What the Election Results Mean for Climbing

11/09/2018

The dust has settled on the 2018 Mid-Term Election, and the next Congress will look much different from that of the past two years. The House of Representatives has flipped from a Republican majority to a Democratic majority, meaning Congress will no longer be controlled by a single party. A Democratic majority in the House means that Democrats will soon lead all the House committees, deciding which House bills move forward and controlling oversight of House matters. In contrast, Republicans gained some power in the Senate.

So, what does this mean for climbing?


Photo courtesy of © Andrew Burr

With 60% of climbing located on federally managed public lands, the biggest impact for our sport will be around the conservation of public lands. The Antiquities Act, the Roadless Rule, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are three key laws that we rely on to conserve climbing landscapes, protect recreation experiences, and give the public (including climbers) the opportunity to provide input on the management of our shared public lands. The current Congress has aggressively worked to undermine all three of these laws.

A new, bipartisan Congress will have more checks and balances to help prevent important conservation laws from being diminished—improving Access Fund’s ability to protect climbing areas on public lands.

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Perhaps most noteworthy to climbers, is that the chair of the important House Natural Resources Committee will be taken from Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, a vocal opponent of the Antiquities Act and Bears Ears National Monument. We expect this important position to be handed to Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, a staunch defender of conservation values, Native American rights, and our public lands.

We’ve worked extensively with Congressman Grijalva, and he has supported Access Fund’s efforts to protect Oak Flat in Arizona from being transferred to a foreign mining company, resulting in the largest potential loss of American climbing resources in history. Grijalva also supports the original Bears Ears National Monument boundary as well as appropriate levels of funding for our National Parks and other public land agencies. Grijalva has also been clear in his desire to elevate the investigations regarding Secretary of Interior Zinke’s ethics to the Department of Justice.

All in all, the election results are generally good for the climbing community, and we expect these changes will help slow down the attacks on our public lands. However, now is not the time to become complacent. Threats to public lands remain very real. Public land detractors will continue to introduce bills that could harm our environment and weaken our public land management agencies. And the Department of Interior will continue to be administered by political appointees that prioritize energy development above recreation and conservation values.

We need to keep the pressure on by actively advocating for public lands protection, commenting on management plans and energy leases, and speaking directly with our congressional representatives about the great values of climbing and human-powered recreation.

On a final note, we’re hopeful that the lame duck Congress will be able to pass a package of lands bills before year-end, including the Emery County Public Land Management Act, the Restore our Parks Act, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, and Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization. If Congress can not move public lands legislation, we expect to see more State ballot initiatives in future elections, such as the recent Georgia initiative that proposed State-based conservation funding mechanisms to solve natural resource issues while Congress was jammed with gridlock.

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