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Interview by Casey Hanisko with ATCF’s Soraya Shattuck and Steve Barker
Two passionate conservationists are leading the way to build an Adventure Travel Conservation Fund that will unite the industry and support important projects around the globe. A bonfire of ivory sparked Soraya Shattuck’s commitment while Steve Barker has been dedicated to wild places for almost 40 years. Learn more how our community can and will unite and protect together.
Q (Hanisko): What is the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund (ATCF) and how did it get started?
A (ATCF): The Adventure Travel Conservation Fund (ATCF) is a nonprofit that provides funding, connections and spotlight on grassroots international projects which protect the cultural and natural resources that underpin the adventure tourism industry. With funds generated from organizations within the travel and outdoor industry, one hundred percent of membership dues are given directly to support grassroot projects around the world. The ATCF’s mission is to directly fund local projects engaged in the conservation of the unique natural and cultural resources of adventure travel destinations.
As an industry trade organization, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) had often been solicited to provide funding for travel conservation projects. Realizing that this magnitude of support did not fall within the ATTA’s mission or capabilities, Shannon Stowell, ATTA President and Steve Barker, ATTA Advisor and Eagle Creek Founder, began to vet the idea of an tourism-specific, international nonprofit with several leaders in the travel space. This group quickly and unanimously agreed that there was both the urgent need, as well as the demand, for a new nonprofit to fill this gap. Within a short period, a formalized concept and business plan was developed, and five key organizations immediately committed to providing USD$25,000 each per year, for a period of three years minimum. These Adventure Leaders were the ATTA, ExOfficio, Eagle Creek, REI Adventures and UnCruise Adventures.
Q (Hanisko): ATCF’s model is similar to Conservation Alliance, did you work with them when deciding the best approach for the Fund?
A (ATCF): The Conservation Alliance has been a presence in outdoor industry trade for over twenty-five years, funding projects and serving as a strong advocate for the permanent protection of wild places within North America. Over this time, they have achieved incredible success in their protection of habitat for conservation and recreational purposes. Given the monumental impacts achieved, and their proven business model, the ATCF has viewed Conservation Alliance as a strong example to emulate. From the ATCF’s initial concept development, John Sterling, the Conservation Alliance Executive Director, has provided invaluable input and John currently serves on the ATCF Steering Committee. Additionally, Mark Held, the Director of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, a European based Outdoor Trade group with a similar mission to Conservation Alliance has been very helpful as a member of our ATCF Steering Committee.
Q (Hanisko): The ATCF launched at the World Summit in Anchorage Alaska, what reaction did you get from attending delegates?
A (ATCF): In September 2016, the ATCF formally launched the concept of the nonprofit in front of 800+delegates from sixty international countries. The brief announcement was deliberately timed to notify members in the adventure travel community about the nonprofit, while leaving room for the concept to evolve as organizations expressed interest and ideas about the conservation needs of the industry. While there was a desire for more information from the delegates, the feedback and response was overwhelming positive. During the three day Summit, over thirty-five organizations from around the world pledged to become members of the ATCF.
Q (Hanisko): What are the three next big steps for the Fund?
A (ATCF): The priority objectives that the ACTF aims to achieve before the end of this year are to:
- Receive our 501(c)(3) status and Letter of Determination from the IRS. The ATCF is a legal entity in Washington State. We have applied for exemption as a Section 501(c)(3) public charity, but have not yet received the final IRS determination letter. When the IRS approves our application and grants Section 501(c)(3) status to ATCF, it will be retroactive to ATCF’s date of formation and ATCF will be eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable contributions to the extent allowed by law. In simple terms, membership dues are not considered as tax exempt until we receive the final letter from the IRS. We expect to receive our approval in the first half of the new year.
- Develop a consumer-facing interface by which travelers and individuals can donate. The ATCF membership base is restricted to organizations within the travel and outdoor supply chain. Although individuals cannot become official members of the ATCF, we will develop a platform by which they can donate funding to projects.
- Appoint the organization’s initial Board of Directors.
Q (Hanisko): Why are you involved in the Fund, Steve as Chairman of the Board and Soraya as Interim Executive Director?
