The 2017 SHIFT Festival, which took place November 1-3 in Jackson Hole, WY, explored the business case for public lands: how investments in outdoor recreation and the conservation of public lands promote prosperity in communities around America.

The program, which featured a mix of evening entertainment, happy hours, themed lunches, and keynote addresses, was anchored by The SHIFT Summit, a deep drill on opportunities and challenges at the heart of this economic argument.

The SHIFT Summit featured three major topics, each with a core discussion question.

  • Closing the Nature Gap: How does access to public lands in urban areas support economic prosperity, healthy citizens and the next generation of stewards?
  • Community Futures: How do we use investments in outdoor recreation and conservation of public lands to create vibrant, resilient communities in rural America?
  • The Economic Case: How do we use the economic power of outdoor rec and public lands to influence federal, state and local decisions?

Keynote speakers, panel discussions and breakout groups were developed around these three focal points, which in turn helped advance the broader objectives of the 2017 SHIFT Festival:

  • Networking: Create a hub for natural allies who do not ordinarily interact to discuss challenges and opportunities, exchange information and share experiences.
    • This in turn facilitated networking and strengthened coalitions among groups working to protect our public lands, waters and wildlife
  • Showcase of best practices: Highlight the most innovative, impactful and replicable work at the intersection of conservation and outdoor recreation by developing the programming around representatives of the 2017 SHIFT Award Official Selections

The policies and programs debated during the Summit were complemented by lunchtime, happy hour and evening programs, which cross-pollinated proceedings and created a “big-tent” approach that attracted a broad audience, including local residents of Jackson Hole, an epicenter of American recreation and conservation.

Who Attended?

The 2017 SHIFT Festival brought together a diverse group of more than 500 attendees from Canadian provinces and 32 states, including participants from the following key sectors:

  • Outdoor recreation user groups, non-profits, media and businesses
  • Conservation advocates
  • Public land managers
  • Community leaders
  • Cultural relevancy proponents

In all, more than 1,300 engagements with the various components of the Festival were recorded.

What Were the Outcomes?

  • Participants from the second annual Emerging Leaders Program served as keynote speakers, moderators, panelists and facilitators, disrupting the demographical norm for conservation events and facilitating an intergenerational transfer of power in the outdoor recreation/conservation communities
  • The second annual State Offices of Outdoor Recreation Workshop, which included representatives from seven state offices and attracted participants from 12 states overall, continued to advance the proliferation of state offices around the country
  • The first annual Business Alliance Workshop developed a national template for the creation of outdoor business alliances
  • The Gotta See It project convened social media influencers to explore ways they could work collaboratively to help diversify the outdoor industry
  • SHIFT for the Planet created a bridge between funders and non-profits at the cutting edge of outdoor rec and conservation. It also convened funders in the space to discuss ways to align and amplify their work.
  • The SHIFT Summit, lunchtime discussions and happy hours incorporated representatives of The SHIFT Awards Official Selections throughout, which in turn provided a showcase for the most innovative, impactful and replicable work in the country currently leveraging outdoor rec for conservation gains
  • Collaborative relationships were established between SHIFT and 1% for the Planet, Blue Sky Funders Forum, George B Storer Foundation, Quimby Family Foundation, and Silicon Couloir, as well as with Yale University’s Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative , which documented the ELP and SHIFT in photographs and video
  • The playbook We Stand for Public Lands, which offered concrete arguments participants could use to advocate for public lands, was distributed to all participants. The playbook, which was underwritten by Adidas, represented a unique partnership between the consumptive and human-powered outdoor recreation communities: Outdoor Alliance, Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • The Nov. 1 “Bears Ears” program, which explored the importance of Bears Ears National Monument from the perspective of the tribal leaders who created it, was livestreamed via Patagonia’s Facebook page (<1M followers) and viewed by more than 13,000 people, not including those who saw it via shares by 30 other organizations
  • More than three dozen sponsors—including Adidas, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Wildlife Federation—helped underwrite the 2017 program
  • Energy industry veteran John Northington outlined how “outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists can borrow from the energy industry’s wildly successful lobbying playbook with his address, “Wielding Power: Lessons from Oil and Gas for the Outdoor Recreation and Conservation Coalition
  • Marketing efforts introduced SHIFT to more than 300 media outlets in outdoor, environment/conservation, hunt/fish, business, trade, and syndicated news writers, with a potential reach of >83M viewers
  • The 2017 SHIFT Festival became the first STOKE Certified sustainable event in the country

The Emerging Leaders Program

In its second year, The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) continued its efforts to revitalize the next generation of the conservation movement. On October 28, four days in advance of SHIFT, 32 rising stars in the outdoor recreation and conservation communities arrived in Jackson to train with instructors at the Teton Science Schools. This training prepared them to integrate at SHIFT on numerous levels, including as panelists, keynote speakers and facilitators.

