Beyond National Monuments: The Conservation Alliance Priorities

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service

President Trump’s unprecedented review of National Monuments has dominated our communications this year, and for good reason. We invested a lot of our members’ funds in efforts to secure many of these monument designations. But, preserving our existing National Monuments is only part of our conservation agenda. We take a defensive stance when necessary, but our top priority has always been to secure new protections for special wild places. And that’s exactly what we’re doing concurrently with our defensive efforts on National Monuments. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll be working on for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018.

  • Conservation Legislation: Members of Congress have introduced 11 separate bills that would secure new Wilderness, National Monument, and Wild and Scenic River designations, and put special places off limits to any mining activity. These bills would permanently protect special wildlands in Washington, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee, California, Arizona, and Alaska. We expect additional legislation to be introduced this year that would preserve Wilderness and rivers in Colorado, Idaho, and California. We are excited to see that two of these bills – protecting 20,000 acres of Wilderness in Tennessee and 100,000 acres of steelhead habitat in Oregon – are included in a bipartisan Energy and Natural Resources bill, which has already had a hearing in the Senate.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund: That same package of Energy and Natural Resources bills includes a provision that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is set to expire in 2018.
  • Federal Land Management Planning: Despite the chaos in Washington, DC, our land managing agencies – the Forest Service and BLM – continue to develop new plans for the lands under their management. This management planning is open to the public, and provides an opportunity for our grantees and their supporters to influence how those lands are managed for the life of that plan, usually 20-25 years. Our funding is supporting organizations working to secure new protections through management plans in North Carolina, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Montana, and California.
  • Private Land Acquisition: With dysfunction in Congress and a White House hostile to conservation, we have invested more of our funding in private land acquisitions. These projects generally do not rely on action from Congress or the White House, and give us the opportunity to support meaningful conservation until the politics for conservation improve. We are monitoring acquisition efforts nationwide. Please check out our grants page for a summary of these exciting efforts.
  • Oh Canada!: The Conservation Alliance funds projects throughout North America, which gives us the latitude to support exciting conservation work in Canada where there is less political resistance to protecting land and waters. Our grants are at work to protect the Peel River Watershed in the Yukon Territories (14 million acres), Thaidene Nene in Northwest Territories (7.4 million acres), the Magpie River Watershed in Quebec (400,000 acres), the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, and the Bighorn Wildland in Alberta (2.7 million acres), and the Flathead Valley in British Columbia (100,000 acres). The landscape-scale protection opportunities in Canada are huge, and we are excited to help these projects cross the finish line.
  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Our new National Monuments are not the only places that are under attack from Congress and a willing Trump Administration. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is once again in the crosshairs as members of Congress seek to open the Refuge’s embattled Coastal Plain to oil drilling. Before the end of 2017, we expect Congress to include Arctic drilling in the complicated budgeting process, which requires only 51 Senate votes to pass. We will work with our member companies to urge Congress to keep the Arctic drilling proposal out of the budgeting process.

As you can see, we are busy on many fronts, challenging efforts to remove protections for special wild places, while supporting efforts to secure new protections. As always, we thank all of our members for participating in these efforts. Together, we are committed to Keeping it Wild!

How A Flash Mob Turned Into A Victory Celebration for the Magpie River

Photo:  Boreal River

Photo Credit: Boreal River

The Fight to Protect the Magpie River

Many people ask themselves if signing a petition or going to a protest can actually make a difference. We saw proof of this recently. Yes! It can make a real difference – and what’s more, at an unbelievable speed!

The Quebec section of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (aka CPAWS Quebec) has been working hard for more than ten years to protect the Magpie River, a pristine river in the heart of the Canadian boreal forest. It is located on the ancestral land of the Innu First Nation. These people have known the river, which they call Mutehekau Shipu, for centuries. The Magpie River is ranked among the best rivers in the world for whitewater expeditions by many magazines, including the prestigious National Geographic. I sometimes call it our Canadian “Colorado River”.

A Tale of Patience and Perseverance

Unfortunately, as is the case for many whitewater destinations, there were plans to dam the river. However, we have always thought of the Magpie River as a sustainable and long term recreational project which will diversify the economy of northern regions – too often dependent upon temporary resource extraction.

