What do a surfer, a wilderness school and a Latina community organizer have in common?
They’re all finalists for The 2015 SHIFT Awards.
The SHIFT Awards, which will be announced at the 2015 SHIFT Festival, recognize individuals, initiatives, or organizations that make innovative, impactful, and replicable contributions to conservation through human-powered outdoor recreation.
Over the past nine months, our researchers identified more than 150 individuals or initiatives from around North America that leveraged outdoor rec for conservation gains. Further evaluations were made of the 84 initiatives that participated in the nomination process for our awards.
The top 25% of the initiatives as evaluated by our researchers are invited to participate in the SHIFT Summit.
The top 10% of the initiatives in each category (or the three highest-ranking initiatives, whichever is higher) comprise the finalists for our awards.
The five initiatives that receive the highest scores qualify for the SHIFT Forward Award, a $10,000 prize made possible by the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC), a branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The $10,000 SHIFT Forward Award will be used by the winning initiative or individual to broaden the scope of their work in the world of conservation.
SHIFT’s goal is to honor innovative initiatives or individuals that not only leverage outdoor recreation for conservation gains, but that also engage the next generation of stewards in work that produces significant, measurable, and long-term improvements in their communities and environments, and that can be easily replicated in other locales.
Accordingly, SHIFT’s team of evaluators ranked each initiative or individuals according to the following criteria.
Impact & Benefit
Total = Sum [evaluation criteria rating x weight].
2015 SHIFT AWARD FINALISTS AND SUMMIT INVITEES (Award Finalists denoted with *)
NON-PROFIT LEADERSHIP: This award recognizes individuals, an initiative, or an organization that make innovative, impactful, and replicable contributions to conservation through human-powered outdoor recreation. Nominee could be a conservation organization, a community group, or a recreation organization.
Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program*
Location: Lake Placid, NY
Synopsis: The Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program is dedicated to protecting New York State’s alpine ecosystem through education, trail work, and research. It is a 26-year successful partnership of the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Summit Steward Program was created in 1989 by a grassroots group in recognition that previous management efforts were not enough to protect the rare alpine vegetation from human trampling with increasing numbers of recreationists. Summit Stewards interact with the public on the highest summits and also complete conservation projects to ameliorate erosion, delineate trails, and participate in research.
Location: Bozeman, MT
Synopsis: Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) has recognized the convergence of outdoor recreation and natural science as an opportunity for citizen scientists. ASC recruits, trains, and manages individuals with strong outdoors skills—like mountaineering, diving, or whitewater kayaking—to bring back otherwise unattainable data from the far corners of the globe. Through this network, ASC hopes to be the most efficient provider of hard-to-attain environmental data that would otherwise be unavailable for conservation.
Adam Cramer, Executive Director, Outdoor Alliance
Location: Bethesda, MD
Synopsis: After practicing big firm environmental law in Washington, D.C., Adam Cramer directed his legal skills to help kayakers and climbers with some of their conservation and access matters. Adam began leading Outdoor Alliance in 2006 and has transformed Outdoor Alliance from a clever idea into a vibrant organization with the ability to inform and shape public lands policy at multiple levels of policy creation and implementation. Adam brings together the voices of the recreation community to protect our public lands and ensure that they are managed in a way that embraces the human-powered experience. Outdoor Alliance is a coalition of organizations that include American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, Access Fund, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, and the Mountaineers. The human-powered outdoor recreation community has a direct and intensely personal interest in the conservation of our public lands. Adam and his team are often the first to notice when something is wrong in our outdoor landscapes, and are highly motivated to protect these places and the experiences they offer. Adam lives with his young family in Bethesda, Maryland, is an expert whitewater kayaker, avid climber and mountain biker.
