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    Save the Blue Heart of Europe: 23 Rivers, 6 Countries, 390 River Kilometers, 1 Purpose

    By Hans Cole

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    “Jo diga ne Pocem! Jo diga ne Pocem!”

    The rallying cry repeated as anti-dam protestors, activists, kayakers and local people from the Vjosa River valley marched through the Albanian capital of Tirana on Friday, May 20th. Translation: “No dams in Pocem!” This protest, the final event of the 35-day Balkan Rivers Tour, marked the delivery of a “kayak petition” to the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, and demanded an end to new dam development on the pristine Vjosa River, including a major dam project near the village of Pocem.

    The Vjosa, which flows 270 kilometers without barriers from the Pindus Mountains to the Adriatic Sea, is just one of many rivers in the Balkans region that is being threatened by a tidal wave of more than 2,700 new hydropower dam projects.

    Above: Paddlers from the Balkan Rivers Tour gather on the bank of the Vjosa River. Photo: Andrew Burr

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    The Time is Now – Protect Bears Ears [Updated]

    By Kitty Calhoun

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    In southeastern Utah, a battle has been brewing between conservationists, recreationalists and resource extractionists. The pressure on all sides has increased as the stakes grow higher. At risk is the preservation of climbing in Indian Creek, Valley of the Gods, Texas and Arch Canyons, Lockhart Basin, Comb Ridge, and other remote areas collectively known as the Bears Ears region. Not only is climbing at risk but also other recreational resources, the fragile desert environment and priceless Native American heritage.

    Above: Valley of the Gods, Cedar Mesa, Utah. Photo: Andrew Burr

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    Do What You Love to Protect What You Love: Mile for Mile Campaign Surpasses Fundraising Goal

    By Kris Tompkins

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    “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”
    – Edward Abbey

    Scale is a hard thing to get a handle on. We pour over maps to try to understand a landscape. Better yet, sometimes we get to fly over it, circling the valleys and mountains to get a real lay of the land. But sometimes, there’s no substitute for crossing it on foot—learning a place step-by-step, sinking into the real magnitude of wilderness.

    I fell in love with Patagonia by foot. I can remember my first walk through the grasslands of southern Chile—dropped off near the outskirts of a small town, I had just the clothes on my back, a pack on my shoulders and the wind on my face. It only took a matter of days for me to fall in love with the region’s looming peaks and curious creatures. Over twenty years later, using personal funds and the help of many friends and supporters, my husband Doug and I have managed to conserve nearly 2 million acres of threatened wilderness in South America. In 2004, we had the opportunity of a lifetime to acquire one of the largest grassland restoration projects in the world: the future Patagonia National Park.

    Above: Ultrarunners Jeff Browning, Krissy Moehl and Luke Nelson join Conservacion Patagonica founder Kris Tompkins on the Avilés Trail. Patagonia Park, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

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    Save the Blue Heart of Europe: The Balkan Rivers story

    By Ulrich Eichelmann

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    The Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe is known for its Mediterranean beaches, past wars, corruption, ethnic conflicts and, to insiders, Slivovitz and ćevapi—the plum schnapps and traditional minced-meat dish of the region. Stories about the area are plentiful, but I want to tell you a different story—a story about beauty, diversity and uniqueness, and an imminent threat in disguise.

    It is a story about the rivers between Slovenia and Albania, which are the most intact on the entire continent. Wild rivers with extensive gravel banks, spectacular waterfalls, deep canyons, crystal clear streams full of fish, large alluvial forests where rare eagles nest, even karstic underground rivers. But, most amazingly, almost nobody knows about them. They’re a hidden treasure in the middle of 21st century Europe.

    Above: Vjosa River, Albania. Photo:Roland Dorozhani  

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    Jumbo Unchanged

    By Alex Yoder

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    Feeling lost. Feeling far from help. Far from a store, motors and people. I am existing in a world much bigger than I can comprehend. What I can see is all that is. I’m alive to find what I can’t yet see. There are two times of day: light and dark. Food is fuel for the body, not a dance for the tongue. The cold bites. The sun scorns. This is a taste of what life was like before modern technology began introducing non-essentials and conveniences.

    All the while, it is 2015. I have gadgets that tell me where I am. I have a mobile phone that can bounce my voice off of a satellite in outer space and send for help if something were to go wrong. Still, there is a romance in my heart that writes off all of the comforts and emergency equipment. In my mind, I am free. In my heart, I’m just an animal lost in the wilderness.

    Above: Alex Yoder, Jumbo Pass area. British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Steve Ogle

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    Keep Jumbo Wild: The Fight to Protect Jumbo Glacier

    By Mike Berard

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    For 24 years, residents of the Kootenays in British Columbia, Canada, have been largely opposed to a proposed year-round ski resort in the heart of the Central Purcell Mountains—a region that encompasses both cherished alpine backcountry and critical core grizzly bear habitat. At the time this story was going to print, the provincial government had just dealt would-be developers a significant blow by deeming the ski resort project not “substantially started”—a finding that would require developers to return to square one to reapply for an environmental assessment certificate in order to continue with their plan. As the developers contemplate their next move, local skiers, snowboarders, climbers, wildlife conservationists and First Nations peoples staunchly hold their line, hopeful that with this ruling, the quarter-century-long battle may be nearing an end. But whether the developers redouble their efforts or their opponents celebrate victory—what a long, strange trip it’s been.

