The Cleanest Line

Weblog for the employees, friends and customers of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Visit Patagonia.com to see what we do.

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    Floating Through Nowhere

    By Jim Little

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    Most people have never heard of the Owyhee Canyonlands, let alone pulled over to visit. On a map of Oregon, it’s that mostly blank expanse in the southeastern corner of the state near the Idaho/Nevada border—a place most would call nowhere.

    Rome, Burns and Jordan Valley are the nearest towns of any note. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge—site of a recent 41-day showdown between a group of armed, anti-federalist “occupiers” and the federal government—is the most recognizable nearby landmark for those who follow the news.

    Above: The Owyhee River flows 346 miles from northeastern Nevada before dumping into the Snake River on the Oregon/Idaho border. Photo: Jim Little

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    Inspired by Nature – The 2013 Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference

    By Jim Little

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    They flew in from rural Alaska, from Albuquerque, South Boston and Traverse City, Michigan, where they work to stop dams, preserve native forest, create urban farms and develop regional water-management plans. Coming together at Fallen Leaf Lake (near Lake Tahoe, Calif.), Sept. 11-15, for Patagonia’s Tools for Grassroots Activists conference, some 74 environmental activists from distant corners of the country and everywhere in between took a break from their often solitary, usually underpaid nonprofit existences to try to become more effective advocates for the natural world.

    The Tools conference is a skills training organized by Patagonia’s environmental department and led this year by 15 experts from government, communications, fundraising and environmental nonprofits. Patagonia convenes the gathering every two years with the help of staff at Stanford Sierra Camp. This was our 13th Tools conference, and going by participants’ comments, among the best.

    [Spelling it out. Environmental activists, Patagonia employees and conference presenters pose for a pic that, in case you can't quite make it out, spells "TOOLS." Photo: Mikey Schaefer]

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    Wooly in Patagonia

    by Jim Little, Patagonia Creative Services

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    We have some great benefits at Patagonia. But none is better than the opportunity to volunteer with environmental groups through our internship program. During my 15 years working as an editor here at our headquarters in Ventura, I’ve gotten to follow wild buffalo in West Yellowstone, see the effects of industrial forestry in Chile, learn about the sagebrush environment in northern Nevada, and most recently, spend two weeks in Patagonia, Argentina, working with The Nature Conservancy on its grasslands project.

    Sheep ranching is the most prevalent land use in the Patagonia region, which is three times the size of California and mostly privately owned. Overgrazing is turning its grasslands into desert. To reverse the degradation, preserve biodiverstiy and freshwater resources, Patagonia has partnered with The Nature Conservancy and Ovis XXI, an Argentine company that manages and develops a network of wool producers.

    [Above: A gaucho and his border collie head to their flock.]

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    Stew-Pot Protest at Patagonia Headquarters for a Patagonia Without Dams - Take Action Today [Updated]

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    We came armed with double boilers, frying pans and casserole pots. Banging on cookware in noisy opposition to the proposed construction of five mega-dams in Chile’s wild Aysén region, about 500 employees from Patagonia’s worldwide operations joined the wave of worldwide protests against the proposed industrialization of a wild and irreplaceable landscape. Many of our employees were in Ventura for our bi-annual sales meeting: Nacho from our store in Santiago, Chile; Taka from Patagonia Japan; Raul from Patagonia Buenos Aires. Company officials organized the impromptu gathering because of Patagonia’s long abiding connection to the area that is its namesake. 

    [May 19, 2011, Patagonia Headquarters, Ventura, California. In Chile and other Spanish-speaking countries they call it a cacerolazo – a stew-pot protest. Watch the video version after the jump. Photo: Tim Davis]

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    Anniversary of the BP Gulf Spill 7 Weeks, 7 Communities, 70 Employees

    IMG_5631 Patagonia hadn't budgeted for the  disaster of last year's Gulf oil spill (The Deepwater Horizon well blew up on April 20, 2010), but circumstances there were dire, so our CEO tapped Patagonia vice presidents to look for discretionary money.