Margaret Creel, Program Director, Snake River Fund*
Location: Jackson, WY
Synopsis: Margaret Creel, the program director for the Snake River Fund, has been instrumental in developing youth programs for the Snake River Fund, most notably the Teton County 5th‐grade river program, which to date has taken more than 1,500 students over nine years down the Snake River to introduce them to their watershed. In addition, Margaret is the author of A Naturalist’s Guide to the Snake River, a 100‐page waterproof informative natural history guide—the Snake River Fund’s first publication. Because of Margaret, every 5th-grader in Jackson Hole gets a day on a raft, and the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of Jackson’s main riparian community.
National Parks Conservation Association’s Center for Park Management
Location: Bozeman, MT
Synopsis: The National Parks Conservation Association and specifically the Center for Park Management led by Hayley Mortimer is convening leading work in a partnership with Subaru of America and the National Park Service to support zero landfill best practice work in the national parks. In 2015 three iconic pilot parks with very different waste diversion rates were selected – Grand Teton, Denali and Yosemite. This unique program is already seeing great success—it is rare to bring the National Park Service and their private concessioner operators and gateway communities together to work on legacy building programs. Waste diversion has significant benefit in park service sustainability and climate mitigation strategies. The intention is to create a framework where best practice can be scaled to other national parks.
Location: Victoria, BC
Synopsis: Friends Uniting for Nature (FUN) Society runs two program which work together in a unique partnership to provide environmental education and leadership training to children and youth in Coastal British Columbia, CA. Through outdoor adventure summer camps themed to address different environmental issues, environmental education is made fun and campers not only experience some of the wonderful opportunities their local environment has to offer, but develop a sense of stewardship over it. This is supplemented through weekly Passion Projects. Campers are encouraged to create a project of their own design. By extensive fundraising, FUN Society is able to offer 1/3 of Camper spaces free of charge to at risk and low-income children and youth.
Sonja Macys, Executive Director, Yampatika
Location: Steamboat Springs, CO
Synopsis: Sonja has been a leader in conservation over the past two decades, in positions varying from Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan, where she developed school programs in the Yucatan Peninsula’s Coastal Biosphere Reserves, to the Tucson Audubon Society, where she secured permanent conservation lands and a $174 million open space bond. More recently, as Executive Director of Yampatika, an Environmental Education organization in Steamboat Springs, Sonja established the Yampa Valley’s first ever Environmental Learning Center at the Legacy Ranch. Sonja has also led the way in developing environmental literacy, including a Yampatika program that was awarded a highly competitive EPA grant that allows for the program’s replication. Sonja consistently works to engage people of all ages in activities that will inspire them to be environmental stewards.
Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO, Surfrider Foundation*
Location: San Clemente, CA
Synopsis: Over the last 16 years, as the Environmental Director for the Surfrider Foundation, Chad has been a part of hundreds of on-the-ground victories that have made for healthier coasts. One of Chad’s proudest accomplishments has been the establishment of the Reserve Marina Tres Palmas in Puerto Rico, one of the first marine reserves dedicated to protecting the marine environment and surfing. Another was the huge victory to save Trestles in San Clemente by stopping a six-lane toll road that would have destroyed the state park and the world-class wave. Chad has also helped lead the development of “surfonomics,” which is the science of understanding the economic value of surfing. Surfonomics is now being applied to coastal preservation efforts around the world. The economic value of healthy coastal ecosystems is an underutilized tool in coastal conservation – something they are changing through our ocean recreation studies.
Outdoor Outreach’s Outdoor Voices Youth Leadership Initiative
Location: San Diego, CA
Synopsis: Outdoor Outreach’s Outdoor Voices Youth Leadership Initative (OVYLI) empowers youth participants to inform decision makers and drive policy to improve outdoor access and strengthen conservation efforts. Monthly advocacy trainings focus on public speaking, understanding policy issues, and developing and delivering compelling messages to best illustrate the barriers underserved communities face to outdoor access. In the past year, highlights of OVYLI including giving recommendations to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to inform the USFWS’ Urban Wildlife Rescue Program, as well as public testimony to California’s Parks Forward Commission.
