028: John Sterling- A lifetime of working to protect our wild places and spaces

August 29, 2017

Show Notes

Conservation Alliance Executive Director John Sterling tells about how he got his start in the outdoors, the great work done at the Conservation Alliance and how you can help support our public lands.

First Exposure to the Outdoors

I grew up in Portland Oregon and my parents were pretty active skiers and backpackers. I was one of three kids and we spent a lot of time in a winter up at Mount Bachelor. Then in the summers we would go backpacking mostly in the Central Oregon Cascades and as I got a little older my dad loved to fly fish so he took me out fly-fishing a lot and we did that together.

Things we talked about

The Conservation Alliance– I've been involved with the Alliance going back to 1996. The conservation alliance was co-founded by Patagonia North Face REI and Kelty. Those four companies came together around a shared belief that the outdoor industry needed to do more collectively to ensure that wild places are protected for both recreation and habitat. Those companies came up with a very simple model that we're still using today through which companies in the industry pay annual dues into a central fund and then twice a year we give away whatever is in that fund to local to regional organizations working to secure permanent protection for specific places.  Any organization that has a credible campaign to secure new wilderness protection or National Monument designations. Wild and Scenic River protection or land acquisition . . . anything that's that's basically permanent protection for a specific place that has recreation outside that's our sweet spot.

Earth Island Institute

David Brower

Advice, tips

well whether they know it or not I think brands and retailers and individuals in the outdoor industry are super lucky to have a lot of meaningful opportunity to get more involved whether it's through financially through the conservation alliance or you know we have a great trade association the Outdoor Industry Association that is doing more to get people involved in advocating they have a great team in Washington DC that keeps an eye on bills good and bad all the time so it's you know I think a lot depends on where were you based what are the issues in your local area I usually tell people first and foremost you need to get plugged in locally because the old saying about all politics is local it really is true and pretty much every community at least in the western United States and and elsewhere every community within spitting distance of public lands has a good public lands organization and I encourage people to get involved with those groups find out what you know what's going on in those lands and give their time give their money.

Businesses have have a unique opportunity right now. Our industry is finally being recognized as an economic driver in the country and thanks to the OIA study about the REC economy that's gotten recognition. Now they realize that holy cow there is some revenue being generated and jobs are being created. It's not just a bunch of tree huggers out there ya know it's real deal. These businesses have opportunities to work with a group like the Conservation Alliance. If you want to be a part of securing new protection for lands you have a very easy way to do that and the value proposition with us is you pay dues into our fund it joins the dues of 210 other companies and we're giving away almost two million dollars a year to groups working every day to protect land and we don't take a nickel of that to support our operation we raise all that separately that's so so people and brands can both contribute in that way.

I think the most important thing is first plug in locally, that's what we're going to be encouraging our members to do on the local level. Make sure their members of Congress understand how important public lands are to their business.

Other Outdoor Activities

I do a lot of trail running and and mountain biking and and road cycling but in the winter I'm still still up in the mountains skiing.

Favorite Books

The River Why by David James Duncan

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee

Best Gear Purchase under $100

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Dynafit Guide Leash

Connect with 



Conservation Alliance website


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