A Trip to Washington D.C. with The Conservation Alliance

Two weeks ago I was sitting inside a very clean, very professional Pew Charitable Trust office building — nearly across the street from the White House. The Conservation Alliance’s annual DC trip was not only different in that the amount of people joining had doubled in size, but this time, the invitation list was extended out to CA ambassadors from member companies, user groups and other conservation groups. The camaraderie was incredible and I was humbled by the passion in the room as CA board members, leaders in the industry and leaders in the conservation effort demonstrated tremendous dedication and knowledge of public lands protection.

The training in the Pew office was upbeat and enthusiastic, full of passionate minds and public lands enthusiasts speaking of their desire to protect the places where we all play. The following day we took to the Capital to meet with our local Senators and Representatives to express our gratitude for their effort in specific conservation legislation and for readdressing and reaffirming the economic and recreational benefits of protecting public lands.

Learning from Conservation experts, drinking from my Klean, and snacking on the newest Kit's Organic flavor from CLIF.

Learning from Conservation experts, drinking from my Klean, and snacking on the newest Kit’s Organic flavor from CLIF.

Rather than share all 40 pages of notes I took, I decided to share three themes from the 72 hours spent in our Nation’s Capital.

1.       There is an economic interest in public land protection.

Outdoor Recreation (including tourism) is a $650B industry and is directly responsible for 6.1 million jobs. Both Red and Blue folks like jobs, like to play outside and enjoy the benefits of fresh air and open spaces to recreate. The outdoor industry can think of itself as creating ‘green jobs’ because our product is technology. We create technology, or product, that allows our consumers to engage with outdoor spaces.

2.       There is a process in Washington that must be acknowledged.

While we are used to the private sector, which is primarily results driven, Washington, or the public sector, tends to be much more concerned with the process by which results happen. Therefore, we must always remember to understand the process and be inclusive, keep all necessary parties informed of all initiatives and always look for opportunities to bring public support into the inclusive conversation.

3.       Show and share our alignment!

It’s absolutely imperative for us to be organized, work as a collective unit and present our ideas in an organized and to-the-point manner. We need to take the time to engage with all involved parties and devise plans by which all (or most) parties are happy. Let’s not forget about the timber industry and motorized recreation groups. We need to understand their side of the coin so we can be successful. To be successful, we must have clear objectives, demonstrate our alignment and have real-life examples of far-reaching public support. How does education and conservation intertwine? What’s the balance of recreation, conservation and the natural resource industry?

Long story short: the trip was invaluable. What a wonderful experience it was to personally interact with our country’s elected decision makers to present our collective interests. It was truly an incredible experience and an honor to be in the presence of such passionate individuals working towards our common objectives. The entire industry should be wholeheartedly proud of the tremendous effort and great work the Conservation Alliance does each and every day to protect the places where we all play.

Proud and Humbled,

Kirsten Blackburn