2017 SHIFT Award Official Selections

The SHIFT Awards, which will be announced November 2 at The 2017 SHIFT Festival in Jackson, WY, recognize individuals, initiatives, or organizations that make innovative, impactful and replicable contributions to conservation through human-powered outdoor recreation.

To determine Award nominees, SHIFT researchers identified more than 300 individuals or initiatives from around North America that leveraged outdoor rec for conservation gains. Further evaluations were then made of more than 130 initiatives in six categories: Non-Profit Leadership, Business Leadership, Public Land-Management Innovation, Technology, Youth Engagement and Adventure Athlete.

SHIFT’s evaluators then ranked each initiative or individual according to the criteria found here.

Representatives of the top 25% of the initiatives are invited to participate at this year’s SHIFT. They receive complementary Festival passes and are recognized during the Festival for their work—part of SHIFT’s commitment to showcasing on-the-ground work that is successfully meeting challenges at the nexus of outdoor recreation and conservation in communities around the country.

The top 10% of the initiatives in each category (or the three highest-ranking initiatives, whichever is higher) will comprise the finalists for the 2017 SHIFT Awards.

Developments are under way to connect the finalists with sources of funding.

Ties in the evaluations were included in the Official Selections.

Business Leadership

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, This Business Supported by Public Lands

Location: Missoula, MT


Synopsis: Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) is committed to stopping the growing effort to seize control of the public lands on which our businesses depend. BHA built a petition for outdoor business to join them and the nearly 10,000 sportsmen who have pledged to defend our American public lands birthright – and the more than $878 billion in annual consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs that the outdoor industry supports. To date, the campaign has activated nearly 300 business in public land defense, who have signed on to a list which can be shared with the media, Congress, and other stakeholders in the public lands dialogue.

Keen’s “Live Monumental” campaign was designed to get five American landscapes proclaimed national monuments.

Keen, Live Monumental

Location: Portland, OR


Synopsis: In 2015, Keen embarked on a journey to protect the places in which we play and to ensure that five incredible landscapes forever remain as they are today. During their Live Monumental campaign, they traveled 10,000 miles across 27 states in a signature yellow RV, captured 50,000 petition signatures, rallied support from more than 50 businesses, and hosted more than 47 events – including dozens of meetings on the U.S. Capitol that culminated in a reception on Capitol Hill in October that marked the finale of the 2015 tour and start of KEEN’s 2016 campaign efforts. During the campaign, they celebrated the creation of Boulder White Clouds Wilderness, Mojave Trails National Monument and Gold Butte National Monument—1.9 million new acres of protected public lands. In the end, they had more than 35 like-minded companies sign onto their business letter of support.

Klean Kanteen

Location: Chico, CA


Synopsis: Klean Kanteen—a for-profit, mission-based, family owned company that creates and distributes products that are solutions to single-use items—facilitates collaborative conversations with nonprofit organizations and for-profit brands. This in turn offers the opportunity for shared resources to increase effectiveness; it can also reduce the fear and common practice of not sharing information or funding sources.

Many businesses give dollars to support causes but do not always invest beyond the check or attendance at the annual gala to identify other ways in which they can support. In Klean Kanteen’s perspective, a deeper relationship offers the opportunity to have greater impact. Such relationships include those with 5 Gyres, American Rivers, and NatureBridge, which Klean Kanteen supports with a portion of the more than $1.5 million in environmental donations they have made since their founding.

Patagonia, This is Bears Ears

Location: Ventura, CA


Synopsis: On April 26, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to review the designation of 27 national monuments, including Bears Ears. In response, Patagonia created a multi-level effort to defend Bears Ears & the Antiquities Act, using multimedia platforms, engagement mechanisms, advertising campaigns and letter-writing efforts to tell Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke why Bears Ears National Monument is of environmental, economical and cultural significance. The campaign consists of three parts: culture, sport, and activism, activating Patagonia’s vast user network in contacting their representatives to protect Bears Ears. 

The campaign has led to:

  • More than 33M social media impressions
  • More than 42k tweets, comments, calls to the Department of the Interior, Secretary Zinke, and President Trump
  • More than 50 call hours logged
  • More than 2,500 stories run online, in print, on TV and radio

REI, Opt Outside

Location: Seattle, WA


Synopsis: On Black Friday 2015, REI decided to shut all 149 of its store doors, process no online sales and pay all 12,287 employees to take the day off and head outside instead. The underlying concept focused on highlighting consumer choice, which in this case meant the decision to spend time in the outdoors rather than using the now-infamous holiday as a race to find the best deals. More than 175 national and local organizations joined the movement, and an estimated 1.4 million people participated in outdoor excursions via the hashtag #OptOutside. One year later, more than 700 organizations and 6 million people participated.

SIMMS, S.O.S. (Save Our Streams)

Location: Bozeman, MT

Website: https://www.simmsfishing.com/sos

Synopsis: Many of America’s iconic rivers are threatened by mining, pollution, closure and more. SIMMS Save Our Streams (S.O.S.) program raises awareness of – and gives back to – these waterways.

