It’s easy to assume that people who mountain bike, rock climb, and hike also value environmental protection, but is that true? And do outdoorsy folks do anything to help protect the mountains and rivers where they play? For High Country News, Ethan Linck examines the complex, often flimsy relationship between outdoor recreation and conservation efforts. Linck speaks from experience: he’s a runner, a skier, a climber. He recognizes many failures in the outdoor recreation industry and his own community and the challenges balancing the enjoyment of nature with efforts to protect it. Fortunately, he also sees some promise.

By citing its indirect contributions to federal agencies with widely varied missions and management agendas, the Outdoor Industry Association inadvertently raises a thorny question. That is: What are we conserving in the first place? Should we fight for public lands because they provide us with recreation opportunities, or because they…

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