On Friday, October 14, at the Center for the Arts in Jackson, WY, a periwinkle-blue suited Stacy Bare of Sierra Club Outdoors announced finalists and winners for the 2016 SHIFT Awards. The SHIFT Awards, now in their third year, recognize individuals, initiatives, or organizations that make innovative, impactful and replicable contributions to conservation through human-powered outdoor recreation.
To determine Award nominees, SHIFT researchers identified more than 300 individuals or initiatives from around North America that leveraged outdoor rec for conservation gains. Further evaluations were then made of more than 100 initiatives in seven categories: Non-Profit Leadership, Business Leadership, Public Land-Management Innovation, Technology, and Youth Engagement.
The top 10% of the initiatives in each category (or the three highest-ranking initiatives, whichever is higher) comprised the finalists for the 2016 SHIFT Awards.
The finalists were as follows, with winners in bold.
Winner: Anthony “Chako” Ciocco
Location: San Fidel, NM
Synopsis: Anthony “Chako” Ciocco leads the Ancestral Lands program on the Navajo Nation under Conservation Legacy’s Southwest Conservation Corps. The Ancestral Lands Program works to redefine conservation corps program models to meet the needs and aspirations of Indigenous communities. Anthony has worked to secure funding through the North Face Explore Fund, as well as a partnership with the Access Fund to engage Native communities in both outdoor recreation and stewardship projects. From his application: “It is often times challenging to bring together very, very, diverse groups to complete our recreation and conservation project work. Ancestral Lands works with the core of our traditional Native communities, which is far outside the norm of the common conservation community and culture. It takes extra work to bridge cultural barriers, deal with socio-economic differences, and reach common visions.”
Elizabeth Case and Rachel Woods-Robinson, Cycle for Science
Location: San Francisco, CA
Synopsis: Elizabeth Case and Rachel Woods Robinson founded Cycle for Science to bring science outreach to underserved communities by bicycle. From April to July 2015, they rode their bicycles 3500 miles from San Francisco to New York City, stopping in 10 different schools and camps across America, reaching 1,000 students ages 4-17. The Cycle for Science lesson is currently being integrated into the Lending Library at Cornell’s xRaise, an NSF-funded science outreach program. From their application: “We chose to focus specifically on a solar energy to encourage students to think about where their energy comes from, what it costs, and how they could change their habits to reduce their energy consumption. We also wanted them to start to see their role in the future of our planet: we need more policy makers, more scientists, and more advocates pushing renewable energy forward. As women in science, we also hoped to serve as role models and share the reasons science fascinates us — it’s impactful, creative and relevant.”
Location: Seattle, WA
Synopsis: Michelle is the Seattle Regional Coordinator for Latino Outdoors. The mission of Latino Outdoors is to bring cultura into the outdoor narrative and connect Latino communities and leadership with nature and outdoor experiences. Michelle leads monthly events as a volunteer, including kayaking, snowshoeing, sailing, indoor rock climbing, and hiking. Like Alfonso, Michelle is also a member of the inaugural ‘Outdoor 30 Under 30’, created to recognize influencers in the outdoor world under 30 years old.From her nomination, Graciela Cabello, National Director of Latino Outdoors writes, “Michelle leads outdoor recreation events in the Pacific Northwest that provide outdoor experiences and connections to nature that otherwise may not have been possible. Many visit parks or forests for the first time. These positive experiences can be transformational in building the next generation of stewards and conservationists. They create new advocates.”
Location: Jackson, WY
Synopsis: Alfonso Orozco is the Wyoming Regional Coordinator for Latino Outdoors. The mission of Latino Outdoors is to bring cultura into the outdoor narrative and connect Latino communities and leadership with nature and outdoor experiences. Alfonso is also a member of the inaugural ‘Outdoor 30 Under 30’, created to recognize influencers in the outdoor world under 30 years old. From his application, “That is when i joined Latino Outdoors, to be able to share my experience, story, and voice with other Latino communities to embolden and empower them to get outdoors. Creating opportunities positive experiences builds a foundation. From that foundation I can add naturalist place based knowledge, education on environmental ethic, and develop skills for participants to stay engaged as stewards of the land. In this way we not only increase the quality of life of the individual but also increase the number of people who are caring for the environment with a diversity of voices.”
