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


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


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:

AAC Climate Researchers: What are they up to now?

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 11.23.26 AM.png

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?


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


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!

Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act: The bill that Could protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado

You can find more interactive mapping options here in the  GMUG National Forests Planning Revision  GIS database created by the Outdoor Alliance GIS Lab.

You can find more interactive mapping options here in the GMUG National Forests Planning Revision GIS database created by the Outdoor Alliance GIS Lab.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, H.R. 823 was recently introduced by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO-02). The CORE Act “protects approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establishing new wilderness areas and safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities to boost the economy for future generations. Of the land protected, about 73,000 acres are new wilderness areas, and nearly 80,000 acres are new recreation and conservation management areas that preserve existing outdoor uses such as hiking and mountain biking” [1]

 This legislative package was created by Coloradans over a decade of collaborative effort and a rigorous process of compromise. As such, the bill has broad support from the outdoor recreation community, conservation groups and local businesses. For instance, the Access Fund has been involved in the vetting of the bills components over the past decade. The CORE Act also tactfully designates Wilderness while using other designations where more appropriate. Louis Geltman, Policy Director at the Outdoor Alliance points out the uniqueness of the strategy stating, “This approach is essential…” and, “should be considered a model for other protective designation efforts around the country.”

 The AAC strongly supports the protections embodied in the CORE Act. The Bill conserves outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, safeguards water resources, preserves key public lands and complements the values associated with our state lands. This legislation places a high value on recreation and conservation, and supports the $28.0 Billion outdoor recreation economy in Colorado and the 229,000 jobs associated with it. Coloradan’s largely agree too. According to the 9th annual Conservation in the West Poll, 73% of Coloradans say “the ability to live near, recreate on, and enjoy public lands like national forests, parks, or trails was a significant reason they live in the West.”[2] The proximity to amazing cragging, big alpine objectives and steep backcountry ski terrain was certainly a driving factor in my fiancé and I’s relocation to Colorado last October. Public lands are the infrastructure for Colorado outdoor recreation and are a critical component to the state’s economic well-being. The CORE Act will only enhance those recreational resources which Coloradan’s value.

Over the past year, the AAC advocated alongside our partners at the Outdoor Alliance, for the passage of the Public Lands Package, which was recently signed into law. Of the 2.5 million acres of public lands across the country that received lasting protections in that bill, only a few hundred acres were in Colorado. The CORE Act gives Congress a second chance to take care of those overlooked opportunities.

The CORE Act unites and improves four previously introduced bills:

1.     Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act

  • Designates 100,000 acres of wilderness, recreation, and conservation in the White River National Forest along the Colorado Continental Divide.

  • Designates the first ever National Historic Landscape around Camp Hale to preserve and promote the Army’s 10th mountain division’s legacy. 

2.     San Juan Wilderness Act

  • Provides protections for nearly 61,000 acres of land in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in Southwest, CO including Mount Sneffels and Wilson Peak.

  • The bill designates 31,000 acres of Wilderness, 21,000+ acres of special management and 6,500+ acres of mineral withdrawal.

3.     Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act

  • Withdraws approximately 200,000 acres from future oil and gas development.

  • Creates a program to lease excess methane from nearby coal mines to address climate change.

4.     Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act

  • Establishes the boundary for the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

  • Improves coordination among land management agencies.

Climbing and Skiing resources that would be protected:

A preliminary analysis conducted by the Outdoor Alliance GIS lab has identified over 200 climbing routes spanning terrain from the crags at Camp Hale to alpine rock routes in the 10 Mile Range. In the San Juans, the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area conserves backcountry ski terrain near Lizard Head Pass while the “Liberty Bell and Whitehouse Wilderness additions protect world class hiking and climbing opportunities in the iconic Mt. Sneffels range.”[3] In the Continental Divide bill, the Tenmile Wilderness and Recreation Management Areas provide opportunities for long ridgeline technical traverses and challenging backcountry ski terrain. Check out the interactive website below to explore the crags and mountains that would be protected by this legislation:

Click on image above to access and interactive map prepared by the Outdoor Alliance GIS Lab.  2017 .

Click on image above to access and interactive map prepared by the Outdoor Alliance GIS Lab. 2017.

How We Can Help Move The CORE Act Forward:

1.     Get Rep. Tipton and Sen. Gardner on board…

While the CORE Act has received support from Colorado Democrats, opposition was expressed by some Republican members at a recent US House Natural Resources Committee hearing. Concern was raised that some Coloradans, “such as the Garfield County’s commissioners, who oppose the permanent withdrawal of oil and gas leasing in the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale – were not being heard.”[4] A number of other groups raised opposition to the bill “due to limits it posed on certain recreational and work activities, such as motorized vehicle use.”[5] Because wilderness designations require an act of Congress to create, it is critical to build bi-partisan support for this legislation if it is to go anywhere. If you’re a Colorado resident, you can let your Colorado legislators know how you feel in the action alert below.

