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    Mokelumne River – Filming and Fighting for Wild and Scenic Designation

    by Mike E. Wier

    Mokelumne River 2

    For years, my brother and I had to sneak into one of our favorite sections of our home river, the mighty Mokelumne. The land surrounding both sides of this section of the river is owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District. They had big “No Trespassing” signs up along their barbed wire fences.

    We, however, strongly considered the river to belong to everyone. So every once in a while we would float down through the rapids on inner tubes and stop in the beautiful and secluded pools to swim or try catch-and-release fly fishing. Along the way we’d check out the old miners’ trails and wild flowers, or stop at the ruins of the historic mining town of Middle Bar, or imagine we were Mewuk people catching Salmon in the river and admiring the giant blue oaks that produce so many acorns.

    Continue reading "Mokelumne River – Filming and Fighting for Wild and Scenic Designation" »

    Grand Canyon Wins New Protections From Uranium Mining

    by Taylor McKinnon


    The Obama administration rang in the New Year with a gift to wildlands and wildlife: a 20-year ban on new mining on 1 million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park. The move, in the face of a rash of new uranium-mining claims, bans new claims and prohibits exploratory drilling and mining on existing claims lacking “valid existing rights” — the vast majority of claims in the area. It’s a historic decision for an iconic landscape that will save streams and rivers from pollution and protect scores of species from the scourge of industrial mining waste.

    Editor's note: We're late getting this good news posted, but it's worth celebrating nonetheless. We asked you twice to take action on this issue — first in February with a special video from Jonathan Waterman, then again in April — and your voices have been heard. Thank you. Photo: James Q Martin

    The decision is clearly popular. Nearly 400,000 people from 90 countries wrote the Interior Department urging the ban. And since it was enacted, it’s won praise from Indian tribes, businesses, elected officials, scientists and outdoor enthusiasts who value the canyon’s environmental health and its economic value as a tourist attraction.

    Continue reading "Grand Canyon Wins New Protections From Uranium Mining" »

    Patagonia Sin Represas (Without Dams), a New Video from Environmental Documentarian, Bridget Besaw

    [Video: Bridget Besaw]

    News on the five proposed dams in the heart of Chilean Patagonia has been slow lately as we wait for an Environmental Impact Report on the 1,200-mile power transmission lines and a decision from the Chilean Supreme Court. One item of note: The Santiago Times reported a few days ago that Argentina's minister of planning is open to the idea of the electrical transmission lines passing through Argentine territory, another setback for those of us -- in Chile and abroad -- who vigorously oppose the dams.

    Yet, even while the approval process plows forward, those in opposition to the dams continue to make their case that the Pascua and Baker Rivers can run free indefinitely while Chile's energy needs are met through abundant, less-destructive renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal.

    Environmental documentarian, Bridget Besaw, recently created this video to illustrate what's at stake. She captured the images while on assignment for the iLCP's Patagonia RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) last year. The still images were first presented in March as a traveling exhibit to help raise awareness about the threat of the dams. Bridget is a member of 1% For the Planet and continues to use her photographic talents to highlight the depletion of natural resources around the planet.

    Take_actionPresident Piñera can still pull the plug on this project. Please take a moment to write the Chilean embassy and voice your opinion against the damming of Patagonia's wild rivers.


    Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline: Join Hands Around the White House, November 6th

    [Demonstrators in front of the White House protesting a proposed pipeline that would bring tar sands oil through the U.S. from Canada. Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images]

    From mid-August to early September this year, concerned citizens gathered at the White House to protest the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. Over 1200 people were arrested during this peaceful protest, and their act of civil disobedience, along with similar events and petitions nationwide, sent President Obama a simple message:  Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    The Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline would originate in Alberta, Canada and pass through the West and Midwest of the United States ending up in Houston where most of the oil will be shipped overseas. Six companies have contracted for three-quarters of the oil. Five are foreign.The New York Times in an editorial opposes the pipeline

    Nebraska Cornhusker football fans booed when a Keystone ad showed up on the Jumbotron at a recent game. The next day the university ended their sponsorship deal with Trans-Canada Pipeline.

    Continue reading "Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline: Join Hands Around the White House, November 6th" »

    We're Just Getting Started: Elwha and Condit Establish Dam Removal Momentum


    On Saturday, September 17, demolition started on two Elwha River dams – the largest dams to be taken down in our nation’s history. And this is just one example from a movement that is gaining momentum and traction across the country this year.

    Communities are evaluating local dams that block free-flowing rivers, altering the natural ecosystems and species that rely on the flow. Dams kill fish and prevent migrating species like salmon from spawning, and they block nutrients and needed sediment from being transported downstream to coastal beaches and wetlands. These impacts ripple throughout the local environment, but also have huge social and economic consequences.

    [Above: Fletcher Chouinard, Malinda Chouinard, Yvon Chouinard, Claire Chouinard and Matt Stoecker have a message for President Obama. Elwha River, Washington. Photo: Michael Hanson]

    Continue reading "We're Just Getting Started: Elwha and Condit Establish Dam Removal Momentum" »

    The Great Salmon Run - running the route of one of nature's great migrations

    Ty Draney, a member of the Patagonia Ultrarunning Team, and friend Luke Nelson recently completed the Great Salmon Run in partnership with Save our Wild Salmon. The pair were inspired to trace over 120 miles of the Snake River sockeye's migration route, motivated by facts like these:

    • Thirteen populations of salmon and steelhead are officially in danger of extinction. The four remaining Snake River stocks are either threatened or endangered.

