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Volunteer Time is Like Gold when it Comes to Conservation

On Saturday, I co-hosted the East Coast Backyard Collective, on behalf of Conservation Next, with Climbing Resource Advocacy Group Vermont (CRAG-VT), a non-profit that recently got money from Conservation Alliance, Access Fund and others to permanently conserve a popular climbing cliff in Vermont and to protect recreation rights on that land.

Saturday, fifty six volunteers, some climbers, some who had never climbed, some volunteers from other non-profits, carried pick axes, rock bars, shovels, work gloves, food and water into the property, set up a basecamp and got to work. According to Travis Peckham, CRAG-VT's president, "It was CRAG-VT’s largest and most successful trail event to date and the amount of work that was accomplished was astounding! The trail repairs and improvements made were long overdue and the new 300-foot stone staircase up the scree field to the center of the cliff is a work of art that would have inspired the Inca!"

The Backyard Collectives are a part of ConservationNext's online and on-the-ground conservation efforts. As part of the Conservation Alliance, ConservationNext gets outdoor industry employees and enthusiasts out of the office and onto the land that their companies are helping to conserve.

Conservation takes more than just money. Often non-profits working to protect the places we all love to play need on-the-ground get-your-hands-dirty support as much as they need cash. This was my take home lesson on Saturday. The event was a great example of money and manpower coming together for all-around success. CRAG-VT got grants to buy the Upper West Bolton cliff, and then volunteers built a trail, including one section through a rock slide, to make that cliff safely accessible to all (there are amazing views up top, a worthwhile trip even if you think a quick draw is something from an old Western). I personally was inspired by all the people willing to give their time, and clearly saw how important it is to make time in my own busy life not just to help organize, but to move rocks, pound dirt and rake the trails that I love to use. It was a win win situation. I heard over and over how much fun volunteers were having. We asked people to come for three hours and most stayed at least six!

Said Peckham post event, "Once again, I'm reminded that we have a fantastic community here in Vermont and how a few people donating a little time can accomplish a great deal."

Community can exist anywhere. And forming community around conserving outdoor areas that are important to you is easy. There are so many organizations working to protect wild places. Check the Conservation Alliance website for a list of the ones that organization has funded, or keep an eye on local bulletin boards to find out what's going on near you.

So I guess this post is a plea for everyone reading to get involved, either with a ConservationNext Backyard Collective (there will be nine more in 2010 at locations across the country–check conservationnext.com for details in the coming months) or with another volunteer effort in your own community. There is strength in community, and when we band together, we can really get a lot done.

-Berne Broudy

East Coast Backyard Collective Gets Praise From Non Profit Partner CRAG-VT

On behalf of CRAG-VT, I’d like to thank our volunteers for their involvement in the CRAG-VT/Backyard Collective Adopt –a-Crag event at Upper West Bolton cliff! Fifty-six volunteers, including people from five non-profits, spent a beautiful fall day with friends improving the trails at Upper West. This was CRAG-VT’s largest and most successful trail event to date and the amount of work that was accomplished was astounding! The trail repairs and improvements made were long overdue and the new 300-foot stone staircase up the scree field to the center of the cliff is a work of art that would have inspired the Inca!

Thanks to the amazing generosity of our sponsors- not a single person left without at least one prize, a full belly, and a swag bag with amazing gifts: Darn Tough socks, Stanley metal water bottle, Black Diamond headlamp, Petra Cliffs pass and more! We raffled off a list of prizes far to long to recount, but some highlights include: Thule bike racks, Mammut backpacks, and Keen shoes. Thanks to Outgoor Gear Exchange, Black Diamond, Thule, Mammut, Aladdin/Stanley, Petra Cliffs, Keen, Darn Tough, the Access Fund, Clif Bars, Petra Cliffs and everyone else for their support and donations.

Thanks also to Mirabelles for the delicious breakfast, Liv for the muffins, and Outdoor Gear Exchange for the terrific lunch. Without the event coordination efforts of Berne Broudy from ConservationNEXT and the Backyard collective, and Ross Perry of CRAG-VT we would never have pulled this off- thank you, especially!

Once again, I'm reminded that we have a fantastic community here in Vermont and how a few people donating a little time can accomplish a great deal. Thank you for your continued support of Vermont climbing.

Travis
President, CRAG-VT

A New Day for the Fight Against Mountaintop Removal Mining?

Conservation Alliance grantee Appalachian Voices reports that the EPA has decided to "hold for extended review" 79 applications from coal companies to dump the tops of mountains into nearby river valleys while extracting coal in Appalachia. Under the Bush Administration, these applications would have sailed through, but the decision to closely consider their environmental impacts shows that the Obama EPA intends to base permitting decisions on science. For those of you who haven't been following this issue, Mountaintop Removal Mining is perfectly named; it is a practice in which mining companies remove the tops of mountains to access the coal seams below. They then dump the debris into nearby river valleys, threatening the water supplies of local residents, not to mention destroying the streams.

Click here for the full story from Grist.

Murtha Ranch One Step Closer to Final Protection

Conservation Alliance grantee Western Rivers Conservancy reports key progress in its effort to protect the 8,000-acre Murtha Ranch on Oregon's John Day River. The effort would also secure an 8,000-acre BLM grazing lease, placing more than 16,000 acres into conservation ownership. Western Rivers' goal is to transfer ownership of the ranch to Oregon State Parks. Last month, the state parks commission approved spending $2.2 million to purchase roughly 25 percent of the ranch, putting the project on track to be completed within the next two years. The John Day River is the largest undammed tributary of the Columbia River, and holds the basin's healthiest populations of salmon and steelhead. The Murtha Ranch project supplements another successful project completed earlier this year by another Alliance grantee, Oregon Natural Desert Association, to secure federal Wilderness protection for the 8,000-acre Spring Basin Wilderness, also along the John Day, upstream from Murtha.

Krissy Does it Again!

The Conservation Alliance's own Krissy Moehl beat all other women and most of the men in the Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc, a 100-mile trail race that circumnavigates Mont Blanc while passing through France, Switzerland, and Italy. She placed 11th overall with a time of 24 hours, 56 minutes.

What have you done lately?

Nice work Krissy!

Obama Proclaims September 2009 “National Wilderness Month”

"NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2009 as National Wilderness Month. I call upon all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, learn more about our wilderness heritage, and explore what can be done to protect and preserve these precious national treasures."

Click here for the full proclamation.

So, get out there and enjoy your Wilderness areas!

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