2.     Participate in the GMUG Forest Planning Process 

Chris French, Acting Deputy Chief of The US Forest Service provided testimony during the hearing and pointed out that the USFS supports the bill where it is consistent with the applicable Forest Plans and have broad based local support. This is a relatively expected response as the Forest Plan, which acts similarly to zoning for the forest, partially governs the decision making within the unit. So, where wilderness is proposed by the Forest Plan and aligns with the CORE Act designations, the Forest Service will support the proposal. This is an important reminder to participate in the GMUG Forest planning process and to let your local land managers hear your opinion about wilderness designations in Colorado.  The GMUG is currently being update and your opinion is needed!

Taylor Luneau
AAC, Policy Manager

A Closer Look At The CORE Act Designations:

National Historic Landscape: 28,700 acres

  • Camp Hale was the former base of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division and would receive the first national historic landscape designation in the country. The Camp was dedicated to training military climbers, skiers and mountaineers for combat during WWII and had a massive impact on shaping the climbing and skiing community. This designation would instruct the responsible agency to manage the area for its historical purposes including performing restoration and enhancement of its resources.

 Special Management Area: 50,200 acres

  • Special management areas are “federal public lands designated by Congress for a specific use or uses. Typically, special management legislation is contained in individual wilderness acts and directs the responsible agency to manage the area in accordance with the congressionally designated purposes. Included among the special management areas are backcountry areas, reserves, conservation areas, wildlife areas, fish management areas and national recreation areas.” [6]

 National Recreation Area: 43,000 acres

  • This designation generally includes areas that have outstanding combinations of outdoor recreation opportunities, aesthetic attractions, and proximity to potential users. While not as restrictive as wilderness, it is considerably less resource-exploitive than traditional multiple-use designations and requires the agency to manage the land to serve its recreational use.[7]

 Mineral Withdrawal: 206,600 acres

  • A mineral withdrawal refers to a statute, executive order, or administrative order that changes the designation of a parcel of federal land from “available” to “unavailable” for location, settlement, selection, filing, entry or disposal, under the mineral or non-mineral public-land laws.[8] This designation closes an area to new mining claims and requires existing claims to be demonstrated as valid before beginning mining activities.

 Wilderness: 73,000 acres

  • An area of Wilderness is defined as “an area of undeveloped federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habituation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions…”[9] This is the most stringent preservation mechanism on Federal public lands.


[1] Geltman, Louis. Outdoor Alliance Testimony Re: Legislative hearing on H.R. 823, the “Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.” April 2, 2019. Available here.

[2] Dutta, Deepan. “Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act gets day in Congress, supporters and opponents testify about act’s merits” Post Independent. April 6, 2019. Available here.

[3] Dutta, 2019.

[4] 8 Pub. Land L. Rev. 61 (1987)

[5] Coggins et. al. “Federal Public Land and Resources Law.” 7th edition. Foundation Press. 2014.

[6] Coggins et. al.

[7] The Wilderness Act. Pub.L. 88-577. 1964.

[8] CORE Act summary. Available here.

[9] State of the Rockies Project. “Conservation in the West Poll.” January 31, 2019.


US Senate holds Committee Hearing to improve Outdoor Recreation - AAC Wants Your Suggestions


The US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recently held a hearing to “Examine Opportunities to Improve Access, Infrastructure, and Permitting for Outdoor Recreation."

Led by Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV), lawmakers interviewed a panel of witnesses to identify particular challenges facing outdoor recreation. Among the many topics discussed were:

- Outfitter / Guide permitting issues

- Competing land designations (motorized vs. non-)

- Transitioning from extractive economies to ones based on outdoor recreation

- Access to Public Lands

- Conservation Funding

- Science driven, adaptive management

You can find the archived video of the hearing webcast here (note: video doesn’t start until min 12)

Thomas O'Keefe of American Whitewater, an AAC partner organization at the Outdoor Alliance, was a key witness in the hearing. O'keefe tactfully drew attention to, among other things, outfitter and guide permitting issues, posing one anecdote that it was easier for a paddling guide to bring clients to Costa Rica than the Mt. Hood National Forest in his own backyard. The AAC submitted testimony to Senate ENR - read it here.

The American Alpine Club would really value hearing your stories and opinions on these subjects. Do you have a story to share about a challenging permitting system? Do you know about infrastructure issues in your local National Park or federal public land that have gone unattended? Are there landlocked federal lands that you would like to climb or ski on but can't due to private lands surrounding the property? Or are there other private land issues that you think states or the federal government should address? Please follow the link below and share your story with us!

Thank you again for your time and for sharing your insight!

Taylor Luneau
AAC, Policy Manager

House Passes Historic Lands Package

Celebratory dance on the Petit Grepon, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO. Photo Credit: Mickey Hardt.

Celebratory dance on the Petit Grepon, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO. Photo Credit: Mickey Hardt.

