Men's Journal

Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, and Other Climbers Take to Capitol Hill to Fight for Public Lands

On May 11 several prominent rock climbers joined the American Alpine Club, Access Fund, Adidas, and other outdoor industry representatives on Capitol Hill to advocate for maintaining public-land protections and climbing access.

The second-annual “Climb the Hill” event was hosted by two rock climbing non-profits, the American Alpine Club and the Access Fund, and sponsored by Adidas. It aimed to “advocate for public lands, outdoor recreation, and improved climbing management,” according to the AAC. The Access Fund estimates that 60 percent of rock climbing areas in the United States are on federal land.

Sasha DiGiulian, Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Conrad Anker, Kai Lightner, Libby Sauter, Caroline Gleich, and 38 other representatives spoke with federal-land policy makers and Congressional representatives — including former vice presidential candidate and current U.S. Senator for Virginia Tim Kaine — about their opposition to privatizing federal land.

“Outdoor athletes have an intimate relationship with these lands because we’re out in them almost every day,” says professional climber Tommy Caldwell. “Hopefully, relating our personal stories to these policy makers showed them how much the climbing community cares about protecting public access.”

The coalition also discussed the importance of preserving the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives the President of the United States the power to create national monuments. In April the Trump Administration debuted an executive order calling for the Department of Interior to review all national monuments established within the past 21 years for possible disbandment.

“Write letters to the Department of Interior and call, email, and tweet at Secretary Ryan Zinke,” says professional climber Libby Sauter. “Policy is determined by those who show up. The climbing community continues to grow. Together, we have a powerful voice.”

Since the Outdoor Industry Association began hosting an annual summit in Washington, D.C., a few years back, public land protection and environmentalism have become major issues for the outdoor recreation industry’s nascent, but powerful, lobby.

A 2011 report by the Outdoor Industry Foundation cited the outdoor recreation economy at $646 billion. In February Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Polartec, and other prominent companies successfully threatened to boycott the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer Convention in Salt Lake City after Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution asking President Trump to abolish the 1.35-millon acre Bears Ears National Monument. Emerald Expositions, which owns the show, is searching for a new host city — the move will cost Salt Lake $45 million annually.

“I think allocating public land was one of America’s greatest ideas,” says Sauter. “Their continued protection ensures that generations to come will get to experience the same wild, remote beauty that shaped my life for the better.”