Winner: TOTAGO (Turn Off The App, Go Outside)
Location: Seattle, WA
Synopsis: The mission at TOTAGO is to inspire value and appreciation of the outdoors by facilitating access to parks, wilderness, and open space worldwide. TOTAGO leverages data and technology to enable and promote usage of public transportation for accessing parks and open space. They believe increasing access to the outdoors, especially for low-income populations in urban areas, is essential to creating awareness and ultimately ensuring sustainable conservation of parks and open space.
Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado’s YourCO
Location: Denver, CO
Synopsis: Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado’s (VOC) mission is to motivate and enable people to become active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. VOC has, for over three decades, been at the forefront of effectively engaging Colorado’s public in caring for our state’s recreational amenities such as trails, parks and open spaces through large scale organized volunteer stewardship projects. Increasingly, however, they have been facing a much busier and less engaged public.
In 2015, VOC launched an innovative and first of its kind mobile App, YourCO, designed to make stewardship just as easy to do as it is to text a friend. The YourCO app offers folks of all ages and abilities simple stewardship suggestions that qualify for fun digital badges and outdoor recreational product prizes. Designed to appeal to families and younger outdoor enthusiasts, YourCO app users can upload images and share their experiences, eventually progressing through more and more activities, including VOC public projects, into community-based stewardship efforts on public recreational sites. As far as they know, VOC is the first stewardship organization in the nation to have a mobile App designed to get people caring for the outdoors.
Location: Park City, UT
Synopsis: From their application: “We see a world in which Avatech will serve as a hub of real-time mountain information worldwide, helping local, regional, and global mountain communities work together to stay safe, grow their love and respect for the public lands we are so fortunate to play in, and deepen their connections to the outdoors
Brady Robinson, the executive director of the Access Fund and chair of the Outdoor Alliance, shared in his 2013 TED Talk The Nature Conservancy’s research that ‘outdoor experiences lead to conservation support.’ We truly believe that people’s outdoor experiences help them find a sense of place, and connection with the mountains – when people find ownership and relationship with the outdoors via recreation, we see them fight for its preservation. Our goal is to arm backcountry travelers, and the larger community of mountain lovers and outdoor recreationalists, with as much information as possible to provide a safe environment to allow that connection to happen.”
PUBLIC LAND-MANAGEMENT INNOVATION
Winners: Meryl Harrell, Sr. Advisor, United States Department of Agriculture; Leslie Weldon, Deputy to Chief of United States Forest Service; Joe Meade, Director of Recreation, United States Forest Service; and Chris Moyer, Special Recreation Permit Project Lead
Synopsis: According to the Outdoor Access Working Group, which nominated them, this group has been driving a transformation within the recreation special-use permitting process at the United States Forest Service that includes reinterpreting current policy to open up use for youth in the outdoors; re-evaluate National Environmental Protection Act and Social Analyses that limit access to facilitated, diverse groups; and pilot projects in several regions to grow access to Forest Service underutilized lands. In addition, the team is leading a transparency project in partnership with other agencies to create an interagency web platform.
Location: Wasatch Range, UT
Synopsis: The Accord is the culmination of two years’ worth of public feedback, stakeholder involvement and leadership decisions and was established to make critical decisions and implement solutions to preserve the Central Wasatch and ensure its long-term vitality. Among their objectives, they focus on environmental, transportation, recreation, and economy-focused outcomes
Climbing Resource Access Group (CRAG) Vermont
Location: Richmond, VT
Synopsis: CRAG-VT seeks to increase access to local climbing resources through direct acquisition, easement purchase or by working with landowners. In addition, they inform and advise the local climbing community on access limitations imposed by landowners or by unique natural communities.
NON-PROFIT LEADERSHIP: YOUTH ENGAGEMENT
Winners: Grand Canyon Trust’s Uplift
Location: Flagstaff, AZ
Synopsis: Uplift is the only youth driven organization working to unite various efforts to address climate change across the Colorado Plateau. Recognizing that the outdoor recreation community is a critical component in the climate justice effort, they reach out to the recreation community in the region and hold talks and workshops at their annual conference that specifically address outdoor rec. At the 2015 Uplift Conference, organizers led a workshop that addressed how young people can combine their passion for outdoor recreation with environmental advocacy. Uplift 2016 plans to have a panel on diversity in outdoor recreation and how diversity is critical for sustainable conservation gains.
