2016 SHIFT Summit Panel Discussion Synopses

The 2016 SHIFT Summit and Festival took place October 13-15 in Jackson Hole, WY. It focused on three main topics: Next Generation Engagement and Cultural Relevancy; Funding for Public Lands; and The Public Land Transfer Movement.

The SHIFT Summit, held at Snow King Resort, brought together leaders in the outdoor rec/conservation world, including  participants in the inaugural Emerging Leaders Program, public land managers, outdoor recreationists, conservation advocates, and business leaders. The  Summit served as a deep drill on opportunities, challenges, and shared values at the heart of the outdoor recreation/conservation partnership.

The following overview of the panel discussions held at the Summit includes key takeaways from each discussion.

Friday, Oct. 14, 8 a.m.—12 p.m.: Next Generation Engagement and Cultural Relevancy

The demographics of the outdoor recreation, land management, and conservation communities have been criticized for their homogeneity: predominantly white, middle class, and (increasingly) aging. Demographic projections for the next fifty years predict an increasingly diverse nation in which no racial or ethnic group in the United States will possess a majority. As such, there’s a need to identify opportunities to introduce new populations to wild and natural places. Outdoor recreation and conservation programs offer a solution: engaging younger, more urban, and more diverse generations in public lands advocacy and access opportunities.

The SHIFT Summit featured diverse participation to insure meaningful and valuable conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as well as create a framework for thinking about DEI and assessing progress on the topic.

Breakfast Discussion: The Collective Impact Model

Numerous programs around the country focus on getting kids outside, but as with so much of our work, they can often operate in isolation, undermining the potential of a unified framework. This plenary breakfast panel discussion presented a collective impact model already underway that attempts to unify the various national efforts on youth engagement for a more effective outcome.

The Youth Outdoors Regional Collective Impact Model has three main goals: networking, shared interest, and collective impact. The Model is the culmination of collaborative work by representatives from several key youth engagement organizations in response to the need to provide outdoor opportunities to youth of all ages and demographics. In addition, the need was identified to share successes, challenges, and goals between previously isolated youth engagement organizations.


Stacy Bare, Director, Sierra Club Outdoors

Courtney Aber, National Director for BOLD and GOLD (Boys and Girls Outdoor Leadership Development) at the YMCA

Chris Rutgers, Executive Director of Transforming Youth Outdoors

Within the Collective Impact Model are five steps:

  1. Accommodation
  2. Shared Measurement
  3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities
  4. Continuous Communication
  5. Backbone Organizations

Among key themes of the panel and subsequent small-group discussions were:

  • The need to “grow the pie” of funding to allow for the proliferation of youth engagement programs.
  • Building a “common narrative” between organizations and use it to build a campaign.
  • Time outside as a shared core value as Americans.
  • Competition and ego dividing organizations from one another despite similar missions.
  • Potential to include healthcare providers within listed stakeholders in the collective impact model.
  • Importance of environmental connections in not just national and state parks, but also in urban areas.
  • Reaching children while they are young to plant the seed of stewardship and conservation early.

Panel 1: Building a Better Pipeline

The creation of professional development opportunities for emerging leaders and young staff members across sectors of the stakeholder coalition can help develop a more diverse workforce and constituent base. Panelists discussed how to move the next generation of stewards past volunteer/youth corps positions to longer-term career pathways.


David Vela,  Superintendent, Grand Teton National Park


–  Maite Arce, Executive Director, Hispanic Access Foundation

Brenna Muller, Program Manager, Outdoor Alliance for Kids; Nearby Nature Program Manager, The Sierra Club

Alex Klein, Vice President and General Manager, Grand Teton Lodge Company and Flagg Ranch Company

Joshua Tuck, Regional Youth Volunteer Program Manager Assistant, National Park Service


  • The pipeline is critical because of the changing face of Americans and the growing relevance of public lands. The importance of early access can’t be overstated: connections to the outdoors and public lands are built early.
  • Corporations must change their marketing and advertising strategies to better reflect a broad demographic of users–if black youth only see white people in the advertisement it’s unlikely they’ll connect.
  • Money tends to look at present profit over long-term diversification.
  • Connections with colleges can assist with targeted recruitment of more diverse candidates.
  • Certain types of organizations (like dude ranches) for instance, don’t have the luxury of recruiting, but rather need people to come to them.
  • There is a need to create a positive, consistent adventure that young recreationists of color can take back to their cities and relay the experience and message.
  • The pipeline could be rethought: college students need to infiltrate both public and private sectors.
  • Hiring practices and implicit biases can limit applicants of color from breaking through the candidate pool.

