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    Two Big Threats to Yellowstone – Take action now


    Long before the arrival of Europeans, native peoples referred to Yellowstone as the “land of yellow rock waters” for the distinctive stone forged by volcanic blasts and the boiling waters of the largest geothermal system in the world. By 1872, Congress had dedicated Yellowstone as the nation’s—and the world’s—first national park. Yellowstone thus predates the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and the Department of Interior—and of course the Park Service itself. The Congress of the day may have specified Yellowstone Park as a “pleasuring-ground,” but a century and a half of protection has created something far more valuable than a spot to snap pictures. In the words of the Park Service, as a “mountain wildland, home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.”

    This is precisely what is at stake now for Yellowstone as the National Park Service approaches its centennial. The challenge rests not with the Park Service itself, which has earmarked more than $2 million for worthy restoration projects, but in two related outside threats.

    Above: Fish and Wildlife Service is making its second attempt in a decade to delist the Yellowstone grizzly as an endangered species. Doing so would would remove a major obstacle in the path of a proposed gold mine just 30 miles north of the Yellowstone Park boundary. Photo: R. Bear Stands Last, courtesy of the GOAL Tribal Coalition  

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    Bridges for Wildlife – Migrating Pronghorn Encounter a New Overpass and the Freedom to Roam

    by Emilene Ostlind, photos by Joe Riis


    The pronghorn antelope that migrate 170 miles from Grand Teton National Park south to their winter range face plenty of obstacles: rivers, fences, a high mountain pass, subdivisions, energy development. The most dangerous place in the migration corridor is the geographic bottleneck known as Trappers’ Point six miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Here, two rivers swoop toward one another and then apart, outlining a mile-wide strip of land the shape of an hourglass. A subdivision blocks half the bottleneck, and Highway 191, the main roadway connecting I-80 to Jackson Hole, runs across its middle flanked on both sides by barbed wire fences.

    Editor's note: Today we're pleased to share a follow-up story to our Freedom to Roam campaign. Patagonia's Rick Ridgeway first teamed up with Joe Riis four years ago to document migrating proghorn and the man-made obstacles they faced.

    One October day in 2008 Joe Riis, a National Geographic Young Explorers Grantee, photographed some 700 pronghorn crossing the highway at Trappers’ Point. He was part way into a two-year-long project to document the entire migration in photographs. The animals packed a trail in the snow as they ducked under one barbed-wire fence. They sprinted between cars and trucks on the highway. A dog from the subdivision chased them as they tried to find an opening under the second fence. In a panic, they continued south.

    [Above: Wyoming pronghorn and mule deer migrate over the new highway overpass at Trapper's Point, Wyoming. All photos: Joe Riis]

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    The Wolverine Way - Go Like Hell and Never Back Down

    by Douglas H. Chadwick


    Ten years ago, a bad-ass wolverine mountaineer we called M3 got busy expanding his territory from the east side of Montana’s Glacier National Park into Canada. When this two-year-old bumped up against the turf of a long-established male known as M6, M3 took it over, claimed the older guy’s main squeeze – the female F15, and kept right on enlarging his crown-of-the-continent empire. Grown thin and scruffy, M6 wandered away southward, never to be seen again.

    Shortly afterward, M8, the yearling son of M6 and F15, turned up in one of our Glacier Wolverine Project’s log box traps. Judging from the bloody gash on his face, he, too, had run into Mr. Badass. The team patched up M8 a bit before turning him loose. Across the Divide, Alex “Buck” Hasson was wintering alone in a cabin, skiing out to keep tabs on several radioed wolverines on the park’s west side. To locate a signal, he usually had to go for miles. But early one morning, he stepped from the outhouse to find a gulo 40 feet away: M8.

    [Above: A wolverine in the wild. Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo: Steven Gnam]

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    Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for Good - Speak Out Now

    by Ron Hunter

    The push to open Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development has been at the center of numerous debates, but public outcry has consistently supported its protection and preservation. At last, citizens have a chance to secure protection for a landscape known for its bounty of untarnished treasures. Ron Hunter, of Patagonia's environmental team, brings us the latest from the Alaska Wilderness League's efforts to secure permanent protection for The Refuge: - Ed

    [Camping near the Canning River and its western tributary, the Marsh Fork. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Photo: Ron Hunter]

    One of the great American "inventions" of the 20th century is the idea that some land should be permanently protected for its natural value. The Wilderness Act of 1964 made it the national policy of the United States to preserve areas of wilderness on federal lands. If there is any place deserving of being declared Wilderness it is the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Biologists call the coastal plain the "biological heart" of the Arctic Refuge. For 30 years, development interests have spent millions in an attempt to open this special place to oil and gas development, and year after year a majority of the American people has stopped them. We must continue to work toward permanent protection of this national treasure, the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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    To the Elwha and its Salmon - Welcome Home

    While the Patagonia environmental team was busy hosting its Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference last week, one of our activist community's greatest victories in recent decades was unfolding, the removal of the Elwha Dam. If you haven't had a chance to get the full story behind the Elwha's removal, check out yesterday's post from the New York Times, or the Seattle Times' comprehensive special coverage. Today's post is for all those who couldn't be on-hand to celebrate this unique moment in our environmental history.

    To all those who worked so hard for this victory: Thank You.

    And to the Elwha and its salmon, on behalf of advocates of free-flowing rivers everywhere: Welcome Home.


    And from American Rivers, American Whitewater, and the Hydropower Reform Coalition, a film by Andy Maser:

    Year of the River: Episode 1 from Andy Maser on Vimeo.

