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Leon Kaye headshot

REI Steps Up and Raises Awareness of the Need for Land Preservation

By Leon Kaye

Over the past few months, many companies have been scrambling to show they are taking a stand on movements including Time’s Up, #MeToo, gun violence and the inclusion of all citizens within our economy and society.

But today, World Water Day, is an important reminder that companies also have an opportunity to support the preservation of public lands, especially as critics of the current administration and Congress claim public lands have been under unprecedented attack. As the longtime environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. recently wrote, policy changes coming out of Washington, DC “have encouraged the destruction and pollution of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, beaches and other waterways.”

One company that is stepping up when it comes to advocating for land preservation and water stewardship is the outdoor gear retailer REI. The company recently sponsored an “Open Preserve Day” with Central California-based Sierra Foothill Conservancy (SFC). Together, the organizations held this event at the Ruth McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve, one of the many open spaces that the nonprofit manages across California’s Gold Country and Sierra Nevada foothills. Visitors to this and other open days could hike, learn about nature journaling, take a yoga class, or even just have a picnic nestled between the lava formations that give Table Mountain its name.

REI’s sponsorship of this and similar initiatives has several purposes. One obvious reason to fund such programs is that just as in the case of Patagonia, the preservation of open spaces is integral to these companies’ core business. And with the budget constraints that the current presidential administration is imposing on the management of public lands, organizations such as SFC are left to pick up the slack – yet can benefit immensely from the support of companies like REI.

Furthermore, opportunities such as last Sunday’s Open Preserve Day opens the door for citizens who many not have the opportunity, or income, to enjoy local national parks such as Yosemite and Kings Canyon/Sequoia. Per capita income in nearby Fresno County, for example, is almost 30 percent lower than the statewide average in California; surrounding counties in the San Joaquin Valley also struggle with poverty and limited job opportunities outside of agriculture. Meanwhile, local budgets often leave no room for the acquisition of lands for recreation and preservation.

Finally, circling back to World Water Day, REI’s sponsorship of such events helps local environmental organizations perform a most important task: ensuring that local water supplies stay safe, clean and plentiful. The 6,481 acres SFC manages help preserve and replenish local groundwater supplies, encourage sustainable agriculture and ranching and also provide a forum by which local volunteers can educate the public about the need to do what is possible to conserve this most precious resource.

Image credit: Leon Kaye

Author’s note: The author dedicates this article to his friend Jason Kump, a Fresno resident who has been missing since February 15. Jason loved the outdoors and appreciated the beautiful spaces and hiking opportunities that are plentiful in the Sierra Foothills. A Facebook page has been set up in order to share information about Jason so that his friends and family can do whatever is possible to bring him back home safe.

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye