Photo: Dan Holz/Tandemstock

Making a Difference: How the Conservation Alliance Helps Protect Wild Places

When you buy gear from Public Lands, you’re helping to protect wild places. 

All the gear in the world wouldn’t be worth much if we didn’t have wild places to use it. That’s why protecting wilderness and promoting access to the outdoors is a foundational part of the mission at Public Lands. Recreation and conservation go hand in hand, so every purchase from Public Lands helps protect our country’s wild lands.

How does it work? Public Lands sets aside 1% of every sale for the Public Lands Fund, which supports conservation efforts. One beneficiary is The Conservation Alliance, an outdoor industry-funded nonprofit that makes critical grants to conservation programs nationwide. The Public Lands Fund is a Pinnacle member of the Conservation Alliance, contributing $100,000 annually.

“It is great to see a major retailer build conservation, public lands education, and advocacy into the bedrock of their stores,” says Conservation Alliance Executive Director Brady Robinson.

The Conservation Alliance has more than three decades of experience—and success—in helping to protect wild places. It invests funds carefully in vetted projects based on their biological diversity, success history, political viability, and benefits to people and wildlife. It also increases outdoor recreation opportunities and helps provide climate change solutions. Conservation Alliance funding and corporate advocacy has helped protect 73 million acres of wildlands, conserve 3,576 river miles, stop or remove 37 dams, designate five marine reserves, and purchase 18 climbing areas. 

It’s the collective nature of the organization that is its greatest strength, says Conservation Alliance Program Manager Conor McElyea. “The Conservation Alliance brings the power of its member businesses, their thousands of employees, and billions of dollars in economic impact to bear for the protection of wild places,” he says. “Public Lands has been an incredible partner from Day One. Six months before opening their first store they were highly engaged and thinking creatively about ways they could support our work, the work of our grantees, and the U.S. public lands system as a whole.” 

In 2021 alone, the Conservation Alliance has awarded $2.2 million in grant funding to 52 grassroots organizations. And it will award another $200,000 before the end of the year to four conservation groups led by Asian, Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, and other People of Color via its new Confluence Program, which launched Oct. 4. 

Photo: Jaynes Gallery/Danita Delimont

2021 Grant Winner Highlights 

Want to know who and what your purchase is supporting? Here are a handful of 2021’s grant-winning organizations, which range broadly across the country and provide critical support in protecting everywhere from the Grand Canyon region to the Sacred Lands of Montana’s Crazy Mountains, and the waters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay to wooded preserves in North Carolina.


Gwich'in Steering Committee: Gwich'in Steering Committee Support - Protecting the Coastal Plain — $50,000

Named for the major river within its range, the 197,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd has a rich connection with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, using an area the size of Wyoming in the Refuge as well as Yukon and the Northwest Territories. It’s also an important resource for the Gwich'in people. Their steering committee’s mission is to ensure the long‐term health of the herd that sustains the Gwich’in way of life in the Refuge. The committee is dedicated to protecting the entire ecosystem of the caribou to ensure the Gwich’in people have a future in their homeland, in particular passing legislation that would designate as Wilderness the 1.5-million acre coastal plain, “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins). 


Natural Resources Council of Maine: Saving Endangered Atlantic Salmon in Maine’s Kennebec River — $50,000

This grant to the NRCM will help remove four dams and restore critical spawning habitat for the endangered Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fish along 30 river miles of the Kennebec River and 70 miles of the Sandy River. Founded in 1959, the NRCM is Maine’s leading nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the state’s natural environment, with its projects ranging from restoring native fish passage and improving the quality of the state’s waterways to reducing pollution and conserving wildlife habitat. This year, Atlantic salmon are the benefactors. 

New York 

Gunks Climbers' Coalition: Millbrook Mountain Conservation Initiative: Ant Lion Crag — $20,000

East Coast climbers rejoice. New York’s Shawangunk Ridge (“the Gunks”) is home to some of the best traditional (trad) climbing in the world, with its rock quality, geological features, views and proximity to the Big Apple and Boston attracting over 100,000 climbers each year. To help make it even better by creating up to 100 more new climbing routes, this grant to 20-year-old advocacy group the GCC will help buy the 86-acre Millbrook Mountain’s Ant Lion Crag. Once procured, this new area will follow the group’s 2013 creation of the Dickie Barr climbing area in Minnewaska State Park Preserve.


Great Basin Water Network: Save the Swamp Cedars — $45,000

Indigenous communities in Nevada’s Great Basin have lost much of their land and water over the last 400 years, and with it the ability to practice their religion and customs. To designate 14,175 acres of sacred lands—traditionally known as Bahsahwahbee and locally known as the Swamp Cedars—as a national monument to ensure these communities can continue their cultural gatherings, this grant to the GBWN will help protect water resources in “The Sacred Water Valley.” 


Oregon Natural Desert Association: Owyhee Canyonlands Campaign — $50,000 
This grant will help protect 1.13 million acres in Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands as Wilderness and 14.7 river miles as Wild and Scenic, while also strengthening conservation management across 4.5 million acres of public lands. Founded in 1987 and now with 10,000 members, ONDA has already helped establish each of Oregon’s three desert wilderness areas and has protected dozens of miles of the state’s Wild and Scenic rivers. They’ll use these funds to do the same, this time with Owyhee in its conservation crosshairs.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.