The meeting was opened by a message from Board President, Wolf Schuster welcoming everyone to the meeting and thanking all of the participants for scheduling time to attend.
The first question raised was, “Why join this group?”
• One of the main benefits discussed was the fact that an organized group is better able to access/have conversation with public and private land managers.
• An organization is better able to support/contest an issue than an individual.
• An organization can cultivate an active an ongoing collaboration with a land manager or agency that can outlive a personal handshake relationship between individuals.
The “Canyoneering Collective” group was mentioned. With 400+ members, it is considered to be a general group of canyoneering enthusiasts, not a particularly organized group. Key areas of focus for this group: Beta and Meet–Up opportunities.
The topic shifts to Access.
Mike addresses the Death Valley Region and asks the question: “Does anyone outside of the group even care about what is going on there?”
• How important is the access focus?
• If the goal is to grow this group, should access remain the focus of highest priority?
If access is the main focus, perhaps the commitment needs to be one of becoming a smaller, yet tighter group, as opposed to a growth oriented group.
Are the focus areas of Safety, Education and Conservation strong enough with a wide enough appeal?
The above question was addressed by consensus that a land manager’s action might raise awareness enough to motivate people to be a part of a group like this. The relevance of an organization isn’t always clear until something changes and warrants a call to action.
Board members agreed that an effective group does provide for social networking (meet up groups and trips) while maintaining enough significance to be a force to be reckoned with when the need arises.
Rich stated as an example that with regard to Death Valley, the relevance was influenced by the actions occurring there. The next area/region will be the Grand Canyon.
Discussion shifted to the methods to be used to appeal to individuals to be a part of this group and by extension, to appeal to individuals or organizations, to support it. The board members agreed that it is important for people to feel a sense of pride in their involvement. They need to feel a connection to the organization and its’ mission.
With regard to membership and the present dues of $5.00. Some felt the payment of dues held no value while others defended a dues as it helped to reduce the level of SPAM on the website. If there is no public (completely open access) forum, there is no SPAM.
With the issue of dues still unresolved, discussion shifted to recruitment and the need to expand efforts through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Mass emails were mentioned and it was discussed that if 50% of these emails are opened, and/or read, it is considered a successful email campaign.
It was suggested that another way to generate members might be to waive membership fees when a friend signs up at the same time as another individual.
Others stated that perhaps the emphasis should not be solely on simply increasing the number of members but rather on giving individuals the opportunity to affiliate with an organization that shares their position on certain issues.
Rich stated that it is very powerful to align with legislators on the local and state level because support from them, particularly when the issue is a contentious one, requires response from the land managers that they would prefer not to be required to do.
Land managers have a very strong incentive to collaborate if they feel the alternative might result in litigation.
In that realm of conversation, it was also mentioned that there is a FOI request (Freedom of Information) that requires records be accessible to the public for review.
Rich also explained the process of litigation with a government entity:
Once a complaint is made it is sent to the solicitor (in house attorney) of the land manager.
They then have 30 days to address the issue.
Additionally: If during litigation, the decision finds the land manager at fault for the matter at issue, the land manager is then responsible for any remuneration ordered but also to pay the fees for the attorney representing the individual or group that brought the action.
As a result of this conversation, it was discussed that it would be beneficial to have an attorney on retainer who might be able to represent the organization if the need ever arises, an attorney on retainer will only take on a case with a good chance of resulting in a successful resolution.
The subject of aligning the American Canyoneers group with a larger, more organized group was readdressed.
Some examples: The Outdoor Alliance, the IMBA.
National and international affiliations lend credibility to smaller groups.
The overriding question remains, how do you translate passion for a sport/cause/activity into action?
The upcoming Yankee Doodle Clean Up Day (4/20/13) was mentioned. A collaborative activity with BLM does just that. It allows groups to be recognized for joining in a common cause with a land manager (BLM).