The American Alpine Club is psyched to share that the Natural Resource Management Act (S.47) just passed the House in a landslide vote of 363 to 62! The historic lands package passed the Senate on February 12 by a margin of 92 to 8 and is now headed to the Presidents desk where it can be signed into law. This major victory for the climbing and outdoor recreation community includes legislation like the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an important conservation funding mechanism that supports climbing areas accross the country. The bipartisan package also includes important lands bills such as:

  •  The Emery County Public Lands Management Act

  • Methow Valley Mineral Withdrawal

  • Emigrant Crevice Withdrawal – Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act

  • Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area Act

  • Oregon Wildlands Act

  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation

  • The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act

  • Every Kid Outdoors

  • 21st Century Service Corps Act

This is a major win for the outdoor recreation community, which has invested significant time and energy into advocating the package’s support with lawmakers. The American Alpine Club is proud to have played a supporting role in getting the bill through Congress. None of this would have been possible without your support! Hundreds of you took the time to let your Representatives and Senators know that this package of bills is important, and your voice was heard.

We’ll share more in the coming weeks as the package makes its way over to the final stop, the President’s desk. In the meantime, it would mean a lot if you let your lawmakers know you’re psyched about the decisions they made and shared a little stoke for their effort. We’ve made it easy for you to share a thank you and encourage Congress to keep supporting public lands in future efforts. Please take a minute to thank Congress for their support of the Natural Resource Management Act!

Summer Internships with the AAC Policy Team

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA. Photo Credit: Taylor Luneau

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA. Photo Credit: Taylor Luneau

American Alpine Club: Policy Internship, Summer 2019

Since its founding in 1902, the American Alpine Club (AAC) has been a force in helping safeguard our country’s wild landscapes and natural treasures. Working alongside our members and partners, we focus on critical issues facing climbers and outdoor recreation nationally, such as keeping public lands pristine, wild, and open to human-powered recreation. All of us at the AAC find great joy and meaning in climbing, and we are committed to a thriving outdoor community sustained by healthy mountain and climbing landscapes for generations to come.

For the Summer of 2019, the AAC Policy and Advocacy Department will be welcoming 2 Policy Interns to the team. Policy Interns will learn from AAC staff and contribute to efforts on public land protections and safeguarding fragile mountain climbing environments.

Essential Duties and Internship Responsibilities:

The Policy Interns will work with the Policy & Advocacy Director and the Policy Manager to advance the AAC’s policy priorities. This internship will be dynamic, fast-paced and responsive to changing legislative approaches and deadlines. Interns will have the opportunity to support staff work on:

  • Drafting policy position papers and comment letters.

  • Researching policy topics and communicating issues to the climbing community in a clear and compelling way.

  • Developing an advocacy toolkit and engaging AAC chapters in federal, state and local policy issues.

  • Assisting in website maintenance, press releases and social media efforts.

  • Support in organizing policy/conservation events.

Policy Intern I: Public Lands Specialist

The AAC believes that the future of outdoor recreation and climbing specifically, rely on the conservation of our public lands. However, industry leaders and senior administration officials have increased efforts to upset balanced land management decisions and favor natural resource extraction. The AAC represents the interests of our 23,000 members, as well as more than 9 million Americans who participate in climbing annually, and believe in the conservation of our national parks, forests, monuments and refuges.

Public Land Legislation Tracking:

  • The Public Lands Intern will help the Policy and Advocacy Department identify and support pro-public lands legislation by tracking important policies and developing action alerts for the climbing community.

  • Cooperate with Climate Intern (see below) to add Legislation Tracking page to website and update periodically throughout the summer.

  • Identify important state and federal legislation for the AAC Policy team to support.

Preparing Public Comment:

  • Public Lands Intern will assist Policy Director and Manager in the preparation of public comment on agency actions which affect the climbing community. Public comment may occur on National Forest Plan revisions, Environmental Impact Statements, or in agency rulemaking processes.

Policy Intern II: Climate Change Specialist

As climbers, skiers and mountaineers, we are intimately familiar with the mountain landscapes of the world. From Denali to Mt. Washington, our community has climbed the classic routes and skied the dream lines. In our travels, many of us have witnessed change. Now, discussions of last ascents and descents are a topic of serious concern. The potential impacts of a changing climate on our lives are vast. Not only do we recreate in these mountain environments, but for many of us, our livelihoods also depend on them. The outdoor recreation economy is a force in the United States, but much of it relies on the preservation of public lands and healthy mountain ecosystems. The AAC is concerned that a changing climate will threaten both of these important resources.

Climate Legislation Tracking:

  • The Climate Intern will help the Policy and Advocacy Department identify and support pro-climate legislation by tracking important policies and developing action alerts for the climbing community.

  • Partner with Public Lands Intern to add Legislation Tracking page to website and update periodically throughout the summer.

Climate Story Collection:

The American Alpine Club has a long legacy of scientific pursuit and archiving climbing stories in our library. We wish to continue this by collecting stories on climate and changing mountain environments in popular climbing areas. Based on responses and working with our committees, the AAC will develop research into climbing areas of most concern. Climate Policy Intern will assist Library and Policy Staff with the development, categorization, and implementation of this project.


