Why focus on Mountains?

Human activities are having and unprecedented impact on the world's mountains. Mountains cover 25% of our land surface and are critical to the lives of the world's population, supplying 60-80% of the world's fresh water, key raw materials, essential biological and cultural diversity, and socio-economic vitality. The mountains are also a source of physical and spiritual renewal.  



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Panel discussion in Aspen to focus on sustainable development

ASPEN — A panel discussion Friday at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies intends to delve into some of the same issues tackled earlier this year in Brazil during the controversial U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as the Rio Plus 20 Summit.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. ACES is located at 100 Puppy Smith Road in Aspen.

Karinjo DeVore, president of the Aspen International Mountain Foundation, said the discussion will feature four panel participants and a moderator. They will focus on how the conference's outcomes relate to North American mountain environments.

“We're going to talk a little bit about Rio Plus 20 from a global perspective, but the direction of the evening will be a discussion of how what happened in Rio affects Colorado mountains,” DeVore said. “It's an extraordinary opportunity for people to hear a caliber of panelists like those who would come to the Aspen Ideas Festival. And it's free.

“They also can hear about how all of these mountain issues affect us. We are all mountain people. We're going to be directly looking at how what happened in Rio on a global level affects Aspen and Colorado on a more regional level.”

In June, the Rio Plus 20 Summit brought together nearly 50,000 attendees and 75 heads of state with the goal of securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development. Other objectives were to assess the progress so far in the sustainable-development arena and to identify remaining gaps in the outcomes of previous summits in that arena.

The international event centered around two themes: green economies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development. The title for the conference was a reference to another major environmental summit in Rio De Janeiro 20 years ago, the 1992 Earth Summit.

The 10-day Rio Plus 20 Summit reportedly ended in controversy. Representatives of more than 190 nations adopted a plan to set global sustainable-development goals and other measures to strengthen the world's environmental management, tighten protections for the oceans, improve food security and promote a green economy. 

But the document that evolved from the event — “The Future We Want” — was roundly criticized by environmentalists and anti-poverty campaigners. They claimed that it lacked the detail and ambition required to address challenges posed by a crumbling environment, social and economic inequality and a global population expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050.

Panel participants include: moderator Dennis Ojima, professor of ecosystem science and sustainability at Colorado State University; Ian D. Simon, of the U.S. State Department's Office of Science and Technology Cooperation; Gillian Bowser, a CSU research scientist; Alice Madden, an environmental- and community-development expert at the University of Colorado at Denver's School of Public Policy; and Rebecca Wallace, a management consultant and board member of the Aspen International Mountain Foundation.

Speaking of the 10-year-old local foundation, DeVore said the United Nations has invited it and the Telluride Institute to join forces in creating the Mountain Partnership North American Center.

The U.N.'s Mountain Partnership program is a voluntary alliance of 50 mountainous countries, 127 cities and other public and private organizations. It seeks to raise awareness of the importance of mountains to global development and sustainability.

At a private retreat this weekend at an Aspen hotel, various participants will discuss ways of shaping the North American Center, which would be a focal point for networking, communicating and sharing information for the benefit of mountain-community stakeholders in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Link to original article here


What do Rio+20, the UN Mountain Partnership, and the Aspen International Mountain Foundation have in common? Lots.

That mountains are important to humans seems manifestly self-evident to anyone who lives in and loves them for their beauty and majesty, their cultures and diversity, their ability to soothe the soul and sustain the world.

Incredibly, as of December 2011, no report on the state of the mountains of North America was going to be included in the huge Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June. A follow-up to the landmark 1992 gathering that ultimately helped produce such important environmental achievements as the Kyoto Accords, Rio+20 will examine choices and directions for the planet's survival. Were it not for the Aspen International Mountain Foundation (AIMF) and the Telluride Institute, the heads of state and numerous delegations from around the world who will be in Rio would be reading nothing about why mountains matter for North America. 

As the AIMF report explains, mountains are estimated to provide nearly half of the world's fresh drinking water. The biodiversity that mountains shelter and succor in their forests and wildlife is some of the greatest left on earth, and they are rich with other resources such as precious metals, coal, oil, and gas. As economic drivers and psychological stimulators, the recreation and tourism industries generated in the mountains are demonstrably vital. And so on. With such promise, of course, comes great responsibility, and the challenges to our mountain environments and culture are as extreme as any we face. 

When no one else had stepped up to cover all of these things for North America, "We felt it was just unacceptable," says AIMF founding secretary Rebecca Wallace. "So we looked into it, and we ended up partnering with the Zoline family and the Telluride Institute to take it on." Wallace spearheaded the nearly sixty-page report, gathering data from around North America. "We started writing on December 10, and four weeks later we were done." They had to be.

"It was meant as a placeholder document," says AIMF founding president Karinjo DeVore, "but now it's the official report for North American mountains in Rio."

That AIMF exists to be able to do such work is thanks to a happy confluence between the United Nations and the Aspen Sister Cities Program. Starting in the 1990s, Aspen Sister Cities committee members Karinjo DeVore and Pat Fallin began organizing and participating in a series of Sustainable Mountain Communities conferences here and abroad, including ones in Chamonix, France, and Shimmukappu, Japan. John Denver performed for the latter, and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was a cosponsor. When the UN decided to declare 2002 the International Year of the Mountains, the organization contacted DeVore and Fallin about doing something significant in Aspen.

