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New Political Landscape, New Challenges for Our Wild Landscapes

Y2Y Photo Credit Marla Zapach_Skitouring in Bighorn Wildland_Y2Y

As we enter 2017, we are reminded that the political landscape for conservation can change quickly, and dramatically. We spent the past eight years working with Congress and the Obama Administration to secure protections for remarkable places with poetic names: Spring Basin; Boulder-White Clouds; Hermosa Creek; the Snake River Headwaters.

Four years ago, we recognized the opportunity to work with President Obama to win new national monument designations, and intentionally funded an increasing number of organizations working to secure these monuments. Our members’ dues helped save places like the Organ Mountains, Browns Canyon, San Gabriel Mountains, and Berryessa Snow Mountain. In the final month of his Presidency, Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, and Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, and expanded the Cascade-Siskiyou and California Coastal national monuments in Oregon and California. Conservation Alliance funding supported each of these monument efforts. It is now time to protect our investment in public lands.

We actually don’t know much about where Donald Trump stands on conservation issues. We do know that there are members of Congress who would like to dismantle our public lands system. These lawmakers have already introduced legislation that would transfer federal lands to the states, the first step toward privatizing those lands. The same members of Congress routinely stop conservation bills from moving forward. Emboldened members of Congress are already talking about rescinding President Obama’s national monument designations, and repealing the Antiquities Act.

American voters elected Donald Trump, and gave his party majorities in both chambers of Congress. But this election was not a referendum on our public lands system. On Election Day, voters nationwide approved 68 funding measures to create more than $6 billion for parks and conservation—an 80 percent approval rate. Public lands are one of the few institutions left in our society that transcend political affiliation. They are our common ground.

Our shared commitment to public lands will be tested over the next four years, and The Conservation Alliance will take a strong stand in their defense. We will execute a two-pronged response to the new political landscape, and hope you will join us. First, we are primarily a funder of conservation organizations, and will continue to fund the most effective conservation organizations throughout North America. With our existing funding program we will make grants to win new protections wherever possible. For the first time, though, we will also fund projects that seek to preserve and defend the integrity of our public lands system. We plan to build a new “Public Lands Defense Fund”, which we will use to support organizations to keep public lands in public hands, defend our bedrock conservation laws, and preserved the national monument designations made by President Obama.

The second piece of our response will be to increase our advocacy efforts to ensure that we are doing all we can to bring the outdoor industry’s voice to bear on conservation policy and in support of our public lands system. We will add staff in 2017 to direct our advocacy efforts, and to ensure that every member company has the opportunity to participate in defending our public lands.

I am thrilled to announce that two of our founding member companies – Patagonia and The North Face – have agreed to underwrite our new advocacy position, and together, they will contribute the first $100,000 to our Public Lands Defense Fund. That means that, thanks to Patagonia and The North Face, we will be able to make roughly three grants annually to defend our public lands, and we will have added capacity to work with all of you to speak out for the wild landscapes that mean so much to us all.

Public lands are the natural “infrastructure” for outdoor recreation, and The Conservation Alliance has spent 28 years working with the conservation community to ensure that our special public lands are protected. We look forward to working with all of our members to speak out for our public lands, and to build a community of advocates that will defend those lands today, and seek new protections when the political landscape changes in the future.

  

 

Another Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Whirlwind

1-7-17_Nasisse_Conservation Breakfast-10

The Conservation Alliance covers a lot of ground at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. We hold a board meeting, host The Conservation Alliance Breakfast, recruit new members, organize product-related fundraisers with existing members, and attempt to talk to our industry about important conservation issues. The winter show came and went earlier this month, with all of the above on our menu.

Public lands and climate change were the main topics at The Conservation Alliance Breakfast. Featured speaker Auden Schendler, Sustainability VP at Aspen Skiing Company, gave a rousing talk about why outdoor companies need to step into the fray to combat climate change. Using examples from his own experience, Schendler talked about why outdoor industry companies should help to create a social movement around climate change. “We need to act proportionately to the challenge,” Schendler said. “There is a huge business risk in not acting, and no risk in acting.”

Prior to Schendler’s talk, The Conservation Alliance responded to member concerns about how the November elections would impact our work. Board Chair Linda Balfour (Superfeet), and Executive Director John Sterling both shared thoughts on new threats to our public lands system. For years, a vocal minority in Congress has sought to transfer federal lands to the states – the first step toward privatization – and is now urging President Trump to rescind some of President Obama’s national monument designations.

We used the breakfast as an opportunityto “recruit” individuals who are motivated to stand up and speak out for our public lands by asking them to text their contact information to us. Moving forward, we will work with our colleagues at Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance to give that list of public lands advocates meaningful actions to defend and preserve the integrity of our public lands system.

We are grateful to the many member companies – listed below –  who hosted fundraisers and other events for The Conservation Alliance during the trade show. These promotions directly support our efforts to protect North America’s wild places.

If you missed The Conservation Alliance Breakfast, you can watch the entire event on Facebook. The program begins at the 20-minute mark.

Victory and Opportunity for Beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota

Photo Credit:  Dave Freeman

Guest blog post by Ellie Siler from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

Time to Act: The Boundary Waters Needs Your Voice

On January 13, the United States Forest Service initiated a two-year pause for any new mineral leases or exploration, long enough to allow an environmental review of the watershed surrounding the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota. The environmental review will be conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service. This review comes on the heels of an announcement from the BLM that sulfide-ore copper mining leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota, a company owned by Antofagasta in Chile, were denied.

For the past three years, the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, led by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness has been building a movement to protect this Wilderness. Along with supporters, organizations (including Conservation Alliance), businesses, veterans, students, hunters, anglers and more, the Campaign has successfully created a national movement on behalf of this “quiet Wilderness” and we’ve now reached a critical stage in the efforts to gain permanent protection for the watershed of this national treasure.

Now is the time to speak up for the future of this beloved hunting, fishing and paddling destination and join the chorus of voices to make sure it is protected. Sulfide-ore copper mining would be disastrous for the ecosystem, business that depend on the Wilderness, and all those that recreate in the area. Now is the time to take action! The Forest Service is taking public comments now — tell the agency to protect the entire Boundary Waters are from sulfide-ore copper mining. You can submit a comment through the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

Value of this Place

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a unique treasure in northern Minnesota. The 1.1 million acre Wilderness is characterized by its interconnected lakes and rivers and uninterrupted forests. The Boundary Waters includes 1,200 miles of canoe and kayak routes, 237.5 miles of overnight hiking trails and 2,000 designated campsites. Several sensitive wildlife species make the Wilderness their home, including the gray wolf, moose, Canada lynx and loon.

As America’s most visited Wilderness Area, the Boundary Waters is the economic lifeblood of northeastern Minnesota’s lucrative tourism industry. The Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park help drive the economy of northeastern Minnesota, where tourism supports nearly 17,000 jobs and brings $850 million in sales annually to the region (Explore Minnesota).

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