We seek interns with drive and ambition who are interested in supporting the mission, vision, and brand of the American Alpine Club. We expect a self-motivated starter with a sense of humor and the ability to take guidance from AAC staff and run with it. Women, minorities, individuals with disabilities and veterans are strongly encouraged to apply. Candidates should possess:

  • Bachelor’s Degree.

  • Basic knowledge of federal, state and local public lands policy and/or climate science and policy.

  • Strong research and writing ability.

  • Excellent communication and organizational skills, with meticulous attention to detail.

  • Strong ability to work in a close team environment.

  • Self-motivated with the ability to set priorities and manage multiple tasks under minimal supervision in effective and efficient manner.

  • Experience in the outdoor industry.

  • GIS experience appreciated


The AAC is headquartered at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado. We will consider a remote candidate for the internship.


AAC internships are unpaid; university credit may be applied. Interns will benefit from hands-on experience, guidance from the policy team and introduction to a strong network in the outdoor industry.

Internship Dates

June 1, 2019 - August 20, 2019. Dates can be flexible.

To Apply

Application period February 22-March 22, 2019

Send cover letter and resume to:
Taylor Luneau, AAC Policy Manager
[email protected]

The AAC is an equal opportunity employer, compliant with all federal and applicable state laws governing nondiscrimination in employment. The AAC provides employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, or disability.

The Senate Just Passed the Public Lands Package!!

Great news for climbers! The senate just passed the public lands package, aka the Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) with a landslide vote of 92 to 8. The package of bills includes important legislation for the climbing community such as the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Emery County Public Lands Management Act, Every Kid Outdoors Act and the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Act. This is a major step forward after the Package was denied back in December of 2018. But, this is a new Congress and they need to hear your opinion on this important legislation! Please let your lawmakers know that we want the Natural Resource Management Act (S.47) passed! We’ve made it super easy for you to do so with our Action Alert below! Thank you for sharing your opinion!

Taylor Luneau

AAC, Policy Manager

Let Congress Hear It - Climbers Want The Public Lands Package!

Moon Rising over Zion National Park, UT. Photo Credit: Taylor Luneau.

Moon Rising over Zion National Park, UT. Photo Credit: Taylor Luneau.

Back in November, I went to Washington D.C. to represent the American Alpine Club (AAC) as their Policy Manager in the U.S. Congress. Together with member organizations of the Outdoor Alliance, including the Conservation Alliance, we visited congressional offices and lobbied for a variety of bills supporting human-powered outdoor recreation. Importantly, on our agenda was the “Public Lands Package” (S.47), which many of you may be very familiar with by now. If you’re not, you can take a look at the Outdoor Alliance’s webpage to get caught up.

As for that particulars, the Package includes a variety of important bills for people who love outdoor recreation, including reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and protecting places like the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area, the Methow Valley, Emery County, and Oregon Wildlands. You can read the comment letter that the AAC co-signed to Sen. McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Schumer (D-NY) voicing our support for the Public Lands Package below. The Package was set to pass with bipartisan support back in December, but fell short due to an objection from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) regarding the Antiquities Act. 

The 116th Congress is finally up and running (following the longest government shutdown in the history of the U.S.!) we are hopeful that the Package will finally get approved. Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) has already re-introduced the Package in the Senate and we hope to see a vote on it in the coming week. If the Senate approves the Package, it will be a huge step towards protecting valuable public land assets well into the future.

Now is a critical time to make your voice heard on this issue. Please take a moment to write your lawmakers and let them know that climbers want the Public Lands Package passed. Fill out the form below to take action.

Taylor Luneau

AAC, Policy Manager

Next Interior secretary must show more respect for public lands

(Bonnie Jo Mount | The Washington Post) The Toadstool Hoodoos in Kanab, Utah, stand in an area that was removed from Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah in October 2018.

(Bonnie Jo Mount | The Washington Post) The Toadstool Hoodoos in Kanab, Utah, stand in an area that was removed from Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah in October 2018.

By: Stacey Bare / for the Salt Lake Tribune

Published: February 1, 2019

At the end of 2018, Americans stood up for their national monuments in a big way, submitting over half a million comments opposing destructive resource management plans for Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments. Loud and clear, the American people have spoken: We are fired up to keep America’s national monuments intact.

December’s resignation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is a chance to reflect on a new interior secretary’s path forward. Plagued by scandal and ethics investigations, Zinke initiated a disastrous “review” of national monuments. The public spoke up then, too, with nearly 3 million comments supporting national monuments. Zinke and the Trump administration ignored them and stripped protections from nearly half of the original Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, and from 85 percent of Bears Ears— designated in response to an historic request from five sovereign tribes.

Then we learned — from a series of Interior Department emails — that despite the administration’s public stance, the end goal was for expanded mining and drilling within the original boundaries of these monuments.

