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The importance of outdoor communication

And what OWAA is doing to protect it

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It’s no secret that as outdoor communicators we have a great job. How often has someone expressed incredulity that you go hunting, or fishing or hiking — for work?
As fun as our job is, it’s also incredibly important.
We report on the health of our wildlife populations and their habitat and how our public land is managed. Historically it has been the words and images of journalists that showed the public the majesty and importance of protecting wild places. But we can’t perform that duty of informing the public without access.
Having met many of our members I sense an incredible, lifelong, visceral passion to be the voice of the outdoors; to help others see, hear, smell and taste the outdoors; to be the champion of the fish, wildlife and habitat that make up the outdoors.
That’s why when a proposed rule by the U.S. Forest Service threatened the access to designated wilderness areas for outdoor communicators, OWAA sprang into action.
As you will read in Mark Freeman’s President’s Message on page 4, OWAA stepped into the ring and came out swinging when we felt our First Amendment rights were threatened by a poorly worded directive from the U.S. Forest Service regarding access to wilderness areas.
OWAA immediately issued a statement criticizing the directive and the impact it would have on news gathering.
We encouraged our members to provide comments to the Forest Service during the public commenting period.
Our statement was noticed and a week later, Freeman and I were on the phone with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
To his credit, Tidwell listened carefully and asked for our help in making the directive work. He recognized OWAA represented the “voice of the outdoors” and that our members were essential partners in helping the American people enjoy their public lands.
OWAA continues to work with the Forest Service and other public land agencies to insure that our members have access to our public lands so others can share in their wonder and beauty.
OWAA would be an important group if only to provide a networking opportunity for like-minded people to gather and share stories — but it is so much more than that.
When you go out to do your work and share the great outdoors with the public, OWAA goes with you. As Kris Millgate wrote in an email to Freeman and me, “Freelancers fight solo so often, that I forget others will step up and back you when needed, especially if the fight impacts all of us.” ♦
— OWAA Executive Director Tom Sadler, tsadler@owaa.org

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