The S.O.S. campaign began in April 2017. Each month, a new waterway is showcased along with a limited-edition S.O.S. tee-shirt–each one designed for a much-loved American river. A portion of the proceeds from each sale go to organizations working to protect and preserve these rivers for all of us to enjoy. Along with shirts, Simms aims to host 2-4 local events in each local community surrounding the waterway to raise awareness of conservation issues. To date, Simms has showcased the Yellowstone River, Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and Smith River, and plans to continue the program into 2018.

Wylder Goods

Location: Salt Lake City, UT


Synopsis: Wylder is the first female-owned and the only Utah-registered B-corp in the state. As a benefit corporation, Wylder’s mission is to create rapid transparency and drive both demand and production towards sustainable and innovative consumerism. They partner with regional and national non-profits to fund solutions to the environmental crisis, and educate their audience on specific campaigns and calls to action. They contribute 2% of revenue to their 501(c)3 partners, and work closely with them to connect people to wildland, educate for human rights, environmental health and ecological justice, cultivate outdoor adventure stewards, and conserve and protect wildland to increase ecosystem diversity and resilience. One third of their marketing is dedicated to sharing the campaigns, missions and initiatives of their non-profit partners.

Non-Profit Leadership

On May 11, on Capital Hill in Washington, DC, Access Fund and The American Alpine Club assembled an elite team of climbers to represent the climbing community’s perspectives on public lands.

Access Fund and The American Alpine Club

Climb the Hill

Location: Golden, CO


Synopsis: On May 11, 2017, in Washington, D.C., Access Fund and The American Alpine Club organized Climb the Hill, a lobbying event in support of public lands. With a team of 50 climbers—including Tommy Caldwell, Sasha DiGiulian, Alex Honnold, Kai Lightner and Libby Sauter—they dispersed throughout Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and leaders of the Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service. Over the course of the day, they attended 50 meetings on the Hill and with agency leaders, advocating for appropriate funding levels and balanced land management polices to support outdoor recreation and conservation.

Adventure Scientists, Gallatin Microplastics Initiative

Location: Bozeman, MT


Synopsis: The foundation of Adventure Scientists is built on the idea of leveraging the outdoor adventure community and their recreational activities for conservation impacts: they aim to harness the millions of hours spent by thousands of outdoor adventurers for the benefit of conservation. In the case of their Gallatin Microplastics Initiative, they mobilize a committed team of volunteers with backcountry expertise to collect water samples to study the abundance and types of microplastics in the Gallatin Watershed. The goal of this work is to tangibly reduce the number of microplastics entering the watershed. They have assembled and manage a team of 120 local volunteers—capable outdoorspeople committed to conservation—and trained them as microplastics sample collectors for this two-year effort. These volunteers visit 70 critical points on the Gallatin River and its tributaries once each season (based on hydrologic flows) on foot, bike, boat, skis and snowshoes to collect water samples.

Conservation Colorado, Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance

Location: Denver, CO


Synopsis: The mission of the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance (COBA) is to unite Colorado business leaders to conserve and protect access to our public lands. Launched in 2016, COBA now counts 158 Colorado businesses as members. It is unique in that it was formed and is run by a conservation nonprofit, thus bringing a true conservation and public-lands advocacy approach to the fight. Additionally, it brings together not only outdoor recreation industry businesses, but other businesses that value public lands for their contributions to quality of life and the concomitant  the recruitment and retention of high-quality employees who want to live in places with great natural amenities and recreation opportunities.

Elliotsville Plantation, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Location: Portland, ME


Synopsis: Lucas St. Clair, President of the Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., led a twelve-year effort to establish the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. St. Clair brought a different style to the debate over a national park, meeting with locals over kitchen tables and on forest trails. He opened up 40,000 acres of Elliotsville Plantation to hunting and snowmobiling in 2013, endearing himself to local residents. St. Clair’s effort sought to redefine the relationship between access, rural economics and outdoor recreation. His work came to fruition in 2016 with the successful establishment of the Monument.

El Pomar Foundation, Pikes Peak Heritage Series

Location: Colorado Springs, CO


Synopsis: Founded in 2015, El Pomar Foundation’s Pikes Peak Heritage Series occupies an innovative role in outdoor recreation and conservation as a neutral convener and incubator for emerging conservation leaders in the Pikes Peak region. The Heritage Series has planned and/or hosted forums and working groups on trails and open space, forest health and outdoor recreation. The program has also provided marketing and staff support for partner events such as the release of an “Economic Benefits of Parks” study by The Trust for Public Land and City of Colorado Springs, as well as the hosting of the regional summit of Colorado Outdoor Industry Leaders. The Heritage Series is staffed by current Fellows—typically recent college graduates—who support and direct conservation studies and topics. Their 2016 “Mountains Matter to Millennials” original research on millennial attitudes regarding outdoor recreation has sparked articles in local newspapers and invitations to present to civic and business leaders across the region.

In the footsteps of a civil rights legacy, GirlTrek is a national health movement that activates thousands of Black women to be change makers in their lives and communities — through walking. Photo courtesy of GirlTrek

GirlTrek, One Million Women Walking

Location: Washington, DC


Synopsis: GirlTrek is the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States. With nearly 100,000 neighborhood walkers, GirlTrek encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families and communities. As women organize walking teams, they mobilize community members to support monthly advocacy efforts and lead a civil rights-inspired health movement. Beyond walking, GirlTrek’s active members support local and national policy to increase physical activity through walking, improve access to safe places to walk, protect and reclaim green spaces, and improve the walkability and built environments of 50 high-need communities across the United States.

Hispanic Access Foundation, Latino Conservation Week

Location: Washington, DC


Synopsis: Latino Conservation Week (LCW) is an opportunity for Latinos and all who want to join in to demonstrate their passion for getting outdoors and serving as stewards of our nation’s public lands. For organizations, churches, parks, government agencies and others, LCW is an opportunity to create events and activities designed to engage Latinos and provide access to stewardship opportunities.

Since 2014, close to 20,000 people have participated in 180 events (including volunteer cleanups, educational events, roundtable discussions, film screenings, fishing, mountain biking and whale watching) in 17 states from Massachusetts to California, visiting public lands and waterways—most for the first time. The event engages churches and other community groups to build new partnerships with land and water agencies, which in turn helps participants demonstrate their passion for public lands.

Nacimiento Community Foundation, Step Into Cuba

Location: Cuba, NM


Synopsis: The mission of New Mexico’s Nacimiento Community Foundation (NCF) is to deliver integrated resources and programs to those in need, empowering individuals, families and communities to achieve health and self-sufficiency. NCF sponsors Step Into Cuba, a community-wide partnership that engages its people, businesses, schools, municipal and county government, land managers and health-related organizations to plan and develop opportunities for outdoor physical activity through respecting, using and protecting its extraordinary public lands.

Step Into Cuba has carefully chosen evidence-based strategies to increase physical activity from The Community Guide for community preventive services. Among other projects, volunteers and partners of Step Into Cuba participate in:

  •      Planning for a new segment of Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) that will pass near town with the Santa Fe National Forest and New Mexico BLM
  •      Opening, developing and maintaining public trails on its public school and adjacent BLM lands
  •      Creating trails and community connectivity for Cuba’s village park
  •      Acquiring donated private land to plan, develop and maintain a green corridor and trail connecting town to the Santa Fe National Forest
  •      Sponsoring public programs and events highlighting local trails
  •      Developing and maintaining a website (http://www.stepintocuba.org) and IPhone/IPad trail app (Trails Across New Mexico); and
  •      Studying the health, economic and social capital-related effects of Step Into Cuba with the University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center over a 10-year period.

Paradox Sports’ mission is to revolutionize lives through adaptive climbing opportunities that defy convention.

Paradox Sports, Adaptive Climbing Initiative

Location: Eldorado Springs, CO


Synopsis: In December 2016, Paradox Sports launched its Adaptive Climbing Initiative, a new movement to make climbing gyms across the U.S. accessible to people with physical disabilities. Through the initiative, which is sponsored by The North Face, Paradox Sports provides adaptive climbing courses in climbing gyms across the U.S. Adaptive climbing provides access for athletes with physical disabilities to climb in both indoor and outdoor settings through innovative adaptive systems, equipment and an open-ended mindset.

Adaptive Climbing Initiative courses include strategies and methods developed over many years of working with adaptive climbers, coupled with information collected from dozens of professional climbers, instructors and mountain guides. Once Paradox provides the training and necessary equipment, a climbing gym can open its doors to climbers of all ability levels and welcome a new population to the climbing community.

Outdoor Alliance, Protect Our Public Land

Location: Washington, DC


Synopsis: In 2016, The Outdoor Alliance built a multi-pronged campaign to fight the public land transfer movement. A petition was built to show policymakers that voters support America’s public lands, and kept signers updated with alerts targeted to their state and district. The petition was designed to combat an ongoing challenge: a majority of Americans want to keep public lands in public hands, while policymakers have been slow to speak out against the land heist.

Highlights of the campaign included:

  • 55,000+ petition signatures
  • 75 outdoor business and advocacy partners
  • 50,000 letters sent to lawmakers
  • Met with policymakers from 27 states
  • Rallied outdoor enthusiasts for 5 key town halls
  • Helped coordinate 2 public lands rallies
  • Public awareness via the creation of state-specific maps that identify local public lands
  • Creation of a coalition of non-profit and advocacy groups to support their work
  • Social media packets for participating organizations
  • Meetings with western governors and congresspeople to advocate for public lands

Public Land Solutions, Prosperous Communities Initiative

Location: Moab, UT


Synopsis: Public Land Solutions is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive recreation planning and stakeholder coordination to support effective and sustainable public-land solutions.

The Prosperous Communities Initiative aims to help communities thrive by using the currency of the 21st century: recreation assets—public and private lands of all types that provide opportunities for outdoor experiences such as trail systems, rivers, lakes, and parks—on shared lands.

The Prosperous Communities Initiative builds off the bipartisan success of the November  2016 REC Act that directed that the outdoor recreation industry’s jobs and economic contributions be included in the United States’ gross domestic product.

Examples of outdoor-friendly communities that the initiative seeks to replicate include Duluth, MN, Fruita, CO, Bend, OR, Whitefish, MT, and Bentonville, AK.

Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Vamos a Pescar

Location: Alexandria, VA


Synopsis: Vamos A Pescar (VAP)—The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s initiative to increase the U.S. Hispanic population’s participation in recreational fishing and boating—is composed of various innovative elements. U.S. Hispanics traditionally under-index in fishing and boating and, as a result, have never been the focus of fishing or boating interests in the past. The VAP program put a stake in the ground to be the first in the industry to target the Hispanic segment.

The most significant contribution that the VAP initiative has provided to the industry is the Vamos A Pescar Education Fund. The fund is a rallying cry to industry partners large and small to become more active in the crusade to increase Hispanic participation in boating and fishing. As of today, the VAP Education Fund has raised more than $250,000 from partners such as Bass Pro Shops and Disney, and has been vital to reaching the Hispanic audience on both a national and local/grassroots level. Since last year, traffic to VamosAPescar.org increased by 12% to 890,000 unique annual visitors.

The Climate Reality Project, I AM PRO SNOW

Location: Washington, DC


Synopsis: I AM PRO SNOW works with winter sports and mountain communities to help support their fight against the worst impacts of the climate crisis by enabling them to transition to 100% renewable electricity. In just over a year, I AM PRO SNOW and the 100% Committed campaign has helped more than 30 cities like Utah’s Salt Lake City; businesses in the outdoor rec community businesses like Alpine Promotions, Ski Butlers, and 22 Designs; and resorts like Whiteface in New York and St. Moritz in Switzerland commit to go to 100% renewable electricity.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Sportsmen’s Access Campaign

Location: Nationwide


Synopsis: In January 2015, as calls to transfer or sell America’s public lands migrated from the fringe to the mainstream conversation, the TRCP launched its multi-pronged Sportsmen’s Access campaign to organize sportsmen and women in fierce opposition to public lands threats. As part of the campaign, they initiated a non-branded, coalition-backed microsite, www.sportsmensaccess.org, to provide background on the issue and house a running petition. For each signature, letters are sent to federal, state and local elected leaders reaffirming sportsmen support for public lands and opposing their sale or transfer. To date, that petition has been signed by more than 54,000 sportsmen, generating almost 500,000 letters to public officials. The site also features a white board video narrated by hunting celebrity Randy Newberg, printable resources on how transfer would affect nine specific states, a general land transfer fact sheet, and statements of local decision-maker support (including from Western county commissioners). Content and photos from the TRCP’s social media campaign, #publiclandsproud, are also featured on the site.

Utah Diné Bikéyah

Location: Salt Lake City, UT


Synopsis: Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB) is a Native American-led nonprofit working toward “healing of people and the earth by supporting indigenous communities in protecting their culturally significant ancestral lands.”

UDB established itself in 2011 as a first-of-its-kind Native American organization focused on safeguarding cultural resources and protecting the ecological integrity of ancestral public lands in southeastern Utah. UDB has a ten-person, all-Native Board of Directors (Navajo and Ute), holds a Memorandum of Agreement with the Navajo Nation and Bureau of Land Management, and aims to establish itself as a leader among conservation organizations. UDB’s biggest achievement included designation for the 1,351,849 acre Bears Ears Region as a National Monument in 2016.

Whitefish Legacy Partners, Whitefish Trail Project

Location: Whitefish, MT


Synopsis: Whitefish Legacy Partners (WLP) is a non-profit organization whose community-minded vision ensures conservation, recreation and education on the lands around Whitefish for future generations.

The Whitefish Trail (WT), WLP’s anchor project, began as one aspect of a solution to the impending development and sale of 13,000 acres of Montana State Trust Lands surrounding Whitefish, Montana. In 2003, the Whitefish Neighborhood Plan was written and adopted by Flathead County, the City of Whitefish, and the Montana State Land Board and describes a long-term vision for local public land management. A recreation loop trail around Whitefish Lake was called for as a multi-partner solution to protect public access, maintain sustainable forest management, and provide wildlife habitat on the lands surrounding town.

WLP utilizes the WT to leverage increased recreation opportunities, to pursue local conservation efforts, and to provide a platform for outdoor learning. In addition, the community of Whitefish has utilized the WT to leverage local conservation efforts, effectively changing the tone of local conversations. Prior to the development of the WT system, the topic was often fraught with bi-partisan conflict, and since its creation, the trail system has demonstrated tangible benefits the community. In 2015, the City of Whitefish voted with 84% approval to increase the local resort tax by 1% to fund final purchase of a 3,020 acre conservation easement in Haskill Basin. The Haskill CE permanently secured the City of Whitefish’s water supply, and it allowed for a permanent trail easement along the western border of the parcel. This managed trail corridor leaves the vast majority of the 3,020 acres to remain open for threatened grizzly bear and lynx habitat.


American Conservation Experience, WildSNAP

Location: Salt Lake City, UT


Synopsis: WildSNAP is the first iOS application designed to monitor Wilderness Study Areas (“WSAS”). The American Conservation Experience and the Bureau of Land Management-Utah partnered to develop the app, which achieves three main project goals: replacing pen and paper forms with electronic data collection (including geo-referenced photos, standardized answers and narrative descriptions of issues); sending monitoring reports directly to the appropriate BLM Office; and increasing the BLM’s monitoring capacity by training and engaging interested members of the public. It is the first application of its kind developed for BLM-administered lands. WildSNAP now offers monitoring opportunities for 9 WSAs managed by BLM-Utah, and projects to expand to 16 by the end of 2017.

From public parks to private land, Hipcamp provides a comprehensive, online guide to camping across the US. The revenue generated by user fees allows private landowners to protect and preserve their spaces. Photo courtesy of Hipcamp


Location: San Francisco, CA


Synopsis: Hipcamp partners with private landowners to create new places for people to camp, unlocking access to entirely new places for people to get outside and connect with nature. Over 60% of the US is privately owned. By using recreation to directly fund the conservation of these lands, Hipcamp has created a model to support private land stewardship at scale. Hipcamp has reached more than 3 million campers and features over 7,000 sites on private land.


Location: Lincoln, NE


Synopsis: Powderhook’s Digital Mentoring Program has helped thousands of hunting and fishing users get out onto their public lands more often. Powderhook acts as a localized message board, connecting users with a community of hunters and anglers who provide local expertise. Since its launch in September, Powderhook has engaged 120,000 total users and facilitated nearly 20,000 outdoors-related interactions.

To facilitate growth among users, Powderhook has additionally created the Powderhook Event Application Programming Interface (API), a first-of-its-kind, nationwide, outdoor event dataset. The site makes more than 9,000 hunting, shooting, fishing and conservation events accessible via the API. Event hosts include major NGOs such as Ducks Unlimited and National Wild Turkey Federation, state agencies, and businesses. New events are added daily via integrations with their partners, scrapers and APIs

NIC, YourPassNow

Location: Centennial, CO


Synopsis: Developed in conjunction with the National Park Service, YourPassNow provides the first web-based option for park visitors to purchase passes and permits, appealing to a growing number of park visitors accustomed to completing transactions online. Prior to YourPassNow, these passes were only available as paper passes for in-person purchase at parks or third party-resellers. The collection of fees generated by YourPassNow allows parks to fund additional improvements and conservation initiatives. From February – December of 2016, more than 9,000 passes were sold, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the maintenance and preservation of the participating parks.

Public Land-Management Innovation

The Coalition for Outdoor Access

Location: United States

Website: None

Synopsis: The Coalition for Outdoor Access—formerly The Outdoor Access Working Group—was formed to improve the federal special-use permitting process for outdoor recreation, education and outfitting providers. It aims to make the permitting systems of land management agencies more efficient, more transparent, and more responsive to the needs of guides and outfitters as well as outdoor recreation and education leaders.

Since September 2016, steering committee members have hosted four workshops, in Denver, Salt Lake City, Olympia, and Seattle, to address the Forest Service’s ongoing work to streamline permitting processes, pivot from regulating occupancy and use to enhancing guest services through recreation special uses, and simplify and clarify environmental and resources analyses.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Executive Summit Coalition

Location: Denver, CO


Synopsis: In 2016, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) convened the Executive Summit Coalition: a group of leaders representing 40+ organizations from across the outdoor industry spectrum. The objective of the group, which included representatives from recreation, industry, land trust, conservation, sportsmen/women, and land management organizations and agencies (federal, state and local), was to share perspectives on how to best balance outdoor recreation and sustainable management of wildlife in Colorado.

The Executive Summit Coalition is CPW’s initial effort to apply the SHIFT Principles to tangible and meaningful efforts to advance shared conservation and outdoor recreation priorities among a comprehensive stakeholder group that is inclusive of all sectors (rock climbing, mountain biking, OHV, hunting, land trust, stewardship/volunteers, etc.). Their Partners in the Outdoors Conference in may brought together over 300 individuals from 100+ organizations to network, collaborate and participate in professional development sessions on current issues pertinent to outdoor recreation, and conservation.


The Heart of the Continent Partnership’s mission is to “sustain and celebrate the health, beauty, diversity, and productivity of the natural and cultural resources of the Border Lakes region through collaboration to meet the needs of present and future generations”. Photo courtesy of National Geographic for ‘The Heart of the Continent’

Heart of the Continent Partnership

Location: Minneapolis, MN


Synopsis: The Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP) was formed in 2007 when several groups involved with managing the public lands along the Minnesota/Ontario border joined with other engaged organizations to develop a long-term vision for this impressive landscape.

The HOCP convenes on a quarterly basis. In 2015 it launched a geotourism site with National Geographic to showcase cultural and environmental assets of the region to visitors. In 2016, they released an economic impact study conducted by member org Friends of the Boundary Waters that showed that Boundary Waters visitors generated overall economic output of $77 million for local communities from that summer alone.

Mammoth Lake Trails and Public Access Foundation

Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA


Synopsis: The mission of the Mammoth Lake Trails and Public Access Foundation (“MLTPA”) is to bridge the enormous gap that lies between the nation’s small and dispersed “gateway communities” that typically provide the American public’s first introduction to a public lands experience (typically through an outdoor recreation activity) and the federal agencies that manage the public lands.

Through a contract with the Town of Mammoth Lakes, MLTPA provides a complete suite of support services to the Town’s Trail Coordinator to assist with the implementation of the Town’s “Trail System Master Plan” and the ongoing maintenance and expansion of the Mammoth Lakes Trail System. The 28 different outdoor recreation activities all share a fundamental goal: the stewardship and conservation of the natural resources that make the Mammoth Lakes Trail System possible.

Youth Engagement

Arizona Conservation Corps, Mogollon Monsters

Location: Flagstaff, AZ


Synopsis: The Arizona Conservation Corps’ stewardship project on Barbershop Trail #91 on the Mogollon Rim sought to address two main challenges. The first was joblessness and poverty in the White Mountain Apache communities (47% of the families in Whiteriver, the White Mountain Apache’s largest community, are below the poverty line); the second was the trail itself, which was badly damaged, situated along a very erosion-prone route, and inaccessible to equestrians.

The project provided Crew 389—eight youth from the White Mountain Apache Nation who came to be known as the “Mogollon Monsters”—with opportunities to learn professional skills, conservation principles and techniques and to work as a community for their term. It also exposed them to outdoor recreational pursuits such as camping (members spent 12-18 nights each month outside in a tent), hiking and backpacking. As a result of the project, the trail was improved, and participants, equipped with professional skills and technical knowledge that are in high demand in the community, expanded their opportunities for jobs.

Brothers of Climbing tackles diversity in rock climbing. They believe there should be more inclusion, better representation, and a tighter community. Photo courtesy BOC

Brothers of Climbing

Location: New York, NY


Synopsis: Brothers of Climbing—recently featured in an REI short film that has accrued more than 1.5 million views—is a New York-based organization tackling diversity in rock climbing. They seek more inclusion, better representation and a tighter community. Brothers of Climbing hosts monthly meet-ups at Brooklyn Boulders in New York City to encourage participation for new and experienced climbers and build community amongst the cohort. In October, BOC will host the Color the Crag Climbing Festival, an event for all climbers and non-climbers to support diversity outdoors. The core mission is to increase the presence of people of color outside, encourage community and leadership and provide positive representation of climbing and physical activity among populations of color.

City Kids Wilderness Project

Location: Washington, DC


Synopsis: City Kids Wilderness Project is a non-profit organization founded on the belief that providing enriching life experiences for under-resourced DC children can enhance their lives, the lives of their families and the greater community. City Kids increases opportunities for youth to experience some of the most wonderful natural settings in the United States, and combines this with an evaluation-based, long-term youth-development model that succeeds in promoting high school graduation and post-secondary success. They take their participants outside to hike, camp, paddle and ski, and also help them develop their resumes, find and keep internships and jobs, and set and work towards long-term goals.

97% of the students who have completed City Kids program in the last five years also graduated from high school (compared with 69% of their peers across DC). The remaining 3% earned their GED. Post-graduation, 90% of their participants enrolled in college, the military or vocational training, and the remainder have found employment or continued in City Kids support programming.

Conservation Legacy, Ancestral Lands Program

Location: Gallup, NM


Synopsis: Southwest Conservation Corps’ Ancestral Lands Program is dedicated to providing jobs and conservation corps training for Native American youth who are part of tribal communities. Program leaders identify and support champions from within a Native community, help grow and empower new leadership, and form conservation corps made up of young people who are willing to serve their ancestral lands by doing habitat restoration, trail-building, traditional agriculture, historic preservation and youth engagement in outdoor rec. The program has engaged 73 young adults from 12 Native American communities at 24 National Park Service units, completing 41 total Ancestral Lands Projects.

Environmental Learning for Kids, Urban Rangers

Location: Denver, CO


Synopsis: ELK (Environmental Learning for Kids) is an inclusive, non-profit organization that develops inspired and responsible leaders through science education and outdoor experiences for underserved, urban youth ages 5-25. In 2016, the Urban Ranger program provided educational experiences for more than 4,000 community youth and summer employment opportunities to eleven underserved and underrepresented youth from the Denver metropolitan area. National Park Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife rangers and Denver Parks & Recreation and ELK staff trained the Urban Rangers crew to work as educational facilitators and ambassadors, who then outreached to their urban communities about the opportunities each organization has to offer.

Grand Teton National Park Foundation, Youth Engagement Initiative

Location: Moose, WY


Synopsis: The Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s Youth Engagement Initiative (“YEI”) introduces Grand Teton National Park (“GTNP”) to a younger, more diverse audience and offers escalating educational and employment opportunities that keep participants actively involved in outdoor adventures as they begin to make lifestyle and career decisions. YEI encompasses five programs that connect youth to nature:

  • Youth Conservation Program is a teen trail crew that operates for 10 weeks each summer, simultaneously offering young people an opportunity for gainful employment and meaningful learning experiences in GTNP.
  • Pura Vida reaches local underserved Latino students and their families for one week over spring break and two week-long summer sessions. It is designed to engage participants in experiential learning and leadership activities.
  • NPS Academy is an internship and mentoring program for diverse college students from across the country that includes a spring orientation and 12-week summer internships in national parks across the country.
  • Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassador Program (M2M) aims to actively engage under-represented, urban youth with their local national parks through the leadership and community-mobilization expertise of young adults who are serving as M2M ambassadors across the country.
  • Tribal Youth Corps provides hands-on opportunities for regional Native American youth 14 to 18-years-old to connect to nature and cultural history through a seven-week paid internship in Grand Teton.

Outdoor Foundation, Outdoor Nation Campus Initiative

Location: Washington, DC


Synopsis: Created by the Outdoor Foundation and supported by a diverse coalition of public, private and not-for-profit partners, Outdoor Nation engages, empowers and activates young leaders to spearhead a nationwide movement on campuses and in communities that results in a new generation of active, outdoor enthusiasts and stewards. The Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge is about school communities and student bodies joining together to see who can get the most people outside and active. It’s a Mother Nature meets March Madness-style competition where 90 schools from across the country go head-to-head over six weeks.

To incentivize participation, the Outdoor Foundation offers $700 to the first fifty schools to sign up to activate their campus network, as well as access to a training webinar covering all Campus Challenge details, logistics, and best practices.


Outdoor Outreach participants in San Diego Bay. The organization uses the outdoors to inspire youth to see possibility and opportunity in their lives.

Outdoor Outreach

Location: San Diego, CA


Synopsis: Outdoor Outreach serves San Diego youth ages 9 – 24 from under-resourced, urban, “park-poor” communities that lack access to green spaces and the critical benefits they provide. The organization leverages outdoor recreation for conservation gains through their Play, Learn, Serve, Share model:

  • PLAY: Their programs provide a safe space for urban and diverse teens to engage in physical activities that promote a strong sense of self, belonging and resiliency. Through recreation, participants forge an authentic connection with close-to-home green spaces.
  • LEARN: Through outdoor recreation, youth from park-poor communities learn to respect the places where they play. Outdoor Outreach uses teachable moments, facilitated reflection, Leave No Trace ethics, and outdoor skills lessons to engage participants in the learning process.
  • SERVE: Outdoor Outreach mobilizes youth through more than 20 environmental stewardship programs every year. Programs like invasive species removal and riparian restoration allow young people to make a measurable difference in their communities, providing additional stepping stones of engagement.
  • SHARE: The Outdoor Voices program engages urban and diverse youth as advocates for key policies and funding that preserve and protect access to the outdoors for future generations, particularly underrepresented populations.

The Experimental Station, Blackstone Bicycle Works

Location: Chicago, IL


Synopsis: The mission of the Experimental Station is to build independent cultural infrastructure on the South Side of Chicago by fostering a dynamic ecology of innovative educational and cultural programs, small business enterprises and community initiatives. Their Blackstone Bicycle Works community bike shop and youth program brings together two underutilized resources in the city—kids from some of Chicago’s poorest south side neighborhoods and hundreds of used bikes every year that Chicagoans seek to get rid of.

Blackstone teaches approximately 175 underserved youth each year to work in the bicycle business while providing them the opportunity to earn their own bikes and participate in a variety of cycling activities. Blackstone’s youth program is free and open to boys and girls from 8-18 years old, and occurs on a drop-in basis (one third of the youth have been coming to Blackstone for 3-8 years). Kids earn hours for the time they spend in the shop, learning bicycle mechanics and customer service, refurbishing used bikes for sale, serving customers, operating the point of sale system, managing inventory, maintaining the shop, teaching skills to lower-level youths, providing cycling safety instruction, participating in and serving as ride marshals on youth rides, and participating on their cyclocross racing team.

WILDCOAST, Youth Engagement Programs

Location: San Diego, CA


Synopsis: WILDCOAST’s Youth Engagement Programs utilize Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in San Diego County to drive engagement with and education about coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. Students from underserved, park-poor and indigenous communities are engaged in MPA conservation efforts through hands-on, learner-based field activities that include kayaking, surfing, swimming and boating.

To date in 2017, WILDCOAST has successfully engaged more than 5,000 students from across San Diego County in MPA education and stewardship activities. Through pre- and post-course surveys, WILDCOAST has determined that more than 90% of students that complete their programs develop inclinations for stewardship for coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife not previously experienced.

