Ever wondered how you can do more for public lands but you aren’t sure where to start? Outdoor Alliance’s Outdoor Allies series explores how other outdoor adventurers got their start in advocacy work and their advice for how you can harness your passion for the outdoors into advocacy for the land and water you love. Taldi is currently Government and Community Affairs Manager at REI, where she oversees REI’s Federal policy initiatives and has the opportunity to work with 25 amazing NGO partners, including Outdoor Alliance. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and 7 month old daughter. Previously, Taldi worked in advocacy for 13 years with time spent in D.C., Alaska, and now Washington.
Tell us about what you like to do outside.
I love mountaineering and living in Washington state gives me an endless list of objectives. I’m still working on ticking off all of the volcanoes, but I loved my Mount Rainier climb. I’m also a bit obsessed with cycling. I use to race competitively (road, mountain, cross) and have an embarrassing number of bicycles. I also love to rock climb, backpack, ski, and recently have grown to appreciate car camping and hiking with my 7 month old.
What first got you into advocacy work?
My first taste of advocacy was high school. I grew up in the Flathead Valley of northwest Montana, a logging town. I got interested in sustainable logging practices early and learned about the power of expressing my voice. My budding passion for advocating for policy change grew in college when I led a coalition to establish a recycling program at our university. By the time I finished my master’s degree in biology, I realized that I was more interested in changing the policies that managed the species and lands where I had worked than in doing hard science. My first official job in advocacy was working for the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C. I spent 7 years working on public lands issues with a focus on Alaska public lands and waters.
Your job at REI really runs the gamut. Not only do you do an extraordinary amount of outdoor policy work yourself, but you also oversee many partners doing advocacy for the outdoors. What’s your vision for REI’s role in helping advocate for public lands and waters?
We have a tremendous responsibility – to our members, employees and the outdoors. Throughout our 80 year history, the co-op has advocated for, protected, and championed the places and way of life we believe in. From calling on our members and employees to speak up when our national monuments were under threat to leading the industry in product sustainability standards.
I truly think the co-op is a force for good. We work hard to enable and empower people to get outside so they can create meaningful experiences. Since our founding, the co-op has championed a life outdoors. This fierce love of the outdoors is core to every aspect of our work. We believe we are all stewards protecting our public lands and to that end we have invested over a $100 million in outdoor organizations that are helping to ensure the places we all love to play remain intact and accessible for all. As a co-op, we are conveners and have the ability to bring a broad diversity of people and perspectives together around our shared love of the outdoors. We choose to fight for a life outdoors. And we choose to stand up when we see it at risk.
You’re a new parent – has this changed how you think about policy and advocacy work?
Today, as I watch my daughter experience life outside it feels more important than ever to do this work. Seeing the wonder and awe on her face as she watches the leaves dance in the wind, or plays with rocks, is a constant reminder of how vital our collective work is. I have an increased awareness of how important it is to focus our work on both the aspirational and iconic landscapes as well as the urban green spaces we explore daily. Living in Seattle, we are fortunate to have easy access to greenspace, however that’s not the case in all communities, which is why programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund are so important to advancing a life outdoors for all.
Now more than ever, I think it’s vital for each of us to use our voice to speak up for the places we care about. The right for everyone to access and enjoy the benefits of life outdoors is fundamental, yet at risk.
What do you wish more people knew about getting started in advocacy work?
Don’t overthink it. There is no one way to be an effective advocate. But I think the best advocates are passionate, strategic, and collaborative. We’ve all heard the quote, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together. And also please remember to come at your issue and those who may disagree with you from a place of respect. Last, movement making and change takes time, don’t get discouraged and be sure to celebrate the small wins. So be bold, challenge the status quo and innovate.
Your advocacy hero:
Next destination on your bucket list:
Current favorite piece of gear:
Osprey Poco Ag Plus