News

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

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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).

(more…)

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.

Outdoor Businesses Call on President Obama to Expand the California Coastal National Monument

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

BUSINESS SUPPORT FOR EXPANDING THE CALIFORNIA COASTAL NATIONAL MONUMENT

Dear Mr. President,

As outdoor industry companies that depend on protected landscapes where our customers recreate, we urge you to use your authority under the Antiquities Act to expand the California Coastal National Monument. After years of community dialogue and overwhelming public support, it is time to add Trinidad Head, Lighthouse Ranch, Lost Coast Headlands, Cotoni-Coast Dairies, and Piedras Blancas to the California Coastal National Monument.

When President Clinton first established the California Coastal National Monument in 2000, it became our most viewed, but least visited monument. Comprised originally of 20,000 offshore rocks and islands, the monument was biologically important and scenically jaw dropping, yet offered few opportunities to visitors. With your addition of the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to the monument in 2014, visitors gained the first on-land addition to the monument. Expanding the monument will provide public access and interpretation opportunities while protecting important coastal resources for current and future generations to enjoy.

Thanks to the efforts of Senators Boxer and Feinstein along with Representatives Capps, Eshoo and Huffman, the proposed expansion of the California Coastal National Monument enjoys widespread support throughout California. We are encouraged that these Congressional champions have also called on you to expand the California Coastal National Monument.

As companies in California, we can attest to the direct benefits that this designation will bring to the communities of our state, and the outdoor industry. In California, the outdoor recreation economy contributes $85 billion in consumer spending and supports 732,000 jobs. This economic contribution depends on places for our customers to play, learn, and share the outdoors with friends and family. The proposed additions to the California Coastal National Monument will help grow California’s outdoor recreation economy.

We hope you will use the Antiquities Act to expand the California Coastal National Monument before the end of 2016.

Sincerely,

Download a copy of this letter here.

Save the Date! The Conservation Alliance Breakfast with Climate Change Activist Auden Schendler

Noah Howell Little Pine Wasatch UT

 

The Conservation Alliance Breakfast
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
7:00-9:00 AM
The Marriott, Salons F-I, Salt Lake City

Gnomes and Brook Trout: Meaningful Climate Solutions in a Harsh World

A Presentation by Climate Change Activist Auden Schendler 

Brook trout will lose more than three-quarters of their range in the West in the next 75 years due to climate change. Winter sports will see snowpack declines of up to half by end of century. And our next president denies that there’s a problem. But our future can still be prosperous. The outdoor industry has two choices: slowly watch our business and lifestyle disappear, or become a meaningful part of the climate solution, protecting our economies for the long term. Auden Schendler is Sustainability VP at Aspen Skiing Company and board chair at Protect Our Winters. A (mostly) reformed dirtbag and lifelong outdoorsman, he works on high leverage solutions to climate change.

Arrive tired, leave inspired!

Conservation Alliance Grantees Deliver Five Victories

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In October 2015, The Conservation Alliance invested $790,000 in grassroots conservation organizations. Each grant went to a project working to secure permanent protection for a specific threatened wild place.  We direct organizations to use our funding over the course of a 12-month period. At the end of the grant period, we ask each group for a final report. These reports play a key role in helping us determine the return on our investment. Conservation Alliance grantees funded in the last 12 months reported five conservation victories, permanently protecting 1,823,423 acres, four river miles and one climbing area.

On October 1, we received 19 final reports. Following is a summary of the progress our grantees have made with our funding. At the end of the summary are several exciting updates on work we funded in April 2016. We will share final reports on all of our April 2016 grants in April 2017.

Download the complete report summary here.






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