In April 2011, The Conservation Alliance invested $500,000 in grassroots conservation organizations. Each grant went to a project working to secure permanent protection for a specific threatened wild place. We direct organizations to use our funding over the course of a 12-month period. At the end of the grant period, we ask each group for a 12-month final report. These reports play a key role in helping us determine the return on our investment.
On April 1, we received 17 final reports. Click here for a summary of the progress our grantees have made with our funding. At the end of this summary are several exciting updates on work we funded in October 2011. We will share final reports on all of our October 2011 grants in October 2012.
Right now, Shell Oil's drill ships are on their way to America's Arctic Ocean. Shell hopes to begin drilling in our Arctic waters in a matter of weeks with no viable plan to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic's extreme conditions, which range from sea ice up to 25-feet thick and sub-zero temperatures to months of darkness and hurricane-force storms.
There is still time to stop this disaster from happening. President Barack Obama has yet to grant Shell's final drilling permits. Alaska Wilderness League and many other organizations are gearing up an unprecedented campaign to get the message to President Obama that he must stop Shell now. This Saturday, join a nationwide Polar Bear Uprising to show the president that our nation's most beloved bears will not be ignored.
Across the country, people will be gathering, dressed in white wearing polar bear masks, to do the polar bear dance and demand that President Obama turn Shell's ships around. The hope is to set a world record for the largest "polar bear uprising" ever, and put Shell on ice!
As the Arctic continues to warm due to climate change, two-thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear by mid-century. Rapid sea ice loss from climate change is the polar bear's biggest threat. However, if an oil spill were to happen in the Arctic's Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, polar bears would suffer huge impacts, as would many other species that depend on the Arctic – bowhead whales, beluga whales, ice seals, walrus, millions of birds and much more.
In addition, the Inupiat people who have thrived off the bounty of Arctic waters for thousands of years could see the loss of their livelihood and their culture. Caroline Cannon, an Inupiat leader and outspoken advocate for the people of America's Arctic coast, was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last week in acknowledgement of her ongoing efforts to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic.
"Right now as I speak, my Inupiat people up in Point Hope are out hunting for whales. And Shell's drilling ships are on their way to launch the most aggressive drilling plans ever in the Arctic Ocean," Caroline said in her acceptance speech. "When I met President Obama a couple of years ago, he told me he knew what it was like to be treated as a second-class citizen. He made a promise to work with the Inupiat people and protect our way of life. That gave me hope. Now is the time to hold him to that promise. I need everyone here today to remind him what's at stake. I need you to stand with me to honor my father's wishes as he stood on the ice for the last time. I need you to stand with me to remind him that we all have a responsibility to protect America's Arctic."
Help Caroline ensure that President Obama gets the message loud and clear by joining the largest Polar Bear Uprising in history on Saturday. Find an uprising near you here, or learn how you can host one. If you can't make it on Saturday, please sign this petition to President Obama – and demand that he put Shell on ice.
On Friday, April 20th, President Obama, under the 1906 Antiquities Act, designated Fort Ord as a National Monument. Located on the central California Coast in Monterey, the Ford Ord National Monument encompasses approximately 14,650 acres and provides recreational opportunities including hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding.
"This national monument will not only protect one of the crown jewels of California's coast, but will also honor the heroism and dedication of men and women who served our nation and fought in the major conflicts of the 20th century," said President Obama.
To follow, comment or celebrate Ford Ord's National Monument designation on Twitter, please use hash tags #fortord #monumentsmatter
Conservation Alliance Executive Director John Sterling here, fresh off a quick tour of Minnesota and Western Michigan, where I visited three member companies and enjoyed a solid dose of the famous Midwest hospitality. My first stop was Minneapolis, where I made a presentation to our newest member company, Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day. It was great to meet the Mrs. Meyer's crew in their brand-new offices right next to Target Field (I missed the Twins' home opener by one day). CEO Kevin Rutherford leads a dedicated crew that asked a ton of questions about The Conservation Alliance and our grantees. We're excited to have this great company on board!
Mrs. Meyers offices in the shadow of Target Field in Minneapolis.
My next stop was Red Wing, Minnesota, on the banks of the Mississippi River, one hour downstream from the Twin Cities. My primary goal was to meet with employees of member company Vasque, a brand of the Red Wing Shoe Company. I arrived the afternoon before my presentation and got a tour of Red Wing (the town) from Bill Sweasy, the third-generation leader of the family-owned company. Red Wing is a well-preserved river town. Downtown is full of authentic, brick storefronts, and the river features steamboats and riverside grain elevators. At the center of it all is Red Wing Shoes (known to locals as "The Shoe"). Bill led us on a hike up Barn Bluff, which offers a birds-eye view of the town. He pointed out many parks and historic buildings that the company had helped preserve.
