2016 SHIFT Festival Recap and Next Steps

“If you are in conservation/stewardship, you must attend SHIFT.”

—From the SHIFT Post-Event Interviews

85% of Americans live in urban areas. America is slated to become a minority-majority country by 2040. The average member of The Wilderness Society is a 71-year-old Caucasian female. The hunting and angling communities, which have long carried the country’s conservation work on their backs via the ca. $750M in taxes they pay each year for conservation, are overwhelmingly Caucasian. If the efforts to protect America’s lands, waters and wildlife continue to be led by Caucasians as they have been historically, it will not be enough to secure their health and wellbeing.

In 2016, under the auspices of The Center for Jackson Hole, its 501c3 umbrella organization, SHIFT continued to combine the protection of place with business, responsible recreation and cultural relevancy. In so doing, it advanced a revitalization of the conservation movement, one grounded in the American realities of economic necessity and urban living.

The results, showcased at the 2016 SHIFT Festival, inspired reactions such as the comment at the top of the page, which was captured during post-event interviews with key opinion-leaders who attended. Other interviewees noted that SHIFT is now, or is on the way to becoming, the “Davos” of outdoor recreation and conservation.

A number of elements of this year’s SHIFT Festival contributed to such observations.

Emerging Leaders. Wednesday. ShiftJH.org. CREDIT: Brantley Sydnor

Members of the SHIFT Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) at Teton Science Schools

  • The Center for Jackson Hole’s Emerging Leaders Program (“ELP”), which debuted at this year’s SHIFT to unanimous acclaim, grounded the proceedings in culturally relevant millennial engagement. ELP was the stand-out component of the 2016 SHIFT Festival: 100% of the post-Festival interviewees commented on its strength and importance, and how it “changed the conversation in very important ways.”
  • When interviewees were asked what niche SHIFT is filling, theoverwhelming response was that “it brings people in the room that otherwise would not be together.” Comments about the strength of the diversity of attendees spoke to race, age, ethnicity, work experience, outdoor background/passions and life experience as well as diversity of thought and perspective.
SHIFT attendees at the Collective Impact Model Discussion, Friday Breakfast

SHIFT attendees at the Collective Impact Model Discussion, Friday Breakfast

  • The Emerging Leaders and the diversity of the SHIFT audience coupled with the deliberate programming around individual and small-group interaction resulted in the other stand-out outcome of this year’s SHIFT: networking opportunities. We built SHIFT to connect natural allies who might not otherwise interact. It worked.

    Film Presenters at Adventure, Inspired with Stacy Bare

    Film Presenters at Adventure, Inspired with Stacy Bare

  • In an increasingly partisan political landscape, SHIFT has positioned itself as uniquely nonpartisan in the fight to protect our public lands.The presence of Republican and Democratic political leaders as well as key players from Washington, DC, underscored our bi-partisan approach and provided a “huge win” for interviewees who had access to them.

    Governors John Hickenlooper (CO) and Matt Mead (WY) meet before kicking off SHIFT 2016

    Governors John Hickenlooper (CO) and Matt Mead (WY) meet before kicking off SHIFT 2016

  • The economic impact of national parks, monuments, forests and other public lands creates immense value that is often overlooked in conservation conversations. Our focus on state offices of outdoor recreation and the roles private business can play in the protection of public lands expanded the traditional arguments to include the American economy.

The following report offers a distillation of Festival proceedings as well as an overview of the steps we plan to take in 2017. Without the support of the individuals, foundations and businesses who have underwritten our efforts, we would not be in the position to take them. As we move forward, we express our gratitude here to those who made this progress possible.

The coalition of stakeholders working to protect our public lands has the potential to become a movement. We look forward to continuing our efforts to provide a unified framework for their stewardship in 2017.

Christian Beckwith, SHIFT Director

Christian Beckwith, Executive Director

—Christian Beckwith, Executive Director, The Center for Jackson Hole


The 2016 SHIFT Festival, which took place Thursday, Oct. 13-Saturday, Oct. 15, in Jackson, WY, explored three topics at the intersection of outdoor recreation, conservation and cultural relevancy: Next-Gen Engagement; Funding for Public Lands; and The Public Land Transfer Movement. The Festival’s growing renown attracted more than 500 thoughtleaders in the conservation, land-management, and recreation industries and generated more than 1500 ticket sales overall.

The SHIFT Summit began with two workshops. The Cultural Relevancy Workshop taught participants the strategies and techniques necessary to successfully navigate the DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) landscape.

