The Access Fund and American Alpine club are gathering once again in Washington, D.C., this week, May 9-11, with a host of high-profile climbers to lobby Congress on a handful of national issues affecting public lands, the environment and outdoor recreation.
This is the third annual Climb the Hill event, but only the second time it has included such a large delegation of about 50 people. The list of participants this year includes Quinn Brett, Majka Burhardt, Tommy Caldwell, Sasha DiGiulian, Caroline Gleich, Margo Hayes, Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold, Bethany Lebewitz, Mikhail Martin, Maricela Rosales, Chelsea Rude, Libby Sauter, Forrest Shearer, Geoff Unger, Jessica Yang and Alina Zagaytova. Several of them are returning from last year’s event.
As before, the Access Fund and AAC will be joined by nonprofit partners that include Outdoor Alliance (OA), Latino Outdoors, Brothers of Climbing, Brown Girls Climb, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) and the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). Prominent outdoor industry executives are present as well.
Today the delegates met with representatives, senators and other government officials to discuss matters pertaining to the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (which expires this October), the Antiquities Act and energy development. An outline of these topics with additional links can be found here.
The Antiquities Act and Bears Ears National Monument were the big issues last spring, and they remain as pertinent as ever, though media coverage has quieted since President Donald Trump drastically reduced Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante Monuments in December, which resulted in multiple lawsuits being filed by Native American tribes, the Access Fund, AAC and many others. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has continued to push for more energy development on public lands and environmental deregulation.
Of key concern this year in addition to the previous topics is the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Climb the Hill webpage reads:
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is one of our nation’s most successful conservation tools, but–without action from Congress–this popular, bipartisan program will expire in September. The LWCF was created in 1965 with $900 million authorized per year for the acquisition of land and water to protect natural treasures, with an emphasis on recreation. Funds can be used to acquire federal land, as well as land for state or local governments through the State Matching Grants program. LWCF funds have been used to purchase or improve well over a dozen climbing areas, and the program has proven to be a critical way to improve our public lands system.
The fourth topic, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, is a bi-partisan bill intended to update “an outdated and complex recreation permitting system” that is currently used by federal land management agencies, and “makes it difficult for outfitters and guides to obtain permits, discouraging the guiding industry,” according to the event webpage.
The Access Fund estimates that nearly 60 percent of all rock climbing areas in the U.S. are located on federal public land.
Alpinist will follow up with more coverage on Climb the Hill 2018 in the near future. A comprehensive background on the issues surrounding the altered national monuments, public lands and the Antiquities Act can be found here.