The Access Fund’s ROCK Project*
Location: Boulder, CO
Synopsis: The ROCK Project, on behalf of the Access Fund, is dedicated to sharing Responsible Outdoor Climbing Knowledge. The ROCK Project builds on the overall mission of the Access fund, seeking to engage the climbing community and activate positive social norms, backed by consistent educational content, messaging, and programming that is specific to regional access issues and environmental concerns. To promote their message, the ROCK Project has launched a multi-stop event tour to US climbing hot spots, where days are filled with climbing clinics, presentations, stewardship projects, and parties. At its core, the ROCK Project asks that climbers commit to the ROCK Project Pact, a pledge to uphold good climbing ethics, protect mountain environments, and ensure continued access to cliffs and crags.
Location: Denver, CO
Synopsis: Snowriders International is an organization of skiers, boarders, and mountain recreation enthusiasts. They are dedicated to the promotion of winter sports and the protection of the environment across the globe through service, education, research, and advocacy. Their grassroots membership reaches across the US and as far away as Kazakhstan. Much of their work focuses on fighting climate change as well getting more sustainable transportation to the slopes like carpooling, bus, and rail. Snowriders International is a unique grassroots organization because they work to bring many diverse grassroots factions together in a powerful and targeted way to educate the public and encourage environmental action and conservation.
Walking Mountains Science Center’s Natural Resource Internship Program for Local High School Students*
Location: Avon, CO
Synopsis: Walking Mountains Science Center is an educational organization offering a variety of programs in the Vail-Eagle Valley: from K-12 field science for all local schools, outdoor field science camps, naturalist guided hikes and snowshoe tours for visitors on Vail Mountain and at the Vail Nature Center, a Sustainable Business training and certification program, Zero Waste events, Energy Smart, and Eco-Schools. In particular, the Natural Resource Internship Program trains young local future conservation leaders, many of whom are Hispanic, to understand the value of natural resource stewardship and conservation of their surrounding White River National Forest and BLM lands and to collect data for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District. At the end of each summer’s internship, the interns make a public presentation to community stakeholders and land management agencies.
Winter Wildlands Association’s SnowSchool*
Location: Boise, ID
Synopsis: The SnowSchool program is a nationally replicable program that aims to inspire a lifelong interest in exploring the wonders of our nation’s winter wildlands. SnowSchool provides experiential hands-on learning through their guided snowshoe trips for youth that align with state department of education science standards. Schoolteachers grades 3-12 become local partners with SnowSchool, and prep their students by incorporating science curriculum that aligns with the SnowSchool mission. Exploring topics like snow water equivalent, water cycle, watershed systems, ecology, and wildlife biology, SnowSchool seeks to promote a lifelong appreciation for local ecosystems, especially winter environments in peril. SnowSchool also provides science education training and mentorship to site staff and new and emerging SnowSchool sites to achieve the most broad reach of their work.
Location: Denver, CO
Synopsis: Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) is a leading statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to motivating and enabling people to become active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. Since 1984, VOC has engaged more than 100,000 people of all ages to get involved in and become inspired to care for Colorado – a total donated labor value of $20 million. VOC’s volunteer program engages thousands of volunteers of all ages, interests, and backgrounds annually through its outdoor stewardship projects across Colorado. These projects range in duration from one to five days and occur anywhere from urban parks and open spaces, to rural grass and prairie lands, to high-altitude meadows and peaks. VOC believes everyone can play a part in caring for Colorado’s treasured resources – through hands-on work in habitat restoration and invasive weed control, trail construction and maintenance, gardening and reforestation, and much more – and VOC’s opportunities make it fun and easy. In 2014, VOC developed its #YourCO Digital Badge Program. Currently, anyone can earn up to 10 digital badges for skills or simple do-it-yourself acts of outdoor stewardship. This summer, VOC will launch a first-of-its-kind mobile application, designed to further enhance and transform the experience of caring for Colorado’s natural resources.. The mobile app and Digital Badge Program will inspire individuals of all ages, but particularly younger populations, to get outside and care for the natural world around them.
