Success! American River Conservancy Completes 10,115 Acre Granite Chief Property Acquisition

Granite Chief / American River Headwaters, CA  Photo Credit:  American River Conservancy

On Wednesday, August 5thAmerican River Conservancy (ARC) closed escrow on, thus permanently protecting, 9,955 acres of land known as the American River Headwaters/Granite Chief Property.  These acquired lands adjoin another 160 acres acquired by ARC in 2013, and completes the purchase of section numbers 1, 29, 35 and 36 on this mapThis acquisition has protected and preserved the largest private inholding on the Sierra Nevada Crest south of Donner Summit.

This forested landscape is at the headwaters of the North and Middle Forks of the American River. The property is immediately west of North Lake Tahoe, CA, the Olympic Valley/Squaw Valley Ski Area and the Pacific Crest Trail.

The $50,000 Conservation Alliance grant awarded to ARC in 2014 was instrumental in initiating a massive fundraising campaign, enabling ARC and its partners to raise the $14.5 million required for this conservation project including $11,000,000 for the purchase price and transaction expense; $1.15 million for a stewardship endowment and $2.35 million for restoration.  This restoration work includes the decommissioning of approximately 20 miles of logging roads, and the repair of streams and wet meadows on 3,055 acres. ARC expects to begin the physical restoration work in June, 2016.  Once the restoration work is complete, they expect to add more than 3,000 of the newly acquired acres to the Granite Chief Wilderness.

The Conservation Alliance is deeply proud to have played a role in this project. Protecting 10,000 acres in such a short amount of time, in one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world, is a great accomplishment.

Huge protected area moves ahead in Canada’s NWT


Erica Janes, Conservation Outreach Coordinator at Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Northwest Territories shares exciting news about Thaidene Nene.  Since 2011, The Conservation Alliance awarded four grants totaling $155,000 to support this campaign.

With both federal and territorial elections looming in Canada in the fall, we are thrilled that significant progress has been made over the summer in finalizing protection for Thaidene Nene, the Land of the Ancestors. This huge area of sparkling lakes and rushing rivers as far as the eye can see spans the transition from boreal forest to tundra, around and beyond the shores of Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories. It’s the traditional homeland of the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, accessible by boat in summer, and by plane and snowmobile in winter, from the NWT capital city of Yellowknife. Within a couple of years, new parks there should be open for adventurous visitors from far and wide!

In mid-July, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) unveiled their proposed boundaries for territorial park and caribou conservation zone areas within the Thaidene Nene study area, and embarked on a public consultation program. The details around these protection mechanisms are still to be worked out – and you can rest assured that CPAWS will continue to be involved to ensure permanent and robust protection – but we have heartily congratulated the GNWT on this huge step forward in NWT conservation.

Then on July 29th, just four days before a federal election was called for October 19th, the Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Environment Minister traveled to Lutsel K’e to unveil the boundary of the proposed national park reserve portion of Thaidene Nene, and launched a parallel federal public consultation process. This would not have happened without the dedication of the entire Thaidene Nene team, or the strong encouragement from many citizens and opinion influencers whom we were able to rally.

Following public consultations, Parks Canada, the GNWT and the LKDFN will continue to negotiate the details of two separate establishment agreements, keeping in mind the goal of creating a contiguous protected area and seamless visitor experience. We expect that Thaidene Nene will be established within the next couple of years.

Commitments from both the territorial and federal governments in advance of the upcoming fall elections for both governments signal a major step forward for Thaidene Nene, and speak to the constructive and collaborative work between all levels of government that has been done in the past several months.

Continued support from The Conservation Alliance and others has enabled CPAWS to work closely with the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation in building public awareness and support for this bold conservation vision that not only encompasses protecting land, water and wildlife, but also fosters cultural continuity and promises to provide the basis of a regional and sustainable tourism economy based on conservation.

You can send a letter of congratulations to Parks Canada, the GNWT and the LKDFN via the Thaidene Nene Action Centre, and stay tuned for more on this incredible conservation opportunity in Canada’s NWT.

