Sierra CAMP & sustainable recreation

Simone Cordery-Cotter

Simone Cordery-Cotter

Climate Analyst

It may seem strange that a climate collaborative is hosting a panel discussion on recreation, economic recovery, and equity. What in the world does any of this have to do with climate change and adaptation? The answer is everything.

Recreation is frequently the economic engine in rural mountain towns, and COVID-19 has had a whiplash effect on those economies. Early shutdowns brought the ski industry grinding to a halt, and with it, much of the visitorship that communities like Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, and Mammoth Lakes rely on to close out the season with positive cash flow.

However, with the arrival of summer, mountain communities are seeing an unceasing flow of visitors come to ride bikes, swim, camp, and hike all over the Sierra Nevada. Previously remote campsites and backcountry wilderness areas are seeing higher rates of visitors than ever before, simply because of two factors. People want to do things, and outdoor recreation is a low-risk activity. Groups that would normally spend their summer weekends going to concerts or baseball games or festivals are finding that outdoor recreation is one of the few avenues left open. So when the mountains call, they must go.

Set against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a global pandemic that has laid bare systemic racism and economic inequities, the current climate begs the question of how to make the outdoors accessible for everyone, not just for people with the means to buy expensive equipment and take time off work for multi-day excursions. How can people in mountain communities be part of the solution in breaking down barriers for people of color to more equitably access the outdoors as it transforms from one option among many to the only option for being active? 

As part of our racial and climate justice commitment, Sierra CAMP wants to explore and implement solutions. The reason is multi-faceted. This panel discussion aims to explore the nexus of recreation, economies, and equity, and climate change is the common thread that runs through those three elements. Recreation depends on a livable climate, and communities in our region rely on recreation for healthy economic activity, which has become all the more important as local governments see resources strained by shutdowns and reallocated toward pandemic response.

And because there is no climate justice until there is racial justice, equity must be considered in all of these conversations. There is no just recovery without direct solutions aimed at addressing systemic racism and oppression. And at the heart of this discussion is the question of sustainability – how do mountain communities become welcoming to all while maintaining the quality of their public lands and natural spaces? There has to be a solution, and we want to be part of building it.

Sierra CAMP’s parent organization, Sierra Business Council, does have a substantial track record in policy-driven change and collaboration. Our organization’s work on Proposition 68 in 2018 was key to ensuring that regional interests were well-represented while helping address larger issues at hand for the state. We hope to build the foundation of understanding for collaboratively creating and implementing solutions, and we sincerely hope you’ll join us.

Register here for our virtual discussion panel taking place from 12:30-2pm on Monday, August 24th.

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