SNEWS coverage of Moving Mountains applauded

As one of the original participants in the Moving Mountains Award program, I’d like to commend you for your analysis of the program published in this week's SNEWS. The founding goal of the program was simple. We wanted to recognize and honor the businesses that were going and above and beyond the norm in supporting the outdoor recreation community. That goal was achieved during the first three years, with three incredibly deserving companies —REI, Patagonia, and Cascade Designs—earning the award. But the Moving Mountains Award program has struggled since its inception.
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As one of the original participants in the Moving Mountains Award program, I'd like to commend you for your analysis of the program published in this week's SNEWS. The founding goal of the program was simple. We wanted to recognize and honor the businesses that were going and above and beyond the norm in supporting the outdoor recreation community. That goal was achieved during the first three years, with three incredibly deserving companies —REI, Patagonia, and Cascade Designs—earning the award.

But the Moving Mountains Award program has struggled since its inception. Many of the problems we faced were inherent to the nature of our coalition. The Moving Mountains Coalition comprised a diverse group of recreation-based non-profit organizations—each with its own set of goals and priorities. As is the nature of non-profits, each person who participated in Moving Mountains was already overworked with their own association's program, so scratching time out for Moving Mountains was difficult. Also we were scattered around the country, requiring that all meetings be teleconferenced or virtual via email—when you can't meet face-to-face, you lose a lot of the subtle interactions that smooth over differences and improve relations. Given those factors, getting these people together to commit time and energy to a common cause was difficult at best.

As a result, though we all believed in the goals of Moving Mountains, we faced commitment issues from the participating members. It fell to just a few people to pull the entire program together and keep it afloat. A handful of individuals really excelled in helping out each year, but Chris Chesak deserves the lions share of the credit for making this program survive and thrive as long as it has, and he was helped every step of the way by Sally Grimes.

But even recognizing those inherent difficulties, the state of the fourth Moving Mountains Award is troubling. I'm sure there is a truly deserving company in the slate of six nominees this year, yet part of the entire Awards program was simply honoring deserving companies through nomination. According to our own guidelines for the Award, only one company can win, but the nominations were meant to be meaningful in and of themselves.

I firmly believe the outdoor community needs to publicly thank and honor those companies that are helping preserve our wild lands and the recreational opportunities on those lands. Standing outside the process this year (I left my position at Washington Trails Association to pursue other passions) I see things with more clarity. Honoring these wonderfully giving companies is important, but I don't know that the non-profit sector is the best manager of the award program. Perhaps the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) could pick up the pieces of the Moving Mountains Award. They could (and should) continue to use the non-profit organizations as advisers to help nominate deserving companies, but the member companies of OIA should vote on the final slate of candidates. Make it a true industry award. (And I'd encourage OIA to try to hire Chris Chesak as a consultant, at the very least— if he's willing—to help form the program).

In the end, this award isn't about the non-profit associations. It's not about the individuals working with the Moving Mountains Coalition. It's about the companies. The businesses that give priority to their commitment to our community.

With or without an award, these companies— companies like REI and Patagonia and Cascade Designs—will continue to Move Mountains in support of our wild lands and our recreation community. For that, I thank them and all businesses like them. -- Dan A. Nelson was formerly with the non-profit Washington Trails. Currently, he is the executive editor of Hang Gliding & Paragliding magazine. Comments on this viewpoint should be directed to SNEWS at: editorial@snewsnet.com.

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