We are thrilled to announce another conservation victory: Access Fund, in partnership with Friends of Muir Valley, raised the funds necessary to acquire Muir Valley Climbing Area. Muir Valley is a 300-acre world-class climbing destination in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky.
40,000 people visit this forested valley every year, so it is no surprise that individual donations account for 85% of the total amount raised. The $200,000 fundraising goal was reached in just nine months, which included a partial grant from The Conservation Alliance in 2014.
The current owners spent 11 years and over $1 million turning this area into a sustainable climbing resource for future generations to enjoy. Ownership of Muir Valley will be transferred to Friends of Muir Valley in March 2015, ensuring the long-term stewardship of this popular crag.
Rafting Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River is the trip of a lifetime. Renowned as one of the premiere wilderness rivers in the world, the Middle Fork flows through the largest tract of protected public lands in the Lower 48. The Conservation Alliance and its member companies have supported a diverse team of local organizations working to protect special public lands and iconic rivers in Idaho, and the wild salmon and steelhead that call this place home.
Now YOU have an opportunity to take your own trip of a lifetime on the Middle Fork—and support The Conservation Alliance at the same time!
Thank you for your continued support of The Conservation Alliance and the incredible organizations that work tirelessly to protect wild places and experiences like those found on the Middle Fork. If you feel inspired, please share this opportunity with your community online and on the ground.
On February 19, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate Browns Canyon National Monument near Salida, CO. This proclamation preserves 22,000 acres of Forest Service and BLM land in Colorado and provides outstanding opportunities for fishing, whitewater boating, hiking and many other outdoor activities. It is one of the most popular whitewater destinations in the country; attracting roughly 150,000 visitors annually who contribute $60 million to the local economy. The area provides critical habitat for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer and mountain lions.
The Conservation Alliance funded two organizations working to protect Browns Canyon: Conservation Colorado and Conservation Lands Foundation. We funded Conservation Colorado in 2006 for their effort to designate Browns Canyon as wilderness. After more than fifteen years of attempts to protect Browns Canyon via legislation, the strategy shifted to a national monument campaign. Conservation Lands Foundation, a 2014 grantee, worked with the Obama Administration to bring this national monument campaign across the finish line.
Senator Mark Udall introduced legislation last year to designate Browns Canyon as a National Monument, but Congress failed to move the bill. Udall’s legislation specified that paddling on the Arkansas would continue to be managed by the Colorado State Parks as it is today. The president’s proclamation of Browns Canyon National Monument honors the spirit of Udall’s legislation, which followed a multi-year process of input from local residents, paddlers, ranchers, and businesses.
The Conservation Alliance applauds President Obama for designating the Browns Canyon National Monument. With this proclamation, President Obama continues his legacy of protecting special wild places with designations that enjoy strong local support. We thank President Obama for recognizing this special place, and protecting Browns Canyon forever.
100% of our membership dues support conservation opportunities like Browns Canyon. Together, we are making a measurable impact toward protecting threatened wild places in North America.
In the Taku, after four years of effort, Chieftain has not yet been able to obtain the more than $200 million of construction financing needed to start building the Tulsequah Chief mine. RWB’s efforts to highlight the substantial risks of the project, including First Nation opposition, the impracticality of barging, and downstream Alaskan opposition has contributed to that outcome. In fact, Royal Gold, the only entity to date to promise any funding for the mine, recently announced that on December 22nd it pulled out of its agreement to provide $45 million in construction financing, and required Chieftain, already struggling financially, to repay its initial $10 million working capital loan to the company. An excerpt from Royal Gold’s press release is attached.
That timing was critical, because on January 13 the BC Minister of the Environment made her redetermination of whether or not the Tulsequah Chief mine was “substantially started.” This redetermination was required by the Supreme Court of BC as a result of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) lawsuit. In July, the Supreme Court ruled that the TRTFN should have been consulted as part of the process, and that the First Nation should have been given the opportunity to submit evidence on whether mine construction had been started within the regulatory timeframe. The redetermination, contrary to substantial opposing evidence, common sense, and skepticism expressed by the Court, was that Tulsequah Chief is “substantially started.” Obviously this is a disappointing finding. The TRTFN is currently weighing legal options. While the legal challenge did not cause Chieftain to lose its Environmental Certificate as hoped, it created more uncertainty about an already controversial and tenuous mine proposal, as evidenced by the mine’s recent investment loss. It also underscored that First Nations rights must be considered in mine projects and all related government deliberations, and that investors will be wary of risk if a project does not have social license.
For the fourth consecutive year, Marmot and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance worked together to raise money for The Conservation Alliance. For any Marmot product over $99 sold by a Grassroots Retailer, Marmot pledged to donate $10 to The Conservation Alliance, up to $10,000. The campaign came to a successful close, and we are pleased to announce that Marmot will be contributing $10,000 towards the permanent protection of wild place in North America.
“We sincerely appreciate the efforts of every participating Grassroots Outdoor Alliance member. They make this promotion work for The Conservation Alliance through their dedicated efforts to support our wild lands,” says Tom Fritz, Marmot’s Vice President of Marketing. “This past fall marked our fourth consecutive year collaborating with Grassroots, and together we’ve raised more than $45,000 for the Conservation Alliance. It’s one of most successful promotions we do to benefit a non-profit organization.”
