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.
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!