Outdoor News April 13, 2018 - Explore! Outdoor News April 13, 2018 - Explore!

Outdoor News April 13, 2018

REI Promotes Sustainability

To elevate sustainability across the outdoor and retail industries, REI Co-op debuted product sustainability standards on Monday that apply to each of the more than 1,000 brands sold at the co-op. REI’s standards will make it easier for millions of outdoor enthusiasts to choose more sustainable products. 

REI LogoFor 80 years REI has been a trusted outdoor brand, offering quality gear selected by knowledgeable, passionate staff. With the formalization of these standards, the co-op is making a promise to its customers that gear purchased at REI will not only perform, but supports better ways of doing business – to shape the future of a life outdoors.

“One of the most exciting things we’ve done in the past year was done completely behind the scenes,” says REI CEO Jerry Stritzke. “We’re collaborating with partners across industries to advance sustainable business practices, and as a result are completely changing the conversation around sustainability for the U.S. outdoor industry.”

The REI Product Sustainability Standards outline the co-op’s expectations for how brands manage key environmental, social and animal welfare impacts, building on work that REI has done over many years to advance sustainability within its own brands. The standards were shaped by input from dozens of partner brands of various sizes and product categories, and were informed by years of participation in the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group and other key sustainability forums.This input helped to ensure the standards are feasible, address the most relevant topics and reflect best practices.

“This effort to advance sustainability across an entire vendor base is among the most comprehensive in the U.S. retail industry,” says Adam Siegel, senior vice president of research, innovation and sustainability for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “By going so broad with requirements for their suppliers and approaching this with such a spirit of collaboration, REI has not only moved their own operations forward, but they’ve raised the bar for the entire industry.”

The standards, as well as resources designed to help brands deepen their own sustainability efforts, will be made available to any retailer that wishes to use them. Alongside the standards, REI is debuting a list of preferred sustainability attributes, highlighting brands and products that are manufactured according to social and sustainability best practices.

Visitors to REI.com can now shop by sustainability attribute, by searching for terms like “organic cotton” to find clothing made with resource-conserving farming practices, or “fair trade,” which promotes safe, healthy working conditions and sustainable livelihoods as products are created and sold. Learn more about REI’s preferred sustainability attributes on the Co-op Journal.

REI also published its 2017 Stewardship Report, highlighting 80 years of doing business differently on behalf of members and the outdoors. In its 80th year, the co-op turned record sales into record impact, reinvesting nearly 70 percent of profits into outdoor communities and advocating for public lands and gender equality.

Protecting Western Rivers

The Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization, says that the health of rivers in the American West is bordering on a crisis and is offering a plan to protect and restore waterways.

The new report is a follow-up to the analysis earlier this year from CAP and Conservation Science Partners, which found that nearly half—49 percent—of all river miles in the West have been damaged by human development. That study showed how rivers in 11 Western states have been harmed by dams, abandoned mines, development in flood plains, irrigation, and other activities.

Colorado RiverDamage to rivers has led to a decline in species, such as salmon, and left communities vulnerable to drought. As the West continues to grow, the declining condition of its rivers threatens the communities that rely on dependable water and healthy ecosystems to power agriculture, forestry, and the booming outdoor recreation economy.

Communities, businesses, and government agencies across the West have started taking steps to address these problems. However, many tools to protect or restore Western rivers are underused, and investments in restoration and management improvements are too rarely adopted.

CAP recommends the following approaches to protect these critical waters:

  • Guarantee permanent protection for half of the remaining large, natural rivers in the West that run through unprotected lands, including through additional Wild & Scenic River designations.
  • Conserve and restore headwaters by reforming mining laws and attracting investment from utilities and private firms to expand watershed restoration.
  • Rethink river infrastructure, such as dams and levees, to restore the natural flow of rivers and improve the health of flood plains.
  • Collaborate to improve the health of entire watersheds by reducing demand for water from landowners and cities, as well as supporting private lands conservation efforts that improve river health.

“Fifty years ago, Congress sought to restore balance on our nation’s waterways through the visionary Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” said Ryan Richards, author of the report and a senior policy analyst for public lands at CAP. “This anniversary should serve as an opportunity to acknowledge the declining health of many rivers in the West, and to energize local, state, and federal efforts to protect and restore these critical places.  Through policy shifts and thoughtful investments in rivers, western communities can have more secure water supplies and protect their natural heritage.”

The report is titled: “Restoring Balance: Healthier Rivers and Secure Water Supplies in the American West.” 

Yosemite National Park Reopens

Yosemite Valley opened to all vehicles and visitors on Sunday. Yosemite Valley had been closed to the public since Friday due to anticipated impacts to roads and infrastructure from high water. Water levels in the Merced River crested at 13.73 feet at Pohono Bridge, which is approximately 4 feet over flood stage. Park roads were 2 to 4 feet underwater Saturday afternoon through late Saturday night.

