News

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.

Proposals to the Public Lands Defense Fund should be submitted through our regular grantmaking process, but grants will be administered solely by The Conservation Alliance Board of Directors. We will not include these requests in our regular membership ballot process. Applicants must first be nominated by one of our member companies. We have two funding cycles each year, and nomination deadlines are May 1 and November 1. We will award grants in April and October. Click here for full details on how to apply. The Conservation Alliance board may make off-cycle discretionary grants as needed to support urgent efforts. Organizations should contact The Conservation Alliance directly to discuss these 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.

Background
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.

Public Lands and the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show

Photo Credit Tim Peterson

Since 1989, The Conservation Alliance has participated in the Outdoor Retailer trade shows, held for the past 20 years in Salt Lake City. The shows have provided an important opportunity for us to meet with our members, share news about our conservation efforts, and work to integrate a conservation ethic into the fabric of the outdoor industry.

Though Utah is home to some of our most spectacular public lands, the state’s elected officials have demonstrated a shocking disregard for these wild places, and the powerful economic benefits they provide. Utah’s Congressional delegation, Governor, and legislature are pushing for dramatic changes to our public lands system that would diminish these places that are so important to our member companies, their employees, and their customers. The disconnect between our industry’s shared commitment to protecting public lands, and Utah’s disdain for those lands is untenable. Some of our members are directly responding to this discord by ending their participation in Outdoor Retailer show until it moves to a different state, or Utah’s elected officials change their position on public lands. Others will continue to exhibit at the show. Each position is a valid expression of concern for our public lands. The Conservation Alliance will continue to participate in the show because it is the best place for us to organize an effective business response to the imminent threats to our public lands.

We applaud Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) for taking steps to explore other locations for the show, and recognize that Utah’s position on public lands is the most important factor in motivating them to do so. The Conservation Alliance has worked closely with OIA on public lands issues – including the effort to designate the Bears Ears National Monument – and are proud of the conservation work we have done together.

In coalition with OIA and Outdoor Alliance, we bring together business, conservation, and outdoor recreation interests to deliver a strong and unified voice for our public lands. This collaboration reflects our belief in the principle of strength in numbers; that our industry is strongest when it works together toward common goals. We collaborate because each organization brings different strengths to the coalition. Because OIA and Outdoor Alliance have full-time staff in Washington, DC, The Conservation Alliance can focus our resources on making grants to conservation projects, and engaging our member companies to support those projects with grassroots advocacy. Our respective roles complement each other, and we will need each other as we face unprecedented threats to our public lands over the next several years.

The Conservation Alliance has a 27-year history of advocating for our public lands. Protecting wild places, and preserving the integrity of our nation’s public lands system is central to our mission. We have invested millions in protecting specific places managed by the federal government, and our grants have helped protect more than 50 million acres of land, mostly in the public domain. We are inspired that our industry and member companies are passionate about public lands, and we are committed to working within our mission to ensure that they remain intact. We look forward to collaborating with our members at the July trade show to send a strong, unified message about preserving our public lands system, and the special places that lie therein.

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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President Obama Designates Bears Ears National Monument

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President Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument, permanently protecting 1,350,000 acres of public land in southeastern Utah. The Bears Ears landscape is home to thousands of Native American cultural sites, which inspired a coalition of tribes to band together to push for the designation. The region also boasts world-class rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, canyoneering, whitewater paddling, and skiing. By designating the Bears Ears National Monument, President Obama preserves a place where outdoor enthusiasts have the opportunity to respectfully explore a protected landscape where past and present intersect.

The centerpiece of the new monument is Cedar Mesa, a high-elevation plateau riddled with serpentine canyons that drain into the San Juan River. I first visited Cedar Mesa nearly 20 years ago, guided by a friend who was working to protect the area. I asked – naively it turns out – what threatened the place. She took me to a spot just off a well-traveled BLM road that was littered with countless sherds of pottery left by Ancestral Puebloan communities. From the many small pieces of clay, I assembled a pot in my imagination: gray clay with simple, but artistic, painted designs. I looked closely at one piece of pottery, and saw the imprint of the potter’s fingerprints in the clay. As my eyes focused, I realized that I could not walk through the area without stepping on more sherds. The cultural history of the place was on full display.