Location: Steamboat Springs, CO
Synopsis: Yampatika is a non-profit environmental education organization with the mission to inspire environmental stewardship through education. Their goals revolve around developing environmental learning opportunities that serve children and adults of Northwest Colorado. Yampatika opened the Yampa Valley’s first ever Environmental Center, which provides cutting edge environmental education programs geared toward helping people of all ages learn how to reduce their carbon footprint. Yampatika is also committed to advancing environmental literacy in Colorado, and reaches nearly 15,000 youth and adults each year.
YOUTH LEADERSHIP: This award recognizes an individual under 30 who is making innovative, impactful, and replicable contributions to conservation through human-powered outdoor recreation.
Location: San Diego, CA
Synopsis: Vincent Culliver first joined Outdoor Outreach (OO) as a young student from the Monarch School, a program partner that serves homeless youth. For three years, as an OO participant, he attended as many trips as possible. As a teenager who’d experienced more than his fair share of struggles, he looked up to the instructors on his trips and thrived under the support and guidance he received from them. Since then he has developed a strong connection to the outdoors and to a supportive network of peers and mentors. In 2012, Vincent was offered an opportunity to participate in OO’s Leadership Program, where he would learn to be an instructor and mentor for youth just like him. Today he is a paid assistant instructor and takes pride in his work to connect youth to the transformative power of the outdoors. As a part of OO’s Outdoor Voices Youth Leadership Initiative, Vincent has been working to increase outdoor access for youth from marginalized communities by sharing his experiences with key local, state and national decision makers. Vincent has worked with other OO young leaders to develop recommendations, ranging from improved public transportation to universal outdoor education, to increase outdoor access for diverse urban youth. He has helped present these to legislators across the state through meetings and public comment. In August 2014, Vincent presented specific recommendations to USFWS Director Dan Ashe and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for how to connect more to the outdoors.
Location: Morgantown, WV
Synopsis: Tyrhee is a member of Expedition Denali, the 2013 effort in partnership with the National Outdoor Leadership School to be the first team of African American climbers to climb Denali. Tyrhee has graduated from two NOLS courses, including an Outdoor Educator Course in the Pacific Northwest that included mountaineering in the Cascades. More recently, Tyrhee has been a kayaking instructor at Rendezvous River Sports in Jackson, WY, and has worked at a wilderness camp with the City Kids Wilderness Project, teaching teamwork, leadership, and outdoors skills. Tyrhee is currently attending the University of West Virginia, working toward a bachelor’s degree in visual journalism. He is currently in the top 5 percent of his class.
Location: Turlock, CA
Synopsis: Raquel is a Regional Coordinator for Latino Outdoors in the Central Valley, where she organizes outings for young Latino students to develop an appreciation for their place. Named by High Country News as one of ’Ten People under 30 Changing the West”, Raquel was first a volunteer for the Tuolumne River Trust and other organizations in California’s Central Valley, where she noticed a lack of diversity in her outings. Raquel’s work serves the mission of Latino Outdoors, founded in 2013 to connect Latinos with nature and provide mentorship for young leaders pursuing outdoor-related careers.
Location: Petaluma, CA
Synopsis: Emmett, Dave, Josh and Nick were members of the Casa Grande High School Mountain Bike Team in Petaluma, CA, where they took on a senior project to improve mountain biking trail access in their community. The boys applied for a partnership with IMBA to learn about sustainable building practices and then engaged volunteers in their community as well as local land managers in Sonoma County to team up and improve the trail. The improvement of the trail is another step in advocacy and access for the NorCal Cycling League, which offers competitive mountain biking programs for students in grades 9-12 to compete throughout the year.
BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: This award recognizes an outdoor company, be it retail, guide service, or other business, that leverages outdoor recreation for conservation gains.
