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The Conservation Alliance Storms Washington, DC


Kelly Neel (REI), Josie Norris (The Conservation Alliance), Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), Thomas O’Keefe (American Whitewater), Katherine Hollis (The Mountaineers) and Eric Hayes (Superfeet)

The Conservation Alliance teamed up with Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance to bring more than 100 outdoor business and recreation leaders to Washington, DC to meet with Congressional offices and Obama Administration representatives about the importance of protecting public lands for their recreation and habitat values. The Conservation Alliance’s group totaled 30 people, including the board of directors and additional representatives from member companies.

The group spent a full day learning about conservation policy from DC-based experts and from our grantees working to protect specific places. The group received an update on the political lay-of-the-land, and what conservation initiatives might succeed with Congress and the Obama Administration. The trainings then shifted to a focus on specific conservation issues, including: the Land and Water Conservation Fund; National Monuments; and Wilderness legislation. Because it is the final year of the Obama Administration, we scheduled extra time to discuss proposed National Monuments that the President might designate before he leaves office. That conversation focused on four places: Bears Ears (Utah); Grand Canyon Watershed (Arizona); Owyhee Canyonlands (Oregon); and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska).

The following day, we broke the large group into smaller lobby teams, which met with Congressional and Obama Administration offices to demonstrate business support for conservation that benefits recreation. Together, the teams completed 30 meetings in one day. Each of the teams reported that their meetings went well, and that they sensed general enthusiasm for conservation, particularly within the Obama Administration. Even with a dysfunctional Congress, we saw reasons to be hopeful. The week before we arrived, the Senate held a hearing for three bills that together would protect more nearly 500,000 acres of Wilderness and 1,000 river miles in Washington, Oregon, and California. Stay tuned!

We coordinated our DC effort with OIA and Outdoor Alliance, co-hosting social events, and integrating each organizations into joint lobby teams. The result was a critical mass of outdoor business and recreation voices in town for a few days. Aside from the trainings and lobby meetings, it was great to see so many outdoor industry leaders in, looking sharp — and sometimes uncomfortable — in fancy clothes.

We are already looking forward to our 2017 trip, which will involve meetings with a brand new Presidential administration, and several new faces in Congress. The work of securing protection for our federal lands requires regular engagement with our elected officials, and it’s great to see our industry stepping up to advocate for conservation and recreation.

Ambassador Spotlight: George Thoma, Athlete Sponsorship Coordinator at Clif Bar & Company

GT ERide

Conservation Alliance Ambassadors are key influencers and leaders in the outdoor industry, and they serve as a conduit for spreading the word about Conservation Alliance programs and grantee activities within their respective companies.  They volunteer their time, going above and beyond the duties of their full-time jobs at member companies.  Our ambassadors are passionate outdoor enthusiasts, and exceptional people. Today, we’d like you to meet George Thoma, Athlete Sponsorship Coordinator at Clif Bar & Company. 

What made you want to be an Ambassador for The Conservation Alliance?

I wanted to become a Conservation Alliance ambassador to help educate Clif Bar and Company employees on all the great work the Alliance does. Through my position in sports marketing, I am exposed to a lot of their impact through my professional relationships, but not everyone at the company has as much visibility. It is really satisfying for me to share the successes of The Conservation Alliance with people in all departments of the company.

What areas of conservation are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about preserving open space from development or being compromised by resource extractions. I feel very privileged to have grown up with a solid base of outdoor activities and I want those opportunities to remain viable for my kids and all future generations.

Favorite outdoor activity?

My favorite outdoor activity is cycling. Any bike, any place, any bike ride is a good ride. Whenever I can, I like to link up roads and trails to make for a nice long day in the saddle exploring the wild areas just outside of the city.

Favorite Wilderness or National Park?

Being a Clif Bar ambassador for The Conservation Alliance has really allowed me to combine two of my biggest passions – the outdoors and endurance sports. As such, my favorite Wilderness and Parks are tied to athletic endeavors there. I have a strong connection to Zion National Park after a 14 hour run/hike from one end of the park to the other. I also fell in love with the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho after a weeklong mountain bike trip to the area. Those two places have lots of great memories not just because of their uniqueness and beauty, but because of the great adventures I had.

Most eye opening experience for the need of conservation.

I don’t have one specific galvanizing moment, but I volunteer at my daughter’s school as a garden docent, and seeing the kids interact with the land has been a powerful experience. It has shown me how important a connection to nature is for understanding ourselves and the impact we have on the greater system surrounding us. I hope, through the work of The Conservation Alliance, we can continue to protect precious outdoor monuments so they may be ready for the kids of today to explore once they move past the school yard garden.

