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Thursday
Aug242017

National Monument Review - What Next?

Excerpt from Kirsten Blackburn with the Conservation Alliance

It has been a whirlwind of a summer. On April 26th 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order requiring Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to critically review 27 national monuments over 300,000 acres in size and designated after January 1996, to determine if their boundaries are consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. Secretary Zinke was ordered to deliver a final report by August 24th, recommending which monuments should be altered and which should remain unchanged. For nearly ten weeks, Zinke and the Department of Interior hosted an open comment period soliciting feedback from the American public. To say our community engaged in this process would be an understatement. We stood up for the foundation of our businesses, the backbone of our industry, the fuel to our adventures and the wildness in our collective DNA. We proudly stood up for the integrity of our country’s best idea: Our Public Lands.

In a time of political uncertainty, our ability to come together to advocate for something we all believe in is inspiring. Trump’s Executive Order and Zinke’s response to it catalyzed our community into action and unleashed a level of support for our public lands that America has never seen before.

In three short months, Conservation Alliance members, partners, friends and fellow American’s put forth an incredible effort to voice their support for public lands loudly and clearly. Since May 12th: :

Conservation Alliance members, in particular, rose to the challenge and put forth an unprecedented public display of support for our wild places. These are just some examples of the many actions taken:

SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

We are on the eve Secretary Zinke’s final national monument report. Will our voices have been heard? Will our national monuments remain intact? We won’t have a clear indication until the report has been released, but there are some consistent hypotheses. There is general consensus that at least eight monuments are at risk for recommended changes, these include:  Cascade-Siskiyou; Gold Butte; Basin and Range; Organ Mountains Desert Peaks; Grand Staircase Escalante; Bears Ears; Katahdin Woods and Waters; and Papahanaumokuakea, a marine national monument. Please note this list has not been confirmed by the Department of Interior. How these monuments are changed is still up for debate, but three methods seem likely:

  1. Zinke recommends that Trump use executive action to change national monument boundaries, or rescind them entirely.

Some even believe Trump will immediately exercise executive action to rescind or alter certain monuments. Legal experts believe that executive action to alter an existing national monument is illegal and would be followed by years of litigation.

  1. Zinke recommends a mixture of executive and congressional actions.

Under this scenario, Zinke would recommend that Trump take executive action on certain monuments, and recommend that Congress reshape others. Congressional actions could include things like redefining a monument’s boundary or changing its designation from National Monument to something like a National Conservation Area, which would decrease the level of protection for the landscape.

  1. Zinke puts the ball entirely in Congress’ court, and leaves it to our Senators and Congressional Representatives to redraw or un-do our National Monuments.

Unfortunately we have yet to find an expert who thinks all of the monuments under review will escape the process without a recommended alteration. To date, Zinke has indicated six national monuments have been spared, including: Grand Canyon-Parashant; Canyons of the Ancients; Craters of the Moon; Upper Missouri River Breaks; and Hanford Reach.

WHAT THE CONSERVATION ALLIANCE WILL DO.

The short answer is: Not back down. The Conservation Alliance has, and always will, oppose any effort to change the boundaries of existing national monuments through executive action.

We have a 28-year history of supporting grassroots groups working to secure permanent protections for wild places. Since 1999 we’ve made 25 grants totaling $765,000 to 13 different groups whose work was instrumental in protecting ten of the monuments under review. It is in our interest, and the interest of our members, to defend them.

In January of this year we launched our Public Lands Defense Fund. A new, fluid and board administered fund that exists to defend previous Presidents’ National Monument designations, defend our bedrock conservation laws, and oppose the proposed transfer of federal lands to the states or to private hands. We have $120k remaining in this fund for 2017 and anticipate it will be spent on preserving existing national monuments.

We stand ready to formally engage in the defense of our national monuments in the form of public statements, organizing, and grantmaking to grassroots groups working to uphold these places. We look forward to offering many opportunities to join us in these efforts through letters, social media campaigns, lobby visits, and more.

Thursday
Mar302017

Offices of Outdoor Recreation Set to Take Over the West

By Tania Lown-Hecht

Outdoor Alliance

The world of outdoor recreation is making its mark on state legislatures across the west. In the last few years, three states (Washington, Utah, and Colorado) have created Offices of Outdoor Recreation to oversee and improve outdoor experiences in the state, and Montana has announced its intent to create an Outdoor Recreation Office. Next week, Oregon and California will make a move to join their neighbors and create Outdoor Recreation Offices of their own.

On Monday, Oregon’s House Economic Development and Trade Committee will have a hearing on H.B. 3350, which will create an Office of Outdoor Recreation within the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. On Tuesday, California’s state Assembly will hear testimony on Assembly Bill 907, which creates an Office of Outdoor Recreation for California.

Both bills reflect the recognition that outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse for the states. Outdoor Alliance has been working closely with the Outdoor Industry Association to support the creation of these offices. In Oregon, the outdoor industry creates $12.8 billion in consumer spending and supports over 140,000 jobs. In California, the outdoor industry generates over $85 billion in consumer spending and supports over 700,000 jobs. These states are homes to incredible outdoor businesses, including KEEN, Danner, Poler, Columbia, The North Face, Camelbak, Royal Robbins, and Patagonia. Many western states have long been known for their outdoor resources, attracting visitors, residents, and businesses because they offer access to quality outdoor experiences. States that view the outdoors as a resource, and want to invest in them, are increasingly installing offices of outdoor recreation.

