outside of these wild places. We owe it not only to these landscapes, but more importantly to the next generation of climbers to put in our best effort to reduce our impact as a community and to advocate for action on climate change.  



A Brief History of Research Funding at The American Alpine Club

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In early 1916, the Charter and By-Laws of the newly incorporated American Alpine Club were unanimously adopted by the officers and associated members of the Club. The original “Objects” of the Club were representative of the tone of the early 20th century, when alpinists and mountaineers were beginning to explore alpine regions and looking to the Poles for exploration, research, and “firsts.” 

Fifty years after the Club’s formal incorporation, research was an official agenda item in all Board of Director meetings. At the May 5, 1966, meeting, the Board voted to approve a grant for snow sample collection in the St. Elias Mountains of Alaska:

The AAC-funded Icefield Ranges Research Project, continues to inform modern researchers looking into glacial retreat and climate change.

As climbing grew in popularity, the AAC broadened its mission to encompass the full scope of climbers and climbing environments. Throughout these shifts, we have maintained our support for research and scientific exploration of high alpine environments and treasured climbing landscapes. Today, research grants continue to be a critically important program at the Club. We have more than 100 years’ worth of AAC-funded research into alpine landscapes. This body of work provides a bedrock for future researchers to build on, particularly with regard to high alpine and glacial landscapes.

Our climate is rapidly changing and causing potentially irreversible damage to alpine environments and every year we see a greater number of proposals for research in these subjects. Our historical and ongoing funding of this work, speaks to our belief in evidence-based advocacy and our commitment to create positive change in the world by supporting this research. 

Current State of Research Grants

In 2016, we supported a research team’s effort to measure ice composition and thickness on the summit of Denali, through snow and ice core samples and the use of ground-penetrating radar. A member of the AAC’s Climate Change Task Force, and Director of Academics and Research at Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP), Seth Campbell, PhD., covered the expedition and challenges on his personal blog. He explains in greater depth their research process and findings. Plus, he has some great photos of researchers in action!

Funding from AAC research grants enabled the team to summit Denali and record baseline data from the highest peak in North America, which previously hadn’t been technologically possible. This research lays the groundwork for continued study and analysis of how alpine environments are changing. We can’t know for certain how today’s research will help determine the future of our planet, but we remain committed to working with scientists, researchers, climbers, and citizens regarding the “promotion and dissemination of knowledge.” The work happening now is invaluable for future scientists, just like the findings of the Icefield Ranges researchers in the 1960s informs modern analyses. Additionally, research-backed climate science informs the Club’s policy positions and provides a sound rationale for local and federal laws aimed at protecting alpine environments.

Research funding is still built into our endowment, and we have expanded the program by partnering with organizations like the National Renewable Energy Lab, Rockridge Venture Law, FourPoints Bars, and Kavu. These partnerships allow us to support more researchers and increase our average award amount. But it still isn’t enough. There is a growing need for further sound research into our changing climate and human impacts on the climbing landscape. That’s why we’re looking for more partners to help us support this work.

Moving Forward with Research Grants

Our recent national climber survey found that “88% of climbers believe climate change is happening now and is mostly caused by human activities.” At the same time, more people are recreating outdoors and causing their own impacts to these different ecosystems. Our AAC-funded researchers are helping us understand the very real impacts of climate change and increased human activity on these landscapes. 

We awarded funds for glacial research more than fifty years ago and are committed to continue funding these projects that help determine the scale of climate change and the ongoing effects of pollution, glacial retreat, and environmental degradation due to overuse. In addition to climate science, we fund research that looks at the sociological impacts of climbing on local and global levels. 

Looking ahead, we hope our research grants will fund work that directly impacts many areas of the Club. We look to fund research across disciplines, to better understand the climate, climbing landscapes, land access, human interactions, health and wellness, and more. Throughout our Club’s history, we have stayed true to our original objective of “the study of the high mountains of all America.” More than 100 years later, we embrace that directive and are proud to support a more comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the climbing universe.


Check out our website for more information about:

AAC’s Research Grants
2019 Research Grant recipients
AAC’s Climbers for Climate initiative
AAC’s Policy and Advocacy work


Email [email protected] with questions and to learn more about how to support this important work!

Caroline Bridges, AAC Grants Manager

AAC Announces Departure of Policy Director

Maria Povec, American Alpine Club Policy & Programs Director, meeting with Alex Honnold and Tim Kaine during the congressional briefing at the annual Climb the Hill event in Washington, DC.

Policy and Programs Director Maria Povec is leaving her post at the AAC to serve as a Senior Policy Analyst in the Maine Governor’s Office of Innovation and the Future. During her time at the Club, Maria helped to develop and drive the AAC’s Policy Program. She organized the first-ever Climb the Hill event, a high-profile climbing advocacy event in Washington, DC that is now in partnership with Access Fund. More recently, she took over management of  a number of the AAC’s other social programs.

