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Inspiration in Salt Lake: More dispatches from Utah 

Conservation Alliance

click to enlarge Tackling Maple Canyon
  • Tackling Maple Canyon
Tackling Maple Canyon In 1989, four main players in the outdoor industry identified a very important need to protect and preserve wild places in the great outdoors. The North Face, REI, Patagonia, and Kelty determined they were providing people with the equipment necessary to enjoy wilderness and wild places, but doing little to protect and save those places. The Conservation Alliance became the solution these companies were looking for - a way for them to give back. The four companies decided to contribute a portion of their profits from the year to a fund for distribution to grassroots conservation efforts all across the country. Since that time, 150 outdoor companies have joined the Alliance and have contributed more than $6 million to conservation efforts. Close to home, Oregon Natural Dessert Association and Deschutes Basin Land Trust have been on the receiving end of Conservation Alliance funds. These monies help protect and preserve lands near and dear to our hearts and soles of our feet.

For many years, a volunteer board of directors ran the Conservation Alliance. In 2005, the board recognized the need for full-time staff to coordinate the efforts and expand the Alliance. John Sterling was the perfect person for the job.

After heading up Patagonia's environmental grants program for several years and serving on the board of the Alliance, he became the executive director and the only full-time staffer. In the past three years, out of his office in Bend, Sterling has helped double the organization's membership and annual grant budget. The staff also doubled this year, after hiring Krissi Moehl, to help John with communications and marketing.

The Conservation Alliance sponsored two inspiring talks at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City the other week. Dr. John Francis spent 22 years using his own two feet for transportation and did not speak for 17 years. He was protesting an oil spill he witnessed in California. He learned, along his journey, the importance of listening and treating others well. According to Francis, humans are a vital part of the environment. The first step toward conservation and environmentalism is treating each other well.

Francis noted in his talk that, "It takes two to have an argument." He learned that by not speaking and truly listening a tremendous amount can be learned and accomplished.

Andrew Skurka gave a talk about his Great Western Loop journey. One of his missions during and after his trek is to raise awareness about global warming. Showing images of glacial recession across the country, he spoke about the urgent need for action. He also talked about how much he likes the Cascades and showed a picture of himself in front of South Sister with a childlike grin. We are all very lucky to live in such a great place.

Alison Gannett

Another talk I attended at the Outdoor Retailer show was presented by Alison Gannett, a professional extreme skier and Patagonia Ambassador. Alison is doing a lot in terms of talking about "global weirding," as she calls it, and relaying what we all can do in our personal and professional lives to reverse the trend.

Focusing on solutions and actions to take was a refreshing change from all the talk about the destruction as a result of global warming. She coined the acronym CROP to help people determine steps to take to make a difference. C - calculate your energy use and carbon footprint. R - reduce your energy use and carbon footprint. O - offset your energy use and carbon footprint. P - produce your own power. I am still working on a lot of these changes myself - the more we can all do, the better off our planet will be. Alison is surely walking the walk and talking the talk. She built a passive-solar straw-bale house and owns a plug in hybrid SUV that she converted to obtain 100 mpg. You can learn more at

Utah Outdoors Adventures

Last weekend I enjoyed some of the fine snow and terrain the Wasatch Range offers. One morning before the trade show work I headed out on a dawn patrol with Black Diamond employee Corey LaForge. The term "dawn patrol" was originally coined by former BD employees Alex Lowe and Andrew McLain referring to early morning ski outings before work. We began skinning in the dark across from Alta into the Wasatch backcountry. The sunrise was incredible - warming my body and soul - and the skiing even better. Another day, three other Bendites and I headed south to climb ice in Maple Canyon. Maple is a very cool canyon with smooth, round, river rock molded into the conglomerate cliffs that sports amazing rock climbing as well. The climbing was super fun while the storm that rolled in and drove us away was not.



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