When I spend I week in Washington DC — as I did last week along with IMBA's Government Affairs Director Jenn Dice and some of our important advocacy partners — I keep IMBA members and supporters at the forefront my thoughts. I'm there to represent your interests, as our team meets with key agency and legislative leaders.
As I headed back home after four days of back-to-back-to-back meetings, I wondered, "Were we heard — did we move the needle?"
Last week's lobbying effort had even greater impact because of the participation of some key IMBA partners. While I'd like to think that mountain biking interests are always in mind for government leaders, well, that might be a stretch. So, as we hit the Hill and spent significant time with federal agency decision-makers, it was great to stand alongside two very important partners to reinforce IMBA's message.
The first partner is the Outdoor Alliance, a coalition that IMBA helped to organize six years ago and is made up of six, national member-supported groups. These groups represent active outdoor recreation enthusiasts from the worlds of hiking, climbing, skiing and paddling. Like IMBA and our members, they care very much about conserving and protecting our public lands and waters.
The second key partner that bolstered our work last week was the bicycle industry, represented by some great advocates. Two of them are also IMBA board members: Chris Conroy, President of Yeti Bicycles; and Elayna Caldwell, Interbike's Marketing Director. In addition, Bob Burns, General Counsel for Trek Bicycles and Cindy Woods, Marketing Diretor for Gore also joined IMBA's team in DC.
The message that bike industry brings to IMBA's lobbying work is critical, and especially so in this Congress that is hyper-focused on the economy and jobs. I am really grateful to the industry leaders who took time to join us, and all those in the bicycle industry that invest time and money in advocacy.
But the question remains: Were we heard, and did our presence matter?
Of course we can't know the answers just yet — not until decisions are finalized by our government regarding how our public lands and waters are managed. There are some tough decisions being made in this current session of Congress, as well as with the federal agencies. These decisions will effect not just federal lands but state and local public lands. (To learn more and to take action on current key advocacy issues affecting mountain biking, please see our Take Action section of IMBA.com.)
I can confidently tell you this much: Had IMBA not shown up in DC, there's no chance that mountain biker's interests would have been voiced.
You know that weird saying about it being hard to prove a negative? That's kind of how IMBA's advocacy work, especially in DC, typically goes down. Like the proverbial tree that falls in the woods with no one there to hear it, no one took notice of the bad that didn't happen because IMBA showed up and spoke up on behalf of mountain biking.
It's only when the tree crashes loudly — if a trail closes or a park closes or the new trail project you have worked on for a decade gets shelved because no funding is available — that's when we take notice. The reality of today's political and economic climate is that IMBA's advocacy work must simply keep the bad at bay. I believe that's what we accomplished last week.
We showed up, and we spoke up for mountain bikers.