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Favorites on Friday: Celebrating with Vermont Land Trust

Three of the original "Old Goats" who had a vision, built trails and made skiing the Bolton backcountry possible. Pictured left to right  Olga Vrana, and Clem and Sylvia Holden. Photo: Alexandria Bombach. 

In the spring of 2012, The Conservation Alliance first funded the Vermont Land Trust's Bolton Valley Conservation Campaign; to permanently protect the 1,100-acre Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry property that provides both critical habitat for wildlife and unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities for thousands of residents and visitors to northern Vermont.  Just last week, we funded this project once again, brining our funding of this project to $85,000.  With the receipt of this grant, the Bolton Valley Conservation Campaign crossed an important threshold; the fundraising goal of $1.85 million was reached.  We are excited to be a part of this project and wanted to share a bit of the story here:

Only 15 months ago, nordic and backcountry skiers at Bolton were pondering a future where we could no longer enjoy bluebird days climbing up to the cabin and swooshing down George's Gorge.

Thankfully, Ann Gotham and fellow skiers scrambled to make calls to organizations that might be able to help them protect the land. The fledgling Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry was formed.

Meetings were held, and Vermont Land Trust (VLT)  agreed to start a major campaign to raise the money needed to purchase the land and build the partnerships needed to transfer the land to the State.

Here's just some of what it took to raise 1,200 gifts totaling $1.85 million:

  • Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry vision, commitment, and creativity
  • Strength in partnerships with VT Forests, Parks & Recreation, Catamount Trail Association, Green Mountain Club, and others
  • Direct mail appeal sent to 18,000 individuals in northern Vermont
  • Feature stories covering the project in more than a dozen Vermont news and national outlets
  • Information tables at more than 20 ski and skate sales, Farmers' Markets, on Church Street, and even a July 4th festival
  • Fundraising and awareness events sponsored by Catamount Trail Association, Outdoor Gear Exchange, Onion River Sports, Skirack, Ember Photography, Skinny Pancake, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, Mammut, Patagonia, The North Face Store, and others
  • Bird walks, natural history workshops, ski and snowshoe tours, and other events held on the Bolton property
  • "Visions of the Land," an exhibit of Bolton-inspired artwork at the West Branch Gallery in Stowe
  • Sale of more than 300 "Save Bolton Nordic and Backcountry" t-shirts
  • Three anonymous donations of $100,000 each
  • 70 Gardiner Lane Leadership Gifts
  • The commitment, sense of humor, and enthusiasm of VLT staff and board members

VLT, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, and Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry are working diligently to finalize the Bolton Project. As a large, complex conservation project, there are many pieces to wrap up.  The final purchase is expected to happen this spring. The parcel will then be transferred to the State of Vermont as an addition to the Mount Mansfield State Forest.

To learn more about Vermont Land Trust and the Bolton Valley Conservation Campaign, click here; and stay tuned for our next film in the {worthWILD} series, featuring Bolton Valley and those who made this protection possible.

New Season of Collaboration & Stewardship begins in Ventura

Last week we partnered with Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, Deckers OutdoorsHorny Toad, REIPatagonia and Vapur to kick off the 2013 Backyard Collective in Ventura, California.

The Backyard Collective brings together member company teams for a day of volunteer action in their own backyard. For this event, we truly were in Patagonia's backyard, making improvements to the Ventura River Parkway area and preparing it for a public opening scheduled for Summer 2013. 

As Lee Sherman, Development Manager for the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, explained to me, the Ventura River provides the water supply for the entire area. It also provides habitat for wildlife, birds and riparian plants that contribute to the health of the river. Years ago, the construction of a levee and California Highway 33 separated Ventura from its river and created an ideal "hiding place" for homeless people in their own separate community. For decades, this area was home to hundreds of illegal homeless encampments and was often called "hobo jungle."  

Eviction Day, a documentary recently screened in the Ventura Wild & Scenic Film Festival tells the story of a coordinated effort that took place in September 2012. There are many entities focused on this very complex issue for a long-term solution centered on social and environmental improvements. 

With the efforts of Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, the city and other NGOs, the area is being restored. It was our honor to partner with them bringing 130+ volunteers out to clear out Arundo Donax (Giant Cane – a tall perennial that is invasive in this area) as well as make trail improvements and plant native willow trees.

 

Together we removed over 5 tons of trash from the river bottom, removed 3 tons (about two acres) of Arundo Donax  and improved a mile of trails to provide better wildlife viewing in the areas closest to the river. 

