GROUPS WE SUPPORT: Rocky Mountain Field Institute
We take a large amount of pride in our history of outspoken advocacy for conservation and access causes (locally, regionally and globally), as well as in our efforts to support conservation, education and recreation groups that are on the front-lines of protecting and preserving the wild lands we love and depend on, and this ongoing series will serve to highlight and promote these all-important groups.
For a full list of the groups we support, click here.
For nearly a quarter decade, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) has been active in many areas that Black Diamond employees travel to and enjoy from our headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Working mainly in Colorado, it's no surprise to us that the RMFI was conceived by a person who shares our same values of preserving our natural spaces to be enjoyed by generations to come. Supporting the RMFI is a no-brainer for Black Diamond, but we took the time to catch up with Executive Director Rebecca Jewett to find out more about the organization and what they are currently working on.
How and why did the Rocky Mountain Field Institute come to be?
Rocky Mountain Field Institute was started by climber and mountaineer Mark Hesse. In the mid-1980s Mark began to notice the environmentally degrading impacts of climbers and other recreationalists on public lands. He observed that these beautiful and treasured landscapes were quickly at risk of losing the very characteristics that drew people to them. In 1989, Mark catalyzed a group of friends and fellow climbers and began building trails and restoring impacted areas in Indian Creek Canyon. We've been hard at work ever since throughout Colorado and Utah, empowering community volunteers to give back to the land by building trails and restoring some of our most treasured climbing and alpine areas.
How has the group and its goals evolved since it was founded?
RMFI historically focused on constructing steep, technical trails in challenging terrain like the alpine. In recent years, we started undertaking restoration-focused projects in areas like wildfire burn scars and wetland and riparian habitat. We still work at climbing areas like Indian Creek, Shelf Road, and Garden of the Gods, but we've expanded our focus beyond recreational areas to include more types of sensitive ecosystems that desperately need the on-the-ground people power we can provide to get work done.
What are some key achievements or successes the RMFI has enjoyed over the years?
Since we first started digging in the dirt, we have mobilized over 15,000 community volunteers who have contributed $4 million in volunteer labor towards the stewardship of our public lands. One of our greatest accomplishments is the years-long effort to build a sustainable trail and camping infrastructure in South Colony Lakes Basin, home to Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak, and Humboldt Peak in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range of Colorado. 15 years ago this was one of the most degraded alpine basins in Colorado. Today, it is a model for how high-use wilderness alpine areas can be managed and cared for. Despite this success, however, we still face the on-going challenge of how to pay for the needed maintenance of the work in the basin to ensure its future sustainability.
Currently, what is at the forefront of the RMFI in terms of a goal or issue to deal with?
While we typically do not have trouble signing up volunteers to work with us in these amazing natural areas, we often struggle to engage the key recreation group that enjoys a particular area. For example, we have trouble getting climbers to volunteer at climbing areas. This is not true across the board, but it is an issue we have seen at many areas. One question we continue to ask ourselves is how do we instill an ethic of public lands stewardship in the public? In the face of decreasing public lands budgets at the local, state, and federal levels, it is critical that user groups feel a sense of responsibility for these lands, get involved, and take action.
How does BD support the RMFI and how important is support from companies like BD?
Rocky Mountain Field Institute is a small organization with only 4 full-time staff, yet we work with over 1,300 volunteers annually. Support from companies like Black Diamond is critical in terms of providing product and gear donations for our project staff and volunteers, and leveraging our small budgets to create big on-the-ground results. Additionally, Black Diamond is able to broadcast our message to a wide audience. Through its support, BD is standing with RMFI to say that caring for our public lands is a priority. This message is extremely important and we appreciate Black Diamond's support.
For more information on the RMFI, or to find out how to donate or volunteer, click here.