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The Conservation Alliance: Industry presenting greatest unified voice for public land protection in decades

More than ever, outdoor industry leaders are coming together to bring a unified message to D.C. about the importance of protecting landscapes.

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It’s a simple fact that our population is growing and the amount of open space is shrinking. America’s landscapes provide vast opportunities to recreate outside, and these opportunities are what attracted most of us to a career in the outdoor industry. More than ever before, outdoor industry leaders are coming together to bring a unified message to Washington, D.C. about the importance of protecting these landscapes. The message is simple: protecting public land and waterways creates jobs and is good for the outdoor recreation economy.

Nearly 30 representatives from Conservation Alliance member companies and grantees joined the Outdoor Industry Association and the Outdoor Alliance for two days in Washington, D.C. in March. The trip included a full day of education, providing participants with training on conservation policy topics such as wilderness, national monuments, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s arctic, and the prospects for conservation legislation passing in 2015.

The group met with 22 congressional and administrative offices to voice business support for legislation to protect wild lands and waterways. “We take a long view on the outdoor industry business ecosystem, which includes the support and commitment from all levels of leadership in Washington, D.C.,” said Scott Whipps, director of Sports Retail at Clif Bar & Company and chair of The Conservation Alliance board. “The relationships we’re building today will help protect the outdoors, and our industry, for generations to come.”

Conservation Alliance member Hal Ellms from Pinnacle Outdoor Group said: “I am selling gear to the local shop, the customer is buying the gear and supporting local jobs, and then they use the gear on land that I played a role in preserving. It’s important to me to understand how this process works.”

The group met with representatives from the Department of the Interior (DOI), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Forest Service. John Sterling, executive director of The Conservation Alliance, delivered 400 post card to CEQ asking President Obama to designate three new National Monuments – Browns Canyon (CO), Berryessa Snow Mountain (CA), and the Boulder White Clouds (ID). (CEQ is a part of the Executive Office of the President that vets National Monument designations). With help from The Wilderness Society, The Conservation Alliance collected these post cards from outdoor industry brands and retailers during The Conservation Alliance Breakfast event at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

“After a few decades of our industry’s annual visits to lobby in D.C., it was gratifying to experience our maturing lobbying professionalism, the growing relationships, and increasing respect that the federal agencies, congressional offices, and our friends in the conservation community have for the industry’s ability to influence policy,” said Peter Metcalf, founder of Black Diamond Equipment. “For the first time in my more than two decades of going to D.C. we had a thoughtfully coordinated and collaborative alignment between OIA, user advocacy groups and the Conservation Alliance which are and should be the three synergistic pillars of our industry’s ability to most successfully impact public.”

This week, Outdoor Industry Association holds its annual Capitol Summit, which will bring 55 industry leaders to D.C. for a week of training and lobbying for policies that benefit the industry, conservation, and recreation. The outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million jobs and contributes $646 billion to the economy. The industry is more focused than ever on promoting that economic value by demanding federal policies that benefit outdoor recreation and conservation.

“Over the past quarter of a century, we as an industry have diligently built our strength,” added Metcalf. “But we must actively use it for it not to atrophy, and that responsibility belongs to all of us.”

–Josie Norris and John Sterling, The Conservation Alliance