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!

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.

The Conservation Alliance Responds to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s National Monument Review Summary Report

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today submitted a report to President Trump in which he reportedly recommends that the President alter the boundaries of some National Monuments designated since January 1996. The Interior Department did not release the full report, and provided no specifics about which monuments would be impacted, but Secretary Zinke told the Associated Press that the recommended changes would reduce the size of a “handful” of the protected areas. Zinke also told the AP that the report does not recommend rescinding any National Monument designations entirely.

“Secretary Zinke has been telegraphing for months that he would recommend shrinking some National Monuments,” said John Sterling, Executive Director of The Conservation Alliance. “If President Trump acts on those recommendations, it would be an unprecedented assault on the crown jewels of our public lands system. We stand ready to defend our National Monuments.”

“The Conservation Alliance opposes any effort to change the boundaries of existing National Monuments through executive action,” said Sterling. “The monuments under review are icons of our American landscape. They provide unique opportunities for adventure and solitude, and many have traditional value to Native American communities. National Monuments also drive local economies that benefit from related tourism and outdoor recreation.”

The White House confirmed that they received Zinke’s report, and are reviewing it. It is not clear when the White House or Interior will release the full report to the public. Secretary Zinke did release a short summary of the report that included few details, but acknowledged that public comments during the National Monument review “were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments.”

President Trump is likely to pursue two options for acting on the recommendations. First, he could issue an executive order changing the boundaries of one or more of the monuments under review. It is unclear whether such changes are legal, and any attempt to reduce National Monument boundaries by executive action will immediately be challenged in court.

Second, the President could issue a formal recommendation to Congress that they pass legislation to change certain National Monument boundaries. Legislation undermining existing National Monument protections would trigger a fierce battle in Congress. Nearly three million Americans submitted comments opposing any changes to the National Monuments under review, and it is certain those people will pressure their members of Congress to oppose any such legislation.

The Conservation Alliance will work closely with our member companies and our partners in the conservation community to respond to any attempt to diminish our National Monuments.

“We are prepared to use our grant program to fund litigation challenging boundary changes made by executive action,” said Sterling. “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.”

Our Investment in National Monuments

The Conservation Alliance has a 28-year history of investing in efforts to protect public lands for their habitat and recreation values. In April, President Trump signed an executive order directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review all national monument designations larger than 100,000 acres from the past 21 years to determine whether their boundaries are consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. The Interior Department then issued a list of 27 national monuments that would be included in the review, of which 22 are terrestrial and five are marine monuments. The Conservation Alliance made grants that helped secure 10 of those 22 land-based monuments under review.

Going back to 1999, we made 25 grants totaling $765,000 to 13 different conservation organizations whose work was instrumental in protecting 10 national monuments. This list only includes monuments currently under review by the Interior Department. Our funding has also helped secure many national monument designations that are not being considered by this review.

The Conservation Alliance opposes any effort to change the boundaries of existing national monuments through executive action. National monuments designated since 1996 protect landscapes with important recreation, cultural, and habitat values.


The Conservation Alliance Makes Grants to Defend National Monuments and Elliot State Forest

Photo:  Friends of Cedar Mesa

The Conservation Alliance made two emergency grants to support organizations working to defend public lands. The grants, totaling $35,000, come from our new Public Lands Defense Fund, created to preserve and defend the integrity of our public lands system. We plan to disburse at least $185,000 in defense grants in 2017.

The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF) received a $20,000 grant to support its National Monuments Defense Campaign. This effort comes in response to President Trump’s recent executive order calling for a review of National Monument designations made over the past 21 years. This is an unprecedented move that has the potential to reduce in size some of the most spectacular landscapes managed by the federal government. The order specifically targets the Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah, which President Obama designated in December.

President Trump’s executive order is a direct assault on our National Monuments, many of which we helped to protect. We are proud to answer this threat with funding for a group that has deep experience with monuments.

The second grant went to Wild Salmon Center (WSC), based in Portland, Oregon. The $15,000 contribution supports WSC’s effort to halt the proposed sale of the Elliott State Forest. The 82,500-acre forest is managed by the State of Oregon, which is mandated to sell timber from the forest to help fund schools. Managing the forest now costs the state more than it brings in through timber, so the state has proposed selling the land to meet its revenue-generating mandate. WSC is leading the effort to convince Oregon Governor Kate Brown and the state legislature to find a solution that would keep the forest in public hands, and preserve it for recreation and conservation.

