If you can see Mt. Baker, you are part of The Experience

Outdoor Organizations

You Should Know About


Everybody knows and has a favorite outdoor not-for-profit that is doing amazing things. Many of these are oriented toward a specific sport or demographic.

But there are a handful of true juggernauts out there that have a major impact on outdoorspeople everywhere. These are the organizations that commonly combine forces to work for positive change.

While you feel the benefits of what they do, you might not know who they are.

Certainly, it’s impossible to cover everyone, but this article hits on a select few. When you consider a donation of your time or money, consider each of these as well as the many smaller organizations that we were not able to cover here.

Access Fund (accessfund.org)

This organization works on behalf of climbers to provide stewardship and continued access to climbing venues throughout the United States. The Access Fund also directly supports local climbing organizations in their stewardship work. The Washington Climbers Coalition (washingtonclimbers.org) represents climbers locally and has been responsible for the purchase and preservation of key climbing areas throughout the state.

American Rivers (americanrivers.org)

American Rivers is a leader in protecting and restoring our rivers. Their goal is to protect one million rivers in the US, to remove harmful dams, to ensure clean water, provide recreation opportunities and to restore natural habitats. They work through direct advocacy with lawmakers, letter writing campaigns and volunteer clean-ups.

Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education (aore.org)

AORE primarily supports young outdoor professionals, commonly at the collegiate level. They also support outdoor programs on military bases and at community centers. This organization is deeply invested in education and advocacy and works to ensure that their members have access to professional outdoor development, while also ensuring that public lands provide access for outdoor programs, both for recreation as well as for academic programs.

Coalition for Outdoor Access (accesstheoutdoors.com)

COA represents both for profit and non-profit organizations to the federal government. Their primary mission is to ensure access to public lands for facilitated groups. Many of these groups require permits to operate their trips and classes. COA is working to decrease the red tape involved in facilitated outdoor recreation. They recently had a small victory when a key piece of legislation – the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) act – made its way through the House and is currently on the docket for consideration in the Senate.

Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (nwac.us)

The Mt. Baker Backcountry is one of the most accessible backcountry ski and snowboard destinations in the state. But with ski touring and split boarding comes avalanche hazard, and that’s where our local avalanche forecasting agency steps in. NWAC is a public-private partnership that provides avalanche forecasts, education and weather data. Their goal is to create a public that is aware of avalanche risk, that has the ability to make informed decisions and comes home safely.

The Mountaineers (mountaineers.org)

If you’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest awhile, you likely already know about The Mountaineers. The primary mission of the organization is wilderness education, with a focus on mountaineering. However, they are deeply involved in advocacy and stewardship, while also supporting other organizations with similar missions.

Mountain Rescue Association (mra.org)

The MRA provides training, accreditation and representation to and for mountain rescue teams. Locally, both Bellingham Mountain Rescue and Skagit Mountain Rescue are accredited members of the association. To be accredited, teams must regularly pass assessments in search technique, avalanche rescue, and technical rescue. Government entities recognize that accredited volunteer teams meet a standard to provide rescue operations in technical terrain. Recently, both Bellingham and Skagit passed their snow reaccreditations with the MRA.

Protect Our Winters (protectourwinters.org)

POW is a climate advocacy group that is deeply embedded in the outdoor industry. Many outdoor influencers also operate on behalf of Protect Our Winters. The primary goal of the organization is to use the power and influence of the outdoor industry and outdoor recreationalists to make meaningful change in climate policy. They do this by educating individuals, lawmakers and government agencies on what they can do to solve the climate crisis.

Surfrider Foundation (surfrider.org)

Those who regularly visit Larrabee State Park may have encountered a booth from this organization and warnings about bacteria levels there. The Surfrider Foundation is “dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves, and beaches, for all people through a powerful activist network.” The organization’s goals include plastic reduction, ocean protection, beach access, clean water, and climate issues.

Washington Trails Association (wta.org)

The WTA is likely most well-known for trail stewardship. The organization facilitates trail maintenance projects throughout the year. They also provide a tremendous amount of resources for those who wish to hike or backpack in Washington state. Their website is chock full of information about trail options and conditions, while also providing a space for recent trip reports that include everything from info about snow coverage to how buggy a trail might be.

Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition (wmbcmtb.org)

Whatcom County is a mecca for mountain bikers. The WMBC is the local organization that represents bicycle access to trails through education, stewardship and advocacy. They are responsible for the maintenance of complicated relationships with land management agencies throughout local, county and federal levels. In addition to this, they provide an array of community programs.

The Wilderness Society (wilderness.org)

The mission of The Wilderness Society is to “unite people to protect America’s wild places.” And they’ve done a great job. The organization has led the effort to permanently protect 112 million acres of wilderness in 44 states. They work relentlessly in Washington DC with other constituencies to ensure that there public lands continue to grow and are protected for the foreseeable future.

There are a number of other local and national non-profits that are doing exceptional work in outdoor advocacy. Though small in the scheme of things, we cannot forget about the exceptional work that Shifting Gears (with a mission to empower women outside) and Recreation Northwest (a local outdoor stewardship organization) have done.

It should also be noted that there are dozens of affinity organizations that are helping marginalized groups find a place outdoors. These groups empower folks of all identities in every type of outdoor activity imaginable.

These non-profit organizations impact us all, but they don’t just exist in a vacuum. They require time, effort and money to exist. If you have any of those things, and you want to give back to our greater outdoor community, consider giving to the organizations that best fit what you have to offer and your outdoor identity.    X