Conservationists Optimistic for Utah Redrock Protections 

Photo Credit Tim Peterson

The redrock landscapes of Southern Utah have long been a conservation battleground. If you have hiked the region’s labyrinthine canyons, floated its sublime rivers, climbed its splitter cracks, or explored its remarkable archaeological sites, you know that millions of acres of federal land in Southern Utah should be protected. Though famous for its “Mighty Five” national parks, Utah has fewer acres of designated Wilderness than any other state in the Western US. And those “mighty” national parks add up to a mere 835,000 acres combined.

So, when Utah Congressman Rob Bishop proposed several years ago to develop a massive public lands bill that would protect Wilderness, but also provide assurances to energy developers and other stakeholders who traditionally oppose conservation, people from every ideological corner came to the negotiating table. Bishop’s proposal became known as the Public Lands Initiative, or PLI for short. For years, the PLI seemed like an elusive Holy Grail for Utah conservation.

Rep. Bishop released a long-awaited draft in January, and the proposal was roundly panned by the conservation community for including too many unacceptable giveaways to energy, mining, and motorized recreation interests.  The proposal did include 2.2 million acres of new Wilderness and 300 miles of Wild and Scenic River protections. But along with the protections come 2.6 million acres of energy development zones, the transfer of more than 55,000 acres of BLM land to the state and local municipalities, and granting Utah authority over thousands of miles of roads – many through national parks and Wilderness Study Areas – that would lead to the proliferation of unregulated motorized recreation in these special places. Scott Groene, Executive Director of Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance called the draft an “un-Wilderness bill.” Most in the conservation community pronounced the January draft of the PLI DOA.

Throughout the evolution of the PLI, another conservation measure was coming together that did not require an act of Congress. Five Native American tribes in Utah united to develop a proposal for a Bears Ears National Monument, named for a prominent geologic feature on the landscape. The proposal asks President Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect the 1.9-million-acre area primarily to preserve its significant cultural resources. The proposal area holds more than 100,000 archaeological sites and 18 Wilderness Study Areas and Inventoried Roadless Areas. The designation would protect important outdoor recreation opportunities like climbing in Indian Creek, paddling the San Juan River, and backpacking in Grand Gulch.

While conservationists were cautiously optimistic about the PLI, the Bears Ears proposal became a solid “Plan B” for securing significant protection in the region. Many preferred the legislative path because of the controversial nature of national monument proclamations in Utah. But, when Rep. Bishop released his draft PLI, most in the conservation community shifted their efforts to asking that President Obama designate Bears Ears as a monument.

Rep. Bishop has heard the criticism of his draft PLI, and has promised to release a revised draft that addresses some of the conservation concerns. Like the original draft, the re-write is much anticipated, but slow to arrive. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the Obama presidency. If he is to designate Bears Ears, he will need to act soon. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said she will visit Utah this Summer, presumably with the Bears Ears on her mind and agenda. It will be interesting to see which of these two roads leads to permanent protection for special lands in Southern Utah.

For our part, The Conservation Alliance has made several grants to organizations working on the PLI. More recently, we have funded the lead organizations behind the Bears Ears campaign. Our perspective has always been that we need to see more protected lands in Southern Utah. It now appears inevitable that one way or another – either through the PLI or the Bears Ears National Monument – Utah will soon have another spectacular protected landscape.

ONDA Receives $10,000 Discretionary Grant

South Fork Owyhee trip 2006. Photo Credit:  Chad Case

The Conservation Alliance board of directors approved a $10,000 discretionary grant to Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) to support the group’s effort to secure permanent protection for Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands. ONDA is the driving force behind a coalition campaign to pass legislation to protect roughly two million acres of high desert and river canyons as Wilderness and National Conservation Area. If Congress fails to move legislation, the coalition hopes President Obama will protect the landscape as a national monument.

Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands are in the Southeastern corner of the state, bordering Idaho and Nevada. In 2009, Idaho protected 500,000 acres of its piece of the Owyhee as Wilderness. The region is known for its world-class whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, and general remoteness and solitude.

The Conservation Alliance board has the authority to make discretionary grants not to exceed $10,000 to projects with an urgent and time-sensitive need. This is a crucial year for the Owyhee campaign, justifying the discretionary funding. We have also funded The Wilderness Society and Conservation Lands Foundation for their respective roles in the effort. We will keep you posted as the campaign progresses.