Wilderness Inquiry, Canoemobile

Location: Minneapolis, MN


Synopsis: Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile takes an innovative approach to STEM education by providing place-based education and recreational opportunities for disadvantaged youth at scale. Canoemobile utilizes the Pyramid of Engagement, a service model designed to provide introductory, overnight and extended outdoor experiences to enhance school performance and cultivate a stewardship ethic. Physically, the Canoemobile is a fleet of vans, each with six 24-foot, hand-made Voyageur canoes and all necessary safety and educational equipment. In 2016, more than 30,000 youth and their families, including 80% from disadvantaged backgrounds, participated in more than 600 events in 50 cities.

By instilling a sense of ownership of natural resources, Canoemobile provides students and community members the opportunity to value the importance of protecting their local natural spaces, highlighting the intersections between recreation and environmental conservation. The Canoemobile model represents a comprehensive approach to advancing opportunities for underserved audiences that can be replicated and scaled in communities nationwide.

Adventure Athlete

Miho Aida

Location: Sausalito, CA


Synopsis: In 2010, Miho produced an award-winning short film called “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins: Gwich’in Women Speak.” This film was created to amplify the Gwich’in women’s voice in the mainstream environmental campaign to protect the Arctic from oil development.

In 2014, Miho embarked on a film tour by bicycle, from Seattle to San Francisco, called “1,000 Miles for 1,000 Allies”. In 2015, she repeated the tour, this time from Washington, DC, to Bar Harbor, Maine, and this summer she will be riding again in Maine and Ohio. Rooted in a spirit of “If She Can Do It, You Can Too,” the tour was designed to show the world that one woman, one bicycle and one film can make a difference in this movement. On the tour, the initiative conveyed the message of the following:

  • Promote adventures that are founded on social change, activism and justice
  • Encourage outdoor experience that benefits not only the adventurer but also the community that faces environmental challenges and the society at large
  • Advocate for reducing carbon footprint when recreating
  • Target different community and interest groups to form a strong public support for the Refuge outside of typical conservation crowds
  • Break down stereotypes of women in the outdoors
  • Challenge a social norm by role modeling that women are capable to go on adventures by themselves and solve problems on their way


Shelma Jun, founder of Flash Foxy and participant in The Access Fund and American Alpine Club’s ‘Climb the Hill’ event.

Shelma Jun

Location: Brooklyn, NY


Synopsis: Shelma Jun is the founder of Flash Foxy and the Women’s Climbing Festival. Flash Foxy was created in 2014 to celebrate women climbing with women and to be a place where women can come to feel inspired by and connected to each other. To quantify the impact of gender on experiences of climbers at the gym, Shelma and Flash Foxy put out a survey. Of the more than 1,500 responses, 64% of women said they felt uncomfortable, insulted, or dismissed at some point during their training, as opposed to 29% of men. In addition, the survey revealed that women experienced microagressions at a rate 2.5 times higher than men.

Jun is also a founding member of Never Not Collective, a new media collective started in 2017 by four unapologetic women of the outdoors. On May 11, 2017, she participated in Climb The Hill, an event created in part to address the Trump administration’s plan to reexamine the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Luke Nelson

Location: Pocatello, ID


Synopsis: Luke spent his childhood wandering the mountains. These days his time in the wild is spent running. Not wanting to be confined by the rules of racing, he prefers meandering lesser-known routes and rowdy mountain linkups as a way to stay connected to nature. Being connected with the outdoors on a daily basis has inspired him to be an activist and to speak up for the planet. He strives to maximize each hour by balancing his time as an activist, physician’s assistant, race director, husband and father.

Some of Luke’s professional accomplishments include a first-place finish in the 2014 Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run, a second-place finish in the 2014 Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run, and a former FKT for the Zion Traverse.

Nelson discovered Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument a month before it was designated. He’s returned six times since November, running on public land and talking about that land, including in Patagonia’s new video series.

Randy Newberg

Location: Bozeman, MT


Synopsis: Hunters depend upon public lands for hunting access. Randy Newberg is the voice of the public land hunter in America. Decades of chasing all species across public lands has provided both experience and perspective that has allowed Randy to become the leading advocate for the self-guided hunter.

What started by accident has grown into two popular TV shows, Fresh Tracks and On Your Own Adventures, accompanied by the long-standing Hunt Talk web forum. Now added to those platforms is the Hunt Talk Podcast. Randy uses his platforms to advocate for hunters and public access. In addition to representing hunters in Congress and state legislatures, heserves as a volunteer and board member for many hunting and conservation groups.


Activist Forrest Shearer works to raise climate change awareness in the snowboard community.

Forrest Shearer

Location: Salt Lake City, UT


Synopsis: Forrest believes the turns you have to work for offer a more lasting reward, and his splitboard adventures reflect that attitude. Brought up surfing in Southern California and now based in Utah, Forrest is at the forefront of self-powered backcountry freeriding. When he’s not shredding steep white walls for films like Deeper and Further, he works to raise climate change awareness in the snowboard community. Career highlights include:

  • Working with Protect Our Winters on the Hot Climate/Cool Athletes campaign
  • Working on Forrest Shearer’s My Wilderness campaign with The Wilderness Society
  • Promoting 1% for the Planet environmental grants program (through www.tactics.com/)
  • Actively involved with Surfers For Cetaceans Transparent Sea campaign


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