Closing the Nature Gap

85% of Americans today live in urban areas. In cities across the country, parks, trails, and open spaces enhance property values, increase tax revenues, attract homebuyers and knowledge workers, and boost economic development. Open spaces in urban areas are key to the future of our public lands, for without that initial introduction to nature and its benefits, the next generation of Americans will never become invested in their health and wellbeing.

At a time when the average American child spends seven hours per day in front of screens and seven minutes in unstructured play outside, and rising childhood obesity rates adds billions of dollars to health care costs, public lands also improve the mental and physical health of American citizens.

This track focuses on the value of public land investments where most Americans live: in urban areas.

Specific panels include:

Gyms to Crags: A Next-Gen Pipeline

Climbing gyms in cities around America have engaged the most diverse generation of outdoor recreationists in history: millennials. How do we insure these potential stewards transition outside with their diversity intact, and that the ways they recreate are informed by a conservation ethic?

Moderator: Justin Forest Parks, 2017 Emerging Leader


  • Shelma Jun, Founder, Flash Foxy (2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection)
  • Maricela Rosales, Latino Outdoors/Access Fund 2017 Emerging Leader
  • Mikhail Martin, Co-Founder, Brothers of Climbing
  • Lance Pinn, Founder and President, Brooklyn Boulders

Green Jobs, Urban Playgrounds: Connecting employment and conservation in nontraditional communities

Moderator: Angelou Ezeilo, Executive Director, Greening Youth Foundation


  • Tanner Yess, Groundwork (2017 Emerging Leader)
  • Connie Spreen, Blackwork Bicycles (2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection)
  • Loretta Pineda, Executive Director, Environmental Learning for Kids (2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection)
  • Charles Thomas, Executive Director, Outward Bound Adventures

Bridging the Backcountry Divide: How hunting and fishing organizations are connecting urban Americans to public lands

In cities—home to most Americans, and thus to the majority of constituents for US Senators and Representatives—the concept of “public lands” can be abstract. Hunters and anglers are our greatest advocates for public lands, in part because of the fees they pay for licenses and equipment, which generated $1.1B for critical state environmental conservation and recreation projects in 2016 alone.

Problematically, the hunting and angling communities are overwhelmingly Caucasian at a time when the country is becoming a minority majority country—and are primarily the pursuits of rural America at a time when 85% of Americans live in urban areas. One direct result: hunting expenditures—and the associated excise taxes—declined 29% over the past five years.

This panel explores how organizations are connecting urban residents to public land issues by engaging them in hunting and fishing, how this engagement is making hunting and angling more relevant to communities of color, and how the results can help influence the votes of our elected officials and fund conservation and recreation projects throughout the nation.

Moderator: Jessi Johnson, Founder, Artemis (2017 Emerging Leader)


  • Brett Prettyman, Intermountain Communications Director, Trout Unlimited
  • Land Tawney, Executive Director, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection)
  • Rachel Piacenza, Director of Marketing, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Vamos a Pescar (2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection)
  • Eric Dinger, Founder, Powderhook (2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection)

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