Guide to Public Lands Advocacy at Outdoor Retailer

Twice a year, I turn into a weird beast version of myself. My calendar is a color-coded event apocalypse where every afternoon and evening is quadruple booked. My inbox? Insanity. I do ridiculous things like think about my outfits in advance. It’s Outdoor Retailer week, and for some strange reason, I love it. This is the last of the tradeshows in Salt Lake City–I’ve already cried once, whatever. There’s a heavy layer of ‘the public lands issue’ settled over the Salt Palace. I’m way into that, because it means the entire industry is gathered under one roof to marinate on the topic for a week.

This OR Show is all about public lands advocacy. And that’s kinda my jam.

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You, too, are stoked on public lands advocacy and want to get involved. How do I know this? Y’all have asked me a bazillion times in the last few weeks. Way jazzed on that, too. I’ve got a lot going on, my rad colleagues have a lot going on, and I figured I ought to just bring it all together in a quick guide to help you get activated around public lands and outdoor advocacy at Utah’s final Outdoor Retailer. Check it:

– Come to the RANGE Magazine issue launch at 4:30 on Wednesday (7/26) at the Ranger Station. The theme is “activate + organize” and I wrote a guide to outdoor advocacy that’ll be in the latest issue and heaps of rad industry folks have work in there too.

– Watch to my panel on outdoor advocacy and social media at 10:00 AM on Thursday (7/27). I’m moderating. Kenji Haroutunian, Caroline Gleich, Len Necefer from NativesOutdoors, Brody Leven (heeeey), and Land Tawney of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers are my panelists. Potential highlights include: conversations between my lifelong vegetarian boyfriend and the king of the hunting and fishing industry, asking Len about calling the industry out when we do things like appropriate, and me inevitably falling off my stool because I’m awkward in public. I’ll try to livestream this for anyone who isn’t attending OR! 

– Because you can never have enough panels, come to the When Women Lead discussion at 2:30, at The Camp, hosted by Wild Women’s Project and Coalition Snow.

– Join me, Hilary, The Wilderness Society and the storytellers community for a pre-march sign making rally at the Public Lands Action Center at 3:30 on 7/27. We’ll have supplies to put your march calls-to-action on cardboard–what’s a march without witty signs making a statement about our cause?–and The Wilderness Society will be on deck to chat about getting involved with advocacy. RANGE magazine is hosting one in the Venture Out pavilions too! There’s a Facebook event page here.  Also, if you have cardboard, I want it for our recycled sign making supplies, holla at me. 

MARCH WITH US. If you haven’t heard about the march for public lands yet, sheesh. At 4:30, we’re marching from the Public Lands Action Center rally–because obviously you’ll be there with me–through the Salt Palace, past downtown, all the way to Utah Capitol. We’ll hoist our signs, make a loud statement, gather on the lawn of the Capitol, and listen to powerful speakers during a rally about, well, our public lands. If you’re on social media, holla at #MarchForPublicLands.

– Attend the annual social media lunch on 7/28 at noon. I’m co-hosting with OIA, and we’re launching the Outdoor Advocate Network. It’s a powerful collective of the industry’s most impactful voices that want to do something about our industry’s biggest issues, and we’re going to empower you, and you def want to be involved. And free lunch, obvi–for the first 50 people. We’ll be networking after the event until 2:00, so come say hi even if you miss the actual lunch part. RSVP here (or if you want to get an update after the event if you can’t make it).

–I am mega stoked on this workshop: “(re)defining women in the outdoors.” It’s a little late on Friday, 3:30-4:30, at The Camp, but I think it’s going to be a good one. Read: “This interactive session is geared toward female and non-cis gender industry professionals who are excited to examine our (diverse) values and a develop a new vision for women in the outdoor industry.” Yaaaas. 

– Bonus points for early birds: If you’re into getting up before 8:00 AM, you should attend the breakfasts. At this year’s OIA Industry Breakfast, which basically kicks off the entire tradeshow, speakers include Alex Honnold, Cedar Wright, and the queen herself, Sally Jewell. I mean seriously, hello. I always cry during these breakfasts because I’m so moved by the energy (and also it’s so early in the morning and I’m extra vulnerable). Conservation Alliance is hosting one the next day, which you can learn about here.

– If you’re in town early: Go to Outsiders Ball! Totally qualifies as outdoor advocacy-related in my book because it’s a giant, wonderful fundraiser that supports Outdoor Foundation, which works to get youth out into nature. Party on, outdoorists. Then, go enjoy free drinks and at the official after party/climbing fundraiser for the American Alpine Club at Bodega.