Aparna Rajogopal-Durbin of the Aparna Group leads the Cultural Relevancy Workshop

Aparna Rajogopal-Durbin of the Aparna Group leads the Cultural Relevancy Workshop

Concurrently, the country’s first workshop on State Offices of Outdoor Recreation taught 50 participants from 12 states how to create a “playbook” for the creation of an office in their state. The workshop featured Luis Benitez, Tom Adams, and Jon Snyder, directors of the Offices of Outdoor Recreation for Colorado and Utah, respectively, and Washington State’s Recreation Policy Advisor.


Tom Adams, Utah State Office of Outdoor Recreation Director


Jon Snyder, Policy Advisor on Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development to the Washington Governor

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper opened The 2016 SHIFT Summit on Thursday afternoon. They were joined by emissaries for Governors John Herbert (UT) and Mike Bullock (MT), who read letters in support of state offices of outdoor rec. Governor Mead used his opening to announce the exploration of a state office of outdoor recreation for Wyoming.

(L-R) Governors John Hickenlooper (CO) and Matt Mead (WY), Mayor of Jackson Sara Flitner

(L-R) Governors John Hickenlooper (CO) and Matt Mead (WY), Mayor of Jackson Sara Flitner

The governors were followed by a keynote address from Hipcamp Founder Alyssa Ravasio on “Outdoor Rec, Conservation and the Internet” that underscored the power of new media to protect our lands, waters and wildlife.

The Summit continued for the next two days. Natural allies, including representatives from hunting and angling organizations such as Trout Unlimited, The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and First Lite, explored ways to leverage outdoor recreation for conservation gains. The broad collection of interests in attendance allowed us to address the greatest threat to our collective success: fragmentation of effort. By uniting natural allies around the common goal of protecting our public lands, we provided a unified framework for their stewardship.

Sawyer Connelly, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Sawyer Connelly, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

The larger SHIFT Festival, which included happy hours and three evening events, expanded these efforts. For her sold-out presentation at the Center for the Arts, Terry Tempest Williams invited all 34 of the Emerging Leaders (see below) onto the stage to participate in her eloquent defense of our public lands. The results were, as one audience member wrote, “…unreal. One of the most impactful nights of my life. Ever.” According to another, “That was quite possibly the best speaker event I have ever attended.”

Terry Tempest Williams and the SHIFT Emerging Leaders on stage

Terry Tempest Williams and the SHIFT Emerging Leaders on stage

Friday evening’s Adventure, Inspired film program with Stacy Bare featured a dynamic lineup of adventure films with an underlying message of conservation. The evening began with a presentation of The 2016 SHIFT Award winners, followed by films introduced by their producers, directors and protagonists. Gayle Hazelwood (Senior Urban Program Manager, National Park Service), Morgan Dixon (Co-Founder, GirlTrek) and filmmakers James Q Martin and Taylor Rees then discussed with Bare, on stage, what Americans can do to protect the places in which we play.

(L-R) Emcee Stacy Bare with Morgan Dixon (GirlTrek), Taylor Rees, Brody Leven, and Mike Kautz at Adventure, Inspired

(L-R) Emcee Stacy Bare with Morgan Dixon (GirlTrek), Taylor Rees, Brody Leven, and Mike Kautz at Adventure, Inspired

Steven Rinella, hunter-gatherer, author and host of the popular television show Meateater, served as the keynote for the closing event, The People’s Banquet, a celebration of the local food system. His talk and subsequent Q&A with Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership CEO Whit Fosburgh was livestreamed through the Facebook pages of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited, the TRCP, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Altogether, more than 1,200 tickets were sold to the evening programs.

Steven Rinella, Host of MeatEater

Steven Rinella, Host of MeatEater

Two happy hours held at the King’s Grill were standing room only. Thursday’s “Changing Cultures – New Guided Recreation Opportunities On Public Lands” focused on recent developments in the management of recreation permits on federal lands. Friday’s “Bicycles and Wilderness” explored how conservationists, mountain bikers, horseback riders and other “quiet recreationists” can work together to protect wild areas and recreational access at the same time. These happy hours attracted ca. 150 people, including individuals who did not have passes to other SHIFT Events.

Mountain Bicycles and Wilderness Happy Hour, King's Grill

Mountain Bicycles and Wilderness Happy Hour, King’s Grill

THE SHIFT AWARDS For the third year in a row, SHIFT researchers evaluated more than 300 public land management, conservation advocacy, and outdoor recreation initiatives on the basis of innovative, impactful, and replicable contributions to conservation through outdoor recreation. The top 25% of the initiatives became our SHIFT Award Nominees and were invited to showcase their work in the Marketplace, which was held on Friday during the Summit. The top 10% became the finalists for our Awards, the winners of which were announced Friday night. All were in attendance.

