In August, nearly two hundred Conservation Alliance member company representatives and friends gathered in Portland's Wallace Park for the Portland Backyard Collective, an event that brought together member company employees and local grantees for a day of environmental action.
In October 2013, The Conservation Alliance invested $700,000 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 October 1, we received 21 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 April 2013. We will share final reports on all of our April 2013 grants in April 2014.
I took away some unexpected encouragement from the two-week federal government shutdown that just ended. Headlines from the very first day of the shutdown focused on how frustrated people were to be barred from our National Parks, Wilderness areas, and other federal lands. I didn't hear near as much about Americans missing other government services.
The portrait of the government shutdown was a boater unable to dip an oar on the Colorado River after waiting years for a permit; or a field trip of school kids turned away from Crater Lake National Park, learning about Congressional dysfunction rather than the geology of volcanoes.
This is encouraging because it shows how much Americans (and foreign visitors) appreciate and value our public lands. These lands differentiate us from other countries. We plan our vacations around them. And, sadly, we sometimes take them for granted.
Members of Congress have introduced nearly 20 bills that would protect special places on our public lands. Like most pieces of legislation in this Congress, these bills are moving glacially or not at all. Once the dust settles on the embarrassing government shutdown, our elected officials should find areas of common ground, and work from there to repair the damage caused by hyper-partisanship. The outcry that accompanied the shutdown shows that conservation of our public lands can be that common ground. Congress and the Obama Administration should protect more public lands, and relish a new outcry of appreciation.
Western Coast Environmental Law used our funding to assist the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs in drafting a protection plan for the Nass River watershed. As a result, the BC government created the Hanna-Tintina Conservancy, a 58,568-acre protected area that includes spawning habitat for the majority of the Nass River sockeye salmon, timbered hillsides, alpine slopes, riparian and wetland ecosystems, and important grizzly bear habitat.
Here in Oregon, outdoor quality of life is paramount, and outdoor recreation means business. Direct consumer spending on outdoor recreation adds $12.8 billion per year to our state's economy, and supports 141,200 jobs. On a national level, outdoor recreation contributes more than $646 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
As Oregon business leaders, we know how important it is to safeguard Oregon's outdoor and natural heritage. This state's signature public lands and parks form the bedrock of our industry. They inspire us, they provide important wildlife habitat, and they are outdoor playgrounds for our customers and employees. We take very seriously our responsibility to help protect them for generations to come.
That's why we're speaking up in support for keeping public lands in public hands, protecting Oregon's natural heritage via national monuments and wilderness, and ensuring full and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Now is the time to protect Oregon's conservation priorities. We thank you Senator Wyden for your leadership to protect Oregon's wilderness areas through the Oregon Treasures Act and Devils Staircase-and for advancing wilderness proposals through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that will ensure greater access to outdoor recreation across our nation.
We urge you to continue to prioritize conservation and recreation issues on an equal ground that is crucial to our outdoor recreation industry and to our Oregon communities, so that present and future generations can continue to enjoy the great outdoors. We look forward to working together toward that brighter future together.
View a PDF of the letter from Oregon's outdoor recreation business community to Senator Wyden here.
Thank you ads to Senator Wyden, like above, have been published in the Willamette Week, the Oregonian and on OregonLive.com.
On October 1, 2013, the federal government shut down due to a budget impasse in Congress and the inability to come to an agreement with each other and the president on funding for the government at the start of a new fiscal year. This shutdown has huge consequences for the National Park System and for the Outdoor Industry: All 401 national park sites are closed.
Park visitor centers, bathrooms, concession stands, and other facilities are closed. Educational programs and special events are expected to be canceled, permits issued for special activities rescinded, hotels and campgrounds emptied, and entrances secured. Not only are family vacations and school field trips being jeopardized, but the economic well-being of the communities and businesses whose livelihoods depend on national parks is being put in limbo. Learn more.
Take Action:Click here to tell your Senators and Representatives to re-open national parks and to fund them adequately.
Last Friday, I found myself driving to Boulder in the morning dark with snow coming down in all directions. I did my best to maintain calm, after all I was the one who assured everyone that we would soldier on with the Backyard Collective. Everyone, including five brave souls from Osprey who were literally going the extra mile, by traveling up from Cortez, to join us in rebuilding Boulder trails.
One day prior it was 70º and sunny. Boulder County Parks & Open Space Volunteer Coordinator Fletcher Jacobs and I toured our planned worksite and made a pact after checking the forecast for the umpteenth time: despite the forecasted cold & wet weather, the event was a go. As Fletcher put it, "We're there if you're there." I said yes and now…well now it was snowing with an anticipated high temperature of 43º.
