This month, we’re excited to highlight Dane Scott, a climbing advocate based in Missoula, Montana. A lifelong climber, Dane has been advocating for the climbing community at Bitterroot National Forest for nearly a decade. As a founder of the Western Montana Climbers Coalition, he has maintained a consistent, balanced voice with Bitterroot National Forest officials, even while under long-standing pressure from the opposition. As the director of the Mansfield Ethics and Public Affairs Program at the University of Montana and associate professor of ethics in the College of Forestry and Conservation, Dane brings a compelling perspective to the ethics of climbing and fixed anchors. Access Fund’s policy team has been lucky to work with Dane on climbing management strategies and campaigns, such as the successful campaign to lift a fixed anchor prohibition in Bitterroot National Forest.
5 Questions for Dane
What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now? As everyone knows, with climbing now in the Olympics and the popularity of climbing gyms, our sport is experiencing rapid growth. This is all good news, but it does present challenges. My favorite cause is figuring out how best to work with public land managers so we can become good stewards of the amazing places we have the privilege to climb.
What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate? I’ve often heard it said that climbing is a selfish sport. That may or may not be true, but being part of a local climbing organization (LCO) offers the opportunity to be part of a community working for a common good. It means sharing in the successes of other advocates in our LCO. For example, one of our board members, Michael Moore, is leading an effort, working with Access Fund, to purchase a local climbing area. Two other board members, Zak Clare-Salzler and Alex Wardwell, have successfully worked with the Bitterroot National Forest to organize an annual bouldering competition. This has been key to building and funding our organization, and developing a positive working relationship with land managers. Being an advocate means being an active member of the climbing community.
What’s your advice to new advocates? Be patient, and don’t take things too seriously. Working with public land agencies is slow and sometimes frustratingly Kafkaesque. Don’t expect quick sends. It’s more like going back to a sport climbing project 50 times or spending a month on a big mountain. Persevere and figure out how to enjoy the process—an ironic sense of humor is key.
What have you enjoyed most about getting into the advocacy world? I’ve enjoyed getting to know some dedicated career public servants in the Forest Service. The majority of land managers I’ve gotten to know have been smart, thoughtful, and warm people. They seem to have internalized the Forest Service’s motto: “Caring for the land and serving people.” The only problem is they keep retiring.
Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now? I’ve been constantly impressed and inspired by the professionals at Access Fund. Access Fund is an essential resource for the U.S. climbing community. We would be in deep trouble without these knowledgeable and committed professionals.