Patagonia Recognized for Supporting the Boundary Waters Campaign

Photo: A resupply to Dave and Amy Freeman’s “A Year in the Wilderness” led by representatives from Patagonia Chicago and St. Paul.

Each year we invite Conservation Alliance grantees from the past three funding cycles to nominate member companies for an Outstanding Partnership Award. The award recognizes member companies that go above and beyond in building relationships with Conservation Alliance grantees. Each nomination describes how the company engaged in a meaningful partnership to help the organization succeed in its conservation work. Celebrating these partnerships is a reflection of the community we have helped to build and exemplifies “Outdoor businesses giving back to the Outdoors.”  Samantha Chadwick, Deputy Campaign Manager for Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, nominated Patagonia for their outstanding commitment to supporting the campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.  Samantha shares her partnership story below. 

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, led by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, began as a local effort in 2013 and has grown to a national movement: the goal is to permanently protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on the Wilderness edge. From the beginning, Patagonia has been one of our strongest and most active supporters, and vital to our successes to date.

We have received grant funding from the local Patagonia store in St. Paul for several years. The St. Paul, Lincoln Park and Georgetown stores have all organized and hosted well-attended public events complete with donated food and live music. The St. Paul store displayed Sig, our petition canoe in the store along with displays for Save the Boundary Waters in their retail windows and collected petitions. In 2014 Patagonia supported their employee and filmmaker Nate Ptacek to film and produce Paddle to DC: A Quest for Clean water, which followed explorers Dave and Amy Freeman on their 101 day, 2,000 paddle/sail journey from Ely, Minnesota to Washington D.C. in a canoe covered with petition signatures. This journey and the film, along with a blog post on Patagonia’s Cleanest Line helped launch our campaign from a local effort to national issue. Now, a grant from Patagonia and support from Nate and others is making possible our new documentary Bear Witness — covering the Year in the Wilderness expedition. Patagonia has also generously supported Dave and Amy Freeman with gear and clothing.

We’ve collaborated closely with a number of individual Patagonia employees who have given their time and talents to help this cause they are passionate about. We are incredibly grateful for the support from Patagonia that is helping us reach and inspire hundreds of thousands of people to protect the Boundary Waters.

Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine Recognized as an Outstanding Partner

This photo is from a recent bike trip with Blue Ridge Outdoors and West Virginia Rivers Coalition across the proposed Birthplace of Rivers national monument area.

Each year we invite Conservation Alliance grantees from the past three funding cycles to nominate member companies for an Outstanding Partnership Award. The award recognizes member companies that go above and beyond in building relationships with Conservation Alliance grantees. Each nomination describes how the company engaged in a meaningful partnership to help the organization succeed in its conservation work. Celebrating these partnerships is a reflection of the community we have helped to build and exemplifies “Outdoor businesses giving back to the Outdoors.”   In the coming weeks we will publish all of the nominations on our blog, beginning with Angie Rosser’s nomination of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. Angie, Executive Director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition, shares her partnership story below. 

We are delighted to nominate Blue Ridge Outdoors for the Outstanding Partnership Award. “BRO” is a shining example of how outdoor businesses can lead in efforts to protect wild places for recreation, habitat, and natural values. Their recognition of the intrinsic and social values of wild places is core to their company’s culture. They do this by telling great stories, raising awareness of grassroots conservation efforts, and encouraging volunteerism — including among its staff.

In BRO stories, public lands are more than playgrounds; they are treasures not to be taken for granted. They remind readers that outdoorspeople are called to be stewards and, when necessary, activists — that wild places remain so only when people protect them. BRO articles tell the stories of how lands are conserved as well as who the volunteer stewards are for the places they cover. BRO also uses its robust social media reach to invite readers to take action and get involved in the public lands they enjoy.

BRO s is currently a partner in our efforts to create the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument, for which we received a Conservation Alliance grant. BRO has helped us reach over a million people about the proposed monument through the print magazine and social media network, especially through two feature-length articles: The Next National Monument and Birthplace of Rivers: West Virginia’s First National Monument? Other shorter articles also tout the value of the area’s recreation access and wild ecology.

