Professional climbers stormed Capital Hill this weekend to meet with politicians in the hopes of convincing the administration to take more steps to protect public lands. Big names like Tommy Caldwell, Lynn Hill, Margo Hayes, and Alex Honnold represented the American Alpine Club (AAC) and Access Fund during the third annual Climb the Hill event.
These organizations tally roughly 6.8 million U.S. climbers and 41,000 members who are dedicated to public land conservation. Given that an estimated 60% of all U.S. rock climbing areas are located on federal lands, Climb the Hill aims to give a voice to climbers who are standing up for the federal lands where they live out their dreams. "With so many attacks on public lands, this is the time to work together and galvanize climbers," AAC Policy Director Maria Povec said in a Climb the Hill press release.
(Of course, mentioning the $887 billion that outdoor recreation brings to public lands annually didn’t hurt the climbers’ arguments for preservation either. Nor do the 144.4 million Americans who visit public lands for recreation every year.)
The event culminated with 62 separate meetings and 13 teams of athletes and advocates. It was hosted by Washington State Democrat, Senator Maria Cantwell, who is a member on the energy and natural resources committee, the committee that oversees public lands. Cantwell explained the impact that the climbers conveyed to lawmakers: “What you saw is real-life enthusiasm, passion and an understanding about the American outdoors that translates across the world. They communicated that.”
This year’s event focused on urging federal administrators and lawmakers to protect the Antiquities Act, which gives the president the authority to designate an area as a national monument. The Antiquities Act is facing threats from the Trump administration and Congress – proposed legislation would require Congressional, state or local approval for the designation of new national monuments under the act. The significant size reductions in both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments have also threatened the Act’s power.
The climbers also called attention to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Created in 1965, the LWCF allows for the purchase of land and water in order to protect national treasures or promote recreation. Many climbing areas have been acquired and improved through the Fund. The climbers encouraged lawmakers to permanently reauthorize the Fund in September when it will be up for renewal.
“Climb The Hill is an incredible opportunity to bring the climbing community together and ensure we have a seat at the decision-making table,” Povec told SGB Media. “It’s a privilege to lead this project with our partners at Access Fund who have spent years working on policy issues and meeting with lawmakers.”