"Since starting with the Club, I’ve been blown away by the power of the climbing community. Our community has a strong voice and is turning heads in Washington, DC. Together, we have brought more awareness to the issues that impact climbers, outdoor recreation and our nation’s wild landscapes,” said Maria. “It’s been a privilege to work for the AAC and a privilege to collaborate with our valued partners at Access Fund, American Mountain Guide Association, Outdoor Alliance, and many others.”

Indeed, according to Mark Butler, AAC Board Member and Chair of the Club’s Policy Committee, “Maria’s dedication to building strong, respectful professional relationships within the policy community, as well has her ability and commitment to strengthen strategic initiatives with the Club’s policy partners, has supercharged the AAC’s policy and advocacy efforts. Her actions have energized the effectiveness of the AAC’s policy program and built a foundation on which the ACC will continue to strongly advocate for climbers, and for the public lands that are valuable to the climbing community.”

AAC has a solid team in position to advance our policy work and other program areas. Taylor Luneau will take the helm of the Policy Program. He has dual master's degrees in natural resource law, science and policy from Vermont Law School and the University of Vermont. He is an AMGA apprentice guide, a skilled athlete and a committed advocate for the climbing community. In his time at the AAC, he has demonstrated solid leadership and expertise. 

All of us at the AAC are thankful to Maria, and wish her the best as she begins her new position. 

AAC and Access Fund Set Sights on Capitol Hill

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June 18, 2019, Golden, CO—The AAC and Access Fund (AF) are making another big ascent of Capitol Hill on September 18– 20, 2019 to discuss policy issues that impact the climbing community with those who hold the keys to our public lands. “Climb the Hill” event participants will receive training in Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) as they prepare to present a comprehensive and equitable narrative around access to our climbing areas. They will speak to lawmakers about how public lands issues impact not just climbers, but all people and communities.

“We head to D.C. this fall to continue the discussion with our elected officials to let them know that we want our public lands to be protected, and that the ‘we’ includes women, POC, adaptive, indigenous and queer climbers,” says Shelma Jun, Flash Foxy founder and AF board member. Together, the climbing community will also advocate for reforms to energy development and leasing, improvement of recreation access, the protection of recreation and conservation land designations, and action on climate change.

The two organizations are tapping a wide delegation of renowned professional climbers and advocates including Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Conrad Anker, Majka Burhardt, and leaders from Brown Girls Climb, Brothers of Climbing, Flash Foxy, Adaptive Climbing Group, Latino Outdoors, Natives Outdoors, American Mountain Guide Association, The Mountaineers, and many other local climbing organizations and companies.

“I am excited to attend Climb the Hill because I believe the nation’s public lands are best protected by a diverse representation. As a rock climber, a woman of color, and advocate, it's important to me to steward public lands because they have such a positive effect in my life and I want to pay it forward. Supporting, protecting, and addressing issues our public lands affects all communities and I am looking forward to attending this year and speak on behalf of Latino Outdoors, Access Fund, and American Alpine Club,” says Maricela Rosales of Latino Outdoors.

“Public lands are a much bigger issue right now than they have been in the past… protecting our public lands is a very easy way to minimize our harm, because when you open up public lands to exploitation, that is now no longer a pristine, wild place. You can’t take your grandkids there someday, because there’s a freaking open coal mine or something. I just went down a dark path, and now I’m sad,” said Alex Honnold in an interview with ROAM at last year’s AAC Annual Benefit dinner.

Together, these groups will tackle important issues and hopefully, keep Honnold and the rest of us from being sad. If you've got some policy chops or a background in JEDI issues, we could use you in D.C. With strong voices and a stubborn inability to surrender our public lands, we won't give up on the beautiful, wild places in which we find sanctuary. If you’re interested in participating, you can apply here. We look forward to hearing from you!

Learn more about Climb the Hill: www.climbthehill.org

AAC Climate Researchers: What are they up to now?

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Seth Campbell and Kristin Schild are doing amazing work in the climate space. They are an important part of the AAC community and we’re lucky to have them in our corner. Seth is the director of the Juneau Icefield Research Program and a professor at the University of Maine. Kristin is a Postdoctoral Scientist at the University of Oregon. They happen to be married. Watch this video to find out what they’re up to now:


Will Congress Act to Help People Access the Outdoors?

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Washington, DC: Congress is busy with a number of important issues, but our awe-inspiring public lands are still on their minds. Like us, many lawmakers and their staff love to get outside. Throughout the halls of Congress, you’ll find people who climb, ski, fish, kayak and backpack during their time off.

For plenty of climbers, guided trips and facilitated experiences provide important exposure to rugged terrain, vast wilderness areas and even easy-access crags for the first time. No doubt many of you have benefited from these kinds of opportunities through groups like NOLS, Outward Bound and private guides.