Another feature article is in the works — this one will explore the monument by bicycle. A BRO reporter will spend three days circumnavigating the monument area on bike along with WV Rivers staff. Once again, the coverage — true to the BRO way — will describe not only the incredible adventure to be found there, but the efforts of ordinary people working to bring about permanent protection for the wildness of Birthplace of Rivers.

As a respected voice, BRO’s brand helps validate the efforts of small groups like ours among an audience we could never reach on our own.

The BRO editorial and sales teams are ambassadors for our proposal and other conservation partners at outdoor festivals and wherever they can. At the annual Gauley whitewater festival in West Virginia, our staff visited the BRO booth to say thanks; upon arrival they found sales staff of BRO describing to BRO readers in great detail the efforts to protect Birthplace of Rivers, and how important it is for readers to go to the WV Rivers table their to sign our petition. BRO staff are also regular volunteers on local projects from West Virginia to Georgia.

This type of public advocacy extends far beyond Birthplace of Rivers. A recent article, “Five Places That Need Permanent Protection in the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest,” uses first-person accounts to describe why these special places are worthy of protection. A recent article, “Ain’t Nothin’ Livin’ in There,” describes how coal mining has destroyed fish and wildlife habitat throughout the region. As West Virginia’s only statewide water policy group, we appreciated how BRO showed the impacts of energy extraction on the waters we rely on for recreation and daily living.

BRO knows that the challenge of protecting wild places is particularly hard work in the under-resourced areas of southern Appalachians. Each month Blue Ridge Outdoors does their part to help.

Birthplace of Rivers: the first landscape-scale national monument in the East 

Elk River flotilla web

By David Lillard, Special Projects Manager at West Virginia Rivers Coalition

There is so much to learn about West Virginia. The “Mountain State” has the largest federally designated wilderness area in the East — the 48,000-acre Cranberry Wilderness. It has the darkest skies between the Adirondacks in New York and the Ozarks in Missouri, and some of the finest trout streams east of the Mississippi. It’s a mecca for mountain biking and the southernmost reliable cross country skiing, drawing people from throughout the Southeast to West Virginia. It is also the headwaters for amazing whitewater rivers and streams that provide recreation and drinking water to millions of people downstream.

Remarkably, all of this is in the southern Monongahela National Forest, a 120,000-acre special place that people throughout West Virginia hope will be designated as the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. The Conservation Alliance is supporting the effort to make this happen.

The lands within the Birthplace of Rivers reflect the very best of our public lands. Unfortunately, public land does not necessarily mean protected land. Congressional efforts to open up recreation lands to industrial uses, proposals to sell off public lands, natural gas pipelines — these are just a few of the threats facing the area.

Businesses owners support the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument because it would be good for West Virginia’s economy and because it’s the right thing to do. They are not alone. A statewide non-partisan poll done by West Virginia Rivers Coalition found that 88% of West Virginians of all political persuasions favor protecting the these special headwaters for outdoor recreation and for clean drinking water.

One of the best examples of this support came in May of this year. Two young adventurers backpacked, biked, and paddled the 173-mile length of the Elk River from its headwaters in the proposed monument to the state capital of Charleston, WV. Along the way they met countless people from all backgrounds who support the monument — people out fishing, paddling, and picnicking by the river. “Elkspedition” culminated in a homecoming event that featured a flotilla of over 50 paddlers who accompanied our team for the final 3 miles. The media celebrated it as an epic journey!

Nearly 2,000 West Virginians and 200 businesses have called upon President Obama to create this first landscape scale national monument in the East. The Conservation Alliance members like Keen and Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine have made Birthplace of Rivers a top priority.  West Virginians welcome people across the country to ask President Obama to create Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. You can help, too, by sending a letter to the President.

Backyard Collective – Santa Barbara

We kicked off our 2016 Backyard Collective event series in Santa Barbara with volunteers from Patagonia, Toad&Co, All Good, Deckers and REI. Backyard Collectives bring together member company employees and local grantees for a day of environmental action. These events allow us to get out of the office and get our hands dirty; doing good work to preserve and protect the open spaces in our own backyards.

