Whether federal, county, state, or municipal, the job of a public land manger is a tough juggling act. Because public lands serve a wide spectrum of user groups, land managers are constantly working to balance the needs of visitors with the mission of their land agency and protection of resources—all with limited budget and staff.
We encourage climbing advocates to take the time to understand the mission and culture of the land agency before engaging on an issue. Start by researching the staff structure and identifying any relevant land management documents for the area and whether they are currently being revised. Having this background information will help you understand relevant rules and regulations and allow you to talk to land managers in their language.
Keep in mind that public land managers hear complaints and criticisms every day. It is important to develop a rapport with the land manager while clearly articulating a problematic issue. Building a relationship is the best way to earn trust, and a trusting land manager will listen to climber concerns and be more inclined to help solve climber problems.
And remember, a successful advocate provides solutions and recommendations that are realistic within the confines of an agency’s bureaucracy. This is where your research comes in.