By Betsy Winter, Executive Director
What do you get when you put hunters, fisherman, farmers, bikers, ranchers, paddlers, climbers, conservationists, tribal leaders, small business owners, local government leaders, federal representatives, mountain guides and the President of the United States all in a room together to discuss the link between conservation and strong economies? You get the White House Conference on Conservation.
The conference, Growing America’s Outdoor Heritage and Economy, held at the Department of Interior on Friday, March 2, explored the link between protecting public lands and strong local economies through tourism, outdoor recreation, and healthy environment.
As the U.S representative for professional mountain guides and climbing instructors, it was a huge honor for the American Mountain Guides Association to have been invited to participate in this monumental event.
It seems everywhere I have been going lately, from Outdoor Retailer tradeshow, to Outdoor Alliance Partnership Summit, to Stanford’s Conference on Commercial Services and the Wilderness Act, everyone is talking about partnerships, and the White House Conference on Conservation was no exception.
The aim of the conference was to bring together key stakeholders from around the nation to strengthen coalitions, explore successful partnerships, and to think collectively about what the future holds for our public lands, waterways and local economies.
With input from Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Ken Salazar, Secretary of Interior; Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture; Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), a select panel of grassroot advocates and President Barack Obama himself, it was clear that connecting people with America’s Great Outdoors, while also preserving our cultural heritage and wilderness legacy, and growing local economies, is something our current administration genuinely cares about and is working hard to address.
What this means for the guiding community is that our government seems to be concerned with many of the same issues that historically have had significant impacts on our profession- access, work visas, job security, and preservation of the land we all love and rely on to make our livings.
As the “uncommon dialogue” becomes more common, the AMGA will continue to advocate for, not only keeping our public lands and vertical wildernesses open to facilitated recreational experiences, but for a streamlined, systematic, and well-founded way to grant access for professional guides, educators and their clients.