Over the past month, many people have asked me whether the illegal takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon has an impact on conservation and outdoor recreation. The quick answer is “yes”. The militants are giving voice to the misguided — and unconstitutional — notion that our federal lands should be transferred to the states in which they lie. Our public lands are important for wildlife habitat, and are crucial “infrastructure” for hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountain biking, paddling, skiing, mountaineering, fishing, birding, and hunting. Federal management of these lands is not perfect, but it ensures at least two important things. First, that these lands will forever be held in trust for all Americans. And second, that they will be managed in a consistent way such that rules and regulations that impact the outdoor recreation experience in Oregon will be similar to that in Montana, for example. It’s easy to take these things for granted, but if the militants’ agenda were implemented, it would totally change our relationship to our public lands. (It’s worth noting that, as reported recently in The Oregonian, the militants’ demands “defy logic and law.”)
In the bigger picture, the situation at the Malheur Refuge invites us to ask what is the best use of America’s public lands. Outdoor recreation contributes $646 billion annually to the US economy, and public lands are a big part of that story. At the same time, countless studies demonstrate that protected public lands are an important economic driver for communities near those lands. My favorite of those studies is called West is Best, by Headwaters Economics. Long ago, people thought logging, mining, grazing, and oil and gas drilling was the best use of our public lands. Now, it’s clear that recreation and tourism is a much more lucrative and sustainable economic model. The small town of Oakridge, Oregon — once wholly dependent on logging — has successfully turned itself into a Mecca for mountain biking. Though mountain bike tourism accounts for five percent of the local economy, several business owners expect that number to grow over time. Meanwhile, logging on National Forests around Oakridge is likely to continue to decline. The militants on the Malheur Refuge are looking to the past, when stronger economies lie in a future in which public lands are preserved and managed for habitat and recreation.
Finally, the militants represent the lowest level of public engagement. Armed with firearms and loud voices, they are trying to bully their way to getting what they want. By contrast, The Conservation Alliance funds dozens of organizations who work hard, sometimes for years, following the rules and behaving with common decency to secure better management of our public lands. This work is not sexy and does not attract hordes of media, but it leads to lasting protection for the lands that the federal government manages for all of us. We’re proud to be associated with these organizations, and are confident they will remain standing strong long after the Malheur occupiers are in prison.
At The Conservation Alliance Breakfast, over 250 people signed the postcard below asking President Obama to designate the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. In April 2016, The Conservation Alliance Board of Directors and staff will hand deliver these postcards to the Obama Administration.
Conservation Alliance founding member companies REI and Patagonia have banded together to call attention to the effort to protect wilderness and wild rivers on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The two companies are working with The Conservation Alliance to highlight their shared commitment to protecting wild places. In 1989, the brands teamed up with The North Face and Kelty to launch The Conservation Alliance as a vehicle for outdoor industry companies to work collectively to protect wild places for their recreation and habitat values. Both companies have supported the Wild Olympics campaign on their own, and are now doing so together.
The effort went live last week at an event at the REI flagship retail store in Seattle. Patagonia has a “shop-in-shop” in that store, which now has Wild Olympics imagery and messages integrated throughout the space. Customers can learn more about the campaign and sign post cards in support of the proposed protections. A highlight of the space is a map artfully painted onto the floor that shows the rivers and mountain ranges of the Olympic Peninsula.
The Wild Olympics Campaign seeks to protect 126,000 acres of Wilderness and 19 rivers adjacent to Olympic National Park. Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Derek Kilmer have introduced legislation into both the House and Senate to secure the protections. The measure is broadly supported on the peninsula, and throughout Washington State. Check out the online story map that highlights some of the places proposed for protection. And REI wrote a beautiful piece on their blog about the effort.
Big thanks to REI and Patagonia for calling attention to this important campaign!
What made you want to be an Ambassador for The Conservation Alliance?
I’ve been hiking with Hall Newbegin, the guy who started Juniper Ridge, for nearly ten years. Hall, and for that matter, Juniper Ridge, have really opened me up to a deeper inner voice; an activist voice. Juniper Ridge has, since its inception, donated 10% of whatever profits it has made to defending western wilderness. It’s part of our core mission. The Conservation Alliance is a really wonderful nexus and a truly convenient utility towards this vision of unifying commercial and conservationist efforts.
What local conservation projects are you involved in?
After the designation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, we land-conservationists across the west are involved in raising awareness about a number of big prizes we’d like to see locked up with federal protection before the Obama administration becomes history. I am very excited about the Mojave Trails National Monument, part of Senator Feinstein’s proposed Desert Protection Act: these sensitive habitats between the Mojave Preserve and the Joshua National Park deserve the broadest kind of federal protection. The Central Coast Heritage Act, another prime candidate, would do so much for the creation of the Condor Trail, and shore up a big, blank corner of this paradisaical, Californian backcountry. Of course, there is also the Owyhee. I love dreaming of this plateau desert in Southeastern Oregon (what is apparently the darkest part of the country at night,) the Owyhee is the biggest prize across what is left to protect in the west, and remains vulnerable without this dire, protective legislation.
Where would you like to see The Alliance another 25 years from now?