    Above: Jumbo Valley. Central Purcell Mountains, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Garrett Grove

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    Walking the Ground – Two ‘Jumbo Wild’ skiers talk wild places, community and activism

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    Jasmin Caton and Leah Evans both live and work in southeastern British Columbia: Caton as a ski guide and co-owner of Valhalla Mountain Touring; Evans as founder and director of the freeski program Girls Do Ski in Revelstoke. Caton has been skiing the backcountry since she was a child, while Evans comes from a hard-charging, competitive freeskiing environment. We spoke with them just after they’d completed an eight-day ski traverse through a section of the Jumbo Glacier backcountry, to see for themselves the site of the proposed and hotly contested Jumbo Glacier Resort featured in Jumbo Wild the new film by Sweetgrass ProductionsAbove: Leah and Jasmin strap in and buckle up for the bootpack. Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Garrett Grove


    You’d never skied together before this trip. How’d the dynamic work?

    Jasmin: A trip like this with new people can leave you with a feeling of, “Hmmm,” but this was definitely a “YES.” Hanging out with Leah has inspired me to try some more exciting stuff. Our skills are really complementary, and we can offer each other a lot.

    Leah: For sure. I watched everything Jasmin did because she has such depth of experience out there. I’d see her do something with her pack or something, and I’d say, “Um, I’m going to do that with my pack, too.” I want to learn as much as I can from her.

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    Free the Snake Flotilla Action!

    On Saturday October 3, 2015, over 300 people—fishermen, Native Americans, farmers, orca lovers, business owners, students, salmon advocates, kayakers, and conservationists—took to the lower Snake River in southeastern Washington, a short distance from the Lower Granite Dam. Together, this diverse group formed the “Free the Snake Flotilla.” They were a representative slice of the movement that includes many thousands of people worldwide who are calling for the removal of four deadbeat dams on the lower Snake. Over 130,000 people have signed petitions and sent postcards and letters asking President Obama, his administration, members of Congress and key state and federal agencies to take these harmful dams out.

    As they gathered in kayaks and other water craft, this group of unlikely activists all agreed that the current situation on the Snake is unacceptable, and growing worse by the year: Thousands of endangered salmon died this summer due to over-heated river and reservoir water; endangered orcas are malnourished because their favorite food supply of Snake River Chinook salmon has been decimated by the dams; and, over $9 billion in government spending over the past 30 years, mostly on hatcheries and other failed approaches, hasn’t recovered any endangered wild fish runs.

    Above: Free The Snake Flotilla. Production Company: Moonhouse. Director: Ben Moon. Cinematography & Edit: Page Stephenson. Aerials: Whitney Hassett. Music: “Explosions in the Eye” by Peter M. Murray.

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    Jumbo Wild – We the People

    By Eliel Hindert

    If you didn’t look close you just might miss it, and we do.

    Gazing across the Columbia River Basin into the morning light on the Purcell Mountains, we pass right by the Radium Hot Springs municipal offices. It’s not difficult to do here, where human presence is a mere asterisk on the seemingly infinite word of nature.

    Editor’s note: Activism takes many shapes from protesting in the street to signing online petitions. One of the most important and effective things we can do is speak out at public hearings. Today’s post takes us into a hearing from earlier this year regarding the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort in British Columbiajust one episode in the 25-year battle over the Jumbo Valley. We share this story in conjunction with the release of Jumbo Wild, a new feature film by Sweetgrass Productions and Patagonia. As the film launches, we’re working closely with local conservation group Wildsight to help stop development and permanently protect the Jumbo Valley. Get film tour dates, watch the trailer and take action to help keep Jumbo wild at Patagonia.com.

    Doubling back we find it. Off-white, little signage, and looking more private dwelling than public office. This will be the staging ground for public input on the Official Community Plan for the recently formed Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality. A public hearing of sorts for an area without a public, where concerned individuals are given five minutes each to share input and opinion on the direction of the proposed Jumbo Mountain Resort.

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    Our Earth Tax – Patagonia Environmental + Social Initiatives 2015

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    In the conventional model of philanthropy, the big funders—corporations and foundations—mainly support big professional environmental groups. The large national organizations (those with budgets over $5 million) are doing important work but they make up just 2% of all environmental groups, yet receive more than 50% of all environmental grants and donations.

    Meanwhile, funding the environmental movement at a grassroots level—where change happens from the bottom up and lasts—has never been more important. But these groups continue to be woefully underfunded.

    The funding paradigm is out of balance. We aim to change it.

    Above: Patagonia Environmental & Social Initiatives 2015. Pick up a printed copy at your local Patagonia store or read the digital version. Cover photo: Donnie Hedden

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