Soul River Runs Wild
Location: Portland, OR
Synopsis: Soul River Runs Wild connects inner city youth and US military veterans to the outdoors through incredible outdoor educational experiences. By engaging U.S veterans as mentors for inner city youth, they believe that rich, powerful opportunities of healing authentically happen in the midst of Mother Nature. They believe that by connecting youth and veterans to our public lands, wild rivers and fresh waters, and beyond through genuine community, they will ultimately establish and inspire a new generation of outdoor ambassadors that will advocate for Mother Nature and conservation.
City Kids Wilderness Project
Location: Washington, D.C.
Synopsis: Since 1996, City Kids Wilderness Project has been serving under-resourced youth from DC’s most vulnerable communities. City Kids currently operates school year and summer programs for 130 under-resourced DC youth, enrolling new youth in the sixth grade and providing program support through middle school and high school.
Their programs exist to position participants for success in adulthood by getting them off to the right start as youth. Their goals include that youth graduate from high school or earn their GED, that they enroll in a postsecondary education program or obtain a job, and that they are involved and connected members of their community.
City Kids achieves this by enrolling 20 new 6th graders every year and shepherding them through a six year (or longer) process to realize their individual potential, and to set and begin to implement individualized future goals. During the school year they are based in Washington, DC, and provide afterschool and weekend outdoor adventure programming as well as job training and college preparation programming. In the summer they move to Jackson, WY, where they run three sessions of outdoor adventure summer camp, as well as career exploration and job training programming for their older youth.
Winner: Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Location: Missoula, MT
Synopsis: Backcountry Hunters and Anglers seeks to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters. They inform and mobilize sportsmen to advocate on behalf of public lands. Sportsmen have historically been leaders in conservation and environmental issues. BHA has been able to successfully reinvigorate their community’s activism on behalf of U.S. public lands and waters – which in many ways have never been more vulnerable – and promote public opportunities to access and recreate on them.
Mountains to Sound Greenway’s Middle Fork Snoqualmie Initiative
Location: Seattle, WA
Synopsis: The Middle Fork Snoqualmie Initiative is a coalition-based campaign aimed at ensuring recreational access and ecological stewardship of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley through public-private partnerships. The Middle Fork is an undeveloped, 99% publicly owned, montane watershed just 40 miles from Seattle and the region’s 3.6 million residents. It offers a vast array of outdoor recreation opportunities for users of diverse interests and all abilities — hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, whitewater paddling, bird-watching, picnicking, swimming, camping, backpacking, and climbing the nation’s longest sport-climbing route. All of these activities are set against the backdrop of a designated Wild and Scenic River, and gateway to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness – the closest proximity of a Wilderness area to any of the nation’s 50 largest metro areas. The initiative seeks to leverage these extraordinary outdoor recreation opportunities for conservation gains by building and maintaining comprehensive recreational infrastructure that provides safe, sustainable access for people, and engages communities, businesses, and individuals in helping to steward the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Middle Fork.
Location: Missoula, MT
Synopsis: Climate Ride produces charitable multi-day rides, hikes and a DIY program. Climate Ride’s charitable events program energizes people of all backgrounds and ages to actively engage in environmental philanthropy. They empower participants by giving them a personal way to join the cause and the option to support a collection of more than 150 environmental and active transportation charities. Participants get the satisfaction of completing a multi-day endurance event that connects them directly to nature while supporting the organizations that they value most.
Montana Wilderness Association’s Quiet Trails Program
Location: Helena, MT
Synopsis: The Montana Wilderness Association’s Quiet Trails Program unifies non-motorized recreationists through a combination of on-the-ground stewardship, which builds improved trail systems and improved relationships between disparate user groups, and on-the-books administrative protections, which results in connected, protected habitat for wildlife like grizzly bears, lynx, mountain goats, and wolverines.
The Quiet Trails Program includes leadership in Montana High Divide Trails, stewardship of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, and a new online hiking guide, all of which strengthen relationships between non-motorized users, build the movement in support of public lands, and influence Forest Service travel planning decisions.
Conservation Colorado’s Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance
Location: Denver, CO
Synopsis: Conservation Colorado has recently launched the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance (COBA) with the mission to leverage diverse economic voices to protect access and enhance Colorado’s public lands in support of a durable outdoor industry. COBA represents a coalition of Colorado’s leading outdoor recreation businesses that recognize the fundamental role public lands play in sustaining the durable outdoor industry. Businesses have played pivotal roles in propelling recent conservation campaigns to success in Colorado and throughout the West. They represent an increasingly critical component of recent conservation wins, such as the permanent protection of Browns Canyon National Monument. COBA capitalizes on these successes, linking outdoor business leaders with Conservation Colorado’s organizational expertise to build innovative, sophisticated, stakeholder-driven conservation campaigns.
