03/22/2022

Advocate Spotlight: Eric Ruljancich

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When it comes to sustainable climbing areas, Eric Ruljancich is a pure role model. With a long track record of climbing advocacy for the Tucson region, Eric sets a high bar for anyone committed to keeping climbing areas open and conserved. Not only did Eric play a critical role in the founding of the highly successful Climbing Association of Southern Arizona (CASA), he continues to lead their stewardship and volunteer trail efforts every season. Eric somehow manages to continue donating his expertise and leadership while running a full time trail construction business—a true advocate and dedicated steward that the climbing community is lucky to count as one of our own.

5 Questions with Eric Ruljancich

What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now?
While there are many worthwhile causes, my favorite is stewardship. I believe that engaging people to help protect our climbing areas—and in turn protecting access to our climbing areas—is paramount. Once you spend a few hours building steps or picking up trash, you’ll never look at climbing areas or trails the same. Embedding a sense of ownership and responsibility within our climbing community will go a long way to ensuring that we all get the opportunity to experience the joy of climbing. In addition to this, stewardship is a small example of a community coming together collaboratively to build a better future—something that goes way beyond climbing.

What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate?
Personally I simply see myself as a person who loves climbing, being in the outdoors, and helping my community. With that framework, many of us are already advocates—we just aren't actively embracing it. When I started climbing, I didn't realize that I could be an advocate, that I could become part of the climbing community that was giving back. And that to me is what being a climbing advocate means, to give back to this sport and this community that gives us all so much.

What’s your advice to new advocates?
Pace yourself. There is much to do, but you don't have to carry all the gear. Realize your limitations and set reasonable goals about what you wish to accomplish. Recognize that you don't have to do it all yourself. Look for support from other advocates and your community. If you burn out quickly, you won't be able to do all the good things you want to. Make sure to keep climbing and doing the things you love—motivation and excitement are important parts of being an advocate.

What surprised/challenged/excited you the most about getting into the advocacy world?
One of the challenges I see in the climbing community is a lack of knowledge about the public land that we climb on. A better understanding of the land management systems that take care of the land we use—whether federal, state, indigenous, or private—can go a long way to helping climbers work with them to protect climbing areas and access to them. At the same time, it's exciting because through the work of advocates and local climbing organizations (LCOs) this knowledge gap is beginning to close up. Many land managers are starting to work with climbers on a collaborative basis to help each other. This work and education is critical as more and more climbers discover the joy of climbing on public lands.

Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now?
In some ways, I'm more inspired by all those who support climbing advocacy with small and large contributions than by those who take the spotlight. Every single person who has supported me in my advocacy has made my work possible. Without the help of the community, my goals for stewardship could not be achieved. Advocates depend on everyone contributing time, energy, or money to make good things happen. While I'm honored to be recognized as an advocate, I'd be remiss to not recognize everyone who has helped and supported my efforts. The generosity of my community is what inspires me the most.

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Climbing Advocate Resources

What does it mean to be a climbing advocate? Lots of different things. Here are a few resources to explore.