"Since the Sister Cities program had begun to focus on student exchanges, we decided to create AIMF in 2002," says DeVore. "Our goal was to be a forum for conferences, workshops, and community events to distribute information about mountain ecosystems and promote sustainable development in mountain communities." 

In December 2002, AIMF partnered with the Aspen Institute to host a comprehensive celebration of the International Year of the Mountains at Paepcke Auditorium. A 2011 event in Aspen at the Wheeler Opera House was even bigger and featured local experts such as Peter McBride, Chris Davenport, Randy Udall, Jerome Ostenkowski, and the staff of Aspen's carbon-reduction-focused Canary Initiative. Sponsors included Patagonia, the North Face, and Marmot.

Following the Year of the Mountains, the UN Mountain Partnership (MP) was formed with fifty countries, sixteen intergovernmental groups, and more than 120 major NGOs, including AIMF. Backed by UNEP and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, MP is partly funded by the governments of Switzerland and Italy, and recently received a grant from the World Bank. With a mission to protect mountain environments and improve the lives of mountain people around the world, "It's an excellent fit for us," says DeVore, "and we advocated for Aspen, Basalt, Telluride, and Park City to join." 

After attending a plenary session presented by AIMF at the second Women in the Mountains conference in Utah in 2011, Doug McGuire, the director of the MP secretariat, was invited to Aspen. Impressed, he proposed that Aspen become the North American hub for the organization, which already has hubs in Europe, Central Asia, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America. Now AIMF is attempting to raise the money to fund such a move.

It's hard to imagine the mountains of North America not being represented at Rio+20, or there not being a North American hub for the UN's Mountain Partnership. But with a little help, it's easy to see Aspen and the AIMF taking the lead in filling both of those voids. 

This article appears in the Summer 2012 issue of Aspen Sojourner


United Nations Invites AIMF to Establish a North American Hub for the Mountain Partnership—Fundraising Campaign Launched

AIMF is pleased to announce that it has received a formal invitation from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to establish in Aspen a North American Hub for the Mountain Partnership. (Click here to view the letter from the UN.) The Mountain Partnership is a voluntary alliance of almost 200 international members, including 50 countries, committed to working together with the common goal of improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world.

The Mountain Partnership Secretariat is the organizational entity that supports and serves its members. The Secretariat’s current structure consists of a central Hub in Rome and decentralized Hubs in Latin America, Asia/Pacific, Central Asia, and Europe. North America has been without a hub for several years.

“AIMF is honored by the UN’s invitation to establish the North American Hub for the Mountain Partnership in Aspen,” said AIMF President Karinjo DeVore. “Establishing a Mountain Partnership Hub is an exciting opportunity for Aspen, the Roaring Fork Valley, the State of Colorado, and for all North American mountain communities.”

The Hub will manage the exchange of vital information, help create working partnerships among mountain communities, and provide an urgently needed voice for North American mountains.

To launch the Hub on solid footing this year will require about $150,000. AIMF has launched a fundraising campaign to raise this initial amount and to establish a Mountain Preservation Fund to fund the hub’s efforts to preserve North America’s mountain environments into the future.

You can support AIMF’s efforts to establish a North American Mountain Partnership by going to our Donate page.


AIMF Collaborates with the Telluride Institute to Give North American Mountains a Voice

AIMF and the Telluride Institute have just completed a major report on sustainable development in North American mountains for inclusion in the materials being developed for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, a.k.a. Rio+20. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which was hosted by the United Nations in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. That Summit put mountains on the global environment and development map by introducing a specific chapter (Chapter 13) on mountains as fragile ecosystems in Agenda 21—a comprehensive blueprint of actions to be taken globally, nationally, and locally by UN organizations, governments, and major groups in every area where humans directly affect the environment. 

This June, when the United Nations hosts Rio+20, the main objective will be to secure renewed global commitment for sustainable development; assess the progress and gaps in the implementation of the sustainable development agenda; and address new and emerging challenges. Preparations for the Rio+20 Earth Summit have been underway for many months. Countries, non-governmental organizations, and public and private entities have been preparing materials on all aspects of sustainable development, which will help inform and guide important policy decisions worldwide over the next decades. But unlike other regions around the world, North America’s mountains had not mobilized to provide input. 

When AIMF and the Telluride Institute learned in late October 2011 that North American mountains would have no voice at Rio+20, they decided to quickly pull together a report that could serve as a placeholder for North America and provide it to the UN by early January. On January 9, 2012, they submitted their report—"Sustainable Mountain Development: North American Report"— to United Nations’ officials who are organizing materials for the Summit.  

The report begins with a brief description of eight major North American mountain ranges, followed by discussions on 11 themes: water, glaciers, mineral, biodiversity, climate change, encroachment/wildland-urban interface, conservation/protected areas, recreation/ecotourism, mountain events, mineral extraction, and poverty/wealth discrepancies.  Finally, the report highlights institutional/organizational initiatives on sustainable mountain development that are taking place within North America. 

AIMF and the Telluride Institute continue to explore ways in which they can further collaborate and advance the goals of the Mountain Partnership.

For more information, contact Rebecca Wallace



Climate change bridges gap between Aspen and Uganda