We worked with Channel Islands Restoration and the Deckers events team to coordinate the event, where more than 100 volunteers planted 362 native plants in the San Marcos Foothill Preserve, cleared large areas of invasive plants, and expanded the existing restoration site considerably.

Volunteers from Environmental Defense CenterSouth Coast Habitat RestorationVentura Hillsides Conservancy, & 1% for the Planet participated in the volunteer fair following the event.

Check our events page for a full list of 2016 Backyard Collective event locations and dates.  We hope you will join us!


Conservation Alliance Grantees Deliver Eight Victories

Mojave Trails National Monument, CA Photo Credit: John Dittli

In April 2015, The Conservation Alliance invested $800,000 in grassroots conservation organizations. Each grant went to a project working to secure permanent protection for a specific threatened wild place.

On April 1, we received 24 final reports from organizations funded in April, 2015, and 20 interim reports from organizations funded in October, 2015.  These reports play a key role in helping us determine the return on our investment. Conservation Alliance grantees funded in the last 12 months reported eight conservation victories, permanently protecting 2,269,892 acres, four river miles and one climbing area.

Following is a summary of the progress our grantees have made with our funding. Download the final report summaries and notable interim report summaries here.

Gold Butte National Monument Campaign Takes a Big Step


By Shevawn Von Tobel, Outreach and Communications Manager at Friends of Nevada Wilderness

The southern Nevada campaign to gain permanent protection for Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon, Gold Butte, hit an important milestone last month. Nevada’s Gold Butte champion, Senator Harry Reid, made an impressive speech on the Senate floor calling on President Obama to declare Gold Butte as a National Monument. The Senator also pointed out the extensive damage that has been occurring in the area such as graffiti of petroglyphs, destruction of Joshua trees, and construction of illegal developments and ended his speech with the poignant quote, “When we preserve our lands, we preserve America.”

Senator Harry Reid also pointed to the tremendous impacts protected public lands have on local and state economies. He highlighted a recent study done by the Small Business Majority which looked at ten of the twenty-two National Monuments President Obama has designated. The ten monuments studied in the report have a total economic impact of $156 million per year, drive approximately $58 million in labor income per year, and support approximately 1,820 jobs annually.  It is no wonder then that more and more local businesses in southern Nevada are also calling on President Obama for protection of Gold Butte – they understand that protecting Nevada’s public lands means protecting Nevada’s economy.

Senator Reid has made big conservation gains in his thirty years in office – designating 69 wilderness areas (3.4 million acres), three National Conservation Areas, one National Park, and, his most recent achievement, Basin and Range National Monument. The Gold Butte National Monument will make for a valuable addition to the Senator’s conservation legacy. This new chapter of the Gold Butte campaign would not be possible without the tremendous support of the Conservation Alliance and its outdoor business members. We’d like to especially thank Conservation Alliance member, KEEN Footwear, for amplifying the Gold Butte message to a national level through their innovative Live Monumental campaign.

Conserving a Hidden Gem in Montana’s Backcountry


By Joel Webster, Western lands director for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.  Photo Credit: Mark Good

Why a national coalition of hunting and fishing groups is calling for use of a new conservation tool to keep backcountry public lands intact and undeveloped.

Thousands of years ago, the Missouri River in Montana ran far north of where it lies today. As the ice ages ended, the river took a new course below the Bear Paw Mountains, cutting a wide channel through the fine clay soils of the plains. Rain and snow have since carved the earth into a vast and twisted maze of coulees and canyons, some of them hundreds of feet deep, marked by cliffs of yellow sandstone, weathered buttes, steep slopes of scree rock, and forests of ponderosa pine.

The Breaks were one of the last places to be settled in the West. Much of the land went unclaimed. A lot more was abandoned after the homestead years, when fierce winters and seemingly endless droughts forced even some of the toughest families to leave.

Today, most of the Missouri Breaks is public land in the care of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is known by wildlife enthusiasts as some of the world’s most unique and productive country for elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. The river is popular for multi-day float trips and the almost never-ending canyons are great for camping, hiking, and exploring. Many of us are accustomed to going up into the mountains to find solitude and adventure, but in the Breaks, the mountains head downhill, eventually leading to the big river itself.