 

Ventura Hillsides Conservancy Conservation Manager Derek Poultney said it well, “In the thick of some pretty dense poison oak, this effort took a lot of heart.”

 

To cap it all off nearly 200 willow trees were planted. 

Please join us in thanking all of the following for their contributions to the day that exceeded expectations:

  • The Deckers Event Team who brought their staging truck, a PA system and fantastic media support. 
  • The Toads with Kate Larramendy assisted in coordinating with Himalaya, our event caterer, as well as provided coordination and delivery of sweet treats and Peet's coffee.
  • Wonderful hospitality from the Patagonia team enabled us to host our celebration in their beautiful Tin Shed Courtyard. 
  • Additional logistical support was provided by the REI team, who took time to attend and assist during a very busy Oxnard Store Opening Weekend.
  • Vapur donated their wonderful water bottles which were a huge hit with all of the day's attendees.
  • And of course, Lee Sherman, Derek Poultney and the rest of VHC Volunteer Crew who were so well represented and prepared for a big volunteer effort.

An extra measure of gratitude is going out to Kate Larramendy, one of our planning team members from Horny Toad. Kate distributed leftover food to Turning Point, the nonprofit organization featured in Eviction Day that provides support, social services and beds for many of the homeless displaced from living in the river bottom. 

On April 11, we'll be traveling to the bay area to partner with the East Bay Regional Parks. Here's to a fantastic season of doing good, together!

*photos provided by Nathan Garrison (Teva) and Zach Brown (Deckers)

 

Take Action Tuesday: Celebrate Our New Grantees by Learning More

We are pleased to announce the results of The Conservation Alliance Winter 2013 Funding Cycle.  We have awarded $750,000 to the 20 organizations listed below.  We plan to contribute $1.5 million in 2013. Many great conservation opportunities lie ahead, and we are excited to be able to support these important initiatives. Please check out the full summary of the Winter 2013 Funding Cycle by clicking here.

 

The Conservation Alliance applauds President Obama for designating five new National Monuments

Photo: Conservation Lands Foundation

The Conservation Alliance applauds President Obama for designating five new National Monuments today. The monuments are Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico; the First State National Monument in Delaware; the Harriet Tubman National Monument in Maryland; the Charles Young National Monument in Ohio; and the San Juan Islands National Monument off Washington state. National Monuments are an important part of our national – and natural – heritage. They also provide communities with important economic benefits.

We are particularly excited about the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. An approximately 240,000-acre landscape, managed by the BLM, is just north of Taos, NM. The area is popular for whitewater boating, hiking, hunting, climbing, and fishing. Its recreation and wildlife amenities make Rio Grande del Norte an important economic asset to local communities. A recent study estimates that the establishment of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument could lead to an increase of approximately $15 million in regional economic activity. For that reason, more than 150 local businesses support the monument designation.

The economic benefits of protected public lands is not restricted to Northern New Mexico. In November 2011, a group of economists sent a letter to President Obama stating that:

"As economists and academics in related fields, we believe that federal protected public lands are essential to the West's economic future. These public lands, including national parks, wilderness areas and national monuments, attract innovative companies and workers, and are an essential component of the region's competitive advantage."

The Western economy is growing faster than that of the rest of the nation. People are flocking to communities like Taos, Bozeman, Bend, and Durango for the quality of life amenities public lands offer. These lands have lasting economic value when they are protected, and only short-term value when sacrificed to extraction. Some lands are appropriate for energy development, logging, and mining. By designating new National Monuments, particularly Rio Grande del Norte, President Obama recognizes that certain places need to be preserved for the economic benefits they offer just as they are.

We look forward to supporting President Obama as he designates additional National Monuments. They are an investment in our economic future.

Favorites on Friday: Guest Post by Conservation Alliance Ambassador Greg Freyberg

 Photo: Greg Freyberg

Last week, The Conservation Alliance made a trip to our Nation's Capitol; with a delegation made up of member company representatives from around the country, including Conservation Alliance Ambassador, Greg Freyberg, from Ruff Wear.

Greg was asked to join us on this trip because of his outstanding commitment and involvement to The Alliance through his role as Ambassador.  Upon reflection of his experience in Washington DC, Greg wrote the following, sharing with us his experience with the Alliance, as an Ambassador and his thoughts on his time in D.C.

We hope that in reading Greg's words, you are inspired to speak out, stand up, and get more involved in the issues and projects that are important to The Conservation Alliance and the Outdoor Industry.