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Synopsis: Friends of the Boundary Waters have partnered with the outdoor outfitter/guide businesses in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness as well as the US Forest Service to conduct an economic contribution analysis of the BWCA wilderness. The analysis will be a model for wilderness areas across the country, leveraging outfitting businesses, wilderness groups, guide services, and outdoors people to analyze impact and potential for the region. The information from this analysis would be used by planners, elected officials, and land managers.
Winner: First Lite’s Round Up
Location: Ketchum, ID
Synopsis: First Lite launched a program last year called ‘Round Up for Conservation’ that allows their customers to donate to one to four conservation non-profits per purchase. With the international success of First Lite, The Round Up campaign has been a major success in raising awareness in the hunting manufacturer space, and addresses their belief that every rec dollar should be tied to a conservation dollar.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Synopsis: Bramble Outdoor addresses three challenges in their work: First, they leverage outdoor products and content to engage the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts with conservation efforts in meaningful ways. Second, they help conservation non-profits bridge the gap from back-end policy work, and consumer-facing content and inspiration. Their goal is to help these organizations become more relevant with the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts through content marketing campaigns designed for a multi-platform audience and the digital age. Finally, their model allows these partner organizations to act as retailers without the inventory risk. This allows them to bring in a diversified revenue stream while engaging members with functional physical products.
Mountain Rider’s Alliance
Location: Westlake Village, CA
Synopsis: Mountain Rider’s Alliance has developed values-based, environmentally-friendly, rider-centric mountain playgrounds that encourage minimal carbon footprint business practices, while making a positive impact in the local community. They have created a consortium of like-minded community and independent ski areas that band together to reduce expenses, increase efficiencies and profits as well as bringing more exposure and awareness.
Winner: Caroline Gleich
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Synopsis: Caroline Gleich is a professional ski mountaineer out of Salt Lake City, Utah, who is an ambassador for the Winter Wildlands Alliance. Caroline has recently appeared in the film Chasing Shadows, along with profiles in Powder, Backcountry, and Freeskier magazines, among others. From her nomination, Caroline writes, “I strive to use my platform as an athlete to inspire people to live a healthy, active lifestyle and to become informed, active citizens. I want to delve beyond the superficial and engage people on issues of human rights and environmental responsibility. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not always a linear course. My work leverages outdoor recreation for conservation gains by leading conversations about issues on social media and asking people to act, by going to schools to talk to thousands of students about climate change, by working with companies who care about environmental responsibility and by showing up to important legislative hearings, protests and rallies.”
Pavel Cenkl, Climate Run
Location: Craftsbury Common, VT
Synopsis: Pavel Cenkl is the Associate Dean and Athletic Director at Sterling College in Vermont. In 2015 Pavel ran 250 km across Iceland to reframe the conversation about climate change, focusing on resilience rather than resistance in response to the growing crisis. With Climate Run, Pavel has spoken with hundreds of people in the United States and Europe to promote his mission in advance of a 2017 Climate Run. From his application, “Climate Run is about how can we make thoughtful choices and intentional changes that can contribute to large-scale transformations in how we think about and how we get out and explore this world we share. By leveraging media attention on ultrarunning adventures like my 2015 run across Iceland, I am able to build community and have constructive dialogue with students, athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, and other key stakeholders about the role of resilience and vulnerability in our relationship to the environment.”
Location: Cooke City, MT
Synopsis: KT Miller is a professional skier featured in the documentary Shifting Ice + Changing Tides, an all-female skiing and sailing expedition from Iceland to Greenland to highlight the effects of climate change. As a professional athlete for Dynafit, LowePro, and Winter Wildlands Alliance KT specializes in human powered adventure. Each fall KT spends a few months working in the Arctic with Polar Bears International as a media specialist, troubleshooting wireless internet on the tundra, photographing polar bears, and hosting the worlds leading polar bear and climate scientists for large digital outreach initiatives. From her application: “My passion as a professional athlete and social media influencer is to inform and inspire action on conservation issues, mainly climate change, but also local Greater Yellowstone conservation issues regarding land use, wildlife, and natural resources. I try to provide captivating information and images that inspire education and action on these conservation issues.”