The Elliott State Forest situation demonstrates what can happen when cash-strapped states manage public lands.  We will work hard to keep the Elliott in public hands, and to oppose the transfer of federal lands to states.

The Conservation Alliance established the Public Lands Defense Fund in January, 2017 with contributions from Patagonia, The North Face, Arc’teryx, GU Energy Labs and Ibex Outdoor Clothing. Together, these four companies have committed $185,000 this year to support efforts to defend public lands. The Conservation Alliance welcomes additional contribution to grow this fund.

National Monuments Benefit the Outdoor Recreation Economy

Procession Panel, Bears Ears National Monument Photo: Marc Toso


President Trump today signed an executive order directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review all national monument designations larger than 100,000 acres from the past 21 years to determine whether their boundaries are consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. The Conservation Alliance opposes any effort to change the boundaries of existing national monuments through executive action. National monuments designated since 1996 protect landscapes with important recreation, cultural, and habitat values.

“We worked closely with our member companies to demonstrate outdoor business support for protecting new national monuments during the Obama presidency,” said John Sterling, Executive Director of The Conservation Alliance.  “These monuments preserve important recreation amenities that benefit all Americans, and this unprecedented move may threaten those amenities.”

An updated study by the Outdoor Industry Association shows that outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually, and supports 7.6 million jobs in the US.

“Protected public lands, including national monuments, are important economic drivers, particularly in rural Western communities that attract new residents and visitors drawn to outdoor recreation opportunities,” said Sterling. “Outdoor recreation is a huge economic engine, and national monuments fuel that engine.”

The Antiquities Act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, gives the president the authority to safeguard federal lands and cultural and historical sites for all Americans to enjoy.  President Trump’s action has the potential to undermine one of the nation’s most important conservation tools.

Presidents have designated 150 national monuments since 1906. Some of those monuments have since become National Parks, including Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Zion, and Glacier Bay. National monument designations made since 1996 include Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears in Utah, San Gabriel Mountains in California, and Gold Butte in Nevada. President Trump’s executive order does not immediately reduce or rescind any national monument, but does order a review of all monuments designated between January 1, 1996 and the end of 2016.”

“Any serious review of these monuments will conclude that these are special lands and waters, beloved by millions of Americans for their cultural, recreation, and habitat values,” said Sterling. “Because Obama’s monuments were informed by public meetings and robust stakeholder outreach, any review should similarly involve significant public input.”

In announcing the forthcoming review of national monuments, Secretary Zinke said that he will make a recommendation on the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument within 45 days. The outdoor industry came together in 2016 to advocate for the Bears Ears designation.

“The Bears Ears landscape is exactly the kind of place the Antiquities Act intended to protect. It is rich in cultural history, archaeological sites, and recreation opportunities,” said Sterling. “The boundaries closely mirror those proposed in Congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative legislation. We’re confident that any credible review of the Bears Ears designation will confirm the boundaries are more than justified.”

The Conservation Alliance will work closely with our members and our partners in the outdoor industry to engage in this issue, and to demonstrate to political leaders the important role national monuments play in the outdoor recreation economy.

This Land is Our Land March


Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Industry Association, The Conservation Alliance and Outdoor Alliance Host March to Celebrate Public Lands at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market
Thursday, July 27, from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Exhibitors, Retailers and Attendees invited to join
This Land is Our Land March to Utah State Capitol

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. — April 19, 2017 — Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), The Conservation Alliance and Outdoor Alliance today announced that cooperatively they will host a march to the Utah State Capitol to celebrate public lands on Day Two, Thursday, July 27, at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. The This Land is Our Land march will provide show attendees with a platform to express their support for the outdoor industry’s backbone and foundation: federal public lands.

“The This Land is Our Land march at summer Outdoor Retailer spotlights that public lands across America are truly the foundation of the outdoor industry, providing incredible landscapes and waterways for people to come together and experience the awe of the outdoors,” said Amy Roberts, OIA executive director.  “We aim to communicate that America’s national treasures require investment and effective management today and for generations to come—and they must remain accessible for all Americans.”

The march will convene in the South Plaza of the Salt Palace Convention Center at 4:30 p.m. and will proceed along a designated route to the Utah State Capitol. Confirmed route information will be available soon. The walk to the Capitol is expected to take approximately 30-45 minutes. At the Capitol, industry leaders and experts will hold a 45-minute rally to raise issues that spark further public lands discussion and action. Speakers include Utah tribal leaders, outdoor industry leaders, athletes and policy makers. All show attendees as well as interested citizens are welcome to attend. All march participants are asked to abide by the established Code of Conduct.