A (Shattuck) – In 1989 my father took me on a short drive into Nairobi National Park to witness a powerful statement by the Kenyan government. I spent a great part of that cold morning watching tons and tons of ivory be set on fire and slowly burn to the ground. It was a demonstration against the illegal poaching of elephants. That was the first time it became clear to me how fragile and delicate the travel economy, the livelihood of local communities who depended on tourism, and our natural ecosystems are integrated. Since that day, my passion to travel has not diminished; but with that has come a great responsibility to understand, minimize and eliminate the negative impacts of travel. To be a key player in helping to build the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund has aligned my primary values of conservation, travel, adventure and entrepreneurship. It is very much a natural fit, and an honor, for me to step into the role as Interim Executive Director.
A (Barker) – For Nona [Steve Barker’s wife] and I, our passion for wild places and Adventure Travel pre-dates our founding of Eagle Creek Travel Gear in 1975. Along the way I had the opportunity to serve the industry through many years of service on the Conservation Alliance board of directors. It’s in that capacity that I saw first hand the power of business people with shared values coming together to give back to the incredible landscapes that originally attracted us to the outdoors and the industry.
After leaving Eagle Creek in the capable hands of VF corp in 2010, I’ve dedicated my life to conserving wild places focused locally in San Diego with The Escondido Creek Conservancy as well as the big wild in the Arctic with Alaska Wilderness League.
Working now with Shannon and the ATTA team as an advisor, I’ve recognized that as part of the Adventure Travel trade we have all been promoting and encouraging travel to incredible destinations outside of North America and Europe, but that no trade specific organization existed where our member businesses could give back to these places in the same way outdoor businesses can rally behind Conservation Alliance or the European Outdoor Conservation Association. So it’s truly exciting to be on the ground level of standing up this new organization specifically for the Adventure Trade and the amazing destinations where we operate.
Q (Hanisko): What goals do you have for ATCF in 2017?
A (ATCF): The current timely is below:
- February 2017 – Release final project criteria & desired impacts
- February 2017 – Open up for project proposal submission
- June 2017 – Close project submission period
- August 2017 – Project voting by Membership
- September 2017 – Award project grants
- October 2017 – Announce awarded projects at ATWS 2017
Q (Hanisko): Tell me about the number and types of projects the Fund hopes to support?
A (ATCF): Funding priority will be given to projects outside the United States and Canada. Both nonprofits and for-profits will have the opportunity to apply. This may include tour operators, conservation groups, indigenous people groups etc. Organizations applying must first be nominated by an ATCF member to begin the application process and be considered for funding.
Two important variables will play a role in in how many projects are funded:
- The amount of membership/donor funding received and available for distribution that year
- The proposed budget for each project
Funding amounts will range between $10,000 to $30,000 each depending on the size of the project and the potential impacts that the proposed.
Q (Hanisko): Who can nominate projects and who decides which ones get funded?
A (ATCF): Any ATCF member can nominate a project for funding. Once these projects are nominated, an application detailing project specifics will be sent to the organization to complete. Once the project submission period closes, the ATCF staff will review applications to ensure that they meet project criteria and achieve the desired objectives and impacts stated in the application guidelines. The qualified projects will then be presented to the ATCF Board of Directors and undergo a secondary screening. Final top projects will then be presented to ATCF members for voting. Each ATCF member will have the ability to vote on which projects they would like to receive funding.
Q (Hanisko): How do businesses get involved in ATCF?
A (ATCF): Become an ATCF member! Once you become a member, you will have the ability to both nominate and vote on a project to receive funding. There is still an opportunity to participate at the Adventure Leader level and lower membership levels. To apply to become an ATCF member, visit the website and complete the online membership application form.
Adventure Travel Conservation Fund Membership
The following is a list of organizations who have currently pledged to become members of the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund:
- Adventure Travel Trade Association
- Eagle Creek
- REI Adventures
- UnCruise Adventures
- Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy
- Alaska Wildland Adventures
- Ciclismo Classico
- Elder Treks
- Encounters Asia
- Evergreen Escapes
- Experience Jordan
- Experiencias Genuinas
- Go Custom Travel
- Green Team Global
- Hi Travel Tales
- Host Agency Reviews
- Ibex Expeditions
- Imago Structures
- Kallpa Tour Operator
- Kirsten Alana
- Lost World Adventures
- Natural Habitat Adventures
- Pandion Consulting
- Polar Latitudes
- Portugal Nature Trails
- Pratto Consulting
- Reefs to Rockies
- Rios Tropicales
- Strategic Travel Consulting
- Suite Integrity Travel
- The Clymb
- Travel Oregon
- Trek Travel
- Volcanoes Safaris
- Wild Places
- Wilderness Scotland
- Wilderness Travel
- Wildland Adventures