End Quote: Words of motivation to get others inspired.

Do what you can and be proud to know you are making a difference. We all support conservation in many different personal ways, and they are all valuable. Most of all, get outside and visit some of these places we are all working to save, then try to imagine a world without them.

Action Alert: Protect the Kalmiopsis Rivers from Nickel Strip Mining

Baldface Emerald Stretch - Hi-Res

By Michael Dotson, Director at KS Wild

The Kalmiopsis region in southwest Oregon is a landscape like none other. It’s red rocks and emerald waters are world-renowned to whitewater enthusiasts. Wild and Scenic Rivers like the Smith, Illinois, and Chetco carve their way from the Siskiyou range, through ancient forests of redwoods and cedars on their way to the coast. It is also home to the most botanically diverse wildlands in all of Oregon.

Last summer, the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service took steps to protect this region from the imminent threat of nickel strip mining. A foreign mining company has proposed to strip mine (or the equivalent of mountain top removal) for nickel in the headwaters of the North Fork Smith River and Hunter Creek. A second company is proposing to mine for nickel in the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Illinois River – a key salmon and steelhead fishery and tributary of the Wild Rogue River.

The US Forest Service has recently completed an Environmental Analysis to extend short-term protections for 100,000 acres of public forests and wild rivers in these mostly pristine watersheds. With short-term protections, a coalition of conservation advocates is also working to secure permanent protection via the Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act.

What’s at stake? Clean water for communities downstream, like Crescent City and Cave Junction, as well as some of the most viable wild salmon and steelhead runs left on the Pacific Coast.

Please sign on to the petition to protect the wild rivers of the Kalmiopsis region before May 27th. To learn more about conservation efforts in the Kalmiopsis, visit kswild.org.

Save the Date! The Conservation Alliance Breakfast with Florian Schulz

Beaufort Sea, Alaska. Photo: Florian Schulz

 
The Conservation Alliance Breakfast
Thursday, August 4, 7-9 AM
The Marriott, Salons F-I, Salt Lake City

The Wild Edge: Freedom to Roam the Pacific Coast

A Presentation by Photographer Florian Schulz

Florian Schulz is a conservation photographer and advocate for the preservation of wild habitat. Florian immerses himself in an environment for several weeks at a time, studying wildlife behavior and interaction. His multi-media presentation weaves stories and images from his new book The Wild Edge, which reveals the great Pacific seam of North America. From the Baja peninsula through the coves and breaks of California and the bays and inlets of the Pacific Northwest, to the deep forests of British Columbia and the icy realm of polar bears in the Beaufort Sea of Alaska, the west coast of North America provides a life-sustaining corridor of great energy. Florian’s photographs have appeared in international publications, including National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, and GEO. The Conservation Alliance Breakfast is open to the public, so please bring a friend.

Arrive tired, leave inspired!

Historic Opportunity to Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service

This is a potentially historic year for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This 20-million-acre landscape, which stretches from the Brooks Range north to the Arctic Ocean, has for decades been the subject of countless battles between the conservation community and proponents of oil drilling. In 1980, Congress designated nearly half of the Arctic Refuge as Wilderness. Left unprotected was a crucial strip of land known as the Coastal Plain, the 1.5-million-acre area where the refuge meets the Beaufort Sea. The State of Alaska and the oil industry have long sought to drill for the known oil deposits under the Coastal Plain, but needs Congress to pass a bill allowing access. At the same time, the conservation community has fought to pass bills through Congress designating the Coastal Plain as Wilderness. The effort to protect the Coastal Plain has never been as close to success as it is today, as a cascade of events over the past two years have moved the effort closer to the finish line.

In January 2015, President Obama formally recommended that Congress designate the Coastal Plain as Wilderness. Shortly thereafter, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced legislation in the House that would secure those protections. In December 2015, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced similar legislation into the Senate. Last month, the House voted on Rep. Huffman’s bill, the first time Congress has ever voted on a Wilderness bill for the Arctic Refuge. (The bill did not pass). Meanwhile, oil prices are so low that oil companies are abandoning plans to drill existing leases in the Arctic Ocean.

As President Obama nears the end of his term, a broad group of stakeholders — including the outdoor industry — are calling on the President to do all he can to give the Coastal Plain the highest level of protection possible. The Conservation Alliance has funded several organizations over the past 15 years to support campaigns to protect the Arctic Refuge. We are now working with Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) to circulate a letter among our respective member companies, asking President Obama to protect the refuge. We expect at least 100 companies to sign that letter. OIA recently released a statement in support of protecting the Arctic Refuge, noting both its recreation and habitat values. In April, The Conservation Alliance, OIA, and Outdoor Alliance will gather in Washington, DC with dozens of representatives from our respective organizations. One goal of that trip is to explain to decision makers why protecting the Arctic Refuge is important.