Bill Sweasy on the summit of Barn Bluff in Red Wing.
The following day, I made a presentation to the Vasque crew before joining Vasque Sales Manager Chris Miller on a tour of the Red Wing Shoe Factory #2, a short drive from the head offices. Seeing hundreds of employees building Red Wing boots and shoes made it clear how important this company is to the community. My final stop was to the Red Wing Shoe Flagship Store, which is home to the world's largest boot, a two-story, full-leather boot (size 638 1/2 D).
The world's largest boot.
I ended my tour by flying into Grand Rapids, MI, the urban center nearest Wolverine World Wide, the parent company of Conservation Alliance members Merrell, Chaco, and Patagonia Footwear. Merrell General Manager Seth Cobb rallied a great turnout for my presentation in the company's auditorium. Nearly 100 employees heard about The Conservation Alliance and our efforts to protect wild places throughout North America. Joining me in this presentation was Amy Beyer, Director of Conservation Resource Alliance, one of our grantees. Merrell has twice nominated CRA to submit grant requests to us to support their Boardman River dam removal project. We have funded CRA twice (totaling $65,000) for the project, which aims to remove four dams on the Boardman, which flows through Traverse City, MI. Amy answered many insightful questions from the Wolverine crew, and built a stronger relationship with the company.
The Conservation Alliance's greatest strength is that we are a group of companies with different cultures, different geographic locations, and different ways of doing business. The common thread that links them all is a strong commitment to protecting the wild rivers, mountains, deserts, forests and other landscapes so important to people who love the outdoors. It was great to visit a few of our members in a part of the country I don't often see.
Ever dreamed of being a polar bear? Join Alaska Wilderness League and the feisty nonprofit will fulfill your wish with one of its eight "Ice-P" costumes. You'll be covered in white fur from the top of your head to the bottom of your shoes.
These costumes regularly travel the country as "Ice-P" to appear at elementary schools, presidential town halls or on roller skates in a Fourth of July parade. One is oftentimes spied in New England riding in the passenger seat of a staff member's car. Ice-P also has his own Facebook page and column in the organization's newsletter. He is quite the verbose bear.
If polar bears aren't your thing, you can also take on the persona of a brown bear, sandpiper, white-fronted goose or walrus. This Washington-based, fun-loving organization boasts a full Alaskan menagerie.
Alaska Wilderness League's costumes say a lot about the organization – where the goal is to work hard, but have fun while pursuing its ultimate mission: "to lead the effort to preserve Alaska's wild lands and waters by engaging citizens and decision makers with a courageous, constant, victorious voice for Alaska."
The League, founded in 1993 by wilderness champion Mike Matz, has been led by Cindy Shogan for the past 13 years. The Alaska Wilderness League is the only environmental organization based in D.C. devoted full-time to protecting Alaska's wild places and has a reputation for being nimble, strategic and forward-thinking.
"We pride ourselves on being a grassroots organization, meaning that we do our best work by engaging people from all over the country who care about Alaska," Shogan said. "My favorite part of every year is our Wilderness Week, when we bring activists to Washington and let them loose on Congress. After all, the places we are working to protect are public land-we all own them."
The League is constantly striving to be creative and innovative – to help bring Alaska to people who may never actually go there themselves. As part of their current campaign to stop Shell Oil from drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer, they are hosting "Polar Bear Uprisings" across the country – together with Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, Endangered Species Coalition, and other partners. These events will bring people together, dressed as polar bears, of course, to dance to "Ice Ice Baby" and chant "President Obama: Put Shell on Ice!"
In addition to grassroots, the League has an extensive online program – from comprehensive email alerts to frequent Twitter storms and an active Facebook page. Follow @AlaskaWild on Twitter and you'll be invited to this week's Twitter storm that will mark the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and implore President Obama to stop the next disaster from happening in America's Arctic Ocean.
Alaska Wilderness League staff and members have one thing in common – they love Alaska for the mystical beauty and spiritual stillness of its wild places. They've got stiff competition – from the state of Alaska itself to Big Oil – but so far, the League has proved that the mighty can come in all sizes and iterations.
With perfect working temperatures and storm clouds hovering, over 150 volunteers from Patagonia, Horny Toad, Deckers, Vapur, REI and Channel Islands Outfitters removed invasive species replacing them with 600 native plants between two sites along the Atascadero and Cieneguitas creeks in the San Marcos Foothills Preserve.
Save Our Wild Salmon is a nationwide coalition of conservation organizations, commercial and sports fishing associations, businesses, river groups, and taxpayer advocates working collectively to restore self-sustaining, abundant, and harvestable populations of wild salmon and steelhead to rivers, streams and oceans of the Pacific Salmon states.
