Supporting outside recreation has by no means been extra essential


A seismic shift from fossil fuels to clean energy is underway and will shape our communities for generations to come. What began in states like Colorado is growing nationwide, spurred 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 children’s future.

I’m a parent and climate activist who makes my living as an outdoor sports enthusiast and adventurer. My job takes me everywhere, from big cities to the most remote places on earth. Over the course of these journeys, I’ve seen firsthand that what we do in one place has the power to have an impact anywhere else.

I grew up in Estes Park and today my wife and I take pride in raising our family. It’s an incredible mountain town – a hub for rock climbing, trail running, backcountry skiing and more. As in 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 thrive together. We need ongoing climate action to protect the park for future visitors, but there is more we can do.

Passing the bipartisan America’s Outdoor Recreation Act would support gateway communities like Estes Park and rural economies across the country. It would help ensure we continue to benefit from the $689 billion in consumer spending that has supported outdoor recreation in 2020 alone.

At the national level, the bill would do even more by promoting equal access to outdoor recreation. It would simplify permits for guides and outfitters to introduce people to the great outdoors and encourage the development of long-distance mountain bike trails. It would create a pilot public-private partnership program to improve campgrounds and ensure recreation is viewed as an important use by state lands administrators. 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 law would protect American climbing history and wilderness climbing to ensure my children and yours can experience adventures like my dad 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 with confidence. The law 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 crags — 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 designation, conservation of public spaces and just transition to clean energy. Our public lands depend on the recreation community to advance conservation initiatives. In the last decade, major conservation laws have been passed because America’s outdoor recreational athletes have championed the environment.

In these divisive times, outdoor recreation is remarkably impartial. Who would oppose the health and economic benefits of rock climbing and other outdoor activities? This good bill has bipartisan support. It passed its first committee unanimously, thanks to the work of its sponsors, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Barrasso (R-WY). And did I mention it wouldn’t cost the taxpayer a penny?

I call on the climbing community – and all Colorado residents and Americans – to support America’s Outdoor Recreation Act.

What we do in one place has the power to affect anywhere else, especially when that one place is Washington, DC. Right now, Congress is in full swing passing impactful bills that look to the future. While they’re gaining momentum, they should work together to enact America’s Outdoor Recreation Act.

Tommy Caldwell is a professional rock climber, New York Times bestselling author, and environmental activist.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit it online or see our guidelines for submitting it by email or post.