Christian Beckwith - Building a Conservation Coalition - Mountain & Prairie Podcast
Christian Beckwith is the executive director of SHIFT, a Jackson Hole-based non-profit that is building a powerful coalition to protect our nation’s public lands. By bringing together climbers, skiers, hunters, anglers, land managers, and countless other stakeholders, SHIFT is finding common ground and harnessing these groups' collective power to ensure that public lands—our birthright as Americans—remain safe during this tenuous time in political history.
After a distinguished career in the publishing world which included editing the American Alpine Journal and co-founding Alpinist Magazine, Christian experienced a profound change in priorities when one of his close friends was killed by an avalanche in the Teton backcountry. At that point, Christian decided to focus his resources and energy exclusively on work that makes a “substantive difference in the world.” From there he founded the Center for Jackson Hole, SHIFT, and, most recently, the Emerging Leaders Program which brings together a diverse group of early career leaders in conservation.
Christian’s career is inspiring in many ways, but I especially admire his willingness to set audacious goals, put himself on the line, and not wait around for permission to make things happen. We dig into all of these topics in our hour-long conversation, and he shares some interesting insights into his career and the future of conservation. We also discuss Christian’s early childhood experiences that led him to a career focused on adventure and the outdoors, and he talks about his relationship with Yvon Chiounard and how Chiounard has influenced him both personally and professionally. We chat about Christian’s favorite books, documentaries, and how fatherhood has focused his thinking on the importance of conservation. There’s a full list of the topics we discuss in the episode notes.
Given the current fights surrounding our public lands, this is a timely and powerful episode. I hope this conversation spurs you to continue educating yourself on threats to our public lands and to take appropriate action to protect them.
2:40 - How Christian describes his work
5:10 - Changing demographics in conservation
8:30 - Genesis of the idea for SHIFT
13:00 - Avalanche in Apocalypse Couloir
15:20 - Christian’s decision to shift from publishing to conservation
18:00 - Evolution of SHIFT
20:30 - Importance of encouraging people to fall in love with wild places
21:40 - Overview of the current public land debate
25:40 - How becoming a father changed Christian’s mindset
28:20 - Collaborating with non-traditional partners of recreation
31:20 - Defining the word “conservation”
31:50 - Conservation heroes and Yvon Chouinard
35:50 - The importance of Chouinard’s internal compass
40:45 - Childhood experiences that led to a career centered around the outdoors
43:10 - First experiences climbing
45:40 - Advice to his younger self
49:30 - Favorite books
51:30 - Favorite documentaries
52:30 - Unexpected activities
54:00 - Christian’s most powerful outdoor experience
58:00 - Christian’s request of the listeners
59:00 - Connect with Christian and SHIFT online