Panel 2: Outdoor Recreation and Cultural Relevancy

Active engagement with the outdoors has produced some of the country’s strongest and most inspiring conservation leaders. Today, with the constituencies of conservation aging, outdoor recreation offers a remarkable opportunity to reinvigorate our economy, public health and the protection of our public lands—but only if it becomes more relevant to and inclusive of communities of color and urban millennials. This panel discussion shared some of the success stories in the efforts to do just that.


Grace Anderson, National Manager, Inspiring Connections Outdoors Program, The Sierra Club


Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, Co-Founder, The Avarna Group

Georgina Miranda, Founder, Altitude-Seven

Ed Cantu, Director for Consumer Insights & Planning, Lopez Negrete Communications

Bob Ratcliffe, Director, Conservation and Recreation Programs, National Park Service


  • We’re at a point where we can change the face of adventure–what was once a white man is morphing.
  • There’s a business case that teams that are diverse do better: they’re able to think outside the box.
  • Some underserved communities are lacking the invitation to participate and mechanisms to access.
  • Metrics exist to quantify the impact of diversity, but they need to be more widespread.
  • The government is prohibited from asking age, income or race because of privacy acts.
  • As individuals, we need to be willing to have uncomfortable conversations once a week
  • An important part of inclusion is being left out–inclusion needs to expand to ability, including access to trails for wheelchairs.
  • ‘Public Lands’ may not be a relevant term for people whose idea of outdoors is a walk around their neighborhood.
  • Diversification of board leadership can better represent the population one wishes to serve

Panel 3: The Millennials’ Take

In this panel discussion, self-selected participants from the Emerging Leaders Program presented their perspectives on Next-Gen Engagement and Cultural Relevancy as it relates to outdoor recreation and America’s public lands heritage. What do they believe we need to know in order to successfully engage their generation of stewards?


Alfonso Orozco, Latino Outdoors


Leandra Taylor, Middle Rio Grande Education, Employment & Environment Alliance

Maya Hunger, Emerging Leaders Program

Jas Jones, Student Conservation Association

Janet Valenzuela, Good Heart Project

Christian Gering, Conservation Legacy/Environmental Stewards


  • Conservation has a distinctly different definition to anyone you ask, particularly with young people who are far removed from classic conservation efforts.
  • The ability to use public lands creates community amongst young people.
  • To make things culturally relevant, one must use the central question, “Does the culture find it relevant?”
  • Parent engagement is critical to building long-term engagement with kids, not just isolated experiences.
  • One must often be creative to build a conservation ethic without using the term ‘conservation’- it can immediately turn people off and create assumptions about the intent of certain work.
  • Profit before culture will always fail in the end.
  • It’s critical that we teach young people how to do the activity for themselves, not just curate an experience that they can’t recreate.
  • Outdoor recreation careers are sometimes difficult careers for young people, because there’s a sense that they’re not as important and jobs are cut.

Friday, Oct. 14, 3-5 p.m.: Funding for Public Lands

Long-term reliable funding for public land management agencies is directly related to the public land transfer, since budget cuts limit agencies’ capacity to effectively manage public lands. With agency budgets going to fighting wildfires and a growing backlog of deferred maintenance, the issue, which currently lacks a unified voice, continues to grow more pressing.

The SHIFT Summit aimed to share information on how investments in public lands contribute to local economies through recreation and tourism. In addition, the Summit sought to elevate the increasing role for and value of volunteer stewardship and other forms of partnership that engage the next generation in public lands, highlighting success stories and discussing how this potentially powerful tool can be leveraged.

Panel 1: Public Lands and Sustainable Recreation: A Collaborative Future

In a time of constrained resources, creative approaches are key to successful management of our public lands. At the same time, approaches to management of National Forests across the country are changing through management plan updates guided by the USFS 2012 Planning Rule. Attendees learned how the Eastern Sierra Recreation Collaborative used “A Framework for Sustainable Recreation (USFS)” to inform its gateway community engagement and how the Inyo National Forest is using collaboration and partnerships to ensure a healthy forest for future generations.