Like Zinke, I served my country in uniform. Zinke provided lip service about the healing power of nature and public lands. When he made those statements, I agreed with him. Like millions of other Americans and hundreds of thousands of veterans, I’ve found great healing and community on our nation’s public lands.

Unfortunately, the DOI is all too willing to deny the public’s access and pollute the very open-air clinics — our public lands — that so many need to heal from the everyday challenges of life, let alone the traumas of war.

In 2017, 10 years after leaving Iraq as a U.S. soldier, I returned there to ski in Iraq’s only national park. The Iraqis I met were rightfully proud of their beginning steps in land conservation and were excited to share the landscape with me; they even questioned me about the future of America’s national parks given the rhetoric they had heard from our current president.

Our legacy of protected public lands, owned by all Americans, is indeed the envy of the world.

Monument designation was intended to forever protect Grand Staircase-Escalante’s treasures for the benefit of all Americans, including hikers, hunters, anglers and future generations. Instead, we find ourselves in 2019 battling for a monument that is growing southern Utah’s economies: From 2001 to 2015, the region experienced population growth of 13 percent, job growth of 24 percent and personal income growth of 32 percent.

Nationwide, our public lands support an $887 billion outdoor recreation economy, including more than 7.6 million jobs, many in rural communities.

The recently proposed management plan would open 700,000 acres of formerly protected land to mining and drilling, despite multiple pending legal challenges and a shameful lack of meaningful consultation with the tribes. When public lands are leased, it becomes illegal to hunt, fish, hike, ride a four-wheeler or climb on them. More than half of oil and gas leases on public lands sit idle, but all of a sudden, what was once a place to experience freedom is blocked from your use.

All of this should inform the next Interior secretary, whoever it may be. Ryan Zinke’s successor must do what he failed to: Respect science and listen to the millions of Americans — including veterans like me — who support permanent protection of our national monuments. The new secretary must take seriously his or her role as steward of our nation’s iconic lands and drop plans that threaten rural economies and plunder our collectively owned lands. These lands have already been set aside for a higher and better use, and their protections must be permanently reinstated.

Stacy Bare, Sandy, is an avid skier, climber, rafter and a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. He served our nation in Iraq and found healing and a path home on our public lands.

Stacey was a Director for the American Alpine Club’s Policy Committee from 2015 - 2018 and provided instrumental guidance and leadership during the early stages of the Bears Ears fight. Stacey continues to advise the AAC as a close partner and to fight for public lands protection.

Outdoor Advocates Network

Ryan Burke descending from Middle Teton and heading to the saddle of South Garnet on a push for the Grand Traverse. Grand Teton National Park, WY. Photo credit: Taylor Luneau.

Ryan Burke descending from Middle Teton and heading to the saddle of South Garnet on a push for the Grand Traverse. Grand Teton National Park, WY. Photo credit: Taylor Luneau.

Looking back towards Middle Teton from the base of Garnet Canyon I surveyed the skyline from the Grand to Nez Perce. We had just completed the Grand Traverse, a technical ridge climb totaling 12,000+ feet of elevation gain/loss which crosses the Teton ranges most prominent peaks. After two days of intense effort, technical climbing, and challenging route finding, here we stood, unable to wipe the grins from our faces or understand the floating feeling under our feet. It was in this moment that I understood my supreme appreciation for our nation’s public lands; it cemented my commitment to their protection. I thought to myself “every climber should have the opportunity to feel this way.”

Prior to my graduate studies, my understanding of our national public lands was elementary at best. I knew I loved wild places but I didn’t know the ins and outs of environmental law, policy or natural resource science. I can’t say I’m an expert now, but with a dual master’s in the stuff-- and the job of Policy Manager at the AAC-- I have the privileged opportunity to share resources with other climbers who may be in the stage that I once was; passionate about their climbing areas and curious how to protect them.

As a member organization of the Outdoor Alliance, the American Alpine Club collaborates with other outdoor recreation advocacy groups across the country. Recently our partner, The Mountaineers, released the Outdoor Advocates Network featuring a “Public Lands 101” course. The eLearning course highlights a bunch of great material including:

  • Descriptions of the primary land management agencies

  • Breakdowns on important conservation designations

  • The basics on critical conservation laws, and

  • How to take action on important issues

These days it seems like the political landscape changes as quickly as thin ice on a south facing wall in full sunlight. However, with an understanding of the fundamentals, you can keep up with subtleties of public lands protection and advocate for your home mountain ranges. If you’ve got the appetite, the Outdoor Advocates Network is a great place to start. Not only will the Network help you understand the basics, but it will direct you to the best places to get involved on important public lands legislation. So, if you feel like you’re cruxing out when it comes to discussing public lands issues, or if you have that terrible gut feeling like you’re off route with your advocacy project check out the Network to catch up.

The climbing community has a massive stake in the conversation of our public lands management. The more of us that can advocate for our climbing landscapes the more protections we can expect them to recieve. Together we’re stronger. Come join our fight.