I then saw a spaghetti bowl network of vehicle tracks, remnants of ATV wheels that had churned through the area. My friend told me that there are countless sites throughout Cedar Mesa that suffered similar damage. Few regulations, limited enforcement. I felt devastated that this beautiful record of the past, integrated with a spectacular natural landscape, was at risk.

I have visited Cedar Mesa several times since; to float the San Juan River, hike canyons, and explore rock art. I came away from each visit in awe of the people who made a life off the land 1,000 years ago. I also learned about new threats to the region, including energy development, and the looting of cultural sites.

Nearly four years ago, The Conservation Alliance learned that Utah Congressman Rob Bishop wanted to develop legislation that would protect large swaths of southeastern Utah, and open equally large swaths to resource extraction. His “grand bargain”, called the Public Lands Initiative (PLI), would offer something to everyone. We funded several conservation organizations (Grand Canyon Trust, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and The Pew Charitable Trusts) to work on the PLI, and continued to invest in that effort until late 2015. At that point, it became clear that the PLI would likely contain too many poison pills for the conservation community to swallow. Fortunately, a parallel effort, led by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, was working to protect much of the same area as a national monument, which would not require an act of Congress. With grants to Utah Dineh Bikeyah and Friends of Cedar Mesa, we threw our support behind the monument effort.

Along the way, we found remarkable support within the outdoor business and recreation communities for the protection of the Bears Ears. We worked closely with our colleagues at Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance to demonstrate the economic and recreation benefits of the Bears Ears region. At the Summer 2016 Outdoor Retailer trade show, an unprecedented group of CEOs held a press conference to call on President Obama to designate a Bears Ears National Monument. Business leaders from Utah and beyond spoke from the heart about the place in economic, recreation, and spiritual terms. It was a moving event.

Early in his presidency, Obama said he wanted to designate national monuments that help tell lesser-known parts of the American story. I’ve explored the Bears Ears region over the years, amazed that no school teacher ever taught me about the Ancestral Puebloans, and how they built tools and structures, farmed, and conducted rituals throughout the desert Southwest. By designating Bears Ears National Monument, President Obama shines a light on an important part of our story. We now have the opportunity to respectfully explore a protected landscape where past and present intersect.

President Obama Designates Gold Butte National Monument

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President Obama added to his significant conservation legacy by designating the Gold Butte National Monument, permanently protecting 296,937 acres of public land in southern Nevada. Gold Butte – also considered Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon – includes rugged mountains, Joshua tree and Mojave yucca forests, outcroppings of sandstone, and braided washes that turn into slot canyons. Native Americans have depended on this area for sustenance, medicine gathering, and spiritual use for thousands of years. Visitors can find rock art, structures, roasting pits, and pottery throughout the area.

The Conservation Alliance first supported efforts to protect Gold Butte back in 2006 when we funded Nevada Wilderness Project to develop a campaign to designate the area as Wilderness. That effort laid the groundwork for the national monument campaign that followed. Earlier this year, we supported both Friends of Nevada Wilderness and Friends of Gold Butte to build grassroots support for the monument designation.

Our friends at KEEN Footwear included Gold Butte in their Live Monumental campaign, an effort to urge President Obama to designate five national monuments before the end of his term. Founding member Patagonia has been a long-time participant in the Gold Butte effort. And Las Vegas-based Zappos hosted events to rally support for the designation. It’s always great to see our members go above-and-beyond in to push for new conservation gains.

President Obama protected Gold Butte on the same day that he designated Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. With these protections, President Obama secures an important place in the history of conservation in the United States.

What the new forest plan means for our Tongass National Forest


©Earl Harper

Guest blog post by Jenny Weis, Communications Director at Trout Unlimited – Alaska 

Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest produces more wild salmon than anywhere else in the country. At 17 million acres, this magnificent landscape of western hemlock, Sitka spruce, western red cedar and Alaska yellow cedar trees is part of the world’s largest remaining intact temperate rain forest and hosts some of the rarest ecosystems on the planet that are ideal spawning and rearing conditions for wild Pacific salmon and trout.