Whistler/Blackcomb’s Habitat Improvement Team *
Location: Whistler, BC
Synopsis: HIT was created in 1997 with the central concern of the health of the natural environment around Whistler, BC. The HIT venue gives locals an opportunity to get involved in community projects to ensure the longevity of their land. Their mission is to protect, restore, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the Whistler community. HIT asks for projects from other community environmental groups, as well as projects from independent members of the community. Under the leadership of Arthur DeJong, HIT aims to support the Whistler environmental mission, which aims to inspire guests to factor environmental impacts into their travel choices.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Synopsis: Hipcamp aims to get more people outside by making it easier to discover and book great campsites. They cover all National, State, Regional, and Army Corps Parks in all 50 states. Through an online interface, Hipcamp has made it easy to search for campsites in any location. In addition, Hipcamp is part of the Access Land coalition, a group of 50+ organizations committed to increasing access to public land through open data. By unlocking park data, Access Land aims to empower entrepreneurs of all backgrounds to build unique applications that better connect the public to their land. In turn, by reaching a wider and more diverse demographic, the coalition aims to increase park visitation, boosting revenue and ensuring the future relevance and sustainability of our public land.
Location: San Diego, CA
Synopsis: STOKE (Sustainable Tourism Operator’s Kit for Evaluation) Certified is the world’s first sustainable surf and ski tourism certification program. In conjunction with researchers, managers and owners of surf and ski tourism operations, STOKE has developed a comprehensive set of criteria specific to surf and ski tourism respectively. The criteria and tools that STOKE provides its members help guide these operators towards best practices in sustainability while simultaneously educating surfers, skiers, and snowboards about the significance of sustainability in our culture with unprecedented transparency. Their mission is to empower riders and businesses to create a sustainable culture. By creating the demand for sustainability and responsible recreation from within the riding community, STOKE aims to catalyze and enable operators to implement innovative sustainable practices so their culture will continue to thrive and overcome the environmental, socio-cultural, and economic challenges of the future.
ADVENTURE ATHLETE: This award recognizes an adventure athlete who is also serving as an ambassador for responsible recreation, access, or conservation leadership.
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Synopsis: Stacy is the Director of Sierra Club outdoors and is responsible for the management of volunteer-led outings that support leadership development for staff in all fifty states. In addition, Stacy is a Brand Champion for the North Face, where he has advocated for recreational opportunities for military veterans to help the transition period post-duty. Stacy is a climber who has talked about the role of climbing in helping him tackle the challenge of re-integration following his service. Mission Outdoors trips range from day hikes to ski mountaineering ascents in the Sierra Nevada. These efforts ensure that local communities are connected to the outdoors and to natural wild places available to them.
Location: Jackson, WY
Synopsis: Ryan is an ultra-athlete in the truest sense. Known for his pioneering efforts in Teton efforts like “The Picnic”, “Around the Clock Triathlon” and most recently, “The Perception Traverse”, Ryan continues to push the boundaries of what is thought possible. Better yet, Ryan leverages his story to work with partners of all backgrounds: for much of his career at Teton Adaptive Sports and more recently at Curran-Seeley, an organization for people suffering from addiction that incorporates outdoor recreation, the need for quiet and open spaces, and mindfulness in our natural surroundings.
Location: Driggs, ID
Synopsis: Amanda is the Executive Director of Mountain Bike the Tetons and a former professional mountain biker. Since the conclusion of her career, she has focused her efforts into Mountain Bike the Tetons, serving both sides of the Teton Range. As she says, “Our mission is pretty simple and straightforward. We want to grow the sport, we want to improve the sport, we want to improve the trails we have, and we want to build new ones. That’s all related to really wanting to work to give the Teton region the recognition it deserves as a phenomenal place to come ride your bike. We really want to see the Tetons become a destination location for mountain biking. That growth and that attention is going to come from a lot of avenues. In our work, we’re focused on maintaining the trails we have, building new ones, really doing our best to piece together missing links in the valley on both sides, and growing the sport by starting high school mountain biking teams, getting lots of group rides started, kids mountain bike camps going, things like that. It really is about trying to corral and unify the mountain bikers on both sides of the Tetons.”