25 years is a long time in the west. With the coming of the unpredictable effects of climate change, and the rising population desperately in need of improved, ecological energy sources (than say dams, or earth-extracted fuel sources,) I see the fight becoming more harder. I would like to see the Alliance reaching towards a younger demographic with a message of preservation, hope and opportunity. And I would like to see more small business involved in the movement. The New Conservationism is an everyday thing; I see the Alliance making head-roads into all manner of commercialism, so much so, that some day soon, every purchase that everyone makes here in the west might have a component of wilderness defense it in.
What areas of conservation are you most passionate about?
Land conservation; Habitat preservation and restoration; Plant regime change by invasive species. Biodiversity is key. Biodiversity is strength. Biodiversity is ecological health. Only by leaving alone, and roadless, great expanses of the west, can we maintain a vestige of our historical biodiversity; even in light of the dying of unprecedented numbers of species, on a global level, in the 21st century.
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Although I am not a fan of roads in my backcountry, I do believe people need to regularly go to the wilderness. Preferably on foot. There is power there. For me, backpacking and hiking are akin to something sacred: a connection with something deeper and bigger than myself. I was never much of a peak-bagger or any other kind of adrenaline junkie. I paint intuitive landscapes in watercolor journals that I pack around with me. You can check out my work on Instagram where I’ve taken over the hashtag #trailpaintings with my name @coyotethunder.
Do you have a favorite Wilderness Area or National Park?
I grew up in the High Sierra… I am going to go with the Desolation Wilderness as my favorite. Just west of Lake Tahoe, It is home to me. Ragged and wonderful granite landscapes that seem to me what heaven must be like. That all being said, I couldn’t imagine not enjoying the vast wilderness of San Jacinto, or the Condor skyways of the Ventana near Big Sur. Or of course, the headwaters of the Eel, down from the Klamath mountains deep in the redwood forests. All these places continually pull at my heart when I am woefully trapped in front of a damn computer for too long.
In what areas would you like to see more efforts to support wilderness conservation?
I would like to see the living story of the wilderness more in our daily lives. I see a day when all manner of commercial transaction may ripple towards giving back to the wild lands we collectively acknowledge as part of our core, American character. I believe rampant, mindless consumerism will inevitably pass into an economic system of ecological, social-systems. Our inner-duty, as citizens of the west, will call upon us to look more towards the consequences of waste and a new normal will develop, where we look at the entirety of this place as our singular home, and many of our contemporary habits are rejected as poison for the larger network. I don’t think it’s a pipe-dream; with the right branding, excellent storytelling, bold leadership, and vast, vigilant campaigns of wilderness education, the course of the river can change. Customers dictate the market… Look at how ubiquitous organic foods have become, or even simply, the rise of the now-common word “sustainable.”
How about an End Quote: Words of motivation to get others inspired.
I wrote this today on Instagram @coyotethunder:
“Between bliss and rage eternal, for passion born again of this place, these hallowed lands; the good love I carry for these arid wildscapes, feeding my endless appetites, merely with simple breath do I float and aspire; well fed, open and true.”
Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that includes a provision to reauthorize the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for three years. For the past 50 years, the LWCF has provided a reliable source of funding to purchase lands important for outdoor recreation and habitat conservation. The spending bill also guarantees $450 million in funding for LWCF in 2016, a significant increase over the past several years’ appropriations.
President Lyndon Johnson signed the LWCF into law in 1964, creating a fund that would take royalties from oil and gas drilling and put those dollars into land acquisition for recreation and conservation. The fund cost taxpayers nothing. The fund expired in October when Congress failed to reauthorize it despite broad and deep bipartisan support. Though LWCF advocates had hoped for permanent reauthorization, the three-year renewal is an important lifeline for the conservation program.
“LWCF is a critical tool to protect our open spaces in Washington and around the country: The increase in real funding and a three year reauthorization will allow us to do important work in our state. I will continue to push for permanent reauthorization,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Congress has the authority to appropriate up to $900 million annually for the LWCF. Many Conservation Alliance grantees have used our grants to cover the staff time necessary to secure funding from the LWCF. Between 2007-2013, we made grants totaling $400,000 to 12 different organizations that leveraged those funds to win $99 million in grants from the LWCF, multiplying our investment nearly 250 times.
The outdoor industry has fought for years to fully fund the LWCF, and more recently to ensure its reauthorization. Our colleagues at Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance worked hard on the reauthorization effort this year. We celebrate today with them, and with our colleagues in the conservation community who use the LWCF to save important wild places. And now we have three more years to work for the permanent reauthorization of the LWCF with guaranteed full funding at $900 million annually. Stay tuned!
Learning that Doug Tompkins died tragically on Tuesday after his kayak capsized in the frigid waters of a lake in Chile took the wind out of me. I was not close to Doug. We met several times when I worked at Patagonia, Inc. Doug was a regular visitor to Patagonia’s Ventura campus along with his wife, Kris, who enjoyed a storied run as the company’s CEO. Doug’s passing is a blow because we have lost a pioneer whose values helped define what it meant to be a responsible leader in business.
