Protecting Public Lands: Q & A with The Conservation Alliance
Ruffwear has been a proud member of The Conservation Alliance for the last decade. A nonprofit organization comprised of outdoor industry member companies, The Conservation Alliance works to protect public lands throughout North America, where wildlife thrives and where we share adventures with our canine companions.
On Monday, President Trump is slated to announce that he’ll drastically shrink protection for two of our national treasures — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, both in Utah. Meanwhile, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is threatened by oil exploration and drilling. Amidst these events, we connected with Josie Norris and Kirsten Blackburn of The Conservation Alliance to learn more about what this past year has meant for our public lands and what’s ahead.
Why should we be paying attention to public lands and conservation?
KIRSTEN: Public lands fuel our adventures, sustain wildlife, and most importantly, belong to all of us. The conservation and stewardship of these wonderful places is our shared responsibility.
JOSIE ADDS: We all have a say in how they are managed. We encourage everybody who spends time playing outdoors to learn about public lands and the groups working to protect them. Who manages the land where you go trail running? Which organizations helped establish your favorite wilderness area? There may be active campaigns working to protect one of your favorite places.
What are you concerned about in the wake of 2017?
KIRSTEN: As many of you have heard, President Trump has moved to dramatically shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. In May, he signed an executive order requiring his Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, to review 27 national monuments designated or expanded over the last 21 years to determine if their boundaries are consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. This bold action catalyzed what will likely be a long and arduous public lands battle. After this, we anticipate he will also ask Congress to pass legislation to weaken a handful of other monuments reviewed this summer.
Just after the Trump Administration took office, we created a new fund at The Conservation Alliance, the Public Lands Defense Fund. Thanks to gracious donations from Ruffwear and a handful of other wonderful members, we are able to respond to these increasing threats with funding to grassroots organizations working on the ground to uphold, among other things, national monuments.
What positive gains did we see for conservation in the past year?
JOSIE: One year ago, President Obama was working to establish or expand national monuments in California, Utah, Oregon and Nevada. Before he left office, he protected more land and water than any other president in our history – more than 550 million acres in total. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is attempting to undo this conservation legacy. There is a silver lining to the attacks on our national monuments, however — people are eager to do whatever it takes to protect and defend our special wild places. Millions of people are speaking out, taking action and getting involved in the fight to protect our public lands.
What should we keep our eyes open for in 2018?
JOSIE: 2018 will undoubtedly be another eventful year for public lands. At The Conservation Alliance, we will be investing in private land acquisitions, land management planning, conservation opportunities in Canada and grassroots support for conservation legislation. We will also be responding to any actions that threaten our core conservation laws, roll back protections for national monuments or involve transferring federal land.
What would you tell people who want to get involved to do?
KIRSTEN: The first step to becoming a public lands advocate is just simply to enjoy these places and to know that they belong to you. Hopefully the joy and freedom you experience in your favorite protected landscape will inspire you learn what agency manages it, what sort of protections it has, and maybe even what organizations worked to get it protected for recreation and habitat uses. We have supported hundreds of grassroots conservation organizations working across the country — please don’t hesitate to ask us if we can connect you with a group in your area.
If you are already a public lands lover and engage with your local conservation groups, the Arctic Refuge could use your voice, today. Please call your local representatives and ask them to keep Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling out of the tax reform bill. The Arctic Refuge – an iconic and inspirational landscape for recreationists, wildlife, and the Gwich’in People – is facing its biggest threat in over four decades. Included in the tax reform bill is a provision to open up the Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plain to oil rigs in exchange for a projected $1 billion in revenues, or one hundredth of one percent of the proposed $1.5 trillion in tax cuts.
What’s your favorite activity with dogs on public lands?
KIRSTEN: Trail running in Three Sisters Wilderness near Broken Top Mountain, especially after a rain. Nothing beats a smiling, tail-wagging, muddy-pawed pup in our backyard wilderness.
If you have one thing you want people to take away about our public lands, what is it?
KIRSTEN: America’s public lands are one of our greatest gifts. Let us protect, defend, and as Theodore Roosevelt said, leave these lands even better lands for our descendants than they are for us.