    The VPs came up with $300,000 above and beyond our budgeted environmental giving. Two-thirds of it went to emergency funding that was divided among the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Skytruth among others. The other third paid for seven groups of 10 Patagonia employee volunteers to spend a week in the Gulf working in seven different communities.

    The first group of employees arrived in Louisiana amid a July 2010 swelter to work with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Six more groups followed over the next two months.

    The Bucket Brigade wanted to document impacts from the spill because of a lesson learned in Alaska, after the Exxon Valdez tarred Prince William Sound with 10.8 million gallons of oil. Lacking really detailed information about the impacts of that disaster, it had been harder to recover damages from the oil giant for affected residents and resources.

    Our employees walked door-to-door in communities across southeastern Louisiana’s coastal parishes surveying residents about the public health, cultural and financial impacts they’d felt from the spill.

    [Above - Jackie Hickman from our Reno, Nevada, distribution center, knocking on doors in Dulac, LA. Photo: Jim Little]

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    Looking for Steelies

    1Taking the plunge.Stoecker 2 Taking the plunge (albeit it a shallow one) into the Ventura River in the spirit of Our Common Waters, Patagonia’s new environmental campaign, Patagonia editor Jim Little and a couple of friends spent the afternoon snorkeling for endangered southern steelhead trout. Along the way they sneak up on a few fish and discuss why the once plentiful animal is having such a rough go of it.

    The plan was to take a couple hours out of the workday to grab lunch at a taqueria and go snorkel the Ventura River looking for southern steelhead trout. It was late January, with 80-degree temps, light offshore winds and knowledgeable comrades: fish biologist Matt Stoecker and Ventura watershed watchdog Paul Jenkin.

    2peirano brothers Burritos (and fish tacos) in bellies, snorkel and camera gear in hand, we hit three pools looking hard for a now-scarce fish that once flashed the river in the thousands. When the steelhead ran back in the 1920s, Ventura’s public schools closed so kids could go fishing. But 90 years later, as we dragged ourselves through mossy waters trying not to swallow a single drop for fear of some gut-bending bug, I learned why the endangered southern steelhead are now so few.

    [Above - Into the river in search of steelhead. Photo: Matt Stoecker. Left - Back in the Good Old Days, the Peirano Brothers and others pulled lots of steelhead out of the Ventura River, 1920s.]

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    53 and Growing - Announcing the Opening of Our Latest Patagonia Stores

    1grand opening honolulu “Opening a store is like a marriage: you want it to be forever and you want everyone to be happy,” says Robert Cohen, Patagonia’s VP of global retail.

    With the August opening of Patagonia Honolulu, and the December opening of Toronto and a second store in Santiago, Chile, we’ve tied the knot three times this year and are now up to 53 Patagonia-owned stores worldwide. It’s a veritable Big Love! (There also are a slew of single-brand Patagonia stores owned by Patagonia dealers everywhere from Antwerp to Burleigh Heads.) Three more Patagonia-owned stores are in the works this year in Kichijoji and Chiba, Japan, and San Sebastian, Spain.

    “It’s unreal the way our store count is growing” Cohen said. “We realize there’s a limit to our growth. But 53 stores around the world isn’t that many. The number of places we aren’t is enormous.”

    [The grand opening of our Honolulu store on December 12 was a Who's Who of the surf side of the company. There was food, live music and a silent auction benefiting our environmental partners on the islands. Photo: Morgan Maassen]

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    Enriching the Rivers

    Patagonia’s environmental internship program is sending about 20 employees into the field this year to volunteer with nonprofit environmental groups around the world. The company pays employee salaries and benefits for up to a month while they work in D.C., Kenya, Kauai and other locales. Ari Zolonz, an employee in our Portland, Oregon store, spent the month of October working with the Native Fish Society. Here’s his account:

    6Driftcreek_4 Enriching the Rivers

    When trout season is in full swing and the truck is in some kind of working order, forget about finding me anywhere near concrete. I’m gone every day I’m not working in Patagonia’s Portland store.

