Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

How to be an Advocate for Your State Parks

Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

While when you think of the words “public lands,” “wilderness”, and the “great outdoors”- images of grand landscapes, romantic ideas of old-timey family photos in front of giant stone formations, or someone on Instagram living out of a van enjoying a quiet sunset with their dog rambling around the wilderness around them, enjoying a beer, taking it all in. Maybe you think of Zion, Arches, Redwoods, Acadia.  

But what is the last natural place you’ve visited? The last trail you’ve been on, the mountain you’ve climbed? 

It probably wasn’t something you had to fly many miles to get to, months planning around, or investing a lot of time, energy, and thought to get you there. It was most likely a place a little more accessible, something out your backdoor. Maybe a local or state park?  

I am privileged to live in the Adirondacks, which is the largest park in the contiguous United States. I work for the Adirondack Council, an advocacy organization that fights to preserve the clean water, air, and wildlands of our Park.  

I try my hardest to get a weekly dose of nature, and I’m sure you might too. And for me, that happens not in a national park, but in my state park. While there are many reasons to advocate for our most famous national landscapes, our state parks are important to fight for. To protect as wild places for us all to enjoy, but also to provide safe havens for wildlife, to act as filters for clean water and air, a sponge for CO2 to slow climate change- a place for trees, wildflowers, and nature to thrive.  

Why Advocating for our State Parks is Important 

  • More people use state lands- 792 million people visit state lands each year, while only 331 million people visit National Parks, and 148 million people visit US Forests each year. Advocating for state lands means advocating for your fellow state land users and the wildlife that live there, the clean water and air that filters through the forests, and the many other benefits they bring.  
  • State lands add up– It’s estimated there are 8,565 state park areas comprising 18,694,570 acres across the U.S. While many of the greatest National Parks and Forests are some of the most famous landscapes, state parks cover millions of acres of land in the United States. The Adirondack Park, for example, covers one-fifth of New York State and is nearly three times the size of Yellowstone National Park.  
  • Opportunity to impact change- With more and more public land rights being stripped away at a federal level, leaders at state and local levels may be more willing to preserve our precious wild places for future generations. And while the Trump Administration strips away the rights from federal lands, we can and should continue to grow locally protected wilderness areas and opportunities for everyone to enjoy them.  

Infographic courtesy of Outdoor Industry Association from REI.com 

HOW to Advocate for your Parks & Environmental Protection at the State Level 

  • Join a local/state advocacy organization- They will have the best understanding of local environmental issues and problems facing your state parks. Donate, attend meetups or events, sign up to learn more about advocacy opportunities, etc.  
  • Know what’s in your state budget (and what’s not)- The success and well-being of your state parks are determined by the funding allocated to the staffing, programs, and support that makes sustaining those wildlands possible. Learn how legislators determine how to include specific programs in a state budget, and how you can help advocate for your public lands and environmental protection programs on a state level. 
  • Engage in public comment opportunities– When a budget, policy, or law is changed or created, your state is required to offer a public comment opportunity. This is your chance to make your voice heard. Sign up for email notifications for public comment opportunities from your state.  
  • Make sure your Representatives know what is important to you- It’s their responsibility to represent the values of their constituents. Attend their coffee hours and events that are opportunities for public engagement. Respond to their questions and posts on social media and tag them in thoughtful posts of your own.  

By advocating for your local wildlands and participating in the process on a state level, you’re making sure your representatives and people who can create change in your community know what important issues are facing our generation.  

While traveling to knock on doors in Washington DC isn’t something that everyone feels like they can do, we can all help protect our wild places by showing up and participating in the opportunities for public engagement in state-level decision-making that impacts the mountains, lakes, and wild places we love.  

Resources

  • Patagonia Action Works– Find petitions, letter-writing opportunities, local organizations to join and support 

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Mary Godnick
Mary Godnick

Mary works as a Marketing and Development Assistant at Adirondack Council in New York.


Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

So What the Hell is Climate Change Anyways?

Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash
Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

You’ve heard about climate change on the news, in devastating social media posts, and as a hot topic in major political debates. You’ve witnessed the wildfires in California, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, and flooding in Nebraska in real life or on TV. You know that fossil fuels are bad and are the main cause of climate change. But, have you ever wondered HOW climate change is causing crazy weather events and WHY fossil fuels are contributing to these disasters? 

It’s all about carbon, the element that makes up most of you and me. Carbon is essential to life, but can also be detrimental to all living beings. That’s extremely confusing, so let’s break it down.

Fossil fuels. There are three main types of fossil fuels you may have heard of: coal, oil and natural gas. All of these are primarily made of carbon from algae and plants that have been pressurized underground for millions of years (like a mega instant pot). During the industrial revolution, we found that digging up fossil fuels and heating them up releases a BUNCH of energy, which we now use to move our cars, turn the lights on in our homes, heat our water, make our clothes, package our food, and manufacture our bikes, skis and hiking boots. We use fossil fuels to make our morning coffee and our afternoon beers, we use it to make roads and fly to awesome places. Fossil fuels allow us to use computers, call our moms, and facetime our siblings. The list could legit go on forever and ever, but the main point is that we use fossil fuels for EVERYTHING.

Oh, and plastic is made of fossil fuels too.

The Problem. Although fossil fuels have made the Western World possible, paved the path for globalization, and make our lives 876,587,364 times more convenient, they also have a dark side. You’ve probably heard of it too: Carbon Dioxide (aka CO2). It’s what you, me, and all other living animals exhale. But when we burn fossil fuels, a GIGANTIC amount of CO2 is released into the atmosphere, which creates a thick layer of gas that doesn’t allow heat to escape into space. Atmospheric gasses that trap heat are called greenhouse gases and if you remember how Frosty the Snowman died in the classic holiday cartoon, you remember that greenhouses are fab at making things hot. 

Greenhouse gasses ultimately cause higher global temperatures (emphasis on global because excess CO2 doesn’t necessarily mean that temperatures in your particular city will rise). Overall increases in temperature allow more clouds to form because warmer air holds more water, and more clouds change weather patterns. This is why we can have gnarly polar vortexes in one place and record low snowfall in another. It’s also why we can have crazy rain and hurricanes in one area and extremely hot, dry, and wildfire-prone weather in another. 

Our weather is changing for the worse and our fossil fuel consumption is to blame.

Other factors. There are other greenhouse gasses besides CO2. Methane (CH4), which is also termed the nice and pretty name of “Natural Gas”, traps heat in our atmosphere 30 times better than CO2. There are benefits of Natural Gas, but it regularly leaks out of storage facilities and pipelines into the atmosphere.  Nitrous Oxides (NOx) are produced when nitrogen from the air is heated up in our car engines and it traps 290 times more heat than CO2. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are chemicals that we’ve invented to keep our refrigerators cold, the AC on in the house, and to make our pots and pans “non-stick” (aka Teflon). CFC’s get into our oceans and atmosphere and traps heat a whopping 1,000 – 10,000 times more heat than CO2.

If you’re thinking, “Well, crap!”, you’re not alone. I’m right there with ya, along with 99.9% of all other scientists.

Some good & bad news. When it comes to CO2, plants use it to grow. This means that we could potentially reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by planting trees and conserving open green spaces because the plants will turn it into sugar and incorporate it into their leaves, roots, branches, and trunks (aka photosynthesis). Scientists often call this carbon storage because CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and collected in the plant. BUT, we don’t have enough time, money, people power, or land to plant the number of trees needed to reduce an adequate amount of CO2 that will reverse climate change (source). 