This week, for the seventh straight year, comprehensive spring and summer spill begins on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Spill is a salmon protection measure that sends water over the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in order to help young salmon migrate through the federal hydrosystem. It is widely regarded as the safest and most effective means of helping these fish reach the Pacific Ocean, as long as the dams remain in place.
Since the annual spill on the Snake and Columbia Rivers began in 2006, tens of thousands more salmon and steelhead have been produced. Measured in fish, this is Save Our Wild Salmon's biggest achievement in 20 years.
Although most of these salmon are hatchery fish, any fish improvements in the dam system necessarily benefit all the fish in the river. These better hatchery returns make spill the most successful job protector and creator in Columbia-Snake salmon policy in the last 20 years.
As for wild fish, most ESA-listed salmon and steelhead populations in the Basin are at higher numbers and in sounder condition because of comprehensive spill, buying them precious years against extinction. Spill is not enough to restore them, particularly Snake River and upper Columbia species, but it has made a big positive difference.
Help celebrate 20 years uniting people for salmon, rivers, and jobs at the SOS Turning 20 in 2012 Anniversary Party!
There are few places in this country more pristine, vast and wild than Arctic Alaska. From the snowcapped peaks of the Brooks Range, to the vast tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's Coastal Plain – crucial habitat for polar bears, caribou, millions of birds and more – America's Arctic is one of the few places that remain largely untouched by humankind. That all could change in a matter of months. Royal Dutch Shell is itching to launch the most aggressive course of drilling in history in the Arctic's Chukchi and Beaufort Seas – as soon as July 1.
Despite falling victim to a lawsuit from Shell, organizations like Alaska Wilderness League are stepping up efforts to stop the oil giant, which recently admitted to 207 oil spills in 2011, including the worst spill in a decade in the North Sea.
Right now, Shell's drill ships are on their way to America's Arctic Ocean – unless President Obama acts to stop them. Shell is pushing to drill in our Arctic waters despite the fact that there is no proven way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic's extreme conditions. In addition, there is limited information about the Arctic's marine environment.
The risks are huge – at this point, drilling in the Arctic Ocean is tantamount to ‘Mission Impossible.' The Arctic Ocean is prone to hurricane-force storms, 20-foot swells, sea ice up to 25 feet thick, sub-zero temperatures and months-long darkness. What's more, the Arctic has extremely limited infrastructure (there are no roads or deep water ports and only a handful of small airports) and the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama made a profound and welcome promise: "I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago." He must keep this promise in America's Arctic Ocean.
Join our efforts to protect the Arctic Ocean today by visiting the Conservation Alliance Facebook page and send a message to President Obama. There is no time to waste. If President Obama fails to stop Shell from moving forward with its dangerous plans for our Arctic waters, he could be left with the next major oil spill disaster on his hands – and the destruction of one of our planet's most vital ecosystems.
To learn more about Alaska Wilderness League click here.
Gareth Martins, Director of Marketing for Osprey Packs and Conservation Alliance board member, joined The Conservation Alliance in Washington, DC a few weeks ago, carrying a positive of how the outdoor recreational economy has remained strong and healthy through challenging economic times.
Gareth has traveled to Washington, DC a number of times to advocate for the protection of our public lands and brings with him a wealth of knowledge and a strong and powerful voice. We are fortunate to have partners like Gareth, truly impassioned individuals who have a long term vision for the health of our economy, our country, and our children.
"The outdoor recreational economy has remained strong and healthy through challenging economic times. Members of The Conservation Alliance rely on public lands for our customers to engage in human powered recreation. I am thankful for those in Congress who recognize that conservation of our public lands is good for our economy – period. I had a great time listening and learning and checking the vibe on Capitol Hill and I look forward to a spirit of progress and action in years to come."
To read Gareth's complete recap of his Washington, DC experience and learn more about the issues over at the Osprey BLOG, click here.
Ted Manning, a Conservation Alliance board member and Executive Vice President of Eastern Mountain Sports, joined The Conservation Alliance in Washington, DC a few weeks ago, carrying a message of how conservation is as good for business as it is for the environment.
This was Ted's first time to Washington, DC in an advocacy capacity and he came away with some great insights, which he shared in a piece posted on the Eastern Mountain Sports blog.
"What I am left with is the realization that there are some really great people (working in a very tough environment) to protect our natural assets. They do this work without a lot of glory, but the work they do is critical to our economy, our communities and our heritage as Americans. I am also left with the feeling that all of us really can make a difference. We just have to be willing to take the time to inform ourselves on the issues at hand and begin to make our own informed decisions about what is right and what is wrong. And once we're clear on that, well… then we fight like hell. Because when you're truly passionate about something, you've got to stand up for it.
If we win, our children win. If we lose, we can still look our kids in the eyes and say that we didn't sit by and allow our Wilderness to be taken from us without fighting for it."
To read Ted's complete recap of his Washington, DC experience, click here.