Besides sustaining the cultures and lifestyles of local residents including three coastal tribes, salmon from the Tongass employ one in 10 people in the region and contribute an estimated $1 billion per year to the Southeast Alaska economy.

Despite its bounty and unique role as America’s last “salmon forest,” the Tongass faces threats.

Salmon depend on intact watersheds that haven’t been degraded by logging and road-building. Despite this, huge volumes of the old growth forest have been logged from public lands in Southeast Alaska. Many miles of road are carved into pristine areas and pulp mills have historically polluted the air and water. Though the situation on the ground is bad, the political climate can, at times, be even worse.

Historically, the Forest Service has been too hung-up on supporting the old-growth logging industry to prioritize righting the wrongs done to the forest and protecting salmon and trout for future generations.

Until this month.

The Forest Service just officially amended the Tongass Land Management Plan to prioritize protections the most important areas for salmon and trout in the forest. The Tongass Land Management Plan is the document that governs activities including logging, road-building, mining, habitat restoration and recreation. The new plan nudges the existing timber industry into using young growth, meaning smaller trees that have grown back after clear-cut logging and, over the course of 16 years, phases out large-scale old growth logging altogether in the Tongass. This is excellent news for Tongass fish and the businesses that depend on them!

While we know special interests, still pining for the heavy logging of the past, will work to roll back or eliminate the best parts of this plan, we are celebrating this major milestone for healthy Tongass fisheries. TU will work to uphold this progress, and also to achieve further investments at the state and federal levels in salmon and recreation.

Thank you for your support!


©Earl Harper

We Stand By Our Land

The Conservation Alliance Board and Staff, November 2016,  Santa Barbara, CA

The Conservation Alliance board and staff gathered at the Toad&Co offices in Santa Barbara last week to hammer out a new, three-year strategic plan, and a 2017 annual operating plan. We intentionally scheduled the retreat for the week after the elections to ensure that we made our plans with a full understanding of the political landscape in which we operate. We dared to assume that one pro-conservation administration would follow another, and our work over the next three years would simply build on our efforts over the past eight. Needless to say, the election results took us by surprise.

We actually don’t know much about where Donald Trump stands on conservation and public lands issues. We do know that there are members of Congress who would like to wreak havoc on 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, and have threatened to gut our bedrock environmental laws. During the past four years, President Obama has regularly used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments to protect special lands when Congress has failed to act. Emboldened members of Congress are already talking about rescinding those national monument designations, and repealing the Antiquities Act.

Make no mistake. Our public lands system is now at risk.

“Public Lands” is a painfully generic term for places that inspire so much joy and awe; places that test our abilities and teach us lessons about our place in the world. These are the lands – our National Parks, Wilderness areas, Forest Service and BLM lands – that provide the setting for our great adventures or our daily trail runs. We backpack, ski, and mountain bike on our public lands. We paddle their rivers and lakes, and climb their rocks. Sometimes we go there to simply find quiet in an ever-busier world.

I grew up exploring public lands with my family. I learned to ski and climb there. I got engaged in one National Park, and honeymooned in another. During an eight-month job transition, my wife and I spent seven months on – and under the spell of – public lands. Sound familiar? I’m guessing most people who earn a living in the outdoor industry have a similar connection to our public lands. That’s good news, because we are going to need everyone to stand up now and repeatedly over the next four years in defense of these special places.

American voters elected Donald Trump, and gave his party majorities in both chambers of Congress. But I do not believe this election was a referendum on our public lands system. 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. Our new strategic plan will direct us to spend more time on our advocacy efforts, engaging our member companies and their employees to demonstrate support for public lands. Our funding program will continue to support efforts to protect our last wild places, seeking creative opportunities to preserve lands and waters in a challenging political climate. But we will make an important adjustment to our funding criteria, creating a new fund to support organizations working to defend the integrity of our public lands system. We look forward to branching out into this new area of funding.

To our members, we say without equivocation that our work together has never been more important. Our alliance of outdoor businesses has helped protect more than 45 million acres of land and 2,900 river miles over the past 27 years. Our steady success speaks to our ability to be nimble as the climate for conservation changes. Your board of directors met last week, and developed a solid plan for the next three years. We look forward to working with you to implement that plan, and to ensure that the outdoor industry does all we can to preserve our most special wild places.

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