So… what can we do? This is the question of the century (and probably the next few centuries). As of now, science points to a few solutions:

  1. Stop using so many damn fossil fuels. This is the BEST way we can prevent climate change from getting worse. We can do this individually, but VOTING for government officials and laws that will regulate the industrial use of fossil fuels will help even more. (Fun fact: 100 companies are responsible for 71% of total greenhouse gas emissions)
  2. Plant trees & preserve green spaces. Although planting trees won’t solve all of our climate change problems, it will still help. Especially since clear-cutting forests and destroying natural landscapes actually releases CO2 (source). Restoring forests and other ecosystems won’t just reduce CO2, but will also increase biodiversity, air quality, and water quality, along with overall human health. To put this together, planting native trees in your backyard and advocating for the protection of places like Bears Ears National Monument and the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area are essential to fighting climate change.
  3. Invent carbon capture and storage technologies. Honestly, this climate change solution is the one we should have the least hope in. Carbon capture and storage is essentially a way of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing it underground. There have been recent advances in this technology, but since we don’t have a way to implement it around the world, it’s an unreliable solution and we don’t have the time to wait around for it.

Thoughts to take with you. You CAN make a difference. Although big industry is the biggest contributor to climate change, you can educate yourself, you can vote, you can change your consumer habits, and you can talk to your family and friends. TOGETHER we can create a movement of change.

Let’s do this fam. We’re all in this together (cue the High School Musical soundtrack). 


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

<strong>Savannah Adkins</strong>
Savannah Adkins

During some daylight hours, Savannah is a climate change scientist studying how dirt makes all of our lives possible. But her real profession is as a house plant addict, mountain biker, & attempter of skiing down mountains. In her free time, Savannah enjoys dancing around the house, drinking wine, and listening to the Grateful Dead. Oh, and making poop jokes… always making poop jokes.

What is the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act?

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash – Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

According to Central Wasatch Commission (CWC), the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act is a “locally driven, consensus-based bill” that has been worked on over the past four years by a wide range of local government agencies, businesses, transportation officials, nonprofit and environmental groups, recreation interest groups, and residents. The act has several goals: 

  • “protecting water sources
  • preserving recreational opportunities for the future, 
  • and ensuring enjoyment of the Central Wasatch Mountains in the face of pressures from a growing population”.

Nestled between Salt Lake City and Park City, the Central Wasatch Mountains are a haven for recreationalists of all kinds, and the area is becoming increasingly more populated. Home to four world-class ski resorts, skiers, trail runners, hikers, and rock climbers, will travel to the Wasatch Front from all over the country in order to recreate on these lands. Not only is this area high trafficked by tourists, but hundreds of local recreationalists come into these mountains from Utah’s metropolitan hub to spend time on public lands on any given day. According to the CWC, “The Central Wasatch Mountains are more heavily used than all five of Utah’s National Parks combined.” If you have ever visited Zion National Park or Arches National Park during peak season, you can imagine how crowded that must make the canyons during the middle of the ski season. 


At this point, the act is still a working draft, but in its current state, it intends to preserve approximately “80,000 acres of US Forest Service land including watershed, scenic ridgelines, treasured landscapes, and recreation areas” while also helping ski resorts to better utilize and own more land in their established base areas. Some specific points made in the bill are outlined on the CWC’s website:

  • “All existing recreational uses and permits will continue;
  • Natural resources and watersheds will be protected;
  • Existing Wilderness Area boundaries will be adjusted for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail alignment and for transportation improvements.
  • Approximately 8,000 acres of wilderness will be added;
  • The U.S. Forest Service will maintain ownership and management of the lands;
  • Land exchanges between the U.S. Forest Service and the four Cottonwood Canyons ski resorts are authorized;
  • Ski resort permit boundaries on U.S. Forest Service land will be fixed permanently after some adjustments through the existing permitting process;
  • New roads for automobiles will be prohibited on U.S. Forest Service land;
  • No restrictions will be placed on U.S. Forest Service management for fire suppression, vegetation maintenance, avalanche control or other emergency measures;
  • Private land within the area or adjacent to the area being designated will not be affected;
  • Future transportation improvements are anticipated. The legislation enables transportation improvements to meet growing demand”

What’s happening now and how to take action:

While the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act is still in the drafting phase, state representatives John Curtis and Ben McAdams have been weighing in to tweak the language and help prepare the draft to be taken to Washington and shared with Congress. While the Act is on its way to being solidified and taken to Washington, there is still reason to act in support of the legislation. As a Utah resident living near the Wasatch, it is especially important to make yourself heard throughout this process. The easiest way to stay up to date on meetings that are accepting public comments is by following the CWC website as well as checking the Utah Public Notice Website. Keep an eye out for when this important public lands bill hits the floor of the House in the coming year. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

What is Forest Planning?