Outdoor Retailer is the only gathering where the entire outdoor industry comes together to conduct commerce, share best practices and exchange ideas. Outdoor Retailer 2017 will continue to serve the industry’s business needs while also serving as an important observance of public lands and our industry’s values. The show will remain open for normal business for those attendees wishing to conduct meetings. The show floor will close at its standard time of 6:00 p.m.

“The outdoor community has been in the national spotlight because of its fervent passion for protecting the public lands we all enjoy,” said Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer. “This is not a one-and-done issue. While Bears Ears National Monument status has been a catalyst for our community, it’s just the most currently visible example of what will be a long, hard series of national debates. This march will harness that passion by providing a responsible yet energized path to celebrate what is so important to all of us, and about which we need to be heard.”

“Protecting public lands is central to The Conservation Alliance’s mission, and the Outdoor Retailer trade shows provide a great venue to connect with the tribe and share our passion for this mission. At this pivotal moment, it is important that we join forces with Outdoor Retailer, the Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance to rally the industry around a long-term agenda to protect and preserve the mountains, deserts, forests and waters that grace our nation’s public lands,” commented John Sterling, executive director of The Conservation Alliance.

In addition to the march, Outdoor Retailer, OIA, The Conservation Alliance and Outdoor Alliance are exploring additional ways to highlight public lands during the show. Updates will be shared on

“Outdoor Alliance works on behalf of millions of paddlers, mountain bikers, hikers, climbers, and backcountry skiers who get outside on public lands each year. Public lands are the foundation of this large and passionate community, and we’re excited to lend our voice to this effort to unify the industry around this important issue,” said Adam Cramer, executive director of Outdoor Alliance. “We have been working for two years to unify outdoor business and advocacy groups to protect public lands. Summer Market is the perfect opportunity to rally together as a community to protect the landscapes that are home to our adventures.”

To join the This Land is Our Land march and add your voice to the conversation, click here to RSVP to the Facebook invite.

Trip Report: Four Things We Learned in Washington, DC


The Conservation Alliance led a strong delegation of outdoor industry leaders to Washington, DC earlier this month. The goal was to learn about conservation policy and the current political lay-of-the-land, and to demonstrate business support for conservation on public lands. Our group included 40 representatives from member companies, and leaders from organizations that represent outdoor recreation user groups.

The trip started with a full day of training on conservation policy, hosted by our friends at the Pew Charitable Trusts. To start the day, speakers provided information on the politics of conservation with the new Congress and the Trump Administration, making clear that we face new challenges that threaten our public lands. Throughout the day, we learned about new threats to our public lands, and then heard from specific stakeholder groups – sportsmen, conservation groups, outdoor recreationists – about how they will address those threats. We ended the training day by focusing on opportunities to make conservation gains through Wilderness legislation, agency management planning, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

We drew a few key conclusions from the training day:

  • Congress has not changed dramatically, but we no longer have a strong conservationist in the White House to serve as a backstop to Congress’ worst ideas. As a result, we will need to focus more of our energy on stopping legislation in Congress that would undermine our public lands and the laws that govern them.
  • We still have strong conservation friends in Congress. Our friends in Congress remain committed to protecting and defending our public lands. Members of Congress have already introduced – or will soon introduce – legislation to protect lands in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Alaska.
  • The current political climate is galvanizing our allies. There is nothing like a crisis to bring people together to find solutions and work toward common goals. We have already deepened our coalition with friends in the outdoor recreation community, and are talking more regularly with groups that represent the hunter/angler community. We all love our public lands, and will work together to protect them.
  • We need to be ready to respond quickly to threats. More than ever, our industry needs to be able to rapidly respond to threats to our wild places. Understanding public lands policy is crucial to that response. The Conservation Alliance will do all we can to prepare our members to be knowledgeable on these issues, and to respond when threats arise.

After the training day, we divided our large group into smaller teams, and hit Capitol Hill for meetings with appropriate members of Congress. Together, our seven teams met with 29 different offices, and delivered the message that protected public lands are crucial to the growing outdoor recreation economy. From our meetings, it is clear that our greater outdoor community is finding its voice, and decision makers are listening. We will continue to push this message, in Washington, and on the local level.

We are grateful to our friends at Outdoor Alliance and Outdoor Industry Association for partnering with us on this recent trip to DC. It is important that our community show up and speak to lawmakers about issues that impact us. We organize this trip every year. If you are interested in participating in 2018 please let us know!

