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Trip Report: Four Things We Learned in Washington, DC

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The Conservation Alliance led a strong delegation of outdoor industry leaders to Washington, DC earlier this month. The goal was to learn about conservation policy and the current political lay-of-the-land, and to demonstrate business support for conservation on public lands. Our group included 40 representatives from member companies, and leaders from organizations that represent outdoor recreation user groups.

The trip started with a full day of training on conservation policy, hosted by our friends at the Pew Charitable Trusts. To start the day, speakers provided information on the politics of conservation with the new Congress and the Trump Administration, making clear that we face new challenges that threaten our public lands. Throughout the day, we learned about new threats to our public lands, and then heard from specific stakeholder groups – sportsmen, conservation groups, outdoor recreationists – about how they will address those threats. We ended the training day by focusing on opportunities to make conservation gains through Wilderness legislation, agency management planning, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

We drew a few key conclusions from the training day:

  • Congress has not changed dramatically, but we no longer have a strong conservationist in the White House to serve as a backstop to Congress’ worst ideas. As a result, we will need to focus more of our energy on stopping legislation in Congress that would undermine our public lands and the laws that govern them.
  • We still have strong conservation friends in Congress. Our friends in Congress remain committed to protecting and defending our public lands. Members of Congress have already introduced – or will soon introduce – legislation to protect lands in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Alaska.
  • The current political climate is galvanizing our allies. There is nothing like a crisis to bring people together to find solutions and work toward common goals. We have already deepened our coalition with friends in the outdoor recreation community, and are talking more regularly with groups that represent the hunter/angler community. We all love our public lands, and will work together to protect them.
  • We need to be ready to respond quickly to threats. More than ever, our industry needs to be able to rapidly respond to threats to our wild places. Understanding public lands policy is crucial to that response. The Conservation Alliance will do all we can to prepare our members to be knowledgeable on these issues, and to respond when threats arise.

After the training day, we divided our large group into smaller teams, and hit Capitol Hill for meetings with appropriate members of Congress. Together, our seven teams met with 29 different offices, and delivered the message that protected public lands are crucial to the growing outdoor recreation economy. From our meetings, it is clear that our greater outdoor community is finding its voice, and decision makers are listening. We will continue to push this message, in Washington, and on the local level.

We are grateful to our friends at Outdoor Alliance and Outdoor Industry Association for partnering with us on this recent trip to DC. It is important that our community show up and speak to lawmakers about issues that impact us. We organize this trip every year. If you are interested in participating in 2018 please let us know!

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