Like his pal Yvon Chouinard, Doug took the skills and attributes he developed in the mountains and applied them to business. And like Yvon, Doug was not satisfied to merely do well in business. He wanted to make a much bigger mark on the world by protecting what’s left of our special wild places. Though he found most of his business success at Esprit, Doug’s influence is found on two of the outdoor industry’s most important brands, and incidentally, two of The Conservation Alliance’s founding members: The North Face and Patagonia. Doug founded The North Face as a Bay Area retail operation, setting in motion an iconic brand that has helped bring outdoor values to core athletes and the masses alike. Through his friendship with Yvon and Malinda Chouinard, and marriage to Kris, Doug had a meaningful though less direct impact on Patagonia. He was part of the legendary road trip to Patagonia (the region) that inspired the name for the clothing brand, and he surely played a role in Yvon’s thinking about the environment.
By the time I arrived to work at Patagonia, Doug was a phantom presence, having moved with Kris to Chile with the ambitious goal of protecting as much of the South American landscape as possible. He and Yvon had different approaches to addressing the environmental crisis. Yvon uses Patagonia as an example, and a funding mechanism to support grassroots activists working to save wild places worldwide. Doug and Kris use their fortune to purchase land directly, establishing parks throughout Chile and Argentina. I like to think that the two old friends had a running competition to determine who could do more good in the world. If so, Yvon will surely miss Doug’s constant pressure to do more.
I recently gave a talk at an Access Fund conference about climbers who went on to become great conservationists. The lineage is impressive, starting with John Muir who founded the Sierra Club, and who passed the torch to David Brower who turned the Club into a political force. Both spent enormous amounts of time climbing peaks and wandering in the North American Wilderness before turning their skills and passion to activism. Doug and Yvon have earned solid positions in that pedigree by leveraging their business success to save our wild places. (More recent additions to that rare company include Peter Metcalf and Conrad Anker). The point of my talk was to encourage the climbers in the room to take their climbing skills — preparation, boldness, good judgement, persistence — and use them for conservation. Doug sure did. With his passing, we lose a great leader, but we gain a permanent example of how to make a difference in the world. And I’m confident Kris will capably carry the torch of the work she and Doug did together for so long.
Our thoughts go out to Doug’s family and friends. He will be missed, but his positive impact on the outdoor industry and our wild landscapes is secure.
Download the report summaries here.
Conservation Alliance Ambassadors are key influencers and leaders in the outdoor industry, and they serve as a conduit for spreading the word about Conservation Alliance programs and grantee activities within their respective companies. They volunteer their time, going above and beyond the duties of their full-time jobs at member companies. Our ambassadors are passionate outdoor enthusiasts, and exceptional people.
Today, we’d like you to meet Caroleigh Pierce, Outreach Manager at Klean Kanteen in Chico, CA. Caroleigh was one of the first ambassadors to join our ambassador program. In addition to being an internal advocate for The Conservation Alliance, she demonstrates her commitment to our organization by organizing fundraising events at Outdoor Retailer. She will also be joining us for lobby training in Washington, DC in April, 2016.
What made you want to be an Ambassador for The Conservation Alliance?
My work as the Outreach Manager at Klean Kanteen the past few years has really reconnected me with my love of the natural world. When I learned about the opportunity to be a part of the Conservation Alliance and use my personal and business voice to have an impact on policy and conservation, I jumped at the chance. I am so proud to be a part of this network of brands that are committed to support policies and fund projects that are protecting the places we live and play.
What areas of conservation are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about balance. Restoration, conservation and access all have their place in our country and in our future. Although I know how vital it is to get people out doors to get and stay connected, I love the thought of keeping some places wild and untouched by humans. We don’t need to touch it to know it’s there.
Favorite outdoor activity?
Right now I’m loving being a day hiker. My husband and I have made a commitment to get outside more without the toys and slow down a bit so we can use all of our senses to take it all in. I’ve made a bucket list of National Parks and beautiful spaces recommended by friends and family in this amazing country that I want to experience. We hiked Zion after summer OR this past August and it was amazing. I think I found a new post-OR tradition!
Favorite Wilderness or National Park?
Plumas National Forest has always been my family playground; summers at Lake Almanor and winters at our family cabin in LaPorte, Ca. It’s where I caught my first trout, sled down my first snow-covered hill, fell in love with the smell of pine trees mixed with campfire, and saw more stars than I could ever count.
Most eye opening experience for the need of conservation.
In my role at Klean Kanteen I’ve been able to travel and see some incredible places over the past few years. I’ve also been witness to plastic pollution and the effects it creates on the ecosystem including rivers that flow backwards filled with fish that we can’t eat and struggle to reproduce because they are so toxic. This summer I participated in an expedition with The 5 Gyres Institute sailing from the Bahamas to Bermuda. I experienced the most incredible beaches and water in shades of blue I’ve never seen before. Every place we visited and every sample we tested had plastic present. This solidified my commitment to protecting these places. The places we have been before and those where we long to go.
End Quote: Words of motivation to get others inspired.
We all have a role and a voice in conservation. We bring to the table a unique set of skills to contribute to the conversation and help create change. Find your passion, your purpose, your place in protecting these wild and wonderful places.