League treks to Denver for Outdoor Retailer Show

Working in partnership with the outdoor recreation community is not just a core value for us at Alaska Wilderness League, it is one the most impactful and fun parts of what we do every day.

Last week, the League packed our bags for our annual trek to the Outdoor Retailer Winter Show in Denver, Colorado. Each year we head go there to meet with some of our best outdoor industry friends and allies in the fight to protect Alaska’s lands and waters. This year, however, we had the added honor of participating in the Conservation Alliance’s annual breakfast entitled: A Refuge at Risk – a panel dedicated telling the story of people and the fight to protect the Arctic Refuge.

Since our beginnings, Alaska Wilderness League has looked to the Gwich’in people for guidance and walked side by side with them in the fight to protect the Arctic Refuge through the work of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. Similarly, for years the League has worked closely with the Conservation Alliance, an organization that strives to connect businesses to conservation, enabling and inspiring numerous companies to work together to protect wild places. Over that time, the Conservation Alliance has been a strong supporter of both the League and the Gwich’in Steering Committee’s work to protect the Arctic Refuge. Moreover, they have been instrumental in connecting their member businesses—amazing companies like Patagonia, The North Face, Osprey Packs and many more—to the fight to protect the Arctic Refuge and other Alaska Lands and waters.

Maia Wikler, Lorraine Netro and Tommy Caldwell at the Conservation Alliance breakfast. (Alex Harris)

Early Thursday morning, in front of hundreds of outdoor industry representatives, League board member Lorraine Netro, a Gwich’in elder and long-time Arctic Refuge advocate, participated in a powerful panel discussing the fight to protect the Arctic Refuge. Also participating was renowned climber and Patagonia athlete Tommy Caldwell, and inspiring youth activist and writer, Maia Wikler. Together these three speakers wove a story of how people and place can bring individuals together from different walks of life to a common place of inspiration and advocacy. People in the room were called to join in this fight by using their personal and brand platforms to share the story of the Arctic Refuge, by engaging with decision-makers and by voting for change.

AWL executive director Adam Kolton (left) and conservation director Kristen Miller (right) with Maia, Lorraine and Tommy. (Alaska Wilderness League)

The breakfast was followed by a panel hosted by The North Face as part of its Climate Speaker series. At The North Face’s booth, Lorraine introduced the panel, moderated by Maia and featuring Kit DesLauriers (League board member, world champion skier and The North Face Athlete), Quannah Chasinghorse (Gwich’in Steering Committee Youth Council member), and Jody Potts (Gwich’in leader). The panelists shared their experiences as advocates at the intersection of the climate crisis, human rights and the Arctic Refuge.

Lorraine Netro, Maia Wikler, Jody Potts, Quannah Chasinghorse and Kit Deslauriers speak on the Arctic Refuge and climate justice at The North Face booth. (Alex Harris)

We are thankful that we that we can work with such strong partners and individuals in the Arctic Refuge fight. With our shared commitment to elevating a diversity of stories and perspectives, these allies help to bring the story of the Gwich’in people to an audience that might often come to the issue of public lands protection from a different perspective. Deep thanks to the Conservation Alliance, The North Face, Patagonia, and the many brands that stand with the Gwich’in in this fight.