The Outdoor Alliance gives millions of Americans a voice in Washington D.C. about protecting space for outdoors activities. The group guarantees the public’s vote is heard on decisions impacting our land, water and outdoor recreation.
The Obama administration is looking to the average outdoors lover, including the members of the alliance, to help form policies to take care of the areas they love.
Listening sessions, where government officials hear what works, and what doesn’t work for conservation, according to the people that spend the most time outdoors, have been scheduled since April and will continue the rest of the summer.
A collaboration between the Department of the Interior, United States Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council on Environmental Quality, the listening sessions are designed to give policy makers more information about conservation and sustainable recreation.
The information will be collected in a report for the president with the hope that it will influence future policies that might affect climate regulations, or how the country’s rivers, mountains, and open spaces are protected and maintained.
The Outdoor Alliance policy architect, Adam Cramer, says that the six groups in the alliance—Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Hiking Society, American Whitewater, International Mountain Biking Association, and the Winter Wildlands Association—are all well-based in the practice and tradition of outdoor stewardship.
“The organization exists because of the members. These are people taking care of their own landscape,” Cramer says. “They spend time out there; they each have their own unique perspective on how it should be protected.”
The alliance also organizes smaller listening sessions throughout the country. Though no government officials are guaranteed to be present, they are a venue for sharing ideas and collecting information to help push the goals of the Outdoor Alliance.
The best part of the listening sessions? They are for everyone, Cramer says.
The members of the alliance have a lot in common, Cramer says, there was a realization that all their pursuits were the same and that national policy had a big impact on all of them.
This is how the Outdoor Alliance began, in 2005. Cramer, who joined in 2006, helps the alliance, and the individual members of each group, have one voice in government.
One common goal was to appear as a solid front on big-picture issues, like climate change, when they testified before Congress.
“We didn’t think people would take us seriously,” Cramer says. “We actually found out that people were delighted we had come together with a common agenda.”
The Outdoor Alliance testifies before Congress advocating their views, writes letters to persuade politicians and schedules meetings with the Department of the Interior or the agencies in charge of recreation in the White House. They are also a large presence at the government listening sessions.
Now, the group continues to work to improve policy, and to educate the members of each group so they can effectively express their opinion and empower the outdoors community.
“We never come away with everything done, it’s a progress,” Cramer says. “But now we’re a presence, we’re getting a dialogue, and we’re noticed in a consistent way.”
Photo credit Kris Erickson, Erickson Creative Group