The Conservation Alliance's 2022 Advocacy Priority Campaigns

The Conservation Alliance's 2022 Advocacy Priority Campaigns

The Conservation Alliance represents a coalition of businesses that fund and advocate for the protection of North America’s wild places. Through our work, we consolidate and redistribute power in the form of financial grants and political influence to grassroots environmental organizations working to permanently protect the outdoor spaces we love.

Boundary Waters

This year, we are investing additional advocacy resources in four priority campaigns – to protect the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, Bristol Bay in Alaska, Castner Range, and the Dolores River in Colorado,  in Texas.

Each campaign addresses settling competing demands for natural resources, adapting to a changing climate, recognizing the rights of indigenous communities, and protecting habitat in places that are also valued for human recreation.

For our Advocacy Priority Campaigns, the Conservation Alliance works in collaboration with our grantees to identify land and water conservation legislation that is urgent, vital, and needs national attention.

This year, we’re proud to work with members of our inaugural Confluence Program as well as members of our flagship multi-year grant program to secure permanent protection of these under-threat natural spaces.

Boundary Waters, Minnesota Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota is the most visited wilderness area in the United States and is part of a 4.3-million-acre system of parks and wild public lands that stretches across the Canadian border. Each year thousands of people go to the Boundary Waters to camp, fish, paddle, dogsled, hunt, and hike.

This healthy Wilderness supports 4,500 direct jobs and a $16 billion economy. The Boundary Waters is also within the 1854 Treaty Area where the Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, and Grand Portage Bands of Chippewa maintain hunting, fishing, and gathering rights.

And the region is critical habitat for Canada Lynx, Loons, wolves, moose, and a variety of bats, fish and birds. However, the Boundary Waters is threatened with proposals for sulfide-ore copper mining on neighboring land, which would cause irreversible harm to water quality, wildlife, public health, and the sustainable outdoor recreation-based economy.

Boundary Waters

On January 26, 2022, the Biden administration announced it had canceled the two mining leases for a proposed sulfide-ore copper mine right next to the Boundary Waters. While this move addressed the immediate mining threat, a permanent protection is still not finalized.

The Conservation Alliance will be joining groups advocating for permanent protection for the Boundary Waters through:

  • Finalizing a proposed federal 20-year ban on copper mining in this watershed, and
  • Passing permanent protection bills in Congress and the Minnesota legislature.

Meet The Conservation Alliance's partner: The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is led by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and was organized by local residents in and around Ely, Minnesota. The Conservation Alliance has been a proud supporter of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness since 2015. 

Dolores River, Colorado

Dolores River, Colorado

The Dolores River begins high in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado and flows 230 miles until it joins the Colorado River in Utah’s red rock desert near Moab.

Humans have lived in the Dolores River region for more than 10,000 years, as evidenced by incredible cultural sites in some of the steep, sandstone canyons. Water is sacred to many Indigenous peoples, including the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, whose members depend on water from the Dolores River for farming and milling enterprises.

McPhee Dam and Reservoir were built in the 1980’s to support the growing agricultural communities in the region, and to provide much-needed water for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Towaoc.

Dolores River, Colorado

However, a changing climate and prolonged drought means that for decades the reservoir has not had enough water to meet the needs of agriculture, community drinking water, recreation and habitat for native wildlife.

The lack of water has been challenging for the agricultural producers as well as the 170 river miles below McPhee Reservoir that have been subject to chronic low flows, threatening the ecological integrity and recreational values of the lower Dolores River.

In 2021, the McPhee Reservoir received about 25% of the overall water needed from the Dolores River to meet the demands of all users. Irrigators had their water allocations cut in half, and most other users, the river below McPhee Dam included, received less than 10% of their usual allocation – confirming it as the worst year for flows in the reservoir’s history. 

Dolores River, Colorado

A National Conservation Area is a protection tool that has been discussed for many years for the Dolores River below McPhee Reservoir, and last fall Senator Bennet released draft legislation for a portion of the river corridor.

While it can’t solve all the complicated issues around flows, the legislation would protect many important values while complimenting other ongoing work.

Specifically, if passed, the legislation would create a new requirement for the Bureau of Reclamation to work with stakeholders on management of flows below the reservoir to benefit native fish and recreation within the sideboards of existing water law and allocation.