Sonny stated that clean up activities could be more complex than they appear. There are rules and regulations that allow supporting groups or individuals to do tasks that park service employees cannot. Bureaucracy is a powerful influence even when doing a public service.
Other action groups were discussed:
SAR, archaeologists, hydrologists, botanists…which group creates the biggest noise? Which group has the cause that receives the most attention or public support? What is the catalyst?
What resources does American Canyoneers really have available?
Is there a good resource person in each of the geographic regions? Does there need to be? Are there people available with valuable skills and talents that haven’t been asked to be a part of the American Canyoneers mission? Is more structure needed or is the existing network already there and more accessible than is readily known?
Access as the focus of the organization:
• All elements (Conservation, Education and Safety) support it
• Simplify: narrow the focus
• Access already deals with sub-elements. Leave no trace, canyoneering etiquette
• Emphasis needs to be on making the organization transparent, fair and consistent
Agenda items for tomorrow’s meeting:
• Incorporating Education, Conservation and Safety into the primary focus on Access
• Branding/Name change?
• Developing better communication with community leaders, tribal chiefs, public land managers
• Membership fees/dues
• Executive Director position/timeline
• Grand Canyon letter
• Liaison with Canyon Collective
March 23, 2013
Name change consideration: Does ACA have squatter’s rights? Would there be a possibility for legal recourse if the AC name is not changed?
Consensus of group is that if there is even the potential for confusion between the two groups then changing the name is probably a good idea. Future efforts in branding also may serve as a catalyst.
With a name change, a dba can be filed without requiring a complete revision of the 501(c) 3 status with the IRS.
Because there exists a personal relationship among many canyoneering enthusiasts and the organizer of the ACA, Sonny stated that some individuals may hesitate to align/join American Canyoneers out of deference to their relationship with the ACA founder.
From a marketing position, Mike stated that it is important to clearly identify the market with which this group wants to position itself with and be supported by. He added that if “Access” is the primary area of focus, then this group must make access an issue for people who don’t even realize it is an issue for them.
Rick added that the number of active participants in most organizations is a fraction of the overall membership. The key may be to create alliances with other groups and organizations that may have differing reasons for supporting similar objectives.
Also discussed was the belief that when the general perception about canyoneering changes from that of a very “technical” sport or activity, more people will connect to the sport and care about its’ efforts.
Mike agreed with this general statement and added that this group will need to “create” the individual who is the market we wish to attract. In particular, people who are recreational outdoor enthusiasts who haven’t had any personal issues with issues like safety or access.
Discussion at this point changed to address the timeline for upcoming actions and activities:
Most board members felt that it was important to have flexibility with regard to commitments/roles within the organization.
Wolf stated that he felt the inconsistency with regard to addressing action items and expectations have hindered the progress of the group.
• Certain things will effect immediate change. Changing the organization’s name would be one of those.
• Identify the elements that need attention as they arise. This will help Jenny and Rick have a clear direction for web design issues and Facebook/Twitter posts.
Mike added the importance of being sure the message and objectives are clear prior to unveiling new information. When you are clear about what you want to achieve as an organization, a timeline is more realistic and attainable.
After further conversation, board consensus was that within the next 3-4 months, the previously discussed action items will be completed.
Everyone agreed that the issue of access will remain the primary area of focus for the organization and efforts will be elevated with the intent to increase the membership of the group.
July 1: launch strategic message to market.
Open access to all
Addressing the issues with public lands access: BLM and USFS may be closing roads because of the expense of maintaining them. The best approach for the American Canyoneers organization is to maintain a neutral stance. Indian lands and associated road closures are also issues that are prevalent and need to be addressed.
Conversation involved the issue of access as it applies to off-road vehicles such as ATVs. The direction of the organization indicates a desire to be open to the potential alliance with individuals and groups who may also benefit, even indirectly, from more open access to public lands. This support may strengthen the AC’s credibility and impact with land managers.
Communication to AC members:
The emphasis should be on content. There should be some point of contact responsible for the overall accountability of the site including the monitoring, adding and editing of content.