YosemiteWater on the roads has receded as of early Sunday morning. Park crews cleared water, rocks, and debris from roads. Yosemite National Park will continue to assess the impact and potential damage to infrastructure due to storm activity. Visitors to Yosemite Valley should expect delays on roads as Park Staff continue to clean up from the storm. Motorists are advised to drive with caution in work zones.

Visitor services, lodging, and food service operations in Yosemite Valley also reopened Sunday. Some services may be closed or delayed due to flooding impacts.

For current information on YARTS bus service and schedule, visit www.yarts.com.

For updated 24-hour road and weather conditions for Yosemite National Park, please call 209-372-0200, press 1 and press 1 again. Updated information is also available on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/yose

Oil and Gas in the Ruby Mountains

ELKO COUNTY, Nev. (April 12, 2018) — The Ruby Mountains in northeast Nevada are known for hiking trails to 11,000-foot peaks and alpine lakes. The U.S. Forest Service is considering making 54,000 acres of land in the mountain range available to lease for oil and gas development, but a coalition of almost a dozen conservation groups has said opening the Ruby Mountains to energy companies would threaten wildlife and encroach on a popular area for outdoor recreation.

"It's one of the prettiest areas in the state: big glaciated valleys, beautiful streams, a lot of wildlife,” said Shaaron Netherton, executive director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness. “If there's one area that's totally unsuited for oil and gas development, it's the Ruby Mountains."

Ruby Mountains Panorama

Ruby Mountains from Lamoille Summit, Nevada along Nevada State Route 227
By Famartin [CC BY-SA 3.0]

The area being considered for potential leasing falls outside protected wilderness areas. The Forest Service has done some environmental analysis and said further, more detailed analysis would be done before any potential lessee could begin digging.

In fall 2017, the Forest Service took public comments on the proposed lease area, but the comment period reopened this week because of high public interest. While oil and gas drilling could potentially bring money to the state, Netherton said the economic benefits of a robust outdoor recreation industry should be taken into consideration, too. 

"There's heli-skiing, there's guides and outfitters, there's bed-and-breakfasts, there's all kinds of folks who utilize the Ruby Mountains for economic benefits to the community,” she said.

The Forest Service has said it's considering making the area available to lease because a member of the public submitted a letter of interest to the Bureau of Land Management. The Forest Service will take public comments until April 23. 

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service – NV

2018 Farm Bill Introduced

Yesterday, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee introduced the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, more commonly known as the Farm Bill. It includes a conservation title that funds voluntary, incentive-based sustainability programs for America’s farmers that strengthen agricultural and working lands. This title is the largest federal funding source for conservation on private lands.

“We’re pleased to see robust funding in the Farm Bill’s conservation title, but we see real challenges in some proposals to undercut environmental reviews in the forestry title,” said Lynn Scarlett, co-chief external affairs officer at The Nature Conservancy. 

Melinda Cep, senior director for policy, food and markets at the World Wildlife Fund said, "Previous Farm Bill funding has helped USDA’s conservation programs engage ranchers and farmers to produce food, fiber, and fuel while keeping grasslands intact. Farm Bill investments in programs like these can bolster environmental, social, and economic benefits and should continue to be readily accessible to producers. The bottom line is that this bill must promote successful conservation efforts, not undermine them."

The Forestry title would, as summarized by the National Association of State Foresters,

  • Codify and fund a community wood-to-energy program, providing support for local renewable energy efforts and the expansion of forest product markets.   
  • Fuel TreatmentFocus the USDA Forest Service's research on expanding markets for wood products, helping forestland owners maintain ownership and active management of their land.
  • Streamline the environmental analysis required for projects on federal forests at high risk of wildfire, protecting state and private forestland from wildfires started on federal lands and vice versa.
  • Encourage cross-boundary fuels reduction projects, helping curb the damage caused by wildfires nationwide.
  • Simplify the requirements the Forest Service must meet for Endangered Species Act consultation, ensuring species of concern are protected but unneeded delays are avoided.
  • Expand Good Neighbor Authority, allowing for more and much-needed forest management projects to take place on federal forests.

“Although several provisions would advance state and private forestry, too many proposals in the forestry title would undermine the framework of our nation’s federal forest management laws,” said Scarlett. “The effort to reduce the popular Forest Legacy program by capping its funding at almost half of current levels is particularly shortsighted. We also strongly oppose provisions that would undercut fundamental environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.”

“All Americans need a Farm Bill—we all need healthy food, clean water, strong communities and a robust economy,” concluded Scarlett. “There is a lot of work to do before the Farm Bill expires. Lawmakers have a responsibility to work together to pass a Farm Bill with strong conservation and forestry provisions.”

Markup of the bill is scheduled for Wednesday, April 18 at 10 AM.  Get the details at House Committee Repository.  For more background information see agriculture.house.gov/farmbill/.

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Video of the Week

There is no better way to get up close and personal with the rivers of the Western United States than in a raft.  This week's video features a trip down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.  Enjoy!

This newsletter is compiled by Jerry Haugen and brought to you by
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