Annual Report: 2016 Year in Review

Denali Sunset, AK Photo: Colby Coombs

We are proud that The Conservation Alliance continues to grow as the outdoor industry further recognizes the importance of protecting wild places for their habitat and recreation values. In 2016, we contributed an all-time high $1.61 million to 43 conservation organizations. That means that our 200 member companies pulled together like never before to fund the most effective conservation projects in North America. Our primary function remains. We collect annual membership dues from outdoor industry companies, and grant 100 percent of those dues to organizations working to protect specific wild lands and waterways throughout North America. When appropriate, we supplement those grants by facilitating opportunities for our member companies and their employees to become more involved in our grantees’ campaigns. Here are the highlights from 2016:

  • We contributed $1,610,000 to 43 organizations working to protect and restore North America’s wild places.
  • Our grantees delivered 14 important conservation victories that: protected 5,427,708 acres of land and 19 river miles; halted one dam; acquired one climbing area, and halted one oil pipeline.
  • We added 19 new members.
  • We added $50,000 to The Conservation Alliance Legacy Fund, an endowment that provides a permanent source of operational funding for the Alliance. And we withdrew $150,000 from the Legacy Fund to help cover our operating budget.
  • We launched our Leading Edge program, which gives individuals the opportunity to make significant contributions to The Conservation Alliance.
  • Through our advocacy program, we engaged our members in efforts to secure new national monument designations throughout the US.
  • We organized seven Backyard Collective events, on-the-ground stewardship projects designed to give employees of our member companies the opportunity to volunteer for our grantees.
  • We organized seven Wild Drinks events, bringing together grantees and member company employees in a happy hour setting.
  • We developed a new three-year strategic plan to guide our work through 2019.

It is our honor to serve as a connecting point between the outdoor industry and the conservation community. We look forward to another exciting year in 2017.

View or Download The Conservation Alliance 2016 Annual Report

Public Lands Defense Fund: Making Grants to Preserve and Defend Our Public Lands System

Photo Credit Tim Peterson

Our Public Lands Defense Fund supports organizations working to preserve and defend the integrity of our public lands system. We will fund efforts to:

  1. Defend our bedrock conservation laws (E.g., Wilderness Act, Antiquities Act, National Environmental Policy Act);
  2. Defend previous presidents’ National Monument designations; and
  3. Oppose the proposed transfer of federal lands to the states or to private hands.

Our goal is to support organizations that are strategically confronting efforts that would diminish our public lands system.

We launched the Public Lands Defense Fund in January, 2017 with initial commitments from founding member companies Patagonia and The North Face. Together, these two companies pledged $100,000 annually for each of the next four years. Though we accept contributions to the fund from any company or individual interested in preserving our public lands, all contributions are incremental to a company’s annual membership dues. As with Conservation Alliance membership dues, we will give 100 percent of contributions to the Public Lands Defense Fund directly to conservation organizations.

Public Lands Defense Fund grants will be administered solely by The Conservation Alliance Board of Directors. We will not include these requests in our membership ballot process.  The Conservation Alliance will make discretionary grants as needed to support urgent efforts. Organizations should contact The Conservation Alliance directly to discuss time-sensitive needs.

Organizations that receive funding through our regular grant program may apply concurrently to the Public Lands Defense Fund, and are eligible to receive more than one grant in a 12-month period.

Shortly after the November 2016 elections, The Conservation Alliance board and staff met to develop a strategy for our conservation efforts in a new and challenging political landscape. Together, we determined that our public lands are now threatened by political leaders who want to undermine protections for those lands, or sell them off entirely. We made two significant decisions to address these threats. First, we committed to hiring new staff to focus on conservation advocacy. That person will train our member companies and their employees about public lands, and engage them in meaningful efforts to protect and defend those lands. The board also decided to establish a new Public Lands Defense Fund whose purpose is to support organizations working to preserve and defend the integrity of our public lands system.

For the past 27 years, The Conservation Alliance has funded efforts to secure new protections for lands and waters throughout North America. These proactive campaigns have always sought to add “green spots” to the map by: securing new Wilderness and national monument designations; expanding National Parks; designating new Wild & Scenic Rivers; purchasing private lands for their recreation and habitat values; and designating new marine reserves. We have always directed our funds toward protecting wild places. We have established our Public Lands Defense Fund to defend them as well.

We take our position at the intersection of the business and conservation communities seriously. Now more than ever, it is important that we stand together to preserve and defend our public lands. We look forward to working with our partners in the outdoor industry and the conservation community to save our last wild places, and preserve the system that keeps them wild.

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