However, it’s not easy for these outdoor experience providers to make trips happen on our collectively-owned public lands. They are required to navigate an antiquated and complex federal system to get recreational permits from the Forest Service and Park Service in particular. Although agencies and Congress have made steps to remedy these problems, we’re still dealing with unnecessary red tape.

There’s good news, however: today, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act) to increase recreational access to America's public lands. This legislation would improve the outfitter and guide permitting systems and positively impact small businesses, non-profit outdoor leadership organizations, university recreation programs, and volunteer-based clubs, including the AAC.

The SOAR Act still has a ways to go to become law, but we’re hopeful that Congress will pass this no-brainer, bipartisan legislation; a win for all of us! When the opportunity strikes, we’ll send out an action alert so that you can easily write your member of Congress and tell them to get on board. Until then, reach out to your policy team for more ways to get involved. #SOARfortheOutdoors


Maria Millard Povec: [email protected]

Taylor Luneau: [email protected]

Joe Neguse Meets the Climbing Community: Public Lands & Climate Change Focus of Conversation

April 20, 2019. Estes Park, CO.

Leading up to Earth Day, Congressman Joe Neguse made the trek to Estes Park to participate in a stewardship event at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Neguse represents Colorado's second congressional district which includes famous climbing destinations like the RMNP, Eldorado Canyon State Park and Boulder Canyon, to name a few. It's no wonder then that the climbing community makes up a significant portion of the Congressman’s constituency. Of the 23,000 Outdoor Alliance members that live in Colorado, 8,000 of them live within the District 2 boundaries alone. Suffice to say, Congressman Neguse, or Joe as he told me to call him, represents a lot of us climbers, paddlers, mountain bikers and skiers here in the Front Range

Neguse is in his freshman year in Congress and he's already introduced 10 pieces of legislation, most of it bipartisan, which is more than any other first year congressman or congresswoman. The Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act in particular is something that the climbing community can get behind. If passed, it would protect 400,000 acres of land throughout Colorado and hundreds of climbing routes, mountaineering objectives and ski descents state wide. So, when Neguse was planning to do a stewardship project and town hall address, the climbing community jumped on the opportunity to catch up with him. A team from the AAC and the Access Fund spent the morning seeding and mulching in the Park and then got time with Neguse afterwards, to speak about the climbing and outdoors community. The human-powered representatives were:

  • Me, Taylor Luneau, Policy Manager, American Alpine Club

  • Jamie Logan, American Alpine Club Board member and first ascensionist

  • Tom Hornbein and his wife, Kathy, First ascent of the West Ridge of Everest

  • Chris Schulte, Pro Climber

  • Quinn Brett, NPS Climbing Ranger and public speaker

  • Hilary Harris, Evo rock climbing gym owner

  • Aaron Clark, Policy Director, International Mountain Bike Association

  • Dustin Dyer, Kent Mountain Adventure Company, Owner

  • Chris Winter, Executive Director, Access Fund

  • Erik Murdock, Policy Director, Access Fund

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The conversation focused on public lands, the outdoor recreation economy, recreation access and infrastructure, conservation funding, and climate change. When prompted about the CORE Act, Neguse replied, "we feel like the wind is at our back and we've got a real shot at getting this bill through the House of Representatives and, hopefully, put the pressure on the folks in the upper chamber to get this thing done, and that's exciting." Neguse pointed out how important it was to hear from the climbing community, which gives he and his staff a more complete understanding of the impact of the bill. When asked how the climbing community can advocate for the CORE Act, Neguse pointed to three things:

Keep up the groundswell of grassroots momentum around the CORE Act.
Writing letters to the editor for example, provide the public and their elected leaders salient points on how legislation of this sort is good for the next generation of climbers.

Share your ideas!
There are lots of opportunities that the legislature could pursue and they want to hear from you on which to prioritize. Write or call your elected leaders.

Keep up the activism.
The work of the outdoor community is part of the solution to forestalling attacks to nationally iconic places like our monuments, forests and parks. Keep at it!

I was especially encouraged by Neguse’s willingness to listen; his engagement and openness with the climbing community and his receptivity to our suggestions. Neguse even offered to come climbing with us soon! Neguse pointed out the important role that the outdoor community plays in advocating for environmental legislation and in tackling the major issues of our era such as climate change. Neguse didn’t need to be prompted on the issue stating, “our work on climate change will be the defining work that we do in the coming years.”

Hearing all of this, Tom Hornbein notably stated "you're facing your own Everest right now - so go for it!"

We will Tom.

Taylor Luneau,
AAC Policy Manager


A big thanks is owed to Erik Murdoch of Access Fund for his leadership in pulling together this lunch meeting, engaging the Congressman’s office and getting all of these awesome climbers at the table. Thanks Erik!