Conservation for the Adrenaline Crowd

Can the Red Bull generation go green?

 

CARBONDALE, Colorado — Perched on a blue exercise ball behind a busy desk, Clare Bastable speaks with a fierce but good-natured energy: “I don’t know what happened. At first it was a really exciting new concept, but over time it’s hard to maintain a level of commitment.” She pauses, and then says wistfully, “God, there was so much excitement around it!”

The 34-year-old program manager for the Western Conservation Foundation, which disburses grants to conservation groups, is talking about the Maroon Corps, a group she helped launch amid fanfare back in 2006, but has since left. Though the Maroon Corps is still alive, it has slipped dangerously close to the crevasse of good intentions. Its leaders continue to struggle with a common challenge: How do you get the younger, recreation-crazed generation involved in environmental activism?

Bastable doesn’t blame disengaged recreationists for the group’s troubles. But she does wonder if a measure of appreciation for the landscape and its ecosystems is lacking in today’s most ardent climbers, mountain bikers and skiers, making them less likely to fight for causes that don’t directly protect their sport of choice.

Bastable has strong ties to both the recreation and conservation camps. A dedicated mountain bike racer and backcountry skier, she has taught environmental issues at the college level. She helped shape the now-defunct Colorado-based Wilderness Education Institute, an outdoor education program designed to instill high school students with an appreciation for conservation issues. She has also served as conservation director for the venerable Colorado Mountain Club. In her experience, she says, it is easier to get gray-haired hikers to call or write Congress or the U.S. Forest Service than 30-something Lycra-clad mountain bikers. “You reach a certain threshold where I think it becomes a little bit less about the experience of enjoying nature and being outside and embracing that context, and a little bit more about being hardcore and beating this time.

“There is almost a void of (environmentally) active people in my generation,” says Bastable. “We like to get quick feedback, instant gratification. We’re an adrenaline generation.”

 

The Maroon Corps’ founders were well aware of these characteristics when, in the fall of 2005, they were first brought together by The Wilderness Workshop, the Roaring Fork Valley’s oldest conservation group. The original focus group included about 15 people, many of whom were recreation addicts themselves. In addition to Bastable, there was Chris Davenport, an award-wining extreme skier who’s schussed through ski-porn films by such big names as Warren Miller and Matchstick Productions; there was Peter McBride, an accomplished photojournalist, climber and adventurer; and Aron Ralston, then in the national limelight after his harrowing 2003 escape from a Utah slot canyon, during which he had to amputate his own forearm.

The focus group laid the groundwork for an organization based on its own members’ lifestyle: The younger generation does want to get involved, they believed, but it wants causes presented to it – preferably in the context of a party. “There are more than a hundred nonprofit organizations in our valley. I think it’s tough to figure out how to get involved and who to get involved with,” Bastable says. “So we thought, ‘OK, we’re just going to streamline it. We’re going to come to them.’”

Ralston called many of his friends, urging them to come to the first meeting, which was held in April 2006. At least 50 people turned out for cocktails, appetizers and a sales pitch. The group’s steering committee had joined forces with an ad-hoc group called Citizens for Roadless Area Defense, and party attendees were invited to help inventory Colorado land for  the state’s roadless rule. Memories are hazy, but somewhere from 20 to 60 people turned out to assist the inventory.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SENIOR ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNER
    The City of Fort Collins is seeking a Senior Environmental Planner to lead the Nature in the City team. This interdisciplinary position is housed in...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) is seeking a dynamic community engagement assistant. The individual will work to identify and empower members, supporters, volunteers, and others...
  • VOICES OF WISDOM 2019 SOUTHWEST
    May 25 & 26 At the bank of the Colorado River, at Riverbend Park in Palisade, Colorado, the Sacred Fire Community in the Grand Valley...
  • PHILANTHROPY COORDINATOR
    Wyoming Wildlife Federation - collaborates with the Executive Director and staff to ensure the effective implementation of all philanthropic activities. https://wyomingwildlife.org/hiring-philanthropy-coordinator/.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    HawkWatch International is hiring an Executive Director to lead the organization. The next leader of this growing organization must have: 1. Enthusiasm for conservation, birds...
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Home Resource is a non-profit community sustainability center. We work with, in, and for the community to reduce waste and build a more vibrant and...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • BRN DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3 is hiring a full-time Development Director. Description and job details can be found at https://www.borderlandsrestoration.org/job-opportunities.html
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • WEB DESIGN AND CONTENT MANAGER
    We are seeking an experienced designer to be the team lead for web development and digital media. Part creator and part planner, this person should...
  • CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
    at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • GRASSROOTS ORGANIZER
    The Utah Rivers Council is looking for an energetic individual with strong communication and organizing skills. The Grassroots Organizer works to ensure our campaigns are...
  • JOHN DEERE SNOW BLOWER 24"
    Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • STRAW BALE, ADOBE, TIMBER FRAME, HEALTHY HOME, NEAR LA VETA PASS, CO
    unique custom home in Sangre de Cristo Mountains of CO near La Veta Pass, 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, private gated park, two hours from...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Flathead Lakers are seeking a dynamic, self-motivated and proven leader to be our next Executive Director (ED).
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Blackfoot Challenge, a renowned collaborative conservation org in MT, seeks our next ED.
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, ALASKA
    Earthjustice is hiring for a Staff Attorney
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    to lead an organization that funds projects in National Parks. Major gift fundraising and public lands experience critical. PD and app details @ peopleinparks.org.