Dolores River, Colorado

The Conservation Alliance will be joining groups advocating for protection of the lower Dolores River through:

  • A bill to designate a 75,000-acre National Conservation Area spanning from the base of McPhee Reservoir to the San Miguel/Montrose County line, which includes more than 70 miles of the Dolores River, establishes the Ponderosa Gorge Roadless Area, and protects special river values.

Meet The Conservation Alliance's partner: Dolores River Boating Advocates promote responsible recreational use and balanced flow management of the Dolores River, while working to protect the watershed for the health of the natural environment and the livelihood of future generations. The Conservation Alliance has been a proud supporter of Dolores River Boating Advocates since 2020.  

Bristol Bay, Alaska

Bristol Bay, Alaska

Bristol Bay, located in Southwestern Alaska, is home to one of the world’s last great wild salmon ecosystems. Salmon play a central role in the cultural and spiritual identity of the Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq peoples who have lived in the region for millennia, and are critical to their way of life.

Home to the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon run, Bristol Bay provides over 15,000 jobs and generates $2.2 billion annually from the commercial fishery that feeds Americans from coast to coast. The region is also home to 24 other species of fish, 200 kinds of birds, an incredible brown bear population, and dozens of other mammals.

Each year tens of thousands of anglers and visitors from around the world are drawn to its extraordinary beauty and abundance.

Bristol Bay, Alaska

However, the proposed Pebble Mine would produce billions of tons of contaminated waste, which could destroy the region’s salmon habitat and permanently impact the many communities and industries that depend on it.

In November, 2020, the Army Corps denied an important federal permit for the Pebble Mine. And in October, 2021 the courts cleared the way for the Environmental Protection Agency to again consider taking action using section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to veto the Pebble Mine.

Bristol Bay, Alaska sunset

The Conservation Alliance will be joining groups advocating for permanent protection of Bristol Bay through:

  • EPA finalizing its action under the Clean Water Act and veto the Pebble Mine, and
  • Passing bills in Congress and the Alaska legislature to permanently ensure that mining projects that would harm Bristol Bay salmon, rivers and lakes can never be built. 

Meet The Conservation Alliance's partner: The United Tribes of Bristol Bay is a Tribal consortium of 15 federally recognized Tribes in Bristol Bay, representing over 80 percent of the region’s population. The Conservation Alliance has been a proud supporter of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay since 2021.

Castner Range, Texas

Castner Range, Texas

Castner Range is a mountainous 7,000 acres located between city neighborhoods and Franklin Mountains State Park in the majority Latinx community of El Paso, Texas. Renowned for its annual display of blooming Mexican Yellow Poppies, Castner Range has exceptional cultural, ecological, and historical values.

The area is currently managed by the Department of Defense as part of Fort Bliss, which has been in operation since 1854.

Although not actively used by the military since 1971, Castner Range remains undeveloped despite decades of population growth and land urbanization around El Paso.

Castner Range, Texas

For many years, the community has sought to protect the area to better access and enjoy the beautiful space. Protecting Castner Range will bring greater balance between the developed areas and natural landscape in one of the nation’s lowest per-capita household income urban areas.

In April, 2021, Representative Veronica Escobar introduced the Castner Range National Monument Act, which would ensure greater public access to public lands in El Paso and conserve its natural features, Indigenous and historical significance, and wildlife habitats from development. 

Castner Range, Texas

And in March, 2022, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited El Paso to hear from the community about the importance of protecting Castner Range. The Conservation Alliance will be joining groups advocating for permanent protection of Castner Range through:

  • Designating a National Monument to protect the Castner Range by passing legislation in Congress or through administrative action via the Antiquities Act.

The Conservation Alliance's partners, Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, has a people-focused mission to ensure that Frontera (border) communities have access to the outdoors—and that their history, values and people are reflected in public lands management.

The Conservation Alliance has been a proud supporter of Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project since 2021. The Alliance is also supporting ​​Monumental SHIFT with multi-year funding for two National Monument endorsement campaigns: Avi Kaw Ame, or Spirit Mountain, in Nevada and Castner Range in Texas.

Monumental SHIFT Coalition is a collaborative network of racially and ethnically diverse leaders working together to shift the traditional conservation movement to better represent and honor lands and places sacred to its communities.

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