Taking the Sharp End

Categories: Perspectives , Community

~ Zachary Lesch-Huie, Interim Executive Director

There’s a unique feeling you get when your partner passes you the sharp end and says, “Okay, your lead.” It’s some mix of excitement, fear, opportunity, then a clarity of focus on the task at hand. Just climbing.

In early June, Brady Robinson gathered Access Fund staff and broke some big news: He was stepping down as executive director, after almost eleven years leading our organization to unprecedented growth and success, to begin work for Tompkins Conservation, a remarkable group conserving landscapes in Chilean Patagonia and beyond. It was one of those moments full of mixed emotions—happiness for a friend and colleague, sadness at his departure, and questions about the future.

Transition and leadership change are an inherent part of nonprofit life. It is not a question of when, but how. In my role as affiliate director, I’ve worked with local climbing organizations and often given this advice: Devote as much time to succession planning as you do to saving climbing areas. Why? Because the work must continue, because the work is more important than us. The only way our mission advances is by empowering other people, by passing the torch.

The Access Fund board and staff have handed me that torch during this time of transition. After working as the affiliate director and Southeast regional director for almost seven years, I am honored to step into the interim executive director role, on a temporary basis, and guide Access Fund through a critically important leadership transition.

I am happy to report that we could not be in a stronger position, which is a credit to Brady, to our staff, our board, and of course amazing supporters like you. A hallmark of Access Fund has been our laser focus on mission. We aren’t perfect, and we are always striving to be better, but our mission and programs have held steady and kept us on-route for almost three decades.

So, my message to our supporters and partners is this: We are navigating this leadership transition with the same clarity and focus we’ve dedicated to climbing access and conservation since our founding. We will work carefully and diligently to select the next executive director to lead Access Fund. And while we do this, we will stay on route, focused as always on the climbing areas, the people, and the partners that drive our mission to protect America’s climbing.

And while we keep up the intense fight for public lands, we need your help to re-engage on another, critically important piece of our work—climbing area stewardship. Many of our nation’s most popular climbing areas are redlining. The impacts from a growing climbing population are putting many of our treasured climbing areas in peril. And we need your help.

Our work doesn’t stop once access is secured. We are committed to the long-term sustainability of our climbing areas, and there’s a pressing need to scale up efforts to manage the impacts from a growing climbing community. You'll be hearing more from us in the coming months on stewardship challenges and what you can do to help. It’s going to take all of us working together.

If you're interested in throwing your hat in the ring to lead Access Fund as the next executive director, check out the job description and application details here.

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