Taylor Luneau

AAC Policy Manager

2018 Hill to Crag Report

2018 Hill to Crag Report

By: Maria Povec & Byron Harvison. American Alpine Club | December, 2018

The 2018 Hill to Crag series has been a remarkable success, and the AAC is grateful for REI’s support in launching this initiative. Led by AAC member and Army Major Byron Harvison, our three Hill to Crag events brought together veterans, active military members, AAC volunteers, state offices of outdoor recreation, and local, state and national policymakers to connect via a day of rock climbing.

These Hill to Crag events shift the paradigm of standard advocacy meetings. Rather than visit offices on Capitol Hill or at state capitols, AAC’s Hill to Crag series brings lawmakers to our office-- the great outdoors. In Colorado, Wyoming and North Carolina, the AAC spoke to elected officials (and/or their staff) about the power of the outdoors to address PTSD and other combat-related struggles. Also discussed were the economic benefits of public lands, stewardship, special use permitting issues and the role of state offices of outdoor recreation. The opportunity to connect as a large group, and then in smaller climbing teams, deepened the discussion and fostered meaningful connections amongst participants.

The positive impact of our 2018 events was amplified by the participation of Access Fund, Black Diamond, Petzl, local climbing organizations, state offices of outdoor recreation, Outdoor Industry Association, land managers and other partners.

We believe that we have created a formula that can be used across the country to build fruitful relationships with lawmakers and shape the discourse around public lands.

Below are more detailed recaps from each of the three events.

Golden, CO – October 12, 2018 On October 12th, the Veterans’ Section of the American Alpine Club (AAC), in coordination with the Front Range and New Mexico Chapters of the AAC, took staff from the offices of Senator Gardner (R-CO) and Senator Bennet (D-CO) climbing at North Table Mountain in Golden, CO. Also in attendance were members of Veterans Expeditions (VetEx), James Rein from the Outdoor Industry Association, and state legislator Owen Hill (Air Force Academy Grad, and representative of northern Colorado Springs). Following introductions and a tour of the American Mountaineering Museum, the group headed outside. Conversations ranged from climbing fundamentals to the benefits of outdoor recreation and climbing, in particular, for veterans. The day together opened the doors to important relationships that AAC will leverage as we advocate for public lands and access to them.

Vedauwoo, WY – October 19, 2018 On October 19th, the Veterans’ Section of the American Alpine Club (AAC) took members of the State of Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, Wyoming Conservation

Corps, and Representative Liz Cheney’s state director climbing at Vedauwoo, WY, followed by a tour of Curt Gowdy State Park. Maj. Harvison spurred conversations by speaking to the benefits of outdoor recreation and work for veterans with PTSD, noting a statistic from 2016 that 22 veterans attempt suicide per day. He also spoke to the group about the local and national economic benefits of outdoor recreation, which was highlighted by a later conversation between this group and a number of out-of-state climbers who were gearing up at the trailhead. All participants expressed interest in remaining involved in upcoming initiatives and information exchange opportunities.

Chimney Rock, NC – November 16, 2018 On November 16th the Veterans’ Section of the American Alpine Club (AAC) in coordination with the Sandhill chapter of the AAC took Jordan Barnes of North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis’ staff, David Knight (Outdoor Recreation Industry Business Development Manager, Dept of Economic Development NC), Mary Jaeger-Gale (GM, Chimney Rock State Park), Landdis Hollifield (Event Mgr, Chimney Rock State Park), and several members of the local media climbing at Chimney Rock State Park, NC. Also in attendance were Fox Mountain Guides (facilitating equipment and climbing programming), Ron Funderburke of the AAC, and ten military veteran members of the AAC who are currently stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC. Due to some premature weather considerations, we had three legislative representatives cancel. Additionally, the Asheville REI marketing rep and store manager let us know the morning of that they were no longer going to be able to attend due to some emergent work obligations.

This event drew a number of local new stations. AAC Sandhill Chapter chair and active duty Army officer Matthew Arevian gave a powerful interview about how climbing helped his family reconnect following deployments. A member of the Golden Knights parachute team shared how climbing helped him post-deployment and following a parachute accident that will soon have him leave the Army medically.

After several hours of climbing and instruction (especially on the finer points of hard slab climbing by Ron), we gathered on top of Chimney Rock for a group pic with the gorgeous valley as a background. Everyone left with a high level of stoke, looking forward to more events, and hopefully networking with each other to see how they can get fellow veterans interested in what we do.

Thanks to the generous support of REI, the AAC was able to hire Vince Schaefer from Coldhouse Media Productions. He is currently working on a 3 minute video piece about the NC event. We will share it with you when it’s complete.

Media Coverage:

American Alpine Club Press Release. “The American Alpine Club Engages The Veteran Community With New Membership Options And Outreach.” Nov. 8, 2018.

Outdoor Journal. “Crag Caucus: Veterans and Politicians Rock Climb Together with American Alpine Club.” Nov. 12, 2018.

Teton Gravity Research. “American Alpine Club To Introduce Outreach For Veterans And Active Duty Military.” Nov. 12, 2018.

