It’s the SHIFT Spotlight for 9/12/17, and we are CRUISING towards November. The office is humming with phone calls to SHIFT Official Selections, ticket requests, and the occasional crunch of footsteps on gravel for a mid-day run up Snow King.
First things first: The Emerging Leaders Program Legacy Project is taking off, and would love your help. The intrepid ELPers from 2016 set up a crowdfunding campaign to fill the loss of $25,000 in federal funding, and they’re 36% of the way to their goal. Will you step in to support the next generation of leaders in conservation? There are some bangin’ stickers, shirts, and other perks in it for you.
Here’s what our team has dug into this week:
Listen, folks, I think John Muir is an icon. Consider, however, what Muir would have to say about the outdoor world in 2017. The America we enjoy and recreate within looks much different than that which Muir celebrated in the 19th century–85% of Americans live in urban areas, people of the global majority (non-white faces) are on pace to represent America’s majority by 2040, and the scale of outdoor opportunities is extensive, from urban green space to national parks. In short, Muir’s conception of what is wild, outdoor, and pure needs adjustment.
That’s why the work of the Next 100 Coalition is so important. They’re a collection of organizations committed to inclusion in the outdoors. For Next 100, the future of conservation centers on engaging youth in outdoor spaces of significance to their communities, and creating internship opportunities for youth of color. See: Outdoor Afro, Latino Outdoors, Greening Youth Foundation, and Hispanic Access Foundation, among others. This is a coalition worth following.
For those of you on the right side of the public lands debate (i.e. public lands in public hands, no federal-to-state transfer, preserving wildlife habitat, etc.), Ryan Zinke seemed like a smart choice to spearhead our public lands management. He’s from Montana (we love Montana!). He’s a sportsman (historic leaders in the conservation movement!). He rode on horseback to his first day at work (you do you, Zinke!).
The reality has been more grim for those of us who defend public lands. Zinke has recommended shrinking national monuments, and public lands energy development, loosening of sage grouse protections, and other regulatory rollbacks are on the horizon. Specifically, Zinke has overturned a 2016 moratorium on new coal leases, and signed an order to open up an area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
So we’re concerned, and rightly so: private developments on public lands don’t come with an “undo” button. Once we’ve lost our access, it’s gone forever. Take five minutes during lunch today and call your representatives if you care about public lands access. You won’t regret it.
Finally, the perma-sunset that filters through the window as smoke blankets Jackson serves as a constant reminder: the West is on fire. As author Robinson Meyer underscores in his article, this wasn’t supposed to be a bad year for Western wildfires, as winter 2017 brought frequent, significant precipitation to half the continent. Jackson was no exception: Winter ‘16-’17 was the second snowiest on record at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Despite it all, the West burns: two dozen fires burn in WA and OR, and over 1 million acres have burned in Montana. A stretch of near 100-degree temperatures in July provided an ideal environment for the spread of fire, and researchers wonder if we’ve found our new normal. In models, the western United States is projected at 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than it would be in the absence of climate change. Add errant fireworks, unattended campfires, or arson, and we’re dealing with a recipe for chaos.