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

The National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) requires that every national forest develop and follow a Land Management Plan, or a Forest Plan. Forest Planning is the process that dictates where particular uses may occur and how the different zones of the forest will be managed. For example, a forest plan will reserve certain areas for extractive activities like logging, while other areas will be zoned for “sustainable recreation” described by the Outdoor Alliance as being “a range of recreational settings, opportunities, and access that can be sustained over time.” The implications of this process are very important to the outdoor recreation and conservation communities. It has a huge impact on the future of access for recreation and is the first step in the development of new Wilderness areas, Wild and Scenic rivers, or even National Recreation Areas.

Stages of Forest Planning

The process of forest planning is broken up into three stages: assessment, plan development, and implementation and monitoring. The Forest Service starts the process in the assessment phase by examining how the forest is currently being used and how that use impacts wildlife, air quality, economic benefits, and other important factors. Based on the data collected in the assessment phase, they decide what needs to change. They revise the old plan or develop a completely new plan that is then entered into a NEPA process to consider the environmental impacts of the proposed changes. Once the plan is approved, the Forest Service enters into the final stage and will make changes dictated by their new forest plan and begin to monitor whether or not these changes are positive for the forest as a whole.

How can you take action and impact forest planning?

There are so many ways citizens can be involved in the planning process. Outdoor Alliance does a good job summarizing the planning process while also noting how you as a forest user can be involved in the process during each stage in this graphic below:

click to download this graphic

Currently, forest planning is happening in five different National Forests and the Outdoor Alliance has set up a website to keep the public in the know of where each process stands and when they need the outdoor community to engage. Check out this Forest Planning site to see if your National Forest is in the midst of its planning process and how you can be involved.

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.

Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

If you remember only three things about LWCF, let it be this:

  • LWCF funds have been invested in every county in the United States
  • For every $1 spent on LWCF, communities receive $4 in economic benefit
  • LWCF DOESN’T USE ANY TAXPAYER DOLLARS

History

Established in 1964, the National Park Service states that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), “was established to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans”. In a thoughtful move by congress, the LWCF is not funded by taxpayer dollars, but instead is funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas leasing. This method makes sense as the program intends to repurpose funds from a destructive activity that is harming the environment in order to support the conservation of lands and waters elsewhere. Specifically, the money raised from this fund can either be used to support smaller-scale state or local community proposed projects or larger scale federal projects that focus on land acquisition. 

LWCF State and Local Grants Program

“Provides matching Grants to state and tribal governments for the acquisition and development of public parks and other outdoor recreation sites

  • Grants have funded projects in every county in the country
  • 40,000+ projects since 1965
  • Funding provided $3.9 billion
  • Grants have supported purchase and protection of 3 million acres of recreation lands 
  • 75% total funds obligated have gone to locally sponsored projects to provide recreation opportunities that are readily accessible to all people”

LWCF Federal Land Acquisition

“Supports the protection of federal public lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas – and voluntary conservation on private land”

Forest Legacy Program:

“Provides grants through state partners to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands while maintaining private ownership and working forests”

  • Total acres protected = 2.37 million.
  • Funding provided =$1.4 billion.

Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund:

“Grants provide funds to states and territories to work with private landowners, conservation organizations, and other partners to protect and conserve the habitat of threatened and endangered species.”

  • Number of grants = 246 
  • Funding provided = $394 million.

Where are we now?

