We have identified four campaigns that we’ll be giving heightened attention through 2020. These four priorities would protect and defend wild places in Alaska, Montana, Utah, and Colorado. We chose these priorities with guidance from our Board Advocacy Committee and based on a variety of factors such as conservation significance, political viability, and proximity to Conservation Alliance member companies.
“The lands package that passed earlier this year demonstrated that protecting public lands can be a fun, bipartisan experience,” said Kirsten Blackburn, Advocacy Manager for The Conservation Alliance. “The bill passed overwhelmingly, showing that Congress may be willing to do more good for wild places in the short-term. By offering our members more opportunities to really get to know a handful of places and issues, we hope they will be inspired to help move them across the finish line.”
The Four Campaigns:
Protecting Colorado’s Wild Places
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act is the most widely supported and comprehensive attempt in more than a decade to protect public lands in Colorado. Announced by Senator Michael Bennet and Congressman Joe Neguse at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in January of 2019, the bill would protect 400,000 acres of Colorado’s public lands by combining four longstanding, locally built campaigns into one Colorado lands package. The package seeks to protect the Continental Divide and Camp Hale, San Juan Mountains, Thompson Divide, and Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Since 2009, The Conservation Alliance has supported grassroots conservation organizations Conservation Colorado, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Thompson Divide Coalition for their efforts to secure lasting protections for these landscapes.
The San Juan Mountains
Preserving Montana’s Blackfoot River Watershed
In June, Montana Senator Jon Tester reintroduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, a Montana-made bill that will protect the headwaters of the storied Blackfoot River. The bill seeks to protect 80,000 acres in the Lolo National Forest by expanding the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountain Wilderness areas, and designating two recreation areas to preserve and expand popular mountain biking and snowmobile terrain.
The campaign’s coalition of supporters is as diverse as its landscape. It enjoys broad support from the local timber company, the mountain biking community, guides and outfitters, snowmobilers, and conservation organizations. The Conservation Alliance has supported Montana Wilderness Association’s work to protect the Blackfoot Region since 2009.
Clearing storm and rainbow in the Grizzly Basin proposed addition to the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Photo: Zack Porter
Restoring Protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
For the first time in 50 years, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is currently not protected from oil and gas development. The 2017 Tax Reform bill mandated the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be drilled for oil and gas, and the Trump Administration has been working around the clock to further expedite leasing the Coastal Plain to oil developers. The Conservation Alliance is supporting efforts to both legislatively restore protections for the Coastal Plain and hold the Trump Administration accountable during its hurried process to exploit the Refuge. Learn more here.
The Conservation Alliance has supported efforts to protect and defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge longer than any other landscape. For more than 20 years the organization has funded groups such as Alaska Wilderness League and Audubon Alaska for their work to collaboratively both protect and restore protections for the Refuge.
The Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctic Ocean ahead, and the Sadlerochit Mountains behind.
Protect our Roadless National Forest Public Lands
In 2001, after a wildly positive public process that included 600 public hearings and 1.6 million public comments, the United States Forest Service (USFS) adopted the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The rule protected 58.5 million acres of Roadless areas in many National Forest from unnecessary road building, commercial logging, and coal, gas, oil and other mineral leasing. Both Utah and Alaska have filed state petitions with Secretary of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking for exemptions from the National Roadless Rule. The two states would prefer to write their own unique rules that would permit old growth timber harvesting in the Tongass National Forest, and extraction in potentially popular backcountry areas in Utah’s Wasatch and Manti-La-Sal National Forests.
Through our Public Lands Defense Fund – a fund established at the onset of the Trump Administration and designed to preserve and defend the integrity of our public lands system – The Conservation Alliance has funded four efforts to uphold the National Roadless Rule in Utah and Alaska.
“We are excited to highlight these four important campaigns through the end of 2020, but remain committed to all of the projects we have supported through our grant program,” said John Sterling, Executive Director of The Conservation Alliance. “Recognizing the opportunity to build more support for public lands, we are diving deeper into a these four landscapes.”
You can expect to hear a lot more from us about these four priorities in the coming weeks and months.