    A Watershed Moment for Wild Salmon

    SOS banner

    Here at Patagonia, we have two or three holy grails of conservation. One is the permanent protection of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wild Refuge and another the restoration of the legendary salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake River Basin.

    Salmon swimming We have advocated for over 10 years that the best way to achieve this second goal is by removing the four lower Snake River dams and allowing the salmon and steelhead a fighting chance to finish their upstream journey of many miles (as long as 900) home to spawn. Removing these dams would be the largest river restoration in our nation’s history and would be an inspiration for the rest of the country to take the initiative to build a healthy future not just for salmon and rivers in the Northwest, but for other endangered wildlife and waterways across the U.S.

    With the recent federal court ruling on the latest Obama administration's salmon plan, we asked Steven Hawley, journalist, author (Recovering a Lost River), salmon expert and self- proclaimed river rat for his take on the federal court decision. Here’s Steven, with a fish story that’s about a lot more than fish:

    [Salmon moving upstream, from this earlier post about the pending salmon decision. Photo: © University of Washington, Thomas Quinn]

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    Are Parks Protecting the Wildlife and Places They Were Created to Save?

    Elephant patrol As a former director with the International League of Conservation Photographers, Trevor Frost has been keeping a close eye on the world's imperiled places for years. Cleanest Line readers might recognize some of the stories Trevor has helped bring us, such as the Rios Libres series (dedicated to protecting Chile's free-flowing rivers) and, more recently, an initiative to protect the Sacred Headwaters region of western Canada. Today's post is an update on Frost's latest work - this time he's turning his attention to the world's "paper parks," those places that have been set aside - in theory - to protect the world's endangered landscapes and wildlife. Trevor offers this update on what's really going on:

    Parks or protected areas remain our best tool for safeguarding wildlife and wild places and that is why more than 100,000 parks dot the globe protecting reefs and rainforests and mountain ranges. But while some of these parks are doing a great job, many, some would say a majority, are failing to protect the wildlife and wild spaces inside their borders. A closer look at the parks that are struggling often reveals there is little to no on-the-ground-protection for the parks in the form of park rangers, equipment, and even boundary signs to mark park borders.

    [Rangers in Sumatra typically conduct their patrols on foot, but are known to take advantage of alternative transportation when available.  Photo: Rhett A. Butler, 2011, courtesy of Trevor Frost and]

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    Tracking Endangered Mountain Caribou - Patagonia Employees Help Witness for Wildlife

    Caribou Last year, six groups of Patagonia employees ventured out to explore, document, and help protect various wildlife corridors in the U.S. Among those groups were Dave Campbell and Andrew Marshall, who travelled north in hopes of spotting caribou along the corridor located in the lush region of southeast British Columbia.

    These citizen-naturalists were participants in Witness for Wildlife, a Freedom to Roam initiative.  As a co-founder of Freedom to Roam, Patagonia has, for three years, supported efforts to protect the critical wildways that animals must have to move and survive in the face of pressure from human development and climate change. Witness for Wildlife needs more volunteers dedicated to chronicling and protecting wildlife corridors - visit to become a citizen naturalist, and read the following story by Patagonia employee Dave Campbell to get inspired.

    Last spring Patagonia’s environmental department announced that they’d pulled together funding to sponsor select employee groups to travel to and document critical, at-risk wildlife corridors within North America, as part of the Witness For Wildlife and Freedom To Roam campaigns. Coworker Andrew Marshall and I took interest in the endangered mountain caribou corridor of the Selkirk Mountains of B.C. and after an extensive amount of research, we found ourselves on the road headed north.

    Andrew and I identified a low elevation old-growth cedar forest deep inside the Goat Range Provincial Park and decided to access it via Wilson Creek. The weather was clear when we parked and while hiking up a two-track paralleling lower Wilson Creek it almost seemed like we were in for a smooth outing. However, within a half hour we encountered a large mass of wood debris where a bridge used to be at the first tributary, and after a messy crossing we were unsuccessful at finding a trail on the other side.

    [Photo courtesy Conservation Northwest ©2010 Patrice Halley]

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    Dispatches From Grandmaster Gulo Pimpdaddy

    4-1-1-06 B 013 copy 2 We got this note from Doug Chadwick, writer, National Geographic contributor, and all-around friend to "hyper-nasty, victim-shredding gluttons," i.e. wolverines. Thought you might like this update on his travels and findings. If you enjoy the update, be sure to catch the Nature special on PBS - Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom and read his Patagonia-published book, The Wolverine Way:

    When you're an author on the road promoting your latest volume, you never know how many folks will turn out for a presentation. Unless you're a literary rock star, the last thing you'd expect is an overflow crowd. Especially if your subject is scarcely known beasts with a reputation as hyper-nasty, victim-shredding gluttons. Which is to say wolverines.

    Lately, though, wherever I give slide shows and readings to pimp The Wolverine Way, the room has been packed. It's more than encouraging to see this kind of interest in Gulo gulo, a species hardly anybody paid attention to before. People have been coming up to tell me about wolverines they glimpsed in places like Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and California sometime within the past few decades. Very cool..... except these high country hunter-scavengers were supposed to have been wiped out there almost a century ago by unrestricted trapping, hunting, and predator poisoning. Which is to say by a society sweeping through ecosystems like a plague of venomous apes.

    [A captive wolverine shows off an out-sized paw; one of the features that make the species unique and infamous. Photo: Dale Pedersen]

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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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