The SHIFT Summit: Opening Reception

Responsible Recreation. Outdoor Access. Youth Engagement. Conservation Leadership. The SHIFT Summit explores the issues at the heart of the outdoor recreation/conservation partnership with the men and women making it happen. Featuring the $10,000 SHIFT Forward Award—chosen by the audience at the Summit’s close.

Click here to purchase your SHIFT Summit Pass.


SHIFT Summit Opening Reception

2:30 p.m.: Registration

Center for the Arts Box Office

3:30 p.m.Welcoming remarks

Center for the Arts Theater Stage

SHIFT Director Christian Beckwith and Robyn Paulekas of the Meridian Institute will introduce the theme for SHIFT 2015: Where Conservation Meets Adventure; the three sub-themes for the event (Conservation Leadership, Outdoor Access, Responsible Recreation); Summit objectives; and agenda review.

4 p.m.: SHIFT Forward Award Presentation

Center for the Arts Theater Stage

Each of the finalists for the $10,000 SHIFT Forward Award will provide a 5 minute overview of their initiative and how the funds would be used to expand their success. Each presentation will be followed by 5 minutes of plenary discussion to clarify their program, refine the concept, or identify additional partnerships.

The final award winner will be selected through audience voting at the conclusion of the Summit.


For an overview of SHIFT Summit, Day 1: Click here

SHIFT Summit, Day 2: Click here



The SHIFT Summit builds on the intersection of six groups:

  • The Outdoor Industry
  • Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts
  • Conservation Advocates
  • Public Land Managers
  • Outdoor Media
  • Community Leadership in GEMS (Gateways to Environments of Major Significance—that is, communities like Jackson Hole that depend on the health of their surrounding landscapes for economic and cultural success)

The Summit features three major topics:

  • Outdoor Access
  • Responsible Recreation
  • Conservation Leadership

The objectives of the Summit are to:

  • Create a hub for stakeholders who do not ordinarily interact to discuss challenges and opportunities, exchange information and share experiences, all with a goal of leveraging outdoor recreation for conservation gains
  • Identify and deepen partnerships based on the above interactions
  • Develop tangible opportunities to move concepts and ideas forward from the 2015 Festival.


The 2015 SHIFT Summit is driven to answer the question:

How do we best leverage outdoor recreation to protect the places we love?

To answer this question, the 2015 SHIFT Festival will feature three major topics, each with a core set of discussion questions:

  1. Conservation leadership: How do we insure that the legacy of conservation championship by outdoor recreationalists represents the full spectrum of the American experience, and that tomorrow’s leaders have both the opportunities and the tools to continue the work of their predecessors?
  2. Responsible recreation: How do we establish a common ground among recreationalists, land managers and conservationists that minimizes conflict between user groups and sustains our public lands and waters?
  3. Access: How do we improve sustainable access to public lands and waters in order to best foster stewardship of these lands by the caretakers of tomorrow?


Lightning talk and panel discussion (60 minutes): 5-6 presenters each have exactly 5 minutes to share initial ideas and reactions to the sub-theme question. The remainder of the time (approximately 25-30 minutes), panelists will respond to each other’s ideas and react to the other discussion questions, with participation from the audience.

Small group discussion (60-90 minutes): each small-group discussion is further divided into key sub-topics. Participants will self-select which small group they will participate in. The small-group discussions are intended to be lively, action-oriented discussions. Each group will have a facilitator and recorder. Although additional instructions may be provided on some topics, the discussion for each of these sessions will be generally focused on answering two questions. The two primary questions are:

  • What are the biggest challenges to [the sub-theme]? What is currently working? What is not?
  • What actions currently in place offer the most innovative, effective, and replicable responses to the challenges identified, and how could they best be amplified? What missing actions need to be developed to help address the challenge?

Report back: At the end of each day there will be a facilitated report-back session. This will not be an exhaustive summary of the full discussion in each group; instead, it will provide highlights of the most exciting ideas generated. Each group will also be responsible for capturing the major ideas on sticky notes that will feed into a “Map of Action” in the plenary room, which is organized to capture similar ideas and start to visually depict the conversation over the course of the 2 ½ days.

Aligning for Action, North American Model: The final plenary will be organized based on the suggestions and ideas generated during the small-group discussions. The Map of Action will literally guide the organization of participants during the final session. Moderated conversation will focus on next steps for dissemination and implementation of the North American Model for Recreation and Conservation. This final session is a chance for participants to get specific and identify which actions discussed during the Summit should be employed to effectively leverage the model.


Below is a summary of each of the sub-themes. It includes additional context for this topic, specific discussion questions for the panel, and instructions for the small group discussion.

Conservation Leadership: Since the days of John Muir, active engagement with wild areas on their own terms has produced some of the country’s strongest and most inspiring conservation leaders. Today, however, the outdoor recreation and conservation communities have been criticized for being homogenous, dominated by a demographic that is predominantly white, middle class, and (increasingly) aging. Given demographic shifts in the country overall, identifying opportunities to introduce new populations to North America’s wild and natural places is an important priority. Outdoor recreation offers a so­lution, engaging younger generations in conservation, community stewardship, and responsible recreational practices. Furthermore, translating “one-time” or vacation visits to a life-long conservation ethic is vital to the longevity of the conservation movement.

How do outdoor recreation advocacy groups, conservation organizations, and the outdoor rec industry enable and inspire the next generation of conservation heroes? What does the face of the next genera­tion of conservation advocates born from the outdoor rec experience look like, and how do we use their examples to broaden the constituency elsewhere?