The list of actions taken to protect the Magpie River, with the help of partners such as Conservation Alliance, is impressive: participation in public hearings, launch of a petition, organized trips on the river with the media and important stakeholders, numerous meetings with politicians, public conferences and promotional campaigns, reports, studies and press releases, etc. Some people say it takes a lot of patience to work on files concerning protected areas. I could not agree more. A government official once told me that the average time to create a protected area in Quebec is ten years!

An Unexpected Ending

Two weeks ago, we decided that we needed to increase the pressure and send a clear message that damming a world class river is not an option. Since we believe that a message is more likely to be heard when it is positive and original, we decided to plan a “flash mob” in front of the state energy company, Hydro Quebec. We brought a rafting boat, paddlers, a symbolic giant river, a drum troop and a foam machine along with us. We brought the river and its voice with us.

We were heard! My speech was interrupted by one of my colleagues announcing to me that Hydro-Quebec came down to tell us they were not planning to dam the Magpie River anymore. At first I thought it was a joke, but an official from the state company was offered the microphone and said exactly that, in front of the cameras and the cheering crowd.

So yes, taking to the streets can make a difference. In our case, it was incredibly fast. The fight for the Magpie River is not over until it is fully and legally protected. But this is a giant step and the main obstacle to protecting the river has now been removed. It is up to us to tell the Quebec government that they have all the arguments they need to protect the river once and for all.

Please help us by signing and sharing our pledge to protect this natural wonder. Every voice counts when it comes to a river that has the eyes of the world upon it! 

Pier-Olivier Boudreault
Coordinator of the Magpie river campaign
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS Quebec)

Member Spotlight: Peak Design

Peter Dering, Peak Design's Founder - shares the comapny's reason for being.

Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting Peak Design, an uber cool design and carry brand based in the heart of San Francisco, and a proud Conservation Alliance member. I showed up on a sunny Thursday morning to deliver a Public Lands 101 presentation and left completely blown away by the positive change these guys are making.

First of all the brand’s story is amazing.

Peak Design was catalyzed when a nice Midwestern guy named Peter Dering took his DLSR camera on a four month trip around the world. Peter returned home to San Francisco, quit his job, designed a revolutionary camera clip for 10 months, then put it on Kickstarter. It exploded, Peak Design was crowdfunded.

Six Kickstarter campaigns later, Peak Design has become the world’s most crowdfunded active company ($14M raised!). Peak Design has over 50 amazing products, 25 rad employees in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood and hundreds of manufacturers around the world.

The Peak Design Family taking 1% for the Planet’s Oath of Action

While the growth story is impressive, the values that carry Peak Design and its family forward, blew me away. Their website states: the purpose of Peak Design is to create happy, meaningful lives for the people that work there. This purpose breeds an incredible culture. They often share breakfast together – like we did the morning I was there (from the delicious Neighbor Bakerhouse next door). Among other cool things, a small climbing wall and hang board duo offer productive work breaks.

I learned their mission from Peter, their founder. It has six parts:

  1. Make the best things.
  2. Succeed at the expense of nobody.
  3. Treat our customers as peers.
  4. Offset our environmental impact.
  5. Use our voice to inspire positive change.
  6. Prioritize happiness over growth.

Pretty cool.

At the Conservation Alliance, we are especially excited about and grateful for their Give A Shot platform – which connects photographers with nonprofit organizations in need of stunning photography. Many Conservation Alliance grantees have benefited from the platform. Check it out if your organization is in need of some lovely photography!

As an added bonus, my visit overlapped with their annual  SUMM1T event – which was instigated by their 1% for the Planet partnership and has morphed into a night of celebration, inspiration, and collaboration between creatives, businesses, and environmentalists. This year served as an opportunity to highlight the formal launch Give A Shot.

A few hundred passionate folks filled a venue with an impressive gallery of photos. All were captivated by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez – the 17 year-old climate activist, hip hop artist, director of Earth Guardians, author and overall incredible human being. He prompted us to think of climate change as a people issue.

Xiuhtezcatl wraps up an inspiring performance at this year’s SUMM1T.


We couldn’t be more proud to have Peak Design in the family, or more inspired by their values.

Project Profile: Protecting North Carolina’s Black River

Black River, NC Photo: Andrew Kornylak

The Conservation Alliance awarded The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina a $40,000 grant in April 2017 to support the protection and restoration of old-growth bald cypress swamps and mature bottomland hardwoods along the Black River.  The update is by Avery Lennard, Philanthropy and Communications Liaison at The Nature Conservancy. 