Mike Schlafmann, Public Services Staff Officer, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest


John Wentworth, Mayor Pro Tem, Mammoth Lakes (CA); Board President, Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation

Danna Stroud, Mt. Whitney Area Representative, Sierra Nevada Conservancy; member, Eastern Sierra Recreation Collaborative

Deb Schweizer, Public Affairs Officer, Inyo National Forest

Meryl L. R. Harrell, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture


  • Forest plans are for 10-15 years but technology operates more immediately than ever before, how can we reconcile the difference?
  • Desired outcomes and conditions must be outlined between partners before moving onto process.
  • Engaging diverse communities creates relevance with the rest of the world.
  • Serious polarization exists between tourists and locals that can impact land use decisions and shared values must be identified between the two groups.
  • Sometimes necessary to stick people in a room for days to hammer out plans, often times with a professional mediator to work through the process.
  • It can be difficult to determine ‘desired conditions’ without constant evaluation through polls.

Panel 2: Volunteer Stewardship

Volunteer stewardship is playing an increasingly large role in the management of our public lands, addressing infrastructural backlogs and assisting on projects that historically were the sole responsibility of land-management agencies. Panelists discussed how this potentially powerful tool can be further leveraged—and how it can engage the next generation in the future of our public lands.


Ann Baker Easley, Executive Director, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado


Anthony “Chako” Ciocco, Coordinator, Ancestral Lands Program (Navajo Nation)

Michael Fiebig, Associate Director for the Northern Rockies, American Rivers

Randy Rasmussen, Director, Public Lands and Recreation, Backcountry Horsemen of America

Leah Burgess, Lands Program Manager, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Nick Watson, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Veterans Expeditions


  • Widespread challenges exist to funding staff for volunteer organizations, and oftentimes a couple staff carry the load for entire organizations.
  • Liability issues can inhibit organizations from widespread (or convenient) volunteer assistance.
  • Recognition from outside organizations/awards is often critical to generating momentum for volunteer help.
  • Best practices for voluntary stewardship are to make it local, and avoid pushing out paid employees with volunteers. Make sure volunteers feel the community of your organization.
  • A measurement of success can be comments or stories that express how people were moved.
  • Before and after videos and photos are a terrific way to measure success, including videos and photos that show what it would be like if there were not volunteers
  • Convert volunteer hours into dollar values.
  • Make sure there is not just one method of documentation (storytelling)
  • There’s much power in volunteers having the ability to structure themselves

Panel 3: The Rec Economy and Our Public Lands

Panelists discussed the rec economy—including the Outdoor Industry Association’s Outdoor Recreation Economy Report and the imminent economic analysis of the outdoor rec economy by the Bureau of Economic Analysis—within the context of funding for public lands.


Luther Propst, Founder, Sonoran Institute


Ray Rasker, Executive Director, Headwaters Economics

Kat Currie, Senior Advisor in Policy, Management, and Budget, U.S. Department of the Interior

Cailin O’Brien-Feeney, Local Recreation Advocacy Manager, Outdoor Industry Alliance

Michael Degnan, Associate Director for Land and Water, White House Council on Environmental Quality


  • Outdoor Recreation is a $646 billion economy employing 6.1 million people.
    • 20% of this is buying/selling of products, 80% is trip expense, most often on public lands.
  • 1 billion visits to public lands/waters in 2012
  • If we talk about the economic value of public lands only on tourism, we’re vastly underrepresenting the value, and we need to talk about recreation.
  • Messaging around outdoor recreation can be made more broad to encourage widespread investment
  • Partnerships with healthcare providers could be used to build funding-outdoor recreation is a natural form of healthcare.
  • Potential for an excise tax on outdoors gear to help budget for public land protection.
  • Recreation on public lands is up, funding is down.
  • Affordable housing must be prioritized to diversify the community and bring younger people/seasonal workers into the conversation.
  • The outdoor industry needs to connect with NGOs to maximize efficacy.

Panel 4: State Offices of Outdoor Rec

State offices of outdoor recreation are reinvigorating local economies, improving citizen health and protecting our lands, waters and wildlife around the West. Representatives from Utah, Colorado and Montana shared lessons learned from Thursday’s workshop to create a playbook for such offices, and explored the role business and outdoor rec can play in public lands advocacy.