Core question: How do we insure that the legacy of conservation championship by outdoor recreationalists represents the full spectrum of the American experience, and that tomorrow’s leaders have both the opportunities and the tools to continue the work of their predecessors?

Additional discussion questions:

  1. What do we want the face of the next genera­tion of conservation advocates born from the outdoor rec experience to look like?
  2. How do outdoor rec advocacy groups, conservation organizations, land managers and the outdoor rec industry enable and inspire this next generation?
  3. How do we make sure these stewards have the opportunities and the tools necessary to do their work?

Small group discussion:

Small groups will be sub-divided into:

  • Youth engagement
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • From one-time participant to lifelong steward

Responsible Recreation: Responsible Recreation combines two related themes: avoiding or miti­gating our impact as recreationalists, and developing a code of conduct in our own backyards that can translate to national templates for responsible use.

Non-motorized outdoor recreation—whether it’s hunting, mountain biking, skiing, or backpacking—impacts wildlife and natural resources. It can also generate conflict among users. As the number of outdoor recreationalists increases and outdoor recreational pursuits continue to diversify, these impacts and conflicts grow ever more acute. They require active management by adequately funded agencies, and self-awareness, self-restraint, a willingness to follow back­country rules and a tolerance for other types of recreation on the part of users.

Most of us recreate most often in our backyards. With growing populations and increas­ing use of our natural resources not only for outdoor recreation, but also for resource development and tourism, we need models and best practices that balance the desire to enjoy our public lands and waters via human-powered activity with responsi­bility and self-restraint.

Some places also are in danger of being “over loved.” As public land managers and decision-makers work to accommodate the pressures created by recreationalists and increasing populations, they must find a way to balance the desire to utilize our public lands with the mandate to preserve them for future generations.

The Responsible Recreation track gathers leaders from the outdoor recreation community, conservation advocates, and public land managers to discuss best practices for avoiding and minimizing impacts and user conflicts while exploring what a “responsible” recreationalist looks like in GEMS—and how this code of conduct can be shared with others.

Sub-theme core question: How do we establish a common ground among recreationalists, land managers and conservationists that minimizes conflict between user groups and sustains the active use of our playgrounds in perpetuity?

Additional discussion questions for the lightning talks:

  • When is enough enough—that is, when should a user group relinquish demands for access in favor of preserving that place’s natural resources?
  • How do conservationists, land managers and recreationalists work together to establish this threshold?
  • Is it possible to agree upon a code of conduct all outdoor recreationalists can subscribe to—and that land managers and conservation advocates can endorse as well?

Small groups:

The small groups will be organized around the following 5 sub-themes:

  • Building a code of conduct amongst the outdoor recreation and conservation communities
  • Promoting stewardship (volunteer trail building, supporting land managers, etc.) amongst new recreation users: What has worked well? What are the challenges?
  • Information and communication: how can technology be used to encourage responsible recreation?
  • Responsible recreation and visitor education: How do we insure our visitors know and practice responsible recreation?
  • Right use, right place, right time: Recreation implies a use of natural resources. What are acceptable impacts? How do we insure recreation is non-consumptive—i.e., that natural resources are not damaged as a result?

Outdoor Access: Outdoor access is key to the creation of the next generation of land stewards. Nonprofit organizations, schools, businesses, and individual guides around North America are well positioned to bring a diverse set of tomorrow’s stakeholders to the outdoors, but federal land-management permitting policies and lack of funding for public land management agencies can com­plicate their ability to do so. This is in part due to the pressures faced by the agencies, whose staff are often overworked, underfunded, and—increasingly in the West—charged with resolving the emergent issue of wildfires, which takes precedent over other responsibilities.

The face of outdoor users in America is also changing, and the need for facilitated outdoor experiences is increasing. Nonprofits, schools and colleges, volunteer groups, and outfitters are all critical for catalyzing the next generation of outdoor participants and stewards. The current permit management system that regulates “guided” and “educational” programs on public lands has not adjusted to the contemporary realities of use on public lands. The lack of agility in the system constrains the ability of outdoor programs to reach and serve today’s young and diverse outdoor users. This in turn depresses the activation of the stewards of tomorrow.

This track will convene progressive land managers from around North America, leaders of nonprofits that use public lands as vehicles for empowerment and transformation, outdoor guides, and commercial outdoor rec interests that leverage immersion in our public lands and waters for conservation purposes to address common issues that affect access to our public lands.

Sub-theme core question: How do we improve sustainable access to public lands and waters in order to best foster stewardship of these lands by the stewards of tomorrow?

Additional Discussion Questions:

  • Public lands currently suffer from the 80/20 rule: 20% of North America’s public lands are at or beyond carrying capacity, while 80% of the land is below capacity. Should visitation be distributed more equitably among our public lands, and if so, what is the best way to do this?
  • Are there current policies (federal, state or local) that impede access to public lands? Can they be modified to optimize sustainable access?
  • What external threats currently face access to public lands?
  • What are some of the challenges to getting young people, people of color, and urban millenials outside? Are there systemic, institutional, or policy changes that can support access for diverse groups?
  • Many outdoor access challenges involve access across ownership and jurisdictional boundaries. Are there examples of communities or initiatives that have successfully engaged unlikely partners to support and address access issues?
  • The current land management system makes a critical distinction between the public that is acting without any group affiliation versus those that choose to participate as part of a group, be it commercial or non-profit. Is this distinction valid?

Small group discussion

Below are the sub-topics that will be explored in small groups. Participants will self-select.

  • External and internal threats to access
  • Diversity and inclusion


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