In 1985, Dr. David Stahle from the University of Arkansas published a paper in Science with results of his dendrochronology work in the southeast United States.  He sought out and cored old, solid cypress trees to study past climate patterns.  His work helped him discover the oldest known tree in eastern North America – a cypress on the Black River that dates to before 364 A.D. Although they cannot be cored, researchers suspect there are hollowed trees on the river more than 2,000 years old.

Defying the Odds

The old-growth forest is incredible, perhaps most so because of its location. Much of southeastern United States was systematically logged in the 19th century, and yet somehow the Black River cypress remain standing. It may have been the difficulty of extracting trees from swampy areas along the river that deterred the logging companies.

Unfortunately, today’s shovel logging techniques can get into places formerly inaccessible. There is renewed danger that unprotected trees that have stood the test of time along the Black River and nearby streams could now fall victim to shovel logging.

Standing for Nature and People

The importance of the ancient cypress surpasses their age. The Black River is designated as an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW), the state’s highest water classification. The river offers exceptional and varied habitats, is home to a diverse array of aquatic life, and has excellent water quality.  The lower stretch of the river is home to 5 rare mussel species tracked by the Natural Heritage Program, Atlantic Pigtoe (Fusconaia masoni), Cape Fear Spike (Elliptio marsupiobesa), Pod Lance (E. folliculata), Eastern Lampmussel (Lampsilis radiata) and Yellow Lampmussel (L. cariosa). The ancient cypress are part of the forest system that buffers the river, limiting nutrients and other pollutants from flowing into the water. This has become increasingly more important as large agricultural operations have moved into the area.

The trees also provide a source of income for nearby businesses. Not surprisingly, the Black River has become a well-known place for recreational boating, especially the lower portion where the old-growth cypress are concentrated. Paddlers from near and far regularly visit this stretch of river to witness the beauty of these forests and the wildlife they support.  These visitors help build the local economy.

Protecting the Ancient

Recognizing the uniqueness of the old-growth forest and a need for action, The Nature Conservancy has been protecting land along the Black River since the early 1990s. The North Carolina Chapter has purchased more than 8,000 acres of land along the Black River and more than 8,000 acres of land on its tributaries, totaling more than 150 miles of stream frontage within the basin.
The Conservancy actively manages 2,835 acres of land along the river, known as the Black River Preserve. With the support of the Conservation Alliance, the Conservancy recently added 410 acres of land to the preserve. This land has a river access point known as Sparkleberry Landing.  Having an access point on the river is a critical step towards opening the conserved land for public enjoyment.

What’s Next?

The protection of this tract marks the latest success in protecting almost all the old growth in a 13-mile stretch of the Black River and conserves more than 410 acres of old growth cypress swamp and bottomland hardwood forests, protects 9,750 feet of river footage, and supports a combination of riverfront and adjacent upland habitat for rare species. The Conservancy is restoring the upland portions of the property by planting longleaf pines and other naturally appropriate trees where needed and implementing a controlled burn program.

Local legislators recently recognized the importance of the Black River, introducing legislation to authorize the creation of Black River State Park. A feasibility study is currently underway to determine if it is possible and desirable to do so. The park would highlight the river’s ecology, history, conservation areas and paddle trail opportunities.

The Conservancy supports the creation of Black River State Park and anticipates transferring key pieces of restored property to the state if plans move forward. After all, paddling among ancient trees is an experience unlike any other in the world.

Zinke’s Bad Advice to Trump: A Summary of the National Monument Review Recommendations


The Washington Post reported this week that it had received a copy of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s report to President Trump in which he recommends diminishing the protections for ten National Monuments, including shrinking the boundaries of six of those places. The report is the product of an unprecedented four-month review of 27 National Monuments — ordered by President Trump in April — to determine whether some of their boundaries should be changed. Zinke submitted his recommendations to Trump on August 24th, but did not make the report public.

In the report, Zinke makes the case that the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah, Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, and Gold Butte in Nevada be reduced. He also recommends shrinking two marine National Monuments – Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll – both in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. Zinke does not specify whether those changes should be made by the President or by Congress, and the report does not identify exactly how the monument boundaries should be changed.

