Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 53

2000s

Outdoor Retailer 35th Anniversary
to know its founder, the famed father of the
modern environmental movement, David
Brower. Renowned for having a knack for convincing people to accomplish the impossible,
Brower turned Sterling and a friend loose on a
project that proved premature-the removal of
Hetch-Hetchy Dam.
"Dave taught me that there is nothing more
important than working on behalf of wild places," Sterling says. "And that it's critically important to get out there and explore." Weekends
and any time he could get off, Sterling got intimate with the places he was advocating for; he
hit the rocks in Yosemite or Joshua Tree or went
ski mountaineering in the Sierras.
He paid the rent by working in the Sierra
Designs retail shop in Berkeley. At the time,
he didn't think much about the job. In 1996,
Sterling landed a position at Patagonia in
Ventura. Several years later, his team-player
personality and work ethic got him promoted
to Director of Environmental Programs. In
1999, at a "Tools for Environmental Grassroots
Activists" conference that he organized, he
met a like-minded Patagoniac named Heather
Smith. They married two years later.
Clearly profiting from the environmental Samaritan-ship of Chouinard (another
Brower disciple) and his fervent commitment
to conservation, Sterling adopted his own style.
Super organized and efficient, his massive digital Rolodex never out of reach, Sterling picked
up the phone, sent out streams of emails, and
generally labored long hours in the trenches.

STERLINGHADLONGREPRESENTEDPATAGONIA
on The Conservation Alliance board of directors, which met twice a year to review grant proposals. In 2002, its membership expanded to
54 companies, and The Conservation Alliance
desperately needed staff, so Sterling made the
commitment to become its first executive director. Within 12 years, he would quadruple
The Conservation Alliance membership and
its grant funding.
"John is a progressive innovator and an incredible advocate for the outdoors and the industry," says Scott Whipps, vice president of
global sales at Toad&Co (an Alliance member).
"One of his gifts is to speak the different languages of his partners and constituent members."
Since 1989, The Conservation Alliance has
given more than $18 million to dynamic grass-

roots environmental groups that have helped
save more than 50 million acres of wild lands,
protect 2,991 miles of rivers, stop or remove 29
dams, designate five marine reserves, and purchase 12 climbing areas.
"We're still doing exactly what the founders
set out to do," Sterling says.
With Sterling at the helm, The Conservation
Alliance is an integral presence at the Outdoor
Retailer show. It seems every brand has a
booth fundraiser for the organization-with
craft beer and custom pint glasses the most
common door prize for giving to the cause.
And The Conservation Alliance Breakfast,
traditionally held the second morning of the
show with the tagline "Arrive Tired, Leave
Inspired," is a can't-miss event. Headline
speakers at the breakfast, which began at
OR back in 1989, have included author Terry
Tempest Williams in 2007 bringing the crowd
to tears talking about the genocide in Rwanda

Campaign), and the Oregon Rivers Campaign
(protecting threatened waterways in that state).
"It's gratifying to see companies finding
their own sense of mission, then running
with it and engaging in environmental issues,"
Sterling says.
As much as fundraising, Sterling is in the
business of building relationships and rallying people from all camps to ensure that
Conservation Alliance programs resonate with
its members. His focus is on funding grassroots
organizations tackling initiatives that succeed
quickly-ideally within a year.
Sterling hits more than his fair share of hearings and public conservation meetings. Several
times a year, he travels to D.C. to speak with decision makers in Congress, the Department of
the Interior, the Department of Agriculture,
and at the White House. Unlike other professional environmentalists, he spends an inordinate amount of time traveling to and listening

"It's gratifying to see companies finding
their own sense of mission, then running
with it and engaging in environmental
issues," Sterling says.
to national parks ranger Shelton Johnson
talking diversity and buffalo soldiers in 2011.
"It gives us the opportunity to share with our
members news about the great conservation
work we support with our grants," Sterling says.
"We also use the breakfast to inspire outdoor
industry leaders to remain engaged in conservation efforts."
This year, 200 different member organizations contributed a total of $1.75 million in
membership fees, to be donated in its entirety to 36 organizations protecting and restoring wild lands and waters (annual fees range
from $500 to$15,000 based on each company's yearly earnings). Sterling presents these
funds in $35-$50,000 lump sums to grassroots environmental organizations that include
the Alaska Wilderness League (defending the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), the Canadian
Parks and Wilderness Society (protecting
the Bay of Fundy), the Greater Yellowstone
Coalition (working on the Teton Public Lands

to constituent members. His primary vision is
funding what he calls "place-specific projects"-
legislation to create new Wilderness, national
monuments (such as the recently created Bears
Ears), or Wild and Scenic Rivers. But now, with
a new president reviewing (and possibly rescinding) the boundaries of every national
monument created in the last 21 years, Sterling
and his three staff members are scrambling.
"There are real threats out there from misguided members of Congress and a potentially
willing Trump Administration," Sterling says.
While inspired by Brower and the take-noprisoners school of environmental action,
Sterling remains a quiet statesman and a patient
listener. He takes comfort in working for likeminded companies that want to affect change.
When asked why he remains an optimist in
such environmental-swamp-draining times, he
replies, "Because our outdoor industry is waking up to these threats and is ready to fight for
our wild landscapes." O.R.

35th Anniversary 2017 / OUTDOOR RETAILER 53



Outdoor Retailer - July 2017

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Outdoor Retailer - July 2017

OUTDOOR RETAILER - JULY 2017
CONTENTS
CONTRIBUTORS
FIRST WORDS
THE TRIBE
GREG THOMSEN
YVON CHOUINARD AND GERRY LOPEZ
STEVE BARKER
THE SCENE
JEFF LOWE
PETER AND PATTY DUKE
BEAVER THEODOSAKIS
CARSON STANWOOD
CHAD GALLWITZ
JOHN MEAD
THE TORNADO
THE SCENE
SALLY MCCOY
JOHN STERLING
CASEY SHEAHAN
THE SCENE
MUSIC AND MEMORIES
PETER METCALF
SALLY JEWELL
CONRAD ANKER
JEN TAYLOR
DAN NORDSTROM
JEREMY COLLINS
JOANNA HOSHIMOTO
THE FUTURE
THE BACKSTORY
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - OUTDOOR RETAILER - JULY 2017
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - Cover2
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 1
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CONTENTS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 3
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CONTRIBUTORS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 5
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - FIRST WORDS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 7
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE TRIBE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 9
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 10
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 11
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - GREG THOMSEN
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 13
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 14
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 15
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - YVON CHOUINARD AND GERRY LOPEZ
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 17
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 18
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 19
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - STEVE BARKER
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 21
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 22
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 23
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE SCENE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 25
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 26
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 27
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JEFF LOWE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 29
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - PETER AND PATTY DUKE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 31
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - BEAVER THEODOSAKIS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 33
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CARSON STANWOOD
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 35
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CHAD GALLWITZ
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 37
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JOHN MEAD
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 39
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE TORNADO
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 41
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 42
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE SCENE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 44
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 45
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 46
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 47
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - SALLY MCCOY
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 49
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 50
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 51
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JOHN STERLING
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 53
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CASEY SHEAHAN
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 55
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE SCENE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 57
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 58
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 59
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - MUSIC AND MEMORIES
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 61
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 62
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 63
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 64
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 65
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - PETER METCALF
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 67
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 68
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - SALLY JEWELL
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CONRAD ANKER
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 71
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JEN TAYLOR
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - DAN NORDSTROM
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JEREMY COLLINS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JOANNA HOSHIMOTO
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE FUTURE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 77
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 78
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 79
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE BACKSTORY
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - Cover3
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - Cover4
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