Looking further ahead, The Conservation Alliance Breakfast on August 4th will feature a presentation by renowned photographer Florian Schulz, whose talk will have a strong Arctic theme. Now is the time to push for Arctic protection.

Take action today and contact us if you would like to become more involved.

The Year of Bears Ears

Bears Ears Sunset Photo: Tim Peterson

By Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands Program Director, Grand Canyon Trust

If you’re looking to hike, bike, raft, boat, or climb, there’s no better place than Utah. You may be familiar with Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef, but around and between Utah’s iconic National Parks are millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands – mountains and badlands, cliffs and canyons, rivers and streams, sandstone towers and wild mesas.

Unfortunately, the majority of Utah’s iconic landscape is still open to fossil fuel and mineral development. These extractive industries always boom and bust, inflicting lasting scars on the landscape, leaving taxpayers to clean up the mess when the money dries up. Many in Utah are now looking to recreation for a more sustainable future. After all, the recreation economy brings Utah $12 billion annually in spending and more than 122,000 jobs.

It seemed, for a time, that even Utah’s pro-fossil fuels politicians were concerned about protecting the recreation economy. The 2013 Utah Public Lands Initiative (PLI), spearheaded by Representative Rob Bishop (R, UT), offered hope. Bishop claimed the PLI sought “to build consensus” over which areas in seven eastern Utah counties should be preserved and which should be developed.

We at the Grand Canyon Trust, along with our partners in the conservation and recreation communities, were inspired by the promise of the PLI. We worked hard, making solid progress early on, even reaching negotiated agreements in two counties that struck a delicate balance that ensured conservation came out ahead. But things began to sour in 2015. One county broke from our negotiated agreement and another excluded everyone living outside the county when crafting their proposal. Discussions elsewhere deteriorated over too little wilderness and too much fossil fuel development. Despite our best efforts at compromise, by mid-2015 it become clear that “consensus” was no longer Representative Bishop’s goal.

In January 2016, Bishop released a draft of his PLI, and it’s a big step backwards for conservation in Utah. The bill would actually weaken existing on-the-ground protections for Utah’s best wilderness-quality lands. Representative Bishop, long known as a friend to industry, is using the PLI as a vehicle to float all kinds of new legislative language – from weakening the Wilderness Act of 1964 to transferring tens of thousands of acres and more than nine thousand public roads over to state ownership – just to name three of the bill’s many poison pills.

Though consensus compromise has failed in the PLI, there is a bright ray of hope on the horizon. A historic coalition of five sovereign Native American Tribal Governments (Navajo, Hopi, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni) has come together to propose a new national monument for 1.9 million acres of public lands around a place called Bears Ears in southeastern Utah. Bears Ears is not only beautiful, with outstanding hiking, climbing, biking, boating, and camping opportunities, it is a vibrant cultural landscape full of ancient villages, cliff dwellings, and rock art that continues to be vital to tribal communities across the Colorado Plateau as a place of subsistence, spirituality, healing, and contemplation.

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition’s landmark proposal calls upon the president to use the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create a new national monument for Bears Ears.  The Antiquities Act was created to protect archaeologically and culturally significant resources, but for the first time tribes are petitioning the president for a national monument that calls for joint management between the tribes and the federal government.

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition’s inspiring campaign has healing at its core – for the land and for all people – and the Obama administration is taking notice. At the 2015 Native Nations Conference in December, President Obama promised: “we will review tribal proposals to permanently protect sacred lands for future generations.”

Bears Ears represents the best shot at permanent protection in Utah in nearly two decades. We at the Grand Canyon Trust support the efforts of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. We’re very excited about Bear Ears and we hope you are too! You can help make sure 2016 is the “Year of Bears Ears” by signing the petition to President Obama in support of the tribes to permanently protect Bears Ears as a national monument. You can learn more about the effort at http://www.protectbearsears.org/.

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Video:  Hear more about Bears Ears from Ute Mountain Ute Councilwoman Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk

Healing the Peace River Break starts with defeating the Site C Dam.


A stunning view of the Peace River Valley with the proposed Peace-Boudreau Protected Area visible across the river. Photo: Tristan Brand

In northeastern British Columbia (B.C.), the mighty Peace River cuts across one of the narrowest sections of North America’s vast Rocky Mountain chain.

The unique ecology along this river system is featured most prominently in Peace-Boudreau, an area identified as special in 1969 and recommended for Provincial Park status in 1997, and appearing today on B.C. tourism maps as a star attraction. Yet it has not been formally protected despite years of campaigning by First Nations, local landowners, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) and other conservation groups, as well as recommendations from independent scientists and land planners.

