Advocate Spotlight: Josie McKee

Categories: Advocate Spotlight

As executive director of the Central Wyoming Climbers Alliance, Josie leads efforts to conserve, protect, educate, and celebrate climbing in Lander and Central Wyoming. She is currently coordinating an economic impact survey of climbing in the Lander area to show how valuable climbing is to the local economy. For more than 15 years, Josie has supported the climbing community—as a NOLS Wilderness Medicine instructor, Yosemite Search & Rescue team member, community educator for Flash Foxy, and instructor for the first women’s climbing course at Nepal’s Khumbu Climbing Center. She recently participated in Access Fund’s 2020 Global Climbing Advocacy Conference to share her knowledge on organizing community events. Learn more about Josie’s advocacy journey below, and be sure to check out all the great work happening with the Central Wyoming Climbers Alliance.

Photo Credit: JP Melville

5 Questions for Josie

What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now?
I believe that climbing education is the key to success across many advocacy causes. With the current rate of growth of our sport, it is essential that new climbers—especially new outdoor climbers—receive proper training to mitigate risks and minimize impact on our beloved outdoor climbing spaces. Education can be anything from formal courses that instruct participants on best practices in technical skills and LNT to conversations we have with friends about how to use a wag bag or why to use a backup when rappelling (two of my favorite topics that I think every climber should know about!).

What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate?
Climbing advocacy starts with paying attention. As climbers develop awareness of how our actions affect others and the environment, we can choose to take actions that make a difference. Whether the action is small, like picking up finger tape at the base of the crag or big, like advocating for national policies that protect our climbing access, our actions have an impact.

What’s your advice to new advocates?
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

This is one of my favorite quotes because it urges you to pay attention to things that inspire you —the things that you have an idea of how they could be better, the issues you feel you must discuss or take action on—and to act on those inspirations. Leading by example, in a caring way, is probably the most important and powerful advocacy work. And with this mentality, you can maintain your passion and not become overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of issues that we could face in the name of climbing advocacy.

What surprised you the most about getting into the advocacy world?
I am consistently surprised by the amount of behind-the-scenes work in politics and policy. Thankfully, we have Access Fund to help advise in this realm!

Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now?
Madaleine Sorkin and the rest of the Climbing Grief Fund (CGF) team are an inspiration for recognizing an important need in the climbing community. The CGF’s work has opened up a conversation around something we didn’t talk enough about: loss and grief in climbing. It’s something that, as I mentioned above, came from an inspired drive to make things better. And it truly is helping people.

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