Rich: The issue that absolutely must be conveyed: Leave no Trace
The purpose of the newsletter:
Inform and create awareness of upcoming issues
Make the content personal. Involve membership in creating the content.
The basic elements of conservation, education and safety will contain some information that remains static. New information can be added when necessary but the most fluid information will relate to access issues.
The group discussed responsibilities presently delegated to board members. Wolf talked about the fact that people tend to work more effectively when the area they are working on is one that is interesting for them and one they have a passion for.
Rich: Access (G.C., establish priority areas)
Troy gave a list of items that he lists as priorities to address related to Education:
*how to access technical training
*what is involved in “Leave no Trace”?
*permit requirements/provide links to Access
*rating systems (not exclusive to ACA ratings) link to Access
*gear: link to sources
*canyon hiking vs. technical canyoneering activities
*links to Beta
Sonny gave some suggestions related to Safety:
*Search and Rescue collaboration
*Canyon conditions: weather forecast, etc.
*Flash flood information/ warnings
*Anchor/rigging types: link to vendors
*Emergency contact information by area (gas stations, hospitals, local law enforcement)
*Resources to allow friends/family members to have information (location/timeline) that would be invaluable in case of an emergency
*topo information, SPOT, satellite phones, personal locator beacons
Ram: Importance of conservation:
Is expanding to other groups such as archeologists who may have different insights.
Potential collaborations: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Great Old Broads.
Links: Canyon Country websites, National Conservation Lands, National Parks, BLM
Emphasis: create a credible wilderness ethic. Access is inevitable. Put structure in place to promote good stewardship.
Give members an avenue in which they can report graffiti or other issues such as archaeological finds. AC should also utilize the site to inform members of upcoming clean up efforts.
Equipment was discussed with regard to webbing colors. Some colors, particularly bright ones, are discouraged. It is suggested that members consult the region they will be visiting for specific equipment regulations/suggestions.
Issues ranging from rest areas, water sources, microtrash and campfires to rope grooves, anchors and bolts were also mentioned. Group consensus was to advise membership to adhere to Leave no Trace philosophies and techniques and to be respectful of any regional recommendations or requirements.
Report to regional point of contact any issues or problems.
Rich: Will create a template that the regional liaison can utilize that will provide them with a list of “how to’s” to guide a relationship with a land manager. He will also create a template for an introductory letter to the land managers. The emphasis is to demonstrate credibility and depth.
People responsible for the liaison position must be aware of the political climate of the region as well as a passion for the cause and an ability to cultivate a relationship with the region’s land managers.
The Grand Canyon access page provides some valuable information.
AC content- relevant to Canyon Collective
Integration is supported. Jenny, Rick and Ram will coordinate and promote this communication in the newsletter and through the website.
Updated by Wolf.
Currently AC account is with Chase bank.
Utilizing Quickbooks online accounting system
Paypal (membership dues)
The board members discussed the need for an accountant to oversee the financial management of the organization. Several individuals have potential contacts and will follow up on those possibilities.
Content submissions: 1st Friday of the month
Submitted to Rick/Jenny: 2nd week of the month
Update on River letter: Rich
5 mile rule: pack rafts
Boaters have a significant impact in the park
Zone system has been established to regulate river access- better than having no access at all
Potential partnerships between boaters/canyoneers
Pending agenda item:
Organization name change
The group agrees that follow through has been an issue and that decisions will have to be made to determine if issues are resolved and tasks completed by assigning individual responsibility or collectively managed by the board as a group.
The overall consensus is that when an organization is focused and committed in one area, they are able to establish and maintain key relationships despite the potential fluidity of board members.
The basic task will be to get the framework established for each of the focus areas.
Once this is in place, the process to add or modify content will be streamlines and membership can be more involved in the dynamic elements of the website content.
Jenny and Rick will be the “gatekeepers” who will lead the overall management of the content released on behalf of the organization.