See you all in SLC next week, my friends!

The outdoor community must step up and become advocates & activists–NOW.

Yesterday in Salt Lake City, the EPA held a public hearing on the Regional Haze Rule (think: Clean Air Act). You know, the seemingly no-brainer effort to clean up the air around Utah and some of it’s most beautiful outdoor spaces.

It came across my desk from the OIA government affairs team as something we wanted to show some support for (again, no-brainer). When I was doing some social promotion around the event, I pictured a big rally of outdoor advocates all singing the praises of cleaner air and literally thought to myself, “I wonder how much of an impact this will make since it’s basically just going to be a big hoorah all from the outdoor community. Will the opposing side even notice that this hearing is happening?

I was incredibly, profoundly wrong in my assumption.

This is what outdoor athletes Caroline Gleich and Brody Leven experienced yesterday when they attended the meeting. Just hearing their stories digitally was enough for me to wake up and snap to attention. This is not the scene I had envisioned in my head:

On the front lines today with @brodyleven at the EPA public hearing about regional haze in Utah’s national parks. It seems like all of Carbon County fit in two busloads to represent the interests of the coal power plants. We felt like the underdogs. The outdoor/tourism industries were seriously underrepresented. I’ve never been so nervous to speak in front of a group. When I started speaking, I could feel the hostility in the air. But I shared my story and the facts. Utah’s outdoor recreation and tourism industries bring in $12.2 billion dollars per year. It’s important to clean up the air around the parks and reduce the emissions from coal burning power plants. When I was done, hardly anyone clapped. We need to get more young people and outdoor people to come to these things. We need to make signs and speak up. It’s our air and our future. It’s scary and not always fun, but it’s hugely important to protect the quality of life and the Utah we love. At the end, I gave the coal miners a smile and a wave. I came to realize our goals aren’t that different. We are both trying to protect our livelihood- our jobs and the lifestyle we know. It’s just the path to the future that we disagree on. #cleanair4utah @protectourwinters @healutah @sierraclub

A photo posted by Caroline Gleich (@carolinegleich) on

As it turns out, the pro-coal attendance far overwhelmed the presence of outdoor advocates. Folks from Carbon County (yes, that’s really the name of the county) were actually shuttled to Salt Lake City by the busload to make sure the coal industry was heard loud and clear. Inside the building, the hearing was packed with these representatives, and Brody observed that there were hundreds more rallying outside as well. Brody told me they basically had to sneak into the event. He saw signs that said “Fossil fuels are beautiful.” When Caroline finished her testimony about the importance of cleaning up the air around Utah’s beautiful outdoor spaces and protecting the health of the state’s community, she noted that hardly anyone clapped.

That scene is embarrassing. Look at the statistics for the outdoor industry: we generate $646 billion in consumer spending annually, and create 6.1 million direct jobs. That’s 6.1 million people whose livelihood is connected to the health of our outdoor spaces. In Utah, at least 82% of residents participate in outdoor recreation each year. So where were we during yesterday’s hearing? Why wasn’t there a loud and proud standing ovation when Caroline concluded her speech?

And none of this includes the much more obvious fact: this isn’t just about our parks, this is about the air you breathe every single day. In parks, in cities, everywhere. This is about the air you breathe, the air your families breathe, the air that future generations will be breathing.

Image via Unsplash

Do I have you riled up yet? Good. Here’s a place to start taking action: You can submit formal comment on this Clean Air Act until 3/14/16.

The outdoor community needs to do more than just love our outdoor spaces: we need to become strong advocates and activists for the issues that affect our industry. Not just clean air, but on a laundry list of initiatives that need our support, from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to wildfire funding. And don’t even get me started on the public lands heist.

If you truly care about the places you play, you need to do something about it. Posting beautiful Instagrams of Arches National Park won’t mean anything when the air there makes you ill, and saving up for months to buy a new ice axe won’t matter when global warming means your favorite routes never get cold enough to freeze. When your favorite forest burns to a crisp because you didn’t speak up about the importance of wildfire funding–that’s all on you. Sign those petitions, they matter. E-mail, call, and tweet your representatives–they’re listening. Attend community events, share these issues on social media, support organizations like Outdoor Alliance and Protect Our Winters.

The outdoor community has such potential to be so strong and so loud and so impactful–let’s make that happen together.

Disclaimer: Opinions here are my own and are in no way affiliated with OIA. But if you want to learn more about OIA’s stance on this issue, check out this recreation alert. For more on OIA’s climate change policy, read more here