"Arrive tired, leave inspired." I was attending my first OR Show and someone had convinced me to get up and leave the hotel at 6:45 to walk to the Outdoor Retailer Conservation Alliance Breakfast. Having attended ten of these since, I don't remember what the topic was, or the message the speaker was asking us remember, I just remembered, yes, I was tired but mission accomplished, I left that breakfast inspired. It made me want to get involved and fired up about trying to find some way to help the Conservation Alliance further their mission to "engage businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values."

Unfortunately that inspiration faded with the day to day.  Six months later I was attending another Conservation Alliance Breakfast. Again, mission accomplished I was inspired to want to do more. This cycle happened a couple more times until I finally said, "OK, it's time to put up, or shut up." I met John Sterling the Executive Director of the Conservation Alliance on my next OR trip , grabbed his card, and upon returning home I sent him an email offering my help if and when they needed it. When a friend of mine, Serena Gordon, joined the Conservation Alliance, I reinforced with her my desire to help if I could.

My chance to get involved came a year and a half ago with the introduction of the Conservation Alliance's Ambassador Program. Through this initiative, key individuals in member companies are called upon to act as conduits for new information about the Alliance, grant proposals, help with communicating the details of the voting initiatives, as well as helping with things like local Backyard Collective events. This has proven to be a great way for me to get involved and make a difference.

A few weeks ago, John Sterling called to discuss the upcoming Conservation Alliance Board of Directors Meeting in Washington D.C. The board would be meeting to conduct regular business and then spend the following day on Capitol Hill. The agenda included meeting with different State Representatives and Senators, and thanking them for their support for many of the conservation bills and initiatives that had been introduced to date.  The purpose of John's call was to invite me along as a representative of the Ambassador Program. Wow, what an honor. Count me in!

Day One kicked off with a Board Meeting and the "regular business" of managing such a great organization. I felt honored to be sitting the same room with officers from some of the most influential companies in the Outdoor Industry.  That this team would contribute their time and energy to these meetings is evidence of their passion and commitment to the mission of the Conservation Alliance.

The second half of the day was spent listening to a number of presentations ranging from the basic rundown on Congress and the current Administration, to an update on the current status of Arctic protection, to working with some key Wilderness Conservation Lobbyist to prepare for our meeting on Capitol Hill the following day.

A couple key takeaways from the day…with the nomination of Sally Jewell for Interior Secretary, the future seems bright for wilderness conservation and the protection of public lands. Secondly, I was amazed at the number of folks working hard behind the scenes advocating on behalf of The Conservation Alliance and the many bills and initiatives they support. 

As we hit Capitol Hill, the effects of the recent Sequester were the main topic of the day. These recent changes, along with the somewhat dysfunctional political process in Washington, have definitely influenced representatives and their staffs. I was, however, very impressed with their continued desire to keep the pressure on and not lose site of their mission. We were all very happy to see that wilderness conservation was still a solid part of the political agenda in Washington.

To maximize our effectiveness, our large group divided into smaller, regional groups.   With Ruffwear being an Oregon-based company, I was happy to be meeting with staffers from Oregon, Washington and Montana. They were all very interested in what we had to say and appreciated the fact that we were engaged in the process and supported them in moving these initiatives forward.

Wow, what an experience.  At the end of it all, I would say that one word came to mind. Proud. I was proud of myself to have reached out a few years ago and asked "How can I help?", proud to have been asked to participate in such a great event, and proud to work for a company that supports The Conservation Alliance and their efforts.

At the end of this three-day whirlwind trip, I can honestly say, yes I am tired but very inspired!

Thank you Conservation Alliance.

Greg

Favorites on Friday: The Conservation Alliance Visits Washington DC

 Photo: Greg Freyberg 

This week, The Conservation Alliance made a trip to our Nation's Capital; with a delegation made up of member company representatives from around the country. 

The trip was educational, informative, and productive.  We were able to meet with a number of members of Congress; sharing with them the economic benefits of protected public land and the importance of these lands to the Outdoor Industry. 

While it can be dispiriting to engage our decision makers, and to hear all the time how dysfunctional Congress is, it is important to show up regularly, and remind them that conservation matters to the outdoor industry and its customers. It's a game of incremental progress, and eventually, we will celebrate success.

As if to demonstrate that, on Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed 20 public lands bills, including three Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River bills that we have supported. Those bills will now go to the full Senate for a vote, then hopefully on to the House.

Also on Wednesday, Senator Patty Murray included full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the Senate Budget Resolution. While this is just a framework for the future appropriations and authorization bills, it is really great and important to be included.

Conservation Alliance funding and advocacy makes a real difference as we slowly push these things forward. We appreciate your support and will keep you posted as these things progress.