Chimney Rock coverage from Charlotte’s FOX affiliate broadcast on the evening news. Nov. 16, 2018.

Outdoor Retailer Newsletter, “Veterans in Action.” Nov. 20, 2018.

Chimney Rock coverage from ABC affiliate broadcast on the evening news. Nov. 22, 2018.

The Shutdown is Squeezing Mountain Town Economies


The Shutdown is Squeezing Mountain Town Economies

By Phil Powers and Mark Butler - American Alpine Club | January 10, 2019

OPINION: Recently featured in Adventure Journal

The American Alpine Club was founded in 1902 to advocate for all things climbing. Their mission is simple: “To support our shared passion for climbing and respect for the places we climb.” They provide education, grant funding, policy outreach, help with research projects, you name it. If it benefits climbing, they’re involved. 

Phil Powers, the CEO of AAC, and Mark Butler, the Policy Commission Chair, have grown concerned in recent days over the protracted government shutdown’s effects on climbing. An op-ed from the two is below.

With the federal budget impasse and the partial government shutdown now in its third week, the adverse impacts to America’s public lands are mounting far beyond the thousands of government workers on furlough and the well-publicized public resource degradation of our parks.

For more than a century, the American Alpine Club has been the voice of a community, currently numbering over 23,000, that regularly climbs and adventures in national parks and on public lands across the United States. The direct loss of income for government workers and the mounting resource damage to our most beloved parks is abhorrent, but many more are quietly facing hardship. Suffering in the shadows of this shutdown are tourism-based economies and small businesses that provide guided access and interpretation to our public lands.

Recognizing the livelihood of small businesses that rely on access to public lands is an issue both Republicans and Democrats can undoubtedly support. The National Park System sees an estimated half a million visitors per day in winter months. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee Minority Staff, these visitors spend approximately $19 million daily at nearby restaurants, shops, lodges, and local outfitters. What Washington may consider the off-season for our parks is in actuality economic lifeblood for thousands of non-governmental workers. For small guide services, climbing schools, and others that provide guided experiences, the economic impact of the shutdown is an unexpected loss of revenue that won’t be reimbursed when this shutdown ends.

It is estimated by The Access Fund that 60 percent of all climbing areas exist on public land. Without predictable access to those lands, visitors and students are canceling reservations. Professional climbing instruction and guiding is a labor of love with slim margins and meager profits; a situation that makes guides especially vulnerable when our politicians are attempting to score political points.


Despite Washington’s impasse, the climbing community has stepped up our volunteerism to do what we can. The Friends of Joshua Tree (a local climbing organization) for example, has been stocking bathrooms with toilet paper, emptying trash bins, reminding visitors of fire bans and other park rules. Yosemite Facelift, a joint project of Yosemite National Park and the Yosemite Climbing Association, is loaning out litter sticks and other supplies to anyone who would like to clean during the shutdown and has already hosted two informal cleanups. Yosemite Facelift writes, “We don’t feel this is a political issue, but more of a human one… Even a small group of folks cleaning up trash sends a strong message to visitors and may be more effective.”

Being a climber means many things, but it is our love for America’s wild landscapes that unites us as a community. We want our public lands to remain healthy, culturally significant, biologically diverse, and open and accessible for recreation and enjoyment. For the sake of hundreds of small businesses and the broader outdoor recreation economy that are dependent on access to and conservation of America’s public lands, we need our elected officials to pass a budget which adequately funds our public land management agencies, and ends this shutdown as soon as possible.

Phil Powers is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Alpine Club. He is also the co-owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

Mark Butler is the American Alpine Club Policy Committee Chair. He is a 38-year veteran of the National Park Service.

AAC Advocates for LWCF in 2019

 The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is our nation's premier conservation funding source for enhancing access to public lands, safeguarding watersheds and forests and supporting local outdoor recreation economies. Across the country, every county in every state benefits from LWCF. The climbing community is no different. LWCF supports climbing areas on federal lands--from Denali to Acadia National Park--as well as on state lands, from Hueco Tanks to Custer State Park. Unfortunately, LWCF expired on September 30, 2018 and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition estimates that our National Parks have lost over $236 million dollars in conservation funding since the LWCF expired.[1] That means places like Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, and other National Parks and National Forests need to find funding elsewhere or put their conservation goals on hold.  

The American Alpine Club (AAC) values this conservation tool for the American people and passionately advocates for the permanent reauthorization and full funding of the LWCF. While we made great strides in 2018, the LWCF was not reauthorized due to Congress’s failed attempt to pass a public lands package which included the Emery County Public Lands Management Act, LWCF, and other important legislation. We are optimistic, however, that our active lobbying in D.C., our members’ participation in action alerts, and the hard work from the conservation community-especially the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition- will result in reauthorization of LWCF in 2019 with the 116th Congress.

What is the LWCF and How Does it Work?

