What We’re Talking About at the 8th Biennial Grassroots Advocacy Conference

This week, we are hosting our 8th Biennial Grassroots Advocacy Conference in Boise, Idaho, and we couldn’t be more excited. It’s an opportunity to learn and to share alongside people who are passionate about public lands, recreation, the great outdoors, wild places.

This year’s theme is “Growing Equity on Public Lands.” We don’t have all the answers. But we want to ask questions. We want to learn. We want to hear about diverse experiences and perspectives. We want to absorb relevant information. We want to get everyone in the same room to have meaningful dialogue, to rumble with the hard things, so we can all take steps to make a positive impact. (And after all these deep conversations, you bet we’ll be kicking back and having fun at the World Premiere of the Backcountry Film Festival on Friday night. Come Saturday, we’re dressing up early for Halloween and doing the ski boot jig on the dance floor at Snowball.)

Here’s a look at some of the conversations that we’ll be having with a solid lineup of speakers who are joining us from across the country. They are community organizers, government employees, nonprofit workers, journalists, policy directors, professors, lawyers, scientists, tourism officials, and more. They are also skiers, paddlers, climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, mountain guides, fly fishers, among others.

Keynote by James Edward Mills
When: 6:30pm on Thursday, October 24, at the Basque Center
A journalist whose work specializes in stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, and sustainable living, James Edward Mills will start the conference with a keynote talk about “Growing Equity on Public Lands.”

There Is Room for Everyone—How to Embrace Diversity
When: 9am on Friday, October 25
Let’s keep the conversation going. Panelists include Jolie Varela, Justin Forrest Parks, Theresa Simsiman. Varela is a citizen of the Nüümü and Yokut Nations. She is the founder of Indigenous Women Hike. Forrest Parks is a climber, mountaineer, outdoor enthusiast and community advocate. He is the co-founder of Sending in Color and a coalition member at Diversify Outdoors. Simsiman is the California Stewardship Director for American Whitewater.

Planning the Future of Public Lands
When: 10am on Friday, October 25
This isn’t speculation. We will hear from people on-the-ground experience. Panelists include Alison Flint, the director of litigation and agency policy at The Wilderness Society; Francisco Valenzuela, a retired professional with the U.S. Forest Service who co-authored “Recreation Equity: Is the Forest Service serving its diverse publics?”; and Hilary Eisen, policy director at Winter Wildlands Alliance.

Messaging the Sacred
When: 11am on Friday, October 25
This is all about the bigger picture. Panelists include Charles Wolf Drimal of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition; Darren Parry, chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation; Midy Aponte, senior vice president of Spitfire Communications, where she works with foundations like World Resources Institute, Ford Foundation, and the Environmental Defense Fund; and Laura Yale, a Colorado-based filmmaker who has produced award-winning documentaries like Jumbo Wild and Treeline.

Wolverines and Winter Recreation
When: 1pm on Friday, October 25
Outdoor recreation has a big impact on wildlife. This presentation will look specifically at wolverines and winter recreation, led by Winter Wildlands Alliance Policy Director Hilary Eisen, who recently tracked wolverines in Mongolia. Eisen will be joined by Dr. Kimberly Heinemeyer, a scientist who studies the ecology of mid-sized carnivores in the Rocky Mountains.

Experiential Education: Passing the Knowledge
When: 2pm on Friday, October 25
Winter Wildlands Alliance Director of SnowSchool Kerry McClay will be leading this workshop, with Salome Mwangi, who works with the Idaho Office for Refugees.

How Do We Pay For It? New Strategies for Funding Public Lands
When: 9am on Saturday, October 26
A really good question, with insight from people who follow the money. Panelists include John Gardner, who is the senior director for budget and appropriations at National Parks Conservation Association; Louis Geltman, policy director at Outdoor Alliance; and Susan James, an avid pursuer of outdoor adventure with an unexpected career in public land management, most recently with the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

The Outdoor Economy: Is It Ruining the Outdoors?
When: 10am on Saturday, October 26
We can all agree that outdoor recreation is good thing, except when it runs smack into big issues like over-tourism, sustainability, and a lack of affordable housing. Our panelists approach this issue from every vantage: Lucy Kay, CEO of the Breckenridge Tourism Office; Danna Stroud, executive director of Travel Paso and formerly with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy; Todd Walton, executive director of Winter Wildlands Alliance with a career in PR in the outdoor industry; and Yoon Kim, founder of Outdoor Media Summit and Blogs for Brands.

E-Recreation: A Brave New World?
When: 11am on Saturday, October 26
E-bikes are no longer a fringe sport. They are shifting recreation on public lands. To help us understand what this means, and the stakes at hand, our panelists include Todd Keller, director of government affairs for the International Mountain Bicycling Association; Brad Brooks, acting senior director of agency policy and planning for The Wilderness Society; John Wentworth, member of the Town Council at Mammoth Lakes and chairman and CEO of the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation.

Climate Science Into Action: What Can We Do?
When: 1pm on Saturday, October 26
Empowering the audience with knowledge and opportunities for action, snow scientist and glaciologist Hans-Peter Marshall will be presenting with Kerry McClay, director of SnowSchool. The Marshall and McClay have sparked a partnership between NASA and Winter Wildlands Alliance, empowering kids to help scientists measure and monitor the snowpack.

Collaboration: Three Case Studies
When: 2pm on Saturday, October 26
This is how things get done. Panelists include Erik Murdock, policy director at the Access Fund; Mike Fiebig, river protection director for the Southwest U.S. at American Rivers; and Tony Ferlisi, executive director of Mountain Bike the Tetons.