On Winning a SHIFT Award

On Friday night, Powderhook was awarded the 2017 SHIFT Award for Technology. It’s exciting to be recognized, and knowing what our team has gone through to deliver said technology, I think this award is something to be proud of.

SHIFT is a festival (conference) filled with conservation-minded thinkers and doers. While attending, I learned a lot, and I thought I’d use this opportunity to share some of the more prescient tidbits with you.

  1. The outdoor industry has what appears to be two completely separate “sides.” To put it bluntly, there seems to be the politically progressive version of conservation, led by brands like Patagonia and organizations like the Sierra Club, and the politically conservative version of conservation, led by brands like Bass Pro Shops and organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation. If my observation is true, I can’t even begin to describe to you how big of a waste this is. The SHIFT Festival was dominated by progressive-leaning people and organizations. That they chose Powderhook as an honoree tells me there is at least some appetite to work together more closely.

    The author participates in a panel discussing growing hunting among urban-dwelling participants.
  2. The two sides use almost the same language and want many of the same things. Common ground topics include our love of public land, our desire for healthy ecosystems, our need for clean air and water, and our enjoyment of and desire to conserve wild places for wild animals. Political hot-button topics such as climate change, global warming, herd management (population control), and guns rights divide us in avoidable ways. Can’t we stop focusing on these big political issues and start talking more about the stuff we can individually do something about? Conservation’s message is most compelling when it affects the places people recreate. Let’s start bridging the gap by focusing on local parks, green spaces, access programs, habitat projects, and experience-driven events.
  3. Progressive-leaning conservationists need to consider helping create an excise tax on the gear they use, like the conservative-leaning organizations helped create in the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts. They need to find ways to fund local work without having to win ballot initiatives, and without relying on massive donors. And, they need to consider hunting and fishing access foundational to their view of a successful conservation project.
  4. Conservative-leaning conservation groups need to learn from progressive-leaning groups in how they include new people and ideas, value change, attract stakeholders in urban areas, and strategically diversify their constituencies. And, boy, could we learn how to tell our story from these groups. The new economy is about gaining and keeping people’s attention – to do that we need to connect with people on a more emotional, less “science-and-numbers-driven” story arc.
Former National Parks Director, Jon Jarvis, presenting his keynote “A Unified Vision for Conservation” at the SHIFT Festival in Jackson Hole, Wy.

The above slide was taken from a SHIFT keynote given by Jon Jarvis, former Director of the National Park Service. His presentation was entitled, “A Unified Vision for Conservation.” Mr. Jarvis has started an institute to teach his vision at the University of California at Berkeley. Do you notice what’s missing? I did, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Organizations and professionals from the fish and wildlife community, along with recreational users (hunters/anglers/hikers/climbers/campers, etc.) have a massive influence on conservation, yet they were nowhere to be found in this presentation. He called their absence, “an oversight.” Maybe that’s what it was, but this slide clearly says to me that conservative-leaning conservation organizations badly need to exit their echo chamber and get busy building bridges.

Photo credits: Powderhook

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