In addition to the boundary changes, the report recommends that the management of all ten monuments permit activities that are currently restricted. Such activities would loosen constraints on logging, grazing, and commercial fishing in the protected areas. These management changes would impact the monuments recommended for size reductions as well as Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments in New Mexico, Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of New England.

President Trump has yet to take any action on the recommendations, so nothing has changed since Zinke first submitted the report to the President on August 24th. We stated then that any attempt to change National Monument boundaries by executive action would be an unprecedented assault on the crown jewels of our public lands system.

After reviewing the full report, it is clear that Secretary Zinke is giving his boss bad advice. Changes to these ten monuments would not only undermine our national conservation legacy, but impact local communities that rely on these protected places to drive tourism and outdoor recreation. We are prepared to use our grant program to fund litigation challenging boundary changes made by executive action; we will support grassroots conservation groups that work to organize opposition to legislative efforts to shrink monuments; and we will continue to organize our member companies and their employees and customers to speak out forcefully in support of our public lands.

The report notably depends on inaccuracies and falsehoods as it makes the case for shrinking or changing the management of National Monuments. Those fictions are well-documented in a good OutsideOnline article published this week. News outlets have started to pick up on Zinke’s shaky relationship with the truth, including this editorial from the Medford Mail Tribune, the largest newspaper near the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Now that the report is public, we wait until President Trump takes action on the recommendations. At that point, he will either take executive action to change the monuments in question, or punt the whole thing to Congress, or do a little of both. We will continue to update our members as the National Monument situation evolves.

Summer 2017 Grant Announcement


The Conservation Alliance is pleased to fund the following organizations to support their efforts to protect wild lands and waterways for their habitat and recreation values. These grants are made possible by more than 210 businesses who care passionately about protecting wild places for future generations. Each of these businesses is a member of The Conservation Alliance, and plays a critical role in determining which organizations receive funding. Thank you to all of our members for protecting wild places across North America.

Learn more about the projects funded in this grant cycle:

America’s Last Great Wilderness Under Threat, Again.

Photo: Dave Shreffler

For decades, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been at the center of a debate over oil drilling. Over the last 30 years, Congress has voted on whether or not to open the Refuge to drilling roughly 50 times. Thanks to diverse support from Americans across the country, efforts to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling have failed, and to this day it remains protected and celebrated as one of America’s most iconic and inspirational areas for recreation and wildlife.

Those tables have shifted, and the Arctic Refuge now faces one of its most serious threats. As part of his “Energy Dominance” goal, President Trump put the idea of drilling in the Arctic’s Refuge back on the table, calling for Arctic drilling as a source of revenue in his draft 2018 budget. Congress has since included provisions that would allow Arctic drilling into its proposed budget.

We believe that the Congressional budgeting process is no place to decide the fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Outdoor Business and Recreationists’ support for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not a new idea. Since 1996, The Conservation Alliance has awarded more than $400,000 in grants to organizations working to secure lasting protections for the Arctic Refuge. In addition, last year, in an effort with Outdoor Alliance and Outdoor Industry Association, more than 100 businesses signed onto a letter urging President Obama to permanently protect the Arctic Refuge as a National Monument.

Photo: Dave Shreffler

What does the budget process have to do with the Arctic Refuge’s protection?

In 1980 the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was passed, protecting half of the 20-million-acre landscape, which stretches from the Brooks Range north to the Arctic Ocean, and prohibits any drilling in the Arctic Refuge without further legislative action by Congress. Each year since then bills have been introduced to reverse this act. Because this topic is so controversial, moving legislation through a filibuster-prone Senate is nearly impossible. Pro-drilling Senators are turning their attention to the Budget Reconciliation process as a means to open the Arctic to drilling. Why? Because Budget Reconciliation only requires 50 votes to pass the Senate (technically 51, but we can assume Vice President Pence would break a tie).

By including revenue from Arctic oil drilling in the budget reconciliation bill, Congress can bypass the 60-vote threshold required to break a filibuster, and open our our most iconic wild landscape to oil drilling with only 51 votes.

We have drafted a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, asking them to leave the fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the Congressional budgeting process, and to understand that a protected Arctic Refuge is good for business and the environment.

Thank you for considering joining us in this effort. Click here to read the letter and add your name.


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