Aside from the plummeting temperatures, there were other challenging factors at play. In the previous 48 hours we changed worksite locations, project specifics, and arranged an alternate lunch site under cover, each decision setting off a cascade of communiques.
Being on the ground in Boulder provided a closer look at the destruction of the September floods which left thousands of residents displaced, damaged homes and forced the closure of roads and over 119 miles of area trails. Three weeks later, many of the Boulder County trails remain closed and inaccessible for residents. Among the closed was the Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek, much loved habitat enjoyed by tens of thousands of annual visitors. It was Thursday afternoon when Fletcher and I made the call to move our project to this site after ensuring that we had ample materials and safe access.
What does it mean to rebuild trails in the face of so much need? When things get tough, where do you go? How do you restore balance in your life? I suspect that many of us would share similar answers.
As I drove up to the worksite, I couldn't help but wonder how many folks we could expect in freezing temperatures: 15? 25? 40 would be awesome. My answer soon came in the form of colorful parkas, knit hats, gloved hands and huge grins. By 9 a.m. nearly 50 volunteers arrived ready to take action rebuilding trails that serve as refuge for Boulder community visitors.
The truth is that it's the volunteers who provide the secret sauce of the Backyard Collective. We work with grantees and community partners to identify projects, invite our member companies' employees out for a day of trail stewardship and ensure that there are tools, instruction and sufficient work; It is the energy and cooperative spirit of those that show up that make the day memorable. The strength of their connections with the land, each other and with the folks working on the front lines to preserve wild places are what define the day's success.
Volunteers then caravanned to our makeshift lunch & Volunteer Fair location hosted by the Boulder Recycling Center. There they were greeted by food as well as representatives from the Access Fund, Conservation Colorado, Land & Water Conservation Fund and Colorado Mountain Club ready to share their latest success stories and continued pursuits.
It was early 2013 when we decided that the Backyard Collective would begin in California and culminate Colorado. Last week, our partners at the Boulder County Parks & Open Space, the Colorado Mountain Club and each one of our Backyard Collective volunteers, embodied the inspirational spirit of our collective commitment to conservation and to each other. After a season of watching our membership in action across eight locations, my feeling of gratitude and awe continues.
For more than a decade, Idaho Conservation League has been working to protect the Boulder-White Clouds as a 330,000-acre Wilderness area located in the heart of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Conservation Alliance has been a consistent partner with ICL on this effort, granting $125,000 to this campaign since 2006.
After trying to pass a bill in six consecutive sessions of Congress, ICL is now asking President Obama to use the Antiquities Act, to declare the Boulder-White Clouds a National Monument, permanently protecting this land for future generations.
The Conservation Alliance urges Congress to come together to end the government shutdown, and re-open the crown jewels of America’s recreation lands. Companies that make and sell products for active use in the outdoors suffer when their customers cannot visit our National Parks, National Monuments, Wildlife Refuges, and other federal lands.
Outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in consumer spending each year, and supports 6.1 million jobs. This economic driver relies on our system of public lands.
“Federal lands are the infrastructure for the outdoor industry,” said Executive Director John Sterling. “Closing our parks, monuments, and refuges is like shutting down the mall on Black Friday.”
Since the government shutdown began on October 1, many news reports have focused on the frustration of tourists being barred from visiting federal lands to see the elk rut in Yellowstone, float the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, or hunt on one of dozens of National Wildlife Refuges.
Fortunately, some states have a good collection of state parks that can absorb visitors stymied by federal facilities. Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah reported a record number of cars on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number of visitors on Memorial Day.
“Americans love their protected public lands,” said Sterling. “Once Congress ends this shutdown, it should get to work passing the many stalled bills that would add lands to our National Wilderness Preservation System.”
Volunteers put their hands, pulaskis, mcclouds, and loppers to good use to build and clear trails at two public lands locations. A team of volunteers carpooled to nearby Wright Woods, an area that links Walden Pond Reservation with the Sudbury River and conservation land of the Town of Concord.
Learning about local lands preserved and cared for by the work of grantees is one of the gifts of our Backyard Collective events.
As always it was the team effort that made the day memorable. Many thanks to Clif Bar for the nourishment, ECCO for the raffle prize and Vibram for sharing a sweet surprise with our attendees-everyone was invited to a five fingers fitting and walked away with their own pair.
Thank you New England, we look forward to our next visit!