Brad Peterson, Former Director, Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation (2013-2015)


Luis Benitez, Director, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office

Tom Adams, Director, Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation

Alex Logemann, State and Local Policy Analyst, People for Bikes

Patricia Dowd, Associate Natural Resource Policy Advisor, Governor’s Office, State of Montana

Saturday, Oct. 15, 9:30-11:30 a.m.: The Public Land Transfer Movement

With several bills proposed in western states that attempt to transfer public land management from federal agencies to state control, the conservation and recreation communities see the proposed public land transfer as a significant and urgent threat facing public lands. To date, Western states have disposed of over 31 million acres of land, nearly equivalent to the area of Louisiana. Transferring public lands to states’ hands would likely result in sales to the highest bidders–billionaires and foreign corporations who may neither understand nor value America’s outdoor heritage. Outdoor recreationists of all types lose access to these lands in perpetuity as they become privatized.

The SHIFT Summit aimed to build bridges between groups working to prevent the transfer of public lands, and strengthen messaging and information around the economic impacts of the public land transfer movement.

Panel 1: Never Let a Good Crisis Go To Waste

Hunters, anglers, conservation orgs, and the outdoor rec community discuss the public land transfer movement and the opportunities for collaboration it presents. Participants shared success stories of innovative, inclusive, collaborative, and effective responses to the movement that can be replicated on a national scale.


Whit Fosburgh, CEO, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership


Brad Brooks, Deputy Director for Idaho Region, The Wilderness Society

Katie McKalip, Communications Director, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Kirsten Blackburn, Corporate Communications and Advocacy Manager, KEEN

John McCauley, Regional Organizer, Outdoor Alliance


  • The language we use to justify why states shouldn’t ‘take lands back’ needs to be changed–states never had them in the first place.
  • People assume that the federal government and its agencies are too far away to know the problem, when in reality the Forest Service and BLM staffs live in our communities and understand their needs.
  • Photography and filmmaking have been proven to be effective tools in building awareness and advocacy.
  • When people understand that many of our headwaters are also in public hands, they are motivated to protect them.
  • We need to “engineer passion” for public lands protection by planting seeds in young people that will turn them into adults who care about conservation.
  • Public lands are our birthright.

Panel 2: Public Lands, Urban America

The term “public lands” can evoke visions of unpopulated landscapes beneath wide western skies, but most Americans live in urban areas. The discussion explored how the public land transfer movement is relevant to urban Americans and conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Gayle Hazelwood, Senior Urban Program Manager, National Park Service


Taimur Ahmad, Recreation and Forest Policy Fellow, The Wilderness Society

Andy Laurenzi, Co-Founder, TOTAGO (Turn Off Your App and Go Outside!)

Daniel Lucio, Lone Star Chapter, The Sierra Club

Morgan Dixon, Co-Founder, GirlTrek


  • We spend much time discussing structured outdoor activities, but there is also value in unstructured outdoor time to create advocates.
  • Caring for public lands starts with hope and resilience in one’s most immediate community–their neighborhood.
  • Park fees create the narrative that we all share a responsibility for our lands, that we are stewards of these parks.
  • The answer to the question, “Why should I care?” must resonate with users of all demographics and proximities to public lands.
  • We get concerned about the cost of gear, but should pursue opportunities that work with the gear people have already.
  • We must meet communities where they are and see what they need to be continually supported, not just during a first encounter.

Panel 3: Public Lands: The Business Case

Public lands play a fundamental role in a sustainable outdoor industry. In recognition of this, Conservation Colorado has recently launched the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance (COBA), which represents a coalition of the state’s leading outdoor recreation businesses. COBA capitalizes on successes like the permanent protection of Browns Canyon National Monument, linking outdoor business leaders with Conservation Colorado’s organizational expertise to elevate outdoor industry voices in public lands advocacy. This panel discussion examined the role a state’s outdoor rec businesses can play in public lands policy—including how similar coalitions are springing up around the Rocky Mountain West.


Gabe Kiritz, Public Lands Business Organizer, Conservation Colorado


Rachel Leinweber, Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance

Maria Povec, Policy Director, American Alpine Club

Lana Weber, Idaho Conservation League

Evan Reimondo, Environmental Stewardship Coordinator, National Outdoor Leadership School


  • There are fears of urbanizing the West in our pursuit to economize recreation and public lands.
  • It can be effective to get businesses that are not directly related to public lands interested in public lands for specific reasons.
  • We need to cultivate the idea that membership in a community entails stewardship of that community.

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