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 rural and Caucasian counterparts to lead the Festival’s conversations.

Participants in this year’s Emerging Leaders Programs represented the following organizations:

  • Access Fund
  • Adventures Accessed
  • Appalachian Mountain Club
  • Appalachian Trail Conservancy
  • Amigos de los Rios
  • Ancestral Lands Program
  • Artemis Sportswomen
  • Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Chicago Cares
  • First Lite Hunting Apparel
  • Groundwork USA
  • Idaho Conservation League
  • Latino Outdoors
  • Montana State Legislature
  • Montana Wilderness Association
  • National Park Service
  • Outside Magazine
  • Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
  • Santa Barbara Middle School
  • Sierra Club Outdoors
  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • Trout Unlimited
  • United States Army
  • United States Department of Energy
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Uplift Climate Conference
  • Wyoming Wildlife Federation

The Emerging Leaders Program was made possible by generous grants from Christy Walton, Conservation Legacy, Vermont Community Foundation/The Doug Fund, Clif Bar Family Foundation, as well as individual contributions made via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.


On Wednesday, November 1, The 2017 SHIFT Festival kicked off with the State Offices Of Outdoor Recreation Workshop. This workshop, designed to create a toolkit for the creation of state offices of outdoor recreation, built on last year’s program, which participants from North Carolina credited with taking “a year and a half” off the process of launching their office.

Rather than focusing on existing state offices in Colorado, Utah and Washington, as SHIFT had the past two years, this year’s workshop featured principals behind the drive for offices in Oregon, North Carolina, Vermont and Wyoming, as well as the country’s newest Director of a state office of outdoor recreation, Montana’s Rachel VandeVoort. Assistance was provided from Brad Petersen, America’s first Director, and Janette Heung, Colorado’s Deputy Director (the first such deputy director in the country).

On Friday, November 3, the Business Alliances Workshop featured representatives of alliances from around the country that are successfully harnessing industry voices to advance public land issues. Such alliances offer a powerful tool that is greatly underleveraged in contemporary conservation: coalitions of business interests that advocate on behalf of public lands.

A playbook that captures high-level takeaways from both workshops is currently under development.

SHIFT for the Planet

As part of the kick-off to The 2017 SHIFT Festival, we worked with 1% for the PlanetSilicon CouloirGeorge B. Storer Foundation and Blue Sky Funders Forum to create SHIFT for the Planet, a spotlight for some of the most innovative, impactful and replicable examples of outdoor recreation and conservation work in the country. The event was also designed to amplify and enhance the shared impact of funders by convening representations of foundations and funders’ groups to discuss ways to increase the effectiveness of their efforts.

At the event, held before a capacity audience at Snow King Resort, eight SHIFT Award finalists, most of whom were also 1% for the Planet nonprofit partners, were invited to present their work to an audience that included 1% for the Planet business members, private and corporate funders, individual donors, and peers. The five-minute presentations featured the work’s focus, its impact, and a central challenge facing its ongoing success.

A jury comprised of Emerging Leaders judged the presentations and determined the $2500 Jury’s Choice Award, which went to Hispanic Access Foundation, for their Latino Conservation Week.

A second award, the People’ Choice Award, was determined by the audience. This award was presented to Utah Diné Bikéyah, for the creation of Bears Ears National Monument.

Evening Programming

Wednesday, November 1: Bears Ears

The 2017 Festival’s opening night began with a presentation of all 32 Emerging Leaders, who took the stage and introduced themselves to a sold-out audience at The Center for the Arts.

Following their introduction, Jonah Yellowman, Eric Descheenie and Cynthia Wilson from Utah Diné Bikéyah made the case for the protection of Bears Ears National Monument and tribal sovereignty in an event called “Bears Ears: 10,000 Years of Public Land”. Combining ages-old tales shared amongst the Diné (Navajo) people, intellectual musings on tribal knowledge, and powerful anecdotes of Diné womanhood, the speakers set the stage for a SHIFT that incorporated tribal knowledge frequently throughout the events that followed.

The presentation, which was livestreamed via Patagonia’s Facebook page, also featured Native American Emerging Leaders Len Necefer, Zintkala Eiring and Marshall Masayesva, who introduced the Utah Diné Bikéyah speakers.

