Ambassador Profile: Obi Kaufmann, Chief Storyteller at Juniper Ridge

Hall and Obi (wilderness perfumers) from Juniper Ridge, and Sara Husby, Tuleyome's campaign director

What made you want to be an Ambassador for The Conservation Alliance? 
I’ve been hiking with Hall Newbegin, the guy who started Juniper Ridge, for nearly ten years. Hall, and for that matter, Juniper Ridge, have really opened me up to a deeper inner voice; an activist voice. Juniper Ridge has, since its inception, donated 10% of whatever profits it has made to defending western wilderness. It’s part of our core mission. The Conservation Alliance is a really wonderful nexus and a truly convenient utility towards this vision of unifying commercial and conservationist efforts.
What local conservation projects are you involved in?
After the designation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, we land-conservationists across the west are involved in raising awareness about a number of big prizes we’d like to see locked up with federal protection before the Obama administration becomes history. I am very excited about the Mojave Trails National Monument, part of Senator Feinstein’s proposed Desert Protection Act: these sensitive habitats between the Mojave Preserve and the Joshua National Park deserve the broadest kind of federal protection. The Central Coast Heritage Act, another prime candidate, would do so much for the creation of the Condor Trail, and shore up a big, blank corner of this paradisaical, Californian backcountry. Of course, there is also the Owyhee. I love dreaming of this plateau desert in Southeastern Oregon (what is apparently the darkest part of the country at night,) the Owyhee is the biggest prize across what is left to protect in the west, and remains vulnerable without this dire, protective legislation.
Where would you like to see The Alliance another 25 years from now?
25 years is a long time in the west. With the coming of the unpredictable effects of climate change, and the rising population desperately in need of improved, ecological energy sources (than say dams, or earth-extracted fuel sources,) I see the fight becoming more harder. I would like to see the Alliance reaching towards a younger demographic with a message of preservation, hope and opportunity. And I would like to see more small business involved in the movement. The New Conservationism is an everyday thing; I see the Alliance making head-roads into all manner of commercialism, so much so, that some day soon, every purchase that everyone makes here in the west might have a component of wilderness defense it in.
What areas of conservation are you most passionate about?
Land conservation; Habitat preservation and restoration; Plant regime change by invasive species. Biodiversity is key. Biodiversity is strength. Biodiversity is ecological health. Only by leaving alone, and roadless, great expanses of the west, can we maintain a vestige of our historical biodiversity; even in light of the dying of unprecedented numbers of species, on a global level, in the 21st century.
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Although I am not a fan of roads in my backcountry, I do believe people need to regularly go to the wilderness. Preferably on foot. There is power there. For me, backpacking and hiking are akin to something sacred: a connection with something deeper and bigger than myself. I was never much of a peak-bagger or any other kind of adrenaline junkie. I paint intuitive landscapes in watercolor journals that I pack around with me. You can check out my work on Instagram where I’ve taken over the hashtag #trailpaintings with my name @coyotethunder.
Do you have a favorite Wilderness Area or National Park?
I grew up in the High Sierra… I am going to go with the Desolation Wilderness as my favorite. Just west of Lake Tahoe, It is home to me. Ragged and wonderful granite landscapes that seem to me what heaven must be like. That all being said, I couldn’t imagine not enjoying the vast wilderness of San Jacinto, or the Condor skyways of the Ventana near Big Sur. Or of course, the headwaters of the Eel, down from the Klamath mountains deep in the redwood forests. All these places continually pull at my heart when I am woefully trapped in front of a damn computer for too long.
In what areas would you like to see more efforts to support wilderness conservation?
I would like to see the living story of the wilderness more in our daily lives. I see a day when all manner of commercial transaction may ripple towards giving back to the wild lands we collectively acknowledge as part of our core, American character. I believe rampant, mindless consumerism will inevitably pass into an economic system of ecological, social-systems. Our inner-duty, as citizens of the west, will call upon us to look more towards the consequences of waste and a new normal will develop, where we look at the entirety of this place as our singular home, and many of our contemporary habits are rejected as poison for the larger network. I don’t think it’s a pipe-dream; with the right branding, excellent storytelling, bold leadership, and vast, vigilant campaigns of wilderness education, the course of the river can change. Customers dictate the market… Look at how ubiquitous organic foods have become, or even simply, the rise of the now-common word “sustainable.”
How about an End Quote: Words of motivation to get others inspired. 
I wrote this today on Instagram @coyotethunder:
“Between bliss and rage eternal, for passion born again of this place, these hallowed lands; the good love I carry for these arid wildscapes, feeding my endless appetites, merely with simple breath do I float and aspire; well fed, open and true.”