The goal of this program is to “strengthen communities, preserve history, and protect our national endowments of lands and waters.” $900 million is put into the LWCF annually, but rarely does this money end up protecting public lands, waters, and offering grant funding for communities. Instead, Congress breaks its promise of allocating funds to projects rooted in conservation and recreation, and instead diverts it to other uses. In fact, since the creation of LWCF, $22 billion has been diverted. This is especially frustrating as there is more than $11 billion of backlogged work to be done in National Parks alone due to budget cuts, and it is increasingly obvious that public land maintenance, preservation, and upkeep is not being prioritized by the current administration. In March of 2019, legislation was passed that permanently reauthorizes LWCF. While this was a big win for fans of LWCF, there is still an uphill battle at hand. Many organizations like LWCF Coalition, Outdoor Alliance, and Outdoor Industry Association, have demanded that Congress fully fund LWCF, meaning pass legislation dictating that the full $900 million will be allocated to LWCF annually. 

Related Legislation

  • S.47 John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act: The public lands package that included the permanent reauthorization of LWCF, passed on March 12, 2019
  • HR 3195 Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act: 
  • S. 1081 Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act

How to take action:

  • On November 19, 2019, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance S. 1081, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act. If voted into law, the $900 million will be required to fund conservation and recreation projects and will not be allowed to be reallocated. Send your lawmakers a note telling them why it is imperative they support S. 1081 when it comes to senate vote using the easy-to-use letter writing tool below. 
  • Stay up to date on the latest LWCF news and action alerts by checking out LWCF Coalition

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What is NEPA?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash



NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act, is the most important tool we have to hold accountability on the decisions made on public lands. It gives us, as citizens, a voice and allows environmental justice to be held as a top priority. With NEPA, Americans can advocate for, and protect their neighborhoods. Due to longstanding systemic environmental racism, development, and infrastructure projects harm Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at a disproportionate rate to predominately white communities. NEPA is a check and balance that allows communities and their allies to speak up on behalf of their own backyard, and work to combat environmental racism.

Throughout this year, attempts to stifle public comment is SILENCING citizens while giving a megaphone to corporations who profit from the destruction of public lands and pollute neighborhoods across the country.

NEPA utilizes data and scientific evidence to consider the environmental impact of development projects and requires developers to consider climate change as an effect. The Trump administration is yet again silencing science, and continuing to prioritize profit over people.

History

Prior to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), there was a clear separation of the federal government, the public, and the environment. Decisions were made based on convenience and financial gain, the public had no say, and impacts on the environment could go unmentioned. Thankfully, that decision process changed when NEPA was signed into law on January 1, 1970. NEPA requires the federal government to “use all practicable means to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony”. It holds the government accountable to this by requiring federal agencies to “incorporate environmental considerations in their planning and decision-making through a systematic interdisciplinary approach.” The policy offers a comprehensive framework that agencies can utilize in order to “prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of, and alternatives to, major federal actions significantly affecting the environment.” Essentially, the NEPA process forces the government to do the following things prior to making decisions on whether or not to complete a project:

  • Identify potential issues within the proposed project
  • Determine viable project alternatives that would alleviate issues 
  • Complete in-depth studies through a scientific process that look into the cumulative impact of a project and its environmental issues (ex: climate change impact)
  • Comply with environmental regulations 
  • Involve the public in all decision making

EA vs EIS

There are two different NEPA statements, Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). An EA is far less complicated and takes less time than the EIS. This documentation process is only followed if it is unclear that the anticipated impacts will be significant. Occasionally while going through the EA process it becomes obvious that there will be a large impact on the environment and an EIS process will be born out of the EA process. If from the start it is clear that the project is going to cause significant negative impacts on the environment, or if there is a lot of public controversy over the project, the EIS process is required. 

Public Engagement

NEPA ensures that the public gets to have a say in decision-making processes. Both the EA and the EIS provide multiple touchpoints for the public to participate. Depending on which government agency is going through the NEPA process, the public involvement process will vary a bit, but many agencies will offer an initial 30 day comment period for both an EA or EIS process. Some projects, especially those that are highly controversial, will even hold public forums to hear from stakeholders. Regardless of the severity of the project, the review process for both offers the ability to make your voice heard by offering thoughts on how the agency went about its study, which alternative you think is best, or even by proposing your own alternative. Many nonprofit advocacy organizations like Outdoor Alliance, American Alpine Club, the Wilderness Society, and more utilize the NEPA process to give a voice to the issues that they, alongside their supporters, are fighting for when it comes to public lands protections.    

Proposed changes to NEPA:

Having the chance to weigh in on important land management decisions or various project proposals to the federal government is part of what makes the NEPA process great. It allows people to have a say when it comes to local issues such as forest management plans, or national issues like fighting off drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, there are interest groups who would like to see NEPA rolled back in order to make it easier to develop on public lands, and the Forest Service is considering making changes to how it implements NEPA. One of the first things under attack: public engagement. According to Outdoor Alliance, the proposed changes would limit public engagement on Forest Service Projects up to 93%, “and in some cases, eliminate public notice all together”. If these changes are made, they would create loopholes to allow speedier and larger-scale resource extraction projects on public lands. 

How to take action:

During the summer of 2019, the Forest Service accepted public comment regarding the proposed changes. Many organizations and individuals alike took the time to reach out to lawmakers and the Forest Service in order to voice concerns about the attack on the public process. At this point, the Forest Service is compiling data and considering the received comments and hopes to release proposed directives in January 2020. After they release their proposed plan, they will be offering an additional public comment period. Please check back as January draws near to learn more about how you can offer comments opposing these changes to its application of NEPA.

Resources:

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the Antiquities Act?

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

History

The Antiquities Act, enacted in 1906, gives the President the ability to proclaim National Monuments on federal lands that contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Originally created to prevent looting of Indigenous artifacts from archaeological sites, this powerful tool allows the President to bypass the slow-moving legislative process in order to protect large swaths of land that are under critical threat. The White House typically spends time collaborating with local stakeholders to decide what the protected area should look like and how it will function prior to designation giving local communities a strong voice in the process. Additionally, the designation can be used to protect public lands from impending oil and gas extraction and commercial development and instead aid in generating “economic growth through tourism, recreation, and improved property values” in the towns surrounding the National Monuments. 

National Park vs National Monument

A National Monument differs from a National Park in a few ways. Several critical differences according to Outside Online are:

Why the land is being protected:

  • “National Parks protect land that offers “scenic, inspirational, educational, and recreation opportunities.” 
  • National Monuments protect land that is “historic, cultural, or scientific nature” 

Management Structure

  • “National Parks are managed by the National Park Service 
  • National Monuments can be managed by a myriad of agencies such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or US Fish and Wildlife Service” 

Designation Power

  • “National Parks must be voted on, approved, and designated by Congress
  • National Monuments can be established by the President through a proclamation”

Attack on the Antiquities Act

According to the Center for Western Priorities, “For over 100 years, presidents of both political parties have used the Antiquities Act to protect national monuments. Since 1906, 16 presidents have protected 157 monuments under the law.” However, in the recent political era, many designations have been highly contentious between political parties. During the Obama administration, 29 new National Monuments were established in 17 different states protecting a total of 553 million acres of federal lands and waters. One Monument designated during the Obama era is Bears Ears National Monument. This Monument is considered highly controversial as the Trump administration proclaimed a reckless reduction of the area in 2017. Many organizations such as the Natural Resources Defence Council, Access Fund, Patagonia, Utah Dine Bikeyah, and others have banned together to sue Donald Trump claiming that this reduction is a direct attack on the Antiquities Act. The organizations claim the Antiquities Act gives the president the ability to create National Monuments, but only Congress has the authority to revoke or revise the protected area. 

How to take action

It seems the battle for the protection of the Antiquities Act is just beginning. It is more important than ever to tell your representatives that you support the Antiquities Act and hope to see it upheld in perpetuity. Click on the National Parks Conservation Association’s easy-to-use letter-writing tool to support the Antiquities Act. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

Guide to Allyship: Compiled by Pattie Gonia

We all want to do good within our community, but what does it mean to show up as an ally? Our friend and advocate, Pattie Gonia, compiled, designed, and illustrated this helpful guide to help you understand what allyship is and how we can show up for each other. Big thank you to Pattie for sharing this resource with us.

View the original guide here.

WORDS BY AND CREDIT TO:

What is the CORE Act?

Photo by Thomas Morse on Unsplash

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or “CORE Act”, was designed to “protect approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establish new wilderness areas and safeguard existing outdoor recreation opportunities to boost the economy for future generations”. In an impressive case of collaborative legislation building, various counties in Colorado came together with local businesses, outdoor recreation groups, and conservationists to work together and find creative solutions, compromise, and build this bill over the last decade. 

Who are the sponsors/co-sponsors/who introduced it?

  • HR 823: Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), check out the 3 cosponsors here.
  • S. 241: Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO)

Read the full legislative text here:

S. 241, HR 823 

What does this bill do for the outdoors?

According to a summary of the bill from Michael Bennett’s website, the CORE Act: 

  • Offers a balance between conservation and recreational interests 
  • Places a high value on recreation and conservation by supporting the $28.0 Billion outdoor recreation economy in Colorado as well as the 229,000 jobs associated with it
  • Unifies and improves upon four previously introduced bills: Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act, San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, and Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act
  • Protects 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado and of that newly protected land, 70,000 acres will be designated new Wilderness areas and 80,000 acres will be new recreation and conservation management areas which preserve existing outdoor uses
  • Introduces a first of its kind National Historic Landscape designation to honor and protect Colorado’s military legacy at Camp Hale
  • Prohibits new oil and gas development in areas important to outdoor recreationalists 

What’s happening now and how to take action:

Update 2021: The CORE Act has passed through the House three times, but now needs to get through the Senate. It has a hearing in the Senate in June, but what we really need right now is a Senator to champion this bill and become a sponsor.

Update 2019: The CORE Act passed largely along party lines in the House of Representatives on October 31st. While this is a big win for the Coloradoans who have been working on this bill for over a decade, the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate. It is time to write your senators and tell them that you want them to vote “YEA” in support of the CORE Act. You can find easy to use letter writing tools below:

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the SOAR Act?

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

According to the official bill summary, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act) clarifies and “revises provisions regarding special recreation permits for use by individuals and groups to engage in recreational activities on federal recreation lands and waters”. This bill will benefit the outdoor recreation industry, and more specifically, it will greatly benefit the guides and outfitters who operate on public lands. Making it easier for outfitters and guides to obtain permits will ultimately break down barriers for people interested in getting outside by offering more affordable and wider access to guiding services, therefore, enhancing and diversifying access as a whole.

Who are the sponsors/co-sponsors/who introduced it?

  • S. 1665: Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Check out the 15 cosponsors here
  • HR 3895: Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) Check out the 15 cosponsors here

Read the full legislative text here:

S. 1665, HR 3879

What does this bill do for the outdoors? 

According to this article published by Outside Magazine, “the SOAR Act promises to:

  • Reduce permit fees, especially for small businesses and organizations
  • Improve and streamline the permitting process by eliminating redundant processes and shortening processing timelines.
  • Increase transparency by notifying the public as soon as new recreation permits are available 
  • Make more recreation opportunities available by directing the agencies to offer short-term permits and create a unique program for sharing unused permit days between different permit holders
  • Increase flexibility for outdoor leaders allowing them to engage in activities that are similar to the activity specified in their permit 
  • Make more recreation opportunities available by directing the agencies to offer more short-term permits and create a program for sharing unused permit service days between permit holders;
  • Simplify the permitting process for trips involving more than one land management agency by authorizing the agencies to issue a single joint permit covering the lands of multiple agencies.
  • Reduce barriers to access for state universities, city recreation departments, and school districts” 

What’s happening now and how to take action:

In the Senate:

Key takeaway from hearing: There is strong bipartisan support for this bill from Senators.

In the House:

Key takeaway from hearing: There is strong bipartisan support for this bill from both members of Congress and witnesses who testified on behalf of land management agencies. 

How can you take action?

Now that hearings are complete and there is strong bipartisan support, it is important to keep up momentum by affirming elected officials that voting “YEAH” for this bill is the right thing to do in the minds of their constituents. Utilize the easy-to-use letter writing tool created by the Outdoor Alliance below to tell your lawmakers that you support the SOAR Act. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.