    As an angler concerned with the declining state of nature, I support various environmental groups with a small amount of cash. So when the opportunity arose through Patagonia’s environmental internship program to volunteer with one of my favorite groups, the Native Fish Society, I jumped on it.

    Based in Oregon City, Oregon, the Native Fish Society is devoted to the conservation, preservation and restoration of wild native fish in the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. They work with federal and state agencies to improve fish-management policies, and encourage the public to get involved with issues affecting their waterways and the fish that inhabit them.

    [Home to native steelhead and salmon, Drift Creek is a coastal run. Ari found this one to be much healthier than other streams he visited that flowed through intensively logged landscapes. Photo: Ari Zolonz]

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    Adrift in the Sage Brush Sea

    Patagonia’s environmental internship program is sending about 20 employees into the field this year to volunteer with nonprofit environmental groups around the world. The company pays employee salaries and benefits for up to a month while they work in D.C., Kenya, Kauai and other locales. Jim Little, an editor in our marketing department, recently spent eight days in the great outdoors with members of the Nevada Wilderness Project (NWP). Here’s his account.

    IMG_7449 Adrift in the Sagebrush Sea

    Loaded to the gunwales with tents and sleeping bags, ice chests stuffed with food and hoppy beverage, in early October we drove north from Reno in a rented Tahoe to spend a week adrift in the Sagebrush Sea. I was tagging along to experience and write about a 4-million acre landscape the Nevada Wilderness Project, Oregon Natural Desert Association and other groups want to connect and protect as a Sage Grouse Conservation Area for the benefit of the threatened game bird and some 30 other sage brush-dependent wildlife.

    As you might imagine, rigorous field study entails great sacrifice: hiking soaring escarpments, witnessing herds of swift-hoofed pronghorn, soaking in soothing thermal pools and taking to the air in a private plane arranged by LightHawk for a two-hour over-flight. It also meant hanging out with bright, well-informed (and highly entertaining) people determined to preserve a massive landscape for the benefit of all.

    Sage grouse – the bird best known for its thunderous wing flapping, comical mating ritual and sage-infused meat – was once so prolific in these parts that when it took wing flocks darkened the sky. Today, its habitat in decline, sage grouse populations in some areas of the Great Basin are leaning toward extinction. The conservation area would restrict cattle grazing, oil and gas development, poorly conceived renewable energy projects (yes, there are some) and off-road vehicle use that jeopardize sage grouse and the other wild animals. Without a protected conservation area, the bird will most certainly end up on the Endangered Species list, which would put a stop to all activities that threaten it, though by more draconian means.

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    Backyard Corridors: What has been done in your area to enable wild animals to move around?

    Bucky-fence Employees at our Dillon outlet store gained some “Freedom to Roam” last summer when Patagonia funded an environmental internship for store staff. Outlet employees chose to work with American Wildlands (AWL), a Bozeman-based non-profit that works in Montana to identify and prioritize wildlife corridors. Donning leather boots and gloves, they headed to the Centennial Valley, where, literally, the deer and the antelope play.

    The Centennial stretches over 380,000 acres north and east of the Continental Divide and is a crucial migration corridor for grizzly bear, pronghorn and other migratory land animals, along with hundreds of bird species. Armed with fencing pliers, outlet staff removed miles of barbed wire from the bottoms of livestock fencing. They installed smooth wire as a replacement, or modified the distance between strands to accommodate more frequent and widespread wildlife crossings at identified corridors.

    “Unlike typical field work in my life, this has an immediate positive impact,” said store merchandiser, Bucky Ballou. “What we did in one day impacted migratory animals the next day . . . [It's] instant gratification.”

    [Patagonia Dillon's Bucky Ballou rolling removed barbed wire. Photo: Pam Neumeyer

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