We're celebrating 2.5 million acres of public lands!
By Erin Gaines, KEEN Advocacy Manager
I love spring! It means the end to winter rain in Portland and the start of spring rain (there’s a difference), cherry blossoms, Cadbury cream eggs, and my favorite spring activity – advocacy!
In early March, my colleague Chris and I joined The Conservation Alliance for their 8th annual trip to Washington, D.C. This trips gives Conservation Alliance members, like KEEN, an amazing opportunity to learn more about conservation and public lands protections and to talk directly to our representatives. It’s also a great chance to connect with like-minded outdoor brands and share ideas about how the outdoor industry can work together to protect America’s beautiful outdoor landscapes.
The first day of the D.C. trip was a full day of education and training. We heard from conservation and policy experts, industry leaders, and congressional staffers about how to be effective advocates for the places where we love to play. We celebrated the recent passage of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, the largest piece of public lands legislation to become law in a decade, which protects 2.5 million acres of public lands and 676 miles of rivers. We were inspired by the great efforts of the conservation and recreation communities to rally together and speak up loudly and successfully to help pass that bill. We learned about the Conservation Alliance priorities for 2019, including defending the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and promoting full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. And we left the training feeling prepared and excited for our meetings on Capitol Hill the next day.
High-fiving on Capitol Hill
Armed with all of this knowledge, we climbed Capitol Hill – yes, it’s literally on a hill – and spent the day crisscrossing the Capitol, from the Senate to the House of Representatives, back to the Senate, meeting with Congressional members and staff. Because KEEN is based in Portland, OR, I was with a group of brands from Oregon and Washington, so we met with representatives from those states. We said a lot of “thank you’s” for their support of conservation and recreation. We high-fived in celebration of all the great protections in the public lands bill and for the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. And we asked “what’s next,” because there’s always another special place that needs protecting. In the end, Conservation Alliance groups met with 36 members of Congress!
Leaving D.C., I felt empowered and reminded of how important and how effective advocacy really is. We not only got to speak directly to our representatives about the conservation of our public lands and waters, but we got to celebrate the huge victory of the public lands bill, which became law in great part because of the consistent advocacy and the collective voices of all the people who spoke up and urged their representatives to support conservation and recreation.
A 5-minute (or longer) way to celebrate Earth Day
Earth Day is next week, so it’s a perfect time to raise our voices and speak up about protecting and conserving our natural resources. Whether you’re interested in public lands, clean water, climate change, ocean health, or access to recreation, there are lots of ways to advocate for what you care about this Earth Day, and you don’t even have to make trip to Washington, D.C. to do it. Many elected officials hold town hall meetings in their home states and districts to hear directly from their constituents, so you can attend and ask questions or just listen to what they have to say. You can visit the digital Call to Action phone booth on our website, choose an issue you care about, and in just a couple minutes you can call, email, and tweet your representatives. And don’t forget to vote for all levels of government, from school board to U.S. President, your voice and your vote matter.
Erin paddled the Wild and Scenic Rogue River last summer with American Whitewater.
Earth Day is also a perfect time to get outside and enjoy your favorite places. Looking for ideas for where to go? Why not check out some of the places that were just protected in the public lands bill, like the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area in California, the Methow Valley in the Okanogan National Forest in Washington state, the Rogue River in Oregon, or the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico. And while you’re out enjoying America’s incredible public lands, on Earth Day and every day of the year, please remember to visit responsibly and remember these Leave No Trace Tech Tips!
KEEN will continue to raise our voice for issues like public lands protections and access to recreation opportunities, and we encourage you to do the same, on Earth Day and every day!