Thursday, November 2: Common Ground Film Festival

On the Festival’s second night, at the Pink Garter Theater, GirlTrek co-founder Morgan Dixon and filmmaker James Q Martin curated a program entitled Common Ground: A Film Series, Expert Panel and Dialogue on Diversity. The screening of five short films was interspersed with conversations with Expedition Denali’s Scott Briscoe, Len Necefer of NativesOutdoors, Angelou Ezeilo of Greening Youth Foundation, Ambreen Tariq of BrownPeopleCamping, Danielle Williams of Melaninbasecamp, Jonah Yellowman of Utah Diné Bikéyah and Alisha Anderson, Utah Diné Bikéyah artist-in-residence.

Preceding the film program, Christian Beckwith presented the 2017 SHIFT Awards. Award categories and winners were as follows:

  • Non-Profit Leadership: Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., for the creation of Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
  • Adventure Athlete: Miho Aida, for her work with her endeavor If She Can Do It, You Can Too
  • Youth Engagement: WILDCOAST, for their Youth Engagement Programs
  • Technology: Powderhook
  • Public Land Management Innovation: Colorado Parks and Wildlife, for their Executive Summit Coalition
  • Business Leadership: Patagonia, for its campaign, This Is Bears Ears

Additionally, two $2,500 awards, for the SHIFT For the Planet Jury’s Choice and People’s Choice, were also presented:

  • SHIFT For the Planet Jury’s Choice ($2,500 Prize): Hispanic Access Foundation, for their Latino Conservation Week
  • SHIFT For the Planet People’s Choice ($2,500 Prize): Utah Diné Bikéyah, for the creation of Bears Ears National Monument

Friday, November 3: The People’s Banquet

The 2017 SHIFT Festival concluded at The Center for the Arts with The People’s Banquet, a celebration of the local food system. The evening began with locally sourced cocktails and apps, followed by a presentation by Brad Mead—a fourth-generation Jackson Hole cattle rancher, attorney, and the founder and CEO of Wyoming Whiskey—who told the story of the Jackson Hole National Monument, a 221,000-acre parcel comprised of mostly national forest land that was designated, over strong local protest, by President Roosevelt in 1943.

Mead then introduced Lucas St. Clair, who led a twelve-year effort to establish the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine. St. Clair brought a different style to the debate over a national park, meeting with locals over kitchen tables and on forest trails.

Following the presentations, attendees moved to the Center lobby for a phenomenal array of small plates and drinks coordinated by Slow Food in the Tetons and a dozen local food producers and chefs.

Lunches and Happy Hours

Over the three days of the Festival, six lunchtime and two happy hour discussions featured the work of Official Selections in all Award categories. The discussions were designed to facilitate networking, a discussion of common challenges and a showcase of the ways SHIFT Award category representatives are addressing them with their work.

On Wednesday, Nov. 1, from 12-1:30 p.m., the Public Land Management Innovation lunchtime discussion was held at Pizzeria Caldera in downtown Jackson, WY. The Coalition for Outdoor Access, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Heart of the Continent Partnership and Mammoth Lake Trails and Public Access Foundation were all featured.

Thursday’s lunchtime discussions included the following:

  • The Technology lunchtime discussion was held from 12:15-2:00 p.m. at Pizzeria Caldera and featured representatives from the American Conservation Experience’s’ WildSNAP, Powderhook, and NIC’s YourPassNow.
  • The Youth Engagement lunchtime discussion, which took place from 12:15-1:30 p.m. at Lotus, brought together representatives from Environmental Learning for Kids’ Urban Rangers, Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s Youth Engagement Initiative, Outdoor Outreach, The Experimental Station’s Blackstone Bicycle Works, Brothers of Climbing, and City Kids Wilderness Project.
  • The Female Leadership lunchtime discussion was held from 12:15-1:30 p.m. at Hatch Taqueria and Tequilas. The event explored how efforts like Artemis, Wylder and the No Man’s Land Film Festival are positioning women to lead the conservation conversation.

On Friday, two more lunches were held.

Two happy hours rounded out the ancillary programming for the 2017 Festival.

  • On Wednesday, from 5:15-6:45 at Hand Fire Pizza, the panel discussion, The Modern-Day Activist, featured Official Selections from The 2017 SHIFT Awards in the Adventure Athlete and Non-Profit Leadership category in a conversation about what it means to be both a professional and recreational athlete in an increasingly fragile world.
  • On Thursday, from 5:15-6:45 at Hatch Taqueria and Tequilas, the happy hour discussion You Gotta See It to Be It explored how social media is changing the face of who’s outside.


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