Despite its recognition of the region’s ecological value, the B.C. Government has pressed ahead on plans to build the Site C dam, a massive project that would flood much of the region—eradicating large sections of wildlife habitat, valuable farmland and a range of cultural artefacts left by First Nations’ communities that have existed in the region for millennia.

At more than 17,000 ac (7,000 ha), the Peace-Boudreau region hugs the river shoreline, encompassing tributary creeks, islands and aquatic features, such as the lower Moberly River and Boudreau Lake, and would protect high-quality habitat for a diversity of wildlife. The area provides high-value winter range as well as spring calving grounds on the islands for moose, deer and elk, and features a diverse range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, beaver and bull trout, and a plethora of bird species, such as osprey, eagles and trumpeter swans.

Peace-Boudreau was designed to protect the last remaining intact portion of the Peace River and conserve the Peace Lowlands, a critically underrepresented ecosystem in the province. Due to the heavy impact of oil and gas activity throughout northeastern B.C., protecting the ecological integrity of this region is vital—especially since it provides an invaluable linkage area for wide-ranging animals moving north and south along the mountainous Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor. And yet, the Site C reservoir would flood up to 30 percent of these critical ecosystems.

Peace-Boudreau is a place of shared heritage, archaeological richness, First Nations cultural and economic importance and incredible wildlife habitat values combined together in a unique ecosystem that has been wisely reserved from destruction for almost 50 years.

Y2Y and partner organizations are working together to protect Peace-Boudreau forever. And that starts with a rejection of the Site C dam.

Written by Tim Burkhart, Peace River Break Coordinator at Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

Breaking News! President Obama Designates Three National Monuments in California

Hiker in the Mojave Trails National Monument Photo: John Dittli

President Obama has designated three new national monuments, protecting roughly 1.8 million acres of BLM land in the California Desert. The three monuments will connect Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve to create the second largest protected landscape in the world. With this action, Obama has now preserved more acres of land and water than any other President.

The largest of the three is Mojave Trails National Monument, a 1.6-million-acre matrix of land along 100 miles of historic Route 66 that protects wildlife corridors between Death Valley and Joshua Tree. Sand to Snow National Monument preserves 154,000 acres between Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest, and includes 24 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The 20,920-acre Castle Mountains National Monument preserves a ridge of desert peaks and rare grasslands roughly 100 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada.

After years of trying to move legislation through a dysfunctional Congress, California Senator Dianne Feinstein asked President Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect the desert landscapes. Since 2008, The Conservation Alliance made a total of seven grants to California Wilderness Coalition and Conservation Lands Foundation for their efforts to secure protection for these lands. Both organizations played a key role in building local support for the protections, and guiding the project to success. We thank Senator Feinstein and President Obama for their leadership in protecting this important landscape.

President Obama has indicated his interest in protecting additional landscapes before he leaves office. The Conservation Alliance and our grantees will work hard throughout the year to demonstrate outdoor business support for saving these special places. We will keep you posted!

Meanwhile, please check out good stories in the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post for full details on our newest national monuments.

The Conservation Alliance Releases 2015 Annual Report

The Conservation Alliance released our 2015 Annual Report this week, providing an overview of the organization’s accomplishments last year. During the year, we contributed a record $1.6 million to 43 conservation organizations throughout North America. The report also includes a summary of the 11 conservation victories Conservation Alliance grantees secured in 2015, protecting 1.1 million acres of land and 13 river miles, acquiring one climbing area, and removing two dams.

It is exciting to tally our results at the end of each year, and 2015 was productive on every front. Thanks to our member companies, we gave away a record amount to organizations that get the job done. Because of those organizations, we celebrate the protection of special wild places from New York to Oregon, and many places in between.

In addition to the funding success, The Conservation Alliance added 27 new members. Each member company pays annual dues into a central fund, and we contribute 100 percent of those dues to conservation organizations.

We continue to attract great companies, large and small, to our organization. We take this growth as a sign that brands value our model of companies working together to protect the wild places so important to their customers.

The Conservation Alliance also hosted six Backyard Collective stewardship projects, and five Wild Drinks gatherings. These events bring employees of member companies together with grantees for a day of field work, or for informational happy hours.

Through our Advocacy Program, The Conservation Alliance provided 17 opportunities for member companies to become directly engaged in the conservation work of grantees. Activities included training business leaders in conservation policy and meeting with Congressional and Obama Administration representatives to explain why conservation is important to outdoor businesses.

We plan to build on our success in 2015 to have an even better year in 2016.

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