Congress Passes 275,665 Acre Wilderness Bill


For the past 40 years, conservationists have fought to protect the Boulder White Clouds as Wilderness. Today, that drama came to a happy ending when the US Senate voted unanimously to bestow Wilderness designation on 275,000 acres of federal land in Central Idaho. The House of Representatives passed identical legislation last week, so the measure now awaits President Obama’s signature.

The Conservation Alliance first supported this effort in 1998 when we made a $35,000 grant to the upstart Boulder White Clouds Council. We have since made five grants totaling $175,000 to Idaho Conservation League, which has led the effort to protect this special place.

During the 17 years of our involvement in this project, the campaign has taken countless twists and turns. In 2006, we organized a delegation of business leaders to travel to Washington, DC to voice support for a protected Boulder White Clouds. Legislation to save the area nearly passed the Congress that December, but failed at the 11th hour. Republican Congressman Mike Simpson, who has championed the bill for 13 years, was disappointed, but not deterred. He has re-introduced the legislation during each subsequent session of Congress.

Last fall, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, we organized another group of outdoor industry representatives to go to DC and demonstrate support for protected federal lands. At a Wilderness 50 banquet, we all listened to Congressman Simpson tell the audience of his commitment to saving the Boulder White Clouds. He spoke passionately, and made it clear that he would not rest until this work was done. He was the only Republican to speak that night.

The Boulder White Clouds campaign took another turn last year when, fed up with Congressional inaction, conservationists launched a new effort to ask President Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Boulder White Clouds as a national monument. Doing so would bypass Congress, but finally put the issue to rest. The Obama Administration sent signals that they would be willing to make the designation, but – recognizing that the Idaho delegation did not want to see a national monument in their state – agreed to give Congressman Simpson six months in 2015 to move the bill through Congress.

During the national monument push, The Conservation Alliance teamed up with filmmaker Alexandria Bombach to make a short film about the area as part of our worthWILD film series. The film features stunning arial footage of the Boulder White Clouds, and talks about the broad support in the recreation community for the national monument designation. We also met with key representatives in the Obama Administration to voice outdoor business support for the national monument designation.

We endorsed the national monument push for two reasons. First, it seemed unlikely that Congress would ever manage to move legislation. Second, as a national monument, the Boulder White Clouds would be protected, but still allow access to mountain biking, which is prohibited in Wilderness. Our friends in the mountain bike community worked hard to secure the monument designation, reaching an unprecedented agreement with the Wilderness community that brought the two stakeholders – often at odds with each other – together.

With the threat of the national monument proclamation looming, Congressman Simpson worked harder than ever, and managed to move his Wilderness legislation through the House of Representatives. At the same time, Idaho Senator Jim Risch – who once opposed protecting the area – used his seat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to move the bill forward in the Senate. Today, this combination of efforts paid off, and we celebrate our newest Wilderness areas.

Not everyone is celebrating today, though. Our friends in the mountain bike community feel like they have lost access to a truly special area. International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and Outdoor Alliance (OA) pushed hard for the national monument designation. As the Wilderness legislation moved forward, the mountain bike advocates proposed changing the bill to establish a mountain bike corridor through the proposed Wilderness areas. In the end, Congressman Simpson refused that request. In doing so, Simpson articulated the accommodations he made to the mountain bike community in developing the bill. Though not all of our friends will agree with the Congressman’s position, it is worth reading his explanation:

Today, we congratulate Idaho Conservation League, The Wilderness Society, and Congressman Mike Simpson for bringing to a close the 40-year effort to save a special landscape. The Boulder White Clouds now enjoys the highest form of protection we can bestow on our federal lands. Conservation icon Brock Evans, when asked what was his secret to success, said: “Endless pressure, endlessly applied.” The Conservation Alliance is proud to have played a role in applying that pressure, and are relieved that the need for pressure, in this case, was not “endless”.

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