Congress enacted the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF) in 1965 to help conserve, develop and ensure access to outdoor recreation facilities for the health and welfare of US citizens. The law sought to accomplish this goal by:

  1. Providing money for land acquisition for outdoor recreation by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service

  2. Matching funding for states on recreation planning, acquisition of recreational lands and waters and developing outdoor recreation facilities 

  3. And funding other federal government conservation programs, like the Forest Legacy program of the Forest Service.


Congress authorized the LWCF for two 25-year periods and one 3-year period (starting in 2015) and approved the Fund to accrue up to $900 million annually.[2] The primary source of funding is derived from oil and gas leasing royalties on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Unfortunately, less than half  ($18.4 billion) of the approved $40.0 billion in total revenues have been appropriated to the Conservation Fund since the Act was passed.[3] Those lost dollars go into the general fund and are allocated however Congress sees fit, instead of supporting the climbing areas we love. It is critical that we, as a conservation-minded community, demand the full funding of the LWCF annually in order to direct the greatest amount of financial backing towards outdoor recreation areas. 

The School Room Glacier on the Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, WY. Photo Credit: Taylor Luneau

The School Room Glacier on the Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, WY. Photo Credit: Taylor Luneau

 Where Does the Funding Go?

Of the money that has been appropriated to LWCF since the program began, 61% went to federal land acquisition, 25% to state grant programs, and the remaining 14% to other purposes (Figure 1).[4] Federal land acquisitions are particularly important to the climbing community as 60% or more of climbing areas reside on federal public lands.[5] Frog Rock on Bozeman Pass in the Gallatin National Forest, MT was one such beneficiary of these resources. With a $2.6 million contribution from LWCF, funding from the Gallatin County Open Space Program, and a land donation, the Trust for Public Land protected over 2,000 acres of land to provide clear access to Frog Rock.[6] Before this, climbers’ only option was to illegally park on I-90 and bush-whack up to the crag. 

Figure 1: Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations in Billions of dollars to Federal, State and other sources for the Fiscal Years of 1965 to 2018.

Other public lands will be supported by LWCF as well. Currently, 9.52 million acres of Western public lands sit entirely landlocked with no legal public entry.[7] These isolated parcels contain unique recreation resources and, if fully reauthorized, the LWCF will provide the necessary financial resources to unlock portions of these public lands. With the permanent reauthorization of the Conservation Fund, state and federal government officials can rely on the much-needed revenue for future projects. 

Political Support for the LWCF:

The return on these public land investments to local economies are well worth congress’ efforts. The Trust for Public Land found that for every $1 invested in federal land acquisition through LWCF, there is a $4 return in economic value.[8] That’s partially because the outdoor recreation economy, which generates $887 billion annually in consumer spending and 7.6 million American jobs, benefits directly from the conservation of these open spaces and outdoor recreation areas.[9] Elected officials have taken notice of this trend. Political leaders like Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) leveraged their support of  public land protection and outdoor recreation in their election bids.[10] Following his election victory, Sen. Tester joined Sens. Steve Daines (R. MT) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) in supporting the reauthorization of LWCF at a press conference at our nation's capital. Sen. Tester said that “reauthorizing the LWCF should be Congress’s top priority.”[11]

With other issues plaguing the end of the 2018 legislative agenda, public lands and their main conservation funding source fell by the wayside. We expect that our voices will be heard and LWCF will be prioritized in the next legislative session. Communities across the country will prosper from this decision for generations to come. As climbers, we can celebrate that our climbing landscapes will profit from this financial resource through the acquisition of new public lands, the securing of access to crags, and the conservation and development of important recreational resources. The AAC will continue to work with our elected officials and advocate for this critical conservation tool.

Data extrapolated from: Center for Western Priorities. “Funding America’s Conservation Future.” August, 2018.

Data extrapolated from: Center for Western Priorities. “Funding America’s Conservation Future.” August, 2018.

[1]Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. “#SAVELWCF” Accessed Jan. 2019.

[2]Congressional Research Service. “Land and Water Conservation Fund: Overview, Funding History, and Issues.” August 17, 2018.

[3]Congressional Research Service. “Land and Water Conservation Fund: Overview, Funding History, and Issues.” 


[5]Access Fund. “This Land Is Our Land: Climbing on Public Lands” Vertical Times. Spring 2016. Vol. 105.

[6]Outdoor Industry Association. “#ICanSeeLWCF From Montana.” Accessed December, 2018.

[7]Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Off Limits, But Within Reach. Unlocking the West’s Inaccessible Public Lands.” Accessed December, 2018.!

[8]The Trust For Public Land. “Return On The Investment From The Land & Water Conservation Fund.” November, 2010.

[9]Outdoor Industry Association. “The Outdoor Recreation Economy.” 2017.

[10]  Aaron Weiss. “Winning Western candidates turned to pro-conservation messages in campaign ads.” Westwise. Nov. 19, 2018.

[11]Edward O’Brien & Nicky Ouellet. “Montana Lawmakers Push To Reauthorize LWCF Before Year’s End.” Montana Public Radio. Nov. 29, 2018.