Lands on the southern end of the Missouri breaks—not far from where the Missouri and Musselshell Rivers meet—are currently being evaluated by the BLM, and what they find will shape long-term future management of these areas. In February 2014, the BLM formally began the process of revising the Lewistown Field Office Resource Management Plan to guide use of its resources for the next two decades.

And this planning process represents a rare and critical opportunity to protect our last remaining undeveloped lands from fragmentation and development.

These are some of the most unique backcountry lands found anywhere, and they will remain vulnerable to fragmentation and development unless safeguarded through the land-use plan. That’s why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP)—a national coalition of 46 hunting and fishing conservation organizations—is leading a public outreach campaign to convince the BLM to safeguard the best backcountry lands on the southern side of the Breaks.

The TRCP and its allies are advocating for a meaningful new conservation tool called Backcountry Conservation Areas (BCAs). Through the BCA approach, specific areas important for wildlife habitat and dispersed recreation would be safeguarded from fragmentation and development through the revised land-use plan. In essence, it would keep backcountry BLM lands just the way they are.

In 2014, the TRCP worked closely with the diverse group of people who have a stake in public lands management to develop a proposal identifying 230,000 acres of backcountry lands worthy of conservation. Six hunting and fishing groups, plus 800 individuals, a local rancher, and other stakeholders, have expressed support for this proposal. Outdoor recreation groups and businesses have also been strong supporters of the BCA management approach.

Right now, the BLM is making final touches to its draft resource management plan, and we expect this plan to be issued to the public later this year. But your opportunity to help safeguard one of the most unique and scenic landscapes in North America is now. Contact the Lewistown BLM and urge them conserve the best backcountry in the Missouri River Breaks by adopting backcountry conservation areas in the Lewistown resource management plan. Your days of hunting, fishing, or spending time with family on central Montana’s public lands depend on it.

Photo: Mark Good

2016 Outstanding Partnership Awards

atagonia award 2

Photo:  A resupply to Dave and Amy Freeman’s “A Year in the Wilderness” led by representatives from Patagonia Chicago and St. Paul.

We’re pleased to announce Ibex Outdoor Clothing, Patagonia, and KEEN as the winners of the Outstanding Partnership Award for 2016. The award recognizes member companies that go above and beyond in building relationships with Conservation Alliance grantees.

All Conservation Alliance grantees from the past three funding cycles were invited to nominate member companies for recognition. Each nomination described how the company engaged in a meaningful partnership to help the organization succeed in its conservation work.

The Trust for Public Land nominated Ibex Outdoor Clothing for a partnership that has spanned many years and includes board service, event hosting, in-kind donations, and public and outspoken support of full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“Over the past two years, Ibex Outdoor Clothing has been an outstanding partner and friend to The Trust for Public Land,” says Michael Giammusso, Director of Institutional Giving, The Trust for Public Land. “Our relationship with Ibex began in Vermont, and has developed into an invaluable connection.”

Portland, Oregon-based KEEN was nominated by Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) for an unprecedented organizational commitment.

“It would be difficult to imagine a company making a stronger commitment to conservation than Keen has over the last year,” said Dan Morse, Conservation Director, ONDA. “Above and beyond the company’s ingrained conservation ethic and ongoing support for organizations like ONDA, this year KEEN upped the ante for conservation across the country with its Live Monumental campaign. For the ONDA and the Owyhee Coalition this effort brought critical attention and support to the campaign to permanently protect the Owyhee Canyonlands.”

Patagonia was nominated by two grantees, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, for its financial support and awareness raising efforts to garner public support to protect these special places.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support from Patagonia that is helping us reach and inspire hundreds of thousands of people to protect the Boundary Waters and has the attention of national leaders who can take action this year to protect this great canoe country wilderness,” said Samantha Chadwick of the Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness.

“Patagonia gets behind ideas that matter and makes change happen,” said Ross Dixon of Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “We hold up this collaboration as an outstanding example of what is possible when the business community lends not only resources, but their skills, their people and their passion to protect wild places for habitat and the recreational values that we all share.”

The Outstanding Partnership Award is an annual initiative. Previous winners of the award include: Outdoor Gear Exchange, prAna, Mountain Equipment Co-op, The Forest Group, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Filson, Black Diamond, Juniper Ridge, and Footzone of Bend.

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