Wes Allen, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance stated, “Independent outdoor stores are focused on supporting the type of work that the Conservation Alliance excels at—preserving and reclaiming our wild places for both their innate value and recreational qualities. This partnership with Marmot allows Grassroots retailers to really focus on issues that are important to our customers, our businesses, and ourselves.”
The support from Marmot and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is very important to us, and we applaud our members for finding a creative way to engage consumers about the importance of conservation.
After receiving more than 1 million public comments requesting stronger protections for America’s iconic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, President Obama and Interior Secretary Jewell unveiled the Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) yesterday, recommending a Wilderness designation for the Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plain. This reverses the longstanding Reagan-era recommendation to drill for oil in the Coastal Plain. The president has sent the message to Congress that the administration – like the American people – wants to see Congress finally act to protect this sacred place. A Wilderness recommendation to Congress is the most significant shift in momentum towards permanent protection that any president has made since the Refuge was established by President Eisenhower.
The Conservation Alliance has been involved in the effort to protect the Arctic Refuge for the past decade. It is an iconic and remote landscape notable for its wildlife and outstanding recreation opportunities. I had the opportunity to visit the Refuge several years ago with a group of outdoor industry leaders. We floated the Canning River, which flows north from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean. During the trip, we saw wolves, grizzlies, musk oxen, and countless bird species. On the last day, a herd of hundreds of caribou moved through our campsite, seemingly unfazed by our presence. We swatted mosquitoes, caught Arctic grayling, and hiked in the midnight sun. My words fail when describing the experience.
Much of the Arctic Refuge is already designated Wilderness, the highest level of protection we can give to federal lands. But, there is a 1.5-million-acre strip of land – known as the Coastal Plain – where the refuge meets the Arctic Ocean that has been at the center of controversy for decades. The rivers of the Arctic Refuge all flow into the Beaufort Sea through the Coastal Plain. Along with the Brooks Range, the Coastal Plain bookends the 19-million-acre refuge into one of the most pristine, intact, and spectacular landscapes left on our planet. Unfortunately, the Coastal Plain also has known oil reserves that oil companies and their political allies would love to exploit. Since visiting the Arctic Refuge, I have often thought what it would be like to take that singular journey from the Brooks Range down the Canning River, ending at an Arctic coast riddled with oil wells. The contrast would be an insult to the eye, and the landscape.
President Obama’s Wilderness recommendation for the Coastal Plain is important because it is now the official position of the US government that this important area should be protected rather than opened for energy development. And it will be managed as such for the life of the CCP signed yesterday.
The Conservation Alliance thanks President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for taking this important step toward final, permanent protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And we call on Congress to act on the President’s recommendation, and pass a bill that designates the Coastal Plain as Wilderness.
We pulled together the highlights of our conservation victories from 2014 in a short video, featuring music by The Infamous Stringdusters. We are proud of the work we did in 2014, bringing the outdoor industry’s resources to the organizations working to protect wild places throughout North America. We look forward to another productive year in 2015!
The Conservation Alliance twice-funded Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild) for their work to stop several proposed nickel mines in southwest Oregon. These mines are adjacent to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area and the Illinois, Rogue and Smith Wild and Scenic rivers. The Red Flat Corporation, a subsidiary of a British investment firm, proposed a strip mine adjacent to these pristine roadless areas. Unfortunately, an outdated mining law from 1872 allows foreign companies to mine our public lands. Today, the water quality and fish habitat in these wild rivers are at risk.
The campaign to protect the Thompson Divide reached an exciting milestone at the end of 2014. Thanks to the conservation-minded White River National Forest Plan released by the Forest Service in early December, the majority of the Thompson Divide is now closed to future oil and gas leasing for the next 15-20 years.
Our grantee, the Thompson Divide Coalition (TDC), is using a unique approach to protect this pristine landscape that involves both administrative and legislative action to prevent future development, while working with current lease-holders to retire existing leases.
The Thompson Divide is a 220,000 acre landscape that includes 15 different watersheds. These watersheds bring clean water to Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Redstone and Paonia. This outdoor recreation destination supports 300 jobs and contributes $30 million a year to the local economy. In this largely roadless area, one can enjoy gold-metal trout fishing, rock and ice climbing, backcountry skiing, big-game hunting and a backcountry snowmobile trail that stretches all the way to Grand Junction.
The Forest Service set an important precedent by closing the area to future oil and gas development. Until the BLM cancels existing leases and closes the Thompson Divide to future leasing, TDC’s administrative work is not done. There are currently 61 active leases, covering 100,000 acres in the heart of the Thompson Divide. In 2007, the Interior Department’s Board of Land Appeals held that the leases issued in 2003 by the Bush Administration were in violation of the NEPA and Endangered Species Act. The BLM is currently analyzing 25 of these illegal leases.
Passing the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act is the long-term strategy for permanently protecting the Thompson Divide. On December 28th, 2014, Senator Michael Bennett announced that he plans to re-introduce legislation to permanently protect the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas leasing, thus protecting it beyond the lifespan of the White River National Forest Plan.