Favorites on Friday: Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area Act Re-introduced in Both the House and Senate

Photo: Jim Rose

In 2012, The Conservation Alliance funded Tuleyome's Berryessa Snow Mountain Conservation Campaign; to secure permanent protection for the public lands in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region as a National Conservation Area or National Monument.

On Thursday, March 7th, Representative Mike Thompson re-introduced the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area Act with co-sponsors Representatives John Garamendi, Jared Huffman, Ami Bera, and Anna Eshoo, which would protect 350,000 acres of public land just a short drive from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento.

In addition, Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced the senate companion to the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area Act.

A National Conservation Area designation will support the local economy by ensuring continued access to the area for outdoor recreation while protecting the area's natural beauty, wildlife habitat and rare plants. The public can continue to enjoy and use these lands for activities like hunting, grazing, hiking, biking, and rafting.  

Recent economic studies have found that jobs and personal income rose in local communities after nearby areas were permanently protected. That same potential is offered by the Berryessa Snow Mountain region. Protecting special places like this encourages tourism, increases recreational opportunities, assists local businesses and creates a desirable place for people to live and work.

"With its magnificent vistas and diverse wildlife, the Berryessa Snow Mountain region is one of California's greatest natural treasures," Senator Barbara Boxer said. "This bill will expand opportunities for outdoor recreation and help preserve this spectacular area for current and future generations."

"We're thrilled that Senator Boxer and Representatives Thompson, Garamendi, Huffman, Ami Bera, and Eshoo recognize the importance of permanently protecting our publicly owned lands in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region," stated Sara Husby-Good, Executive Director of Tuleyome.  "There is strong community support for protecting this area in a way that will ensure the continued use and enjoyment of these lands for future generations."

"I applaud the reintroduction of legislation to permanently protect the Berryessa Snow Mountain region. The proposed National Conservation Area will not only preserve a very special region of California, but also provide opportunities for the public to reconnect with the outdoors," said Tom Ward, California Policy Advisor for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).  "IMBA is supportive of the proposed Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area because it would maintain and enhance trails and preserve important recreational uses in the region."

For more information on the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area Act, click here.

For more information on Tuleyome, click here.

Take Action Tuesday: Support Sally Jewell for Interior Secretary

We are thrilled that President Obama has nominated REI CEO Sally Jewell to be the next Interior Secretary.  When confirmed by the Senate, Sally will oversee the department of the Interior which manages all Park Service, BLM, and US Fish and Wildlife Service lands, totaling 507 million acres or 20 percent of the US land mass.  In addition to setting conservation priorities for these lands, the Interior Department manages energy projects on federal lands and offshore areas that supply 28 percent of the nation's energy production.

Sally's Senate confirmation hearing will be held on Thursday, March 7th, at 10AM EST. 

Send a letter to your Senators in support of Sally Jewell's confirmation by clicking here.

Show your support on Facebook by clicking here.

To watch the confirmation live on Thursday at 10AM EST, click here.

Photo: REI

Favorites on Friday: {worthWILD} Grand Canyon

The Conservation Alliance  today released Grand Canyon, the fourth video in the worthWILD series. The film tells the story of the Grand Canyon Trust's successful effort to convince the Interior Department to impose a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on one million acres of land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. The ban provides long-term protection for one of the crown jewels of the National Park system.

The Grand Canyon Trust, an organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Colorado Plateau, led a coalition of concerned citizens and residents, local and national organizations, and advocates of our National Parks to protect the Grand Canyon from the threats of new uranium mining. The Conservation Alliance funded the Trust's campaign in 2010, two years into the project.

Grand Canyon depicts how these diverse stakeholders' collaborative efforts resulted in Interior Secretary's Ken Salazar implementation of a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining on 1.1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon.

"The Trust's campaign to secure a favorable decision was greatly enhanced through a powerful strategic alliance with national conservation organizations and their members as well as with businesses such as those supporting The Conservation Alliance and Save the Colorado campaign," said Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust Program Director. 

"Grand Canyon Trust did a terrific job protecting the Grand Canyon watershed from new uranium mining," said Conservation Alliance Executive Director John Sterling. "We're proud to have supported this effort, and are thrilled to tell the story in this short film."

Produced by Alexandria Bombach's Red Reel Video, Grand Canyon is the fourth documentary the Conservation Alliance has produced as part of the worthWild series launched in 2012. Four additional films will be made in 2013.

Watch Grand Canyon here. For more information about the Grand Canyon Trust, visit http://www.grandcanyontrust.org. For additional information about the Conservation Alliance, visit www.conservationalliance.com.  

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