The Outdoor Blogger Summit (OBS), the first conference for outdoor digital journalism, was again held in conjunction with SHIFT. OBS was developed to teach bloggers how to optimize their work while plugging them into outdoor rec/conservation issues raised at SHIFT. The two events shared programming and facilities. More than 100 bloggers attended.


The SHIFT Emerging Leaders

The SHIFT Emerging Leaders

The Centers for Jackson Hole’s Emerging Leaders Program (“ELP”) brought thirty-four men and women between the ages of 19 and 31 to the Jackson campus of the Teton Science Schools on Monday, October 10, for three days of preparatory work in advance of SHIFT, and then integrated them into the proceedings of the Festival in substantive and meaningful ways.

Emerging Leaders. Tuesday. ShiftJH.org. CREDIT: David J Swift

Emerging Leaders. Tuesday. ShiftJH.org. CREDIT: David J Swift

The Emerging Leaders were a demographical mirror of America. Urban millennials and people of color—the demographics identified by land managers, the outdoor rec industry and conservation advocates as the keys to the next generation of stewards—worked alongside their Caucasian counterparts from the rural West to lead the Festival’s conversations. This evolution of traditional conservation became the Festival’s highlight.

Comments post-SHIFT included:

“I can safely say my life was changed by this gathering of brilliant minds and passionate hearts.”

—Alyssa Ravasio, Founder, Hipcamp

“SHIFT shifted our community. This is what leadership looks like.”

—Terry Tempest Williams

“The Emerging Leaders truly made the event.”

—Todd Walton, Director of Communications & Marketing, Snowsports Industries America

The impact flowed both ways. Comments from the Emerging Leaders (“ELPers”) included variations on the following:

  • “I am forever changed thanks to ELP.”
  • “It is hard to put value on an experience that felt like a blessing.”
  • “This program… has potential to change the world.”

ELP integration at SHIFT in panel discussions, as speakers, facilitators, and as volunteers for logistics was well-received (“The way we were asked to participate this year was great”). Teton Science Schools proved an excellent partner, developing a program that was praised by participants (“THANK YOU… for creating a culture of trust …. Absolutely incredible and a true reflection of the deliberate and thoughtful facilitation and leadership from … the TSS staff!”).

Given the success of ELP 2016, we have:

  • Begun work with Teton Science Schools on ELP 2017
  • Invited five ELPers—Grace Anderson, Alfonso Orozco, Michelle Pinon, Taimur Ahmed and Michael Davis—to serve on SHIFT’s Advisory Council
  • Begun work with the Emerging Leaders to showcase their case studies around outdoor rec and cultural relevancy on Th., Jan. 12, at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market
  • Ascertained interest on the parts of Terry Tempest Williams, the National Conservation Training Center and the Teton Science Schools on a collaborative grant for ELP
  • Begun talks with the Outdoor Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Outdoor Industry Association, to connect ELP with the Future Leadership Academy (“FLA”)

Next Steps, SHIFT 2017: SHIFT’s substantive focus will remain the intersection of outdoor rec, conservation and cultural relevancy, with an emphasis on bi-partisanship. We will continue to cultivate an ever-more diverse SHIFT audience, with emphasis on the following sectors:

  •  Business/industry
  •  Hunting/angling
  •  Motorized users
  •  Research/scientific community
  •  Health & Wellness

Further development of networking opportunities will remain a priority, as will our bipartisan positioning. We will continue to explore the niche between recreation, conservation and the economy, highlighting private business and the role it can play with regards to recreation and our public lands.Shift-2016-13-Thurs_6824

Exporting SHIFT: While inspirational and appropriate for a national conversation about conservation and recreation, Jackson Hole is expensive and difficult to reach. Exporting SHIFT’s work in some fashion would allow us to continue SHIFT’s work between annual events, broaden the coalition of stakeholders and bring value to the communities we are trying to impact. Accordingly, the idea of a “SHIFTx” export modeled on TED/TEDx continues to be explored.

Additional Engagement Points: In order to advance SHIFT’s work and impact, we will continue to develop additional engagement points throughout the year in locations outside Jackson via speaking opportunities and presentations at trade shows and related conferences. Empowering Emerging Leaders to serve in this capacity will add value to their experience while addressing the challenges posed by SHIFT’s limited resources.Shift-2016-13-Thurs_7001

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