Advocating for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area

One of the primary tenants of the Sawtooth Society is to serve as an advocate for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.  But what does that mean?  How does an organization advocate for 760,000 acres of public land?

Upon returning from a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Sawtooth Society Executive Director Gary O’Malley explains.

He says it starts by building awareness both of the Society and of the Sawtooth NRA.  Since O’Malley took the job 6 years ago, he has traveled to D.C. at least once per year to speak directly with members of congress, the Forest Service national office, and the Department of Interior.

O’Malley approaches these various groups by first giving a broad perspective of the SNRA. He focuses on the history of the area, the incredible amount of love and support for the area, and the unique quality of Public Law 92-400, which created the SNRA.

“It is such a unique animal,” O’Malley says, “It is important to accurately portray the special quality of this land.”

O’Malley says the most important part is to build awareness of the area, its issues and the Sawtooth Society and trust in the Society in D.C. After that is established, it is easier to approach the leaders with funding requests or to be heard on issues such as the proposed National Monument.

It is from these relationships that the Sawtooth Society has been able to help get funding for conservation easements, or projects such as the trail from Stanley to Redfish.  This relationship has also helped keep the Society involved in the National Monument issue.  It is because of concerns from the Society and others that momentum around the National Monument slowed and other ideas for protection, such as CIEDRA, were able to resurface.

Lobbying in D.C. is not for everyone.  O’Malley says it takes flexibility and patience.  “You may have two hours to get your point across, or two minutes,” O’Malley says, “With these guys’ crazy schedules, you have to be ready for either.”

Though O’Malley would never want to do it full-time, he says he enjoys his trips to D.C., especially because these trips contribute to preserving and protecting the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.