It’s been two days of back to back appointments here in DC. Our fearless and “power-suited” leader, John Sterling said that we broke the record for appointments! Along the way we have had some great meetings and interactions. Here are some highlights:
David Brooks and the team at the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. They have a great addition in Mike Gauthier, former lead climbing ranger for Mount Rainier National Park. He’s hung up his crampons for some time in DC and we expect to see him in the Department of Interior next year. It was great listening to Mike and Conrad share climbing stories over dinner last night.
Congressman John Salazar (CO) joined us in our meeting and expressed confidence that the San Juan Wilderness Bill (in Osprey’s backyard) will go forward soon. The congressman is unpretentious, approachable and humble. He even makes his own photocopies (rather than asking a staffer) and he insisted on a photo-op before we even had time to ask.
Congressman Grijalva (NM) is dedicated to the designation of the Tumacacori Highlands as wilderness and dropped in on our meeting to say so.
The Montana Senator’s breakfast was a blast. With some key Montana wilderness on the line, it was great to see Senator Max Baucus (MT) engage with Conrad immediately. He really wants to go to Everest Base Camp - a key opportunity for Conrad to engage the Senator on wilderness.
Peter Fischer, chief of staff for Senator Mike Crapo (ID) treated us to lunch in the Senate Dining Room. Only Senator’s and their Chief of Staff’s are allowed in – we got to take the train that whisks Senators from their offices to the Floor and the Senate sightings at lunch were frequent. We had some great discussion on creating wilderness in balance with other needs in Western states – taking all stakeholders needs into account.
The meet and greet with Senator Mark Udall (CO) really took this type of interaction to a new level. The Senator spoke to the constituents present eloquently and thoroughly about the challenges and work past and ahead. Each and every person in the room was able to introduce themselves. As an adept and experience climber, the Senator was quite thrilled to see Conrad in the room and most of our one on one conversation with him revolved around climbing. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of work needed to engage the Senator with the Outdoor Industry. He is a true friend and ally.
While energy policy and health care reform are the dominant issues in Washington these days, there is no doubt in my mind that bright days are ahead for continued protection of key wild places throughout America. Our industry has weathered the economic downturn relatively well and no matter their level of enthusiasm towards wilderness, it seems that most of our elected officials recognize the economic viability of the outdoor industry. Further, they are truly impressed by the engagement of the Conservation Alliance in supporting the protection of wild places in a manner that truly engages grassroots support from all stakeholders and in a way that is politically and economically feasible.