So why does this matter for outdoor enthusiasts like you? A few big reasons:

  1. Even though outdoor recreation is a major economic player and a huge reason why people move, travel, and work in the west, it still does not have the political weight of other industries. Outdoor recreation offices are part of a movement to take the outdoor community more seriously.
  2. These offices have already been incredibly effective in Washington, Utah, and Colorado, which have grown their outdoor businesses, improved funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure, increased consumer spending and outdoor participation.
  3. Ultimately, this means better policies, more funding, more focus on the outdoors, and better experiences for people like you. This might mean more public transportation to trailheads, more development of mountain biking or climbing resources, investing in local or state parks, working to attract and build outdoor business in the state, protecting natural resources, and improving trails.

At Outdoor Alliance, we are delighted to see Oregon and California join the effort to invest in outdoor recreation, and we hope to see more states following their lead. Click below to read joint letters to the Oregon and California state legislatures from supporting outdoor advocacy groups and outdoor businesses about these offices.  You can also learn more about offices of outdoor recreation with the Outdoor Industry Association’s white paper.

Monday
Mar062017

Public Lands Rally demonstrators send message to lawmakers

By Tammy Scardino

KIVI-TV, Boise, ID

 

BOISE - Idahoans from every corner of the state gathered along the Gem state's Capitol steps Saturday as part of a public lands rally. It was organized to send a clear message to lawmakers.

The debate over who should manage public lands has been ongoing in U.S. history. Opponents of transferring the federal, public lands to state or local management say management costs are something to consider.

Wildfire protection alone is costly, and they fear states would at some point be forced to raise taxes or sell off iconic, national properties to developers or other private investors in order to pay for everything the federal government currently handles.

"The reality is that state lands are not public lands. State lands are for economic purposes for the state. The state has already proven that they would sell those lands off," said Luke Nelson, a professional ultramarathon runner. "Forty-one percent of the state lands that were given to Idaho at statehood have been sold."  

Nelson was asked to provide his perspective at Saturday's rally.

"It [the outdoors] has spoken to me, it has spoken to you and it's time we raise our voices," Nelson said while addressing the crowd.

The man from Eastern Idaho travels the world to run long distances in backcountry areas. Nelson says people in other countries don't enjoy the freedoms that Americans do with regards to having access to the Great Outdoors.

"We have an amazing system right now, and we've got to fight for it," another speaker said.

"I'm a cyclist, I ski, I hunt, I fish... I do all those things that Idahoans do," commented Frank Leone with the Idaho Outdoor Business Council.

Outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, along with representatives of Native American tribes in Idaho, came together wanting to do something to help preserve their heritage.

Leone says keeping public lands open could also save jobs within the industry as well. He fears they could disappear with less places for people to recreate.

"Hopefully, Idahoans will reach out to their legislators and let them know that public lands should remain in public hands," Leone said.

Of course, not everybody agrees with the rally demonstrators. Advocates of transferring federal, public lands to state or local management say decisions on use and development are best made by the people closest to the issue. They say locally driven stewardship of public lands would improve access and environmental health, as well as economic productivity.

Thursday
Feb092017

Patagonia drops out of Outdoor Retailer over Utah leaders' opposition to Bears Ears

By Erin Alberty | The Salt Lake Tribune

Departure comes amid criticism of state’s public-lands policies, trade show’s interest in other cities’ proposals.

As Outdoor Retailer show organizers open the search for a host city, one major player in the industry says it will boycott the convention as long as it takes place in Utah.

Patagonia announced Tuesday it is withdrawing from Outdoor Retailer in response to a resolution passed last week by the state legislature and signed by the governor, urging President Donald Trump to rescind the newly-designated Bears Ears National Monument.

"Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah," said Patagonia president Rose Marcario in a news release. "... We are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation."

Patagonia's statement came one day after show organizers announced they are opening the door to proposals from other potential host cities after holding the enormous, twice-yearly gear show and convention for two decades in Salt Lake City.

The search for a host city follows complaints by some in the outdoor industry — including Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Peter Metcalf, founder of Utah-based Black Diamond — that political leaders in Utah are hostile to the public lands that the recreation businesses depend on.

Organizers specifically cited last week's resolution on Bears Ears as well as a rules change proposed in Congress by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to alter how federal lands are valued and make them easier to sell, and other efforts to have federal lands turned over to the state.

"We've heard member discontent as well as comments from Utah's [political] delegations and efforts on public-land policy that are out of alignment with what our industry stands for," said Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, which has close ties to the show and encouraged the show's owner, Emerald Expositions, to seek a range of potential host cities.

"The overriding theme," Roberts said, "is a disagreement over keeping public lands public, and we really see that as a foundational issue for our industry."

Show organizers have stressed that they have not decided to leave Salt Lake City but are opening up the floor to proposals as they reconfigure the show's timing to better accommodate shifting product launch schedules in the outdoors market.

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