    • The Columbia Basin was once home to the largest salmon fishery in the world — supporting tens of thousands of jobs, providing a nutritious food, and generating billions of dollars in economic activity each year.

    • Up to 30 million wild salmon and steelhead once returned to the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Today, it is less than one percent of the number.

    Snake River sockeye salmon migrate higher than any salmon in the world: Adults swim 900 miles and climb 6,500 feet in elevation — from the Pacific Ocean to Redfish Lake in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho.

    • With more than 200 dams, the Columbia Basin today is among the world’s most dammed landscapes. Removing four costly dams will restore salmon, create jobs, save money, and establish a clean energy blueprint for the future.

    Here’s Ty’s report:

    [Bighorn Crags, deep in the heart of the Columbia Basin. Central Idaho. All photos: Matthew Irving]

    "I think we're taking this whole salmon metaphor way too far...." 

    That's all I could think at the time. We had been wandering off course for hours, trying to get up to the Bighorn Crags. As it turns out the 78 miles we ran along the river was the easy part. We had left Boundry Creek at first light, hoping to make good time while the weather was cool. The trail was very runnable and we were in high spirits.

    Continue reading "The Great Salmon Run - running the route of one of nature's great migrations" »

    The Writing on the Wall

    Amy Irvine McHarg is a beautiful writer. We asked her to write a post about what she cares about and to remind the readers of the Patagonia catalog to look for her essay “Seeing Red” in your mail soon. "Seeing Red" is one of a series of essays written by fine writers as part of Patagonia's current environmental campaign, Our Common Waters.

    From Le Midi-Pyrenees region of France, September 2011

    [Painting from the Chauvet cave. Photo: HTO, via Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons license.]

    I am standing in a cave that one enters from a steep and riotously lush hillside in the southwest of France. I have been to this region before, then as a nomad climber, to scale (or flail on) its steep and sublime walls of limestone. This time I am here to explore beyond the surface - a kind of descent in place of ascent - into subterranean concavities opened up over millenia by the persistent passage of water. Come to think of it, the process is not unlike how the finest one-finger pockets, or mono doigts, were created on the exterior walls - that is, if you don't count the ones drilled out by climbers who fancied themselves, debatably, as great sculptors of stone. 

    Here in Grotte de Niaux, there are paintings of animals that undulate on walls, shimmer in shadows. Horses, bison, and ibex move as if they are emerging from some other, even more interior, kind of realm. About the master craftsmanship of such ancient paintings, dated back to the Upper Paleolithic, Picasso said something to this effect:

    Since then, we have learned nothing. 

    Continue reading "The Writing on the Wall " »

    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.

    Your Help is Needed to Protect the Green and Colorado Rivers

    Recently Patagonia participated in a Save the Colorado River campaign funding meeting that provided over $150,000 (including $25,000 from Patagonia) to over a dozen outstanding nonprofits working to protect and restore the ecological health of the Colorado River and its watershed. The Save the Colorado River campaign is a partnership between business and philanthropic groups, founded by New Belgium Brewery and including Patagonia, CLIF Bar, Teva, Kenney Brothers Foundation, the Environment Foundation, Environment NOW, National Geographic and Clean Water Fund. Learn more at:
    Through Save the Colorado River and the Our Common Waters campaign, we encourage you to read on and lend your voice to a coalition of 20 conservation groups who are fighting to stop the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline water project…

    Please sign the petition at

    The Colorado River Watershed today faces many challenges, as our need for water in the west continues to grow.

    From hopeful beginnings at the headwaters of its longest tributary, the Green River…

    Photo: G. Thomas, via Wikimedia Commons

    to the dry and cracked landscape of the Delta, 50 miles south of the Mexico border.  Where the mighty River once met the Sea of Cortez in a rich estuary, it is now reduced to this:

    End of colorado
    Screen-grab from Pete McBride's short film about the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline project.

    These conditions will only get worse as human consumption increases and climate change threatens to jeopardize the snowpack that feeds the river.

    Hit the jump to read more about the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline project, and watch Pete McBride's image-rich video trailer.

    Continue reading "Your Help is Needed to Protect the Green and Colorado Rivers" »

    Running to the Sea - Help Save the Colorado River Delta

    Delta_rivers end0636

    "But along the way I learned how the problem could be fixed and that the delta is far from dead both in terms of people who care about it and the remarkable habitat that still remains." –Jonathan Waterman

    When our fall catalog lands in your mailbox, you’ll find an excellent essay on the Colorado River by Jon Waterman, a writer who has devoted himself to the river and everything that depends on it. The Colorado was once a great river but it has been ruined by water greed. You can find out more about the river and Patagonia’s ongoing campaign at Our Common Waters. Here, Jon sends an urgent and eloquent plea to help save the Colorado. Please take action today.

    In June 2008, as I began paddling the 1,450-mile long Colorado River, the knowledge that the river had not reached the sea for a decade outraged me. And it wasn’t just because paddling the last 90 miles would be a challenge. It is outrageous because we have shunted our most iconic western river to the greatest desert estuary in North America and not only has this been swept under the rug by our Bureau of Reclamation, but people I met everywhere along my journey from the Rockies toward the Sea of Cortez were largely unaware that the river had run dry.

    [Above: Pete McBride portaging toward the sea along the empty river banks. Photo: Jon Waterman]

    Continue reading "Running to the Sea - Help Save the Colorado River Delta" »

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