2019 SHIFT Award Winners Announced

On Oct. 16, The 2019 SHIFT Festival kicked off in Jackson Hole with a celebration of The 2019 SHIFT Award winners.

After an introduction in which all 22 of the SHIFT Award Official Selections took the stage, the Award ceremonies began in earnest, with finalists for each category announced, followed by the winning initiative.

The winners presented ten-minute overviews of their work to a rapt audience, focusing on the impace, innovation and replicability that secured their nominations. 

At the conclusion of the Awards, the audience voted for their choice, selecting Brownsville, Texas’ Caracara Trails as The 2019 People’s Choice Award. Dr. Rose Gowen, an Ob/Gyn and Brownsville county commissioner, accepted the award on behalf of her community.

Winners for each category were as follows. An overview of category finalists may be found below.

  • Research: Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, Director, The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute 
  • Youth Engagement: Outward Bound Adventures
  •  Non-Profit Leadership: Texan by Nature
  •  Public Land-Management Innovation: Caracara Trails
  •  Business Leadership: M. Amos Clifford, Association of Forest Therapy and Guides
  •  Technology: The Trust for Public Land’s Geospatial Data and Analytics Services
  • Adventure Athlete: Paloma Aguirre


Winner: Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute

Widely credited with spearheading the field of Environmental Cardiology, Dr. Bhatnagar directs The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, which investigates how our natural, social, and personal environments impact human health and chronic disease and pioneers a new, interdependent vision of health, supports research on the effects of the environment on health, and promotes holistic scholarship, locally and globally. 


The Applied Cognition Lab, at the University of Utah, takes a traditionally “lab-based” neurotechnology (EEG) and brings it into a very applied setting—nature—in order to determine the underlying neural processes of restoration, and to understand how restoration can be enhanced or induced to support nature-based therapies. 

Randy Rosenberger and Tara Dunn, for their Oregon Outdoor Recreation Health Impacts Estimator Tool, which they developed and used to calculate the amount of energy people expend and their associated health care savings when engaging in 30 outdoor activities of moderate to vigorous intensity. The tool, which is scalable, was used to calculate that Oregonians’ participation in outdoor recreation activities saves the state $1.4 billion annually in health care costs.

Youth Engagement 

Winner: Outward Bound Adventures, which uses nature-based, environmental education and backpacking, wilderness travel, camping, hiking and natural resource restoration projects to expose underserved youth to careers in conservation as well as to upgrade academic and social skills.


Families in Nature, which connects children and their families to nature and to each other through time spent learning, playing, and volunteering outdoors. Since 2015, the organization has helped 14,472 FIN participants spend 158,482 hours in nature. 

Gateway Mountain Center, which transforms the lives of youth through nature-based learning, environmental literacy, and wellness adventures. Their innovative program “Whole Hearts, Minds & Bodies” is the first of its kind to be awarded Medi-Cal certification, and to win acceptance by two counties for partner contracts.


Winner: Texan by Nature, which brings business and conservation together; amplifies projects and activates new investment in conservation, which returns real benefits for people, prosperity and natural resources; and achieves its goals through its Texan by Nature Certification program, Conservation Wrangler program, and Symposia series.


Corazon Latino, which seeks to generate social, environmental, and conservation initiatives that in turn foster natural resource stewardship. 

The Urban Ecology Center, which connects people in cities to nature and each other, seeks to inspire generations to build environmental curiosity, understanding, and respect, restores hope and heals our urban natural world, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Adventure Athlete

Winner: Paloma Aguirre, a conservationist, competitive bodyboarder and city councilwoman in Imperial Beach, CA. She has been working for more than twelve years to address Imperial Beach’s most pressing threats to its quality of life, including both environmental and public health issues. 


Bruckner Chase, the founder of Ocean Positive Foundation, who works with partners, communities, schools, corporations, agencies and governments around the world to design, develop and implement research-based programs and opportunities for sustainable positive impacts on the health, wellbeing and strength of our oceans and communities.

Cliff Kapono, PhD, a professional surfer, chemist and journalist whose life involves equal parts science and surf, and who has contributed peer-reviewed publications to the fields of molecular bioscience while producing  award-winning films that discuss indigenous activism, ocean conservation, global food security and virtual reality. 

Public Land Management Innovation

Winner: The Caracara Trails, which serves as a “catalyst” for healthier lifestyles among a population with disproportionately high rates of obesity and chronic disease by: 1) providing more safe routes for exercise and outdoor recreation; and 2) encouraging locals to hike and bike to destinations—and even ditch their cars. The City of Brownsville (TX) quantified annual health care cost savings of $5.9-$12.3 million from increased physical activity on 291 miles of the Active Plan’s multi-use trails.


Diana Allen and the National Park Service’s Healthy Parks Healthy People program, which has worked with national, state, and local parks, as well as business innovators, healthcare leaders, scientists, foundations, and advocacy organizations to foster and build upon the role parks play in the health of our society. 

Trailhead Direct, a pilot project that seeks to ease vehicle congestion and reduce traffic safety hazards near popular trailheads, and expand access to public open space for people from the Seattle metropolitan area.

Business Leadership 

Winner: M. Amos Clifford, the founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs, for his leadership of his leadership of ANFT, which seeks to integrate Forest Therapy into health care systems.


Luis Benitez, who, during his four-year tenure as Director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, provided visionary leadership for state offices of outdoor recreation around the country, broadened the outdoor recreation conversation to include stewardship, education and health as core values, and elevated the outdoor recreation industry’s voice nationally in response to the public land transfer movement.

REI Co-Op’s Rewilding Project, which is helping to reshape how people in large urban and suburban areas connect with the outdoors. REI launched the first of their Rewilding Projects—part of their long-term strategy to help provide millions of people easier access to nearby outdoor places—five years ago. They now have five large-scale rewilding projects around the country, and have invested more than $2M in the project since 2014.


Winner: The Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) geospatial data and analytics services, which allows TPL’s field teams and partners to locate parks and identify specific lands for conservation, and helps them work with communities to build and manage parks and open space in a way that maximizes their benefit and increases their use by underrepresented groups and others who currently underutilize the outdoors.


Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Colorado Trails Explorer (COTREX) app, which helps to connect residents of communities around the state with all 39,000 miles of trails in Colorado via a free mobile trails application that keeps users on legal trails, informs the public of wildlife closures, instills responsible recreation values and uses the data as a trail and wildlife planning tool

Fitbit and Solera Health’s Diabetes Prevention Program, which helps people with prediabetes lose body weight through healthier eating and physical activity by using a Fitbit device 


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