Location: Tahoe City, CA
Synopsis, from his nomination: “Rich is one of those rare guides who brings the whole package: total competence and backcountry skill set combined with a super encouraging and grounded attitude toward helping clients achieve their personal best. But more than that, he knows the importance of giving back to the outdoor community and of taking care of the places we play. Rich serves as both an official Ambassador and a board member for Winter Wildlands Alliance, a national nonprofit organization working to protect and promote backcountry winter landscapes and a quality human-powered snowsports experience. In his work as an Ambassador, Rich is boundless in his enthusiasm for all things backcountry and always insightful in his outreach to the broader community. In his role as a board member, Rich is incredibly generous with his time, resources and expertise in protecting our winter backcountry. Most recently he is involved in founding a new local group, the Lake Tahoe Backcountry Alliance, which is working to protect winter landscapes that Rich calls his home ground.”
PUBLIC LAND MANAGEMENT INNOVATION: This award recognizes an initiative or program of a local, state, or federal agency (e.g., local open space and trails, state parks, BLM, Forest Service, National Park Service, etc.).
Mike Schlafmann, Public Services Staff Officer, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest*
Location: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, WA
Synopsis: Mike oversees wilderness, recreation, outfitting, and guiding programs in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. He has a deep passion for engaging people directly in the management of open space and wild lands. Mike is currently working with NGO partners and local governments on expanding transit opportunities and connections between urban Seattle and adjacent state and federal lands. He’s also working with a dozen partner organizations on directly engaging the public in the establishment of priorities for future road maintenance and access management across 2300 miles of roads. Mike is a key team member in the Forest Service’s efforts to define a regional framework for sustainable recreation across the Pacific Northwest. Recently, Mike’s team on the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie was asked to form a national pilot for new approaches to engaging the public in managing resource and social capacity on the National Forests while streamlining the permit process for outfitters, guides and youth-oriented organizations. They were chosen because they have shown both a willingness to challenge some of the assumptions upon which the permitting system is based, and a recognition of the essential role that guided recreation will play in connecting more people – particularly underserved urban communities — with America’s treasured public lands. Mike’s commitment is helping to catalyze cultural change within the Forest Service, and pushing recreation to the top of the agency’s priority list.
Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Voluntary Flow Management Program*
Location: Pueblo, CO
Synopsis: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District has played a major role in leading the Voluntary Flow Management Program (VFMP), started in 1994 to sustain adequate recreation flows during the summer months while maintaining suitable year-round flows to support the health of the river’s fishery. The VFMP has been seen as a huge factor in creating economic vitality in the upper Arkansas River valley as well as maintaining the health of the fishery and natural environment. The VFMP initiative has also enabled the Arkansas River within the AHRA to become the most commercially rafted river in the United States, while at the same time improving the Arkansas River fishery so much so that it is now recognized as one of the best trout fisheries in the State of Colorado and was bestowed “Gold Medal Waters” status by CPW in 2014. The Arkansas River VFMP stands as an example of the success of partnerships working together in the past and in the present for the good of our natural resources, and to support recreation, outdoor access and water conservation. The VFMP has become a model renowned to water managers throughout the country.
Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources’ WY Outside*
Location: Casper, WY
Synopsis: In 2008, the Wyoming Recreation Action Team (REACT) established a WY Outside subcommittee. WY Outside was tasked with addressing a growing disconnect between children and the natural world by defining the situation and identifying issues, obstacles, and opportunities for groups to work together. Officially organized in 2013 under the guidance of Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, WY Outside is an unincorporated affiliation of nonprofits and state and federal agencies working to encourage youth and families in Wyoming to spend more time outdoors. The mission of WY Outside is to foster the mind, body and spirit of youth and families by inspiring a long-term appreciation for the Wyoming outdoors through education, experience and adventure. Our vision is for all Wyoming youth and families to live an active lifestyle through experiences leading to understanding, valuing and caring for the outdoors.