A seismic shift from fossil fuels to clean energy is underway, and it’s poised to shape our communities for generations to come. What started in states like Colorado is growing nationwide, spurred on by public support, economic trends, more frequent natural disasters, and the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. This is an important moment in the fight for our kids’ future.
I’m a parent and climate advocate who makes my living as an outdoor athlete and adventurer. My job takes me everywhere, from big cities to the most remote places on earth. In the course of those travels, I’ve seen firsthand that what we do in one place has the power to affect everywhere else.
Estes Park is where I grew up and where my wife and I are proud to raise our family today. It’s an incredible mountain town — a jumping-off point for climbing, trail running, backcountry skiing, and more. Like many mountain towns, outdoor recreation is a pillar of our economy.
Last year, Rocky Mountain National Park was the fifth-most visited national park in the country. Its popularity is proof that conservation and recreation can succeed together. We need ongoing climate action to protect the park for future visitors, but there’s more we can do.
Passing the bipartisan America’s Outdoor Recreation Act would support gateway communities like Estes Park and rural economies around the country. It would help ensure that we continue to benefit from the $689 billion in consumer spending that outdoor recreation supported in 2020 alone.
Nationally, the bill would do even more by promoting equitable access to outdoor recreation. It would streamline permitting for guides and outfitters to introduce people to the great outdoors, as well as encourage the development of long-distance mountain biking trails. It would create a pilot program for public-private partnerships to improve campgrounds and ensure that recreation is considered an important use by federal land managers. It also supports FICOR, an interagency commission focused on outdoor recreation.
For rock and ice climbers, there’s even more to like about America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. The bill would protect American climbing history and wilderness climbing to ensure that my kids, and yours, can experience adventures like those that my father and I had more than 35 years ago.
It would keep Wilderness areas pristine while still allowing climbers to ascend and descend technical vertical terrain safely. The Act would promote sustainable Wilderness climbing, avoid unnecessary bureaucracy, and create consistency in Wilderness climbing management. And that’s a big deal because some of my favorite climbing areas — El Capitan in Yosemite and The Diamond in Rocky Mountain National Park — are in Wilderness areas.
Perhaps most importantly, common sense recreation management encourages outdoor recreation advocates to support Wilderness designations, public land conservation, and the just transition to clean energy. Our public lands depend on the recreation community leading on conservation initiatives. Over the past decade, the most important conservation laws were passed because America’s outdoor recreationists stood up for the environment.
In these divisive times, outdoor recreation is remarkably nonpartisan. Who would oppose the health and economic benefits of climbing and other outdoor pursuits? This good bill has bipartisan support. It passed its first committee with a unanimous vote thanks to the work of its sponsors, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Barrasso (R-WY). And did I mention that it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime?
I’m asking the climbing community — and all Coloradans and Americans — to support America’s Outdoor Recreation Act.
What we do in one place has the power to affect everywhere else, particularly when that one place is Washington, D.C. Right now, Congress is on a roll, passing impactful bills that look to the future. While they’ve got momentum, they should work together to pass America’s Outdoor Recreation Act into law.
Tommy Caldwell is a professional rock climber, New York Times bestselling author, and environmental activist.
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