The SHIFT Summit

Laurels-lisa2The SHIFT Summit convenes leaders from North American GEMS (Gateways to Environments of Major Significance) who are working to preserve and sustain the natural capital of their communities. The Summit is built around the 50 winners of the 2014 SHIFT Sustainability Awards, which were decided by our SHIFT Partners. The awards recognize the most effective, innovative sustainability initiatives currently underway in North American GEMS.

The Summit is organized around SHIFT’s three themes: Nature (the natural environment), Culture (the built environment) and Adventure (outdoor recreation). It occurs during the SHIFT festival, a weeklong celebration that includes inspirational speakers, great local food, and many other events.

Tickets for the SHIFT Summit are $75/day or $150 for all three days. Click here to buy tickets.


Wednesday, Oct. 8: Culture: the Built Environment

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, The SHIFT Summit begins with a focus on Culture: The Built Environment. Elements of the built environment—including food, shelter, energy, transportation, and municipal systems—represent some of the most important energy and resource sinks within reach of local action.

Thursday, Oct. 9: Nature: the Natural Environment

On Thursday, Oct. 9, The SHIFT Summit continues with a focus on Nature. No communities in North America are better positioned to understand the fragility of the balance between the built environment and the natural environment then GEMS—and to advocate ways to maintain it. This session explores the natural environment from three perspectives: how to balance economic, community and environmental priorities; how to engage the next generation of stewards in modern conservation; and how to fund conservation.

Friday, Oct. 10: Adventure: Outdoor Recreation

On Friday, Oct. 10, the Summit concludes with a focus on Adventure, and a Summit plenary that delivers the final proceedings from the preceeding two days.

From early luminaries such as John Muir, David Brower and Yvon Chouinard, to contemporary heroes including Alex Honnold and Jeremy Jones, outdoor recreationalists have long played pivotal roles in American conservation history. It is reasonable to expect that today’s outdoor recreationalists will continue the trend, providing the opportunity to experience our public lands is available to them. Modern-day outdoor recreation is fundamentally changing as nature competes with screen time for our youth; mountain biking, for example, continues to grow while backpacking declines. These trends may undermine the future of conservation, because the constituency of those historically inclined to protect and preserve our public lands using traditional tools is decreasing.

Outdoor recreation offers perhaps the best opportunity to invigorate the protection and preservation of our wild places. By engaging younger generations through adventure sports, we broaden the constituency of those who will care for the natural world.


SHIFT explores the future of conservation and sustainability through the prism of North American GEMS: Gateways to Environments of Major Significance. By our definition, the economic and cultural vitality of these communities is directly connected to the health of the environments in which they reside. These GEMS are the places of North America’s greatest natural capital. They attract both millions of visitors each year and influential part-time residents. By fostering sustainability in North American GEMS, SHIFT seeks to promote them as beacons of possibility—and, by extension, to affect the world they influence.

The 2014 SHIFT Festival coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the first draft of which was written on Mardy Murie’s porch in Grand Teton National Park. The SHIFT Summit is being developed around the logical counterpart to the anniversary celebrations. To its participants, it poses the question: Where do we want our communities and public lands to be in 50 years, and what steps do we need to take to get there?

The meeting is an opportunity for the SHIFT Sustainability Award winners, SHIFT Partners, the broader Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem community, and other participants to reflect on the factors that contribute to successful initiatives and build a roadmap for sustainability that can be used by GEMS and other communities. Specifically, it is intended to foster balanced relationships between GEMS and the public lands upon which they depend.


Each day is developed around a series of panels that feature high-level participants from many of organizations that have received the 2014 SHIFT Sustainability Awards. Each panel will provide a starting point for an in-depth discussion of what has contributed to success for each of these initiatives and identification of best practices that can be replicated by other communities. These ideas will be further refined during breakout group discussion, where small groups will get together to review the ideas generated and further refine.


The Summit’s long term goal is to facilitate the adoption of proven best practices in order to foster a movement among GEMS, and thereby inspiring other communities, toward models of sustainability. The specific objective for this meeting is to develop a concrete list of best practices and specific actions that communities can take to foster balanced relationships between the built and adjacent natural environments. These best practices and actions will be organized around the following themes:


  • Food
  • Energy
  • Transportation
  • Housing
  • Local Government


  • Funding conservation
  • Balancing economic, community and environmental priorities
  • Youth engagement


  • Outdoor Recreation, Land Management and Wilderness Advocacy
  • Ski Area Sustainability



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