Monday, December 04, 2006

What is the Outdoor Alliance?

I was in Washington DC this past week for the first full meeting of the Outdoor Alliance. We formed as a coalition over the past year and members include Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Hiking Society, American Whitewater, International Mountain Biking Association, and Winter Wildlands Alliance. While these organizations have all worked together over the years in an informal capacity, the Turner Foundation has provided generous support to bring the group together as a formal coalition.

The Mission of the Outdoor Allliance is as follows:

The Outdoor Alliance is a framework designed to enable the Member Organizations to develop a coordinated national policy agenda and voice to promote sustainable, human-powered outdoor activities that create opportunities for healthy recreation. The Alliance supports access to, and responsible stewardship of the lands, waters, air and habitat that are vital to a quality outdoor recreation experience.

And our Purpose is:

Promote links between government at all levels, public health groups, and the recreation community to encourage outdoor recreation and volunteerism to help advance the goal of building a stronger, healthier America.

So we have some great ideas and concepts that the Executive Directors of the member organizations have been formulating over the past year, but now it's time to talk implementation and start putting our ideas into action. What has become apparent is that for the first time those who directly use public lands for the recreational opportunities they will provide will have a voice in Washington, DC. We are in the process of developing a coordinated national policy agenda and will serve as the voice for sustainable, human-powered outdoor activities that create opportunities for healthy recreation.

Given my own background in ecosystem science and natural resources management, I am most excited with the opportunity we have to serve as the voice for resource stewardship. Protecting the future of our public lands depends on an engaged public who is out enjoying the resource and able to serve as an effective advocacy base. All of our outdoor recreation experiences depend on clean water and air, quality fish and wildlife habitat, and access to the public lands that are a defining feature of our nation. Our knowledge of ecosystem science continues to advance but actually translating this knowledge into policy or management actions requires the support of an informed and engaged public. A coalition of organizations that understands and embraces this linkage has a real opportunity to make a difference in the world.

Over the week we had a great set of meetings and the brainstorming we did was inspiring. We met with several high ranking individuals at National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Army Corps of Engineers. In addition several of us fanned out to talk to Congressional staffers. While many of these agencies have a mandate to provide quality recreation experiences they face a constant struggle in these tight budget times. Over the coming months we will be developing a core set of strategies to focus on specific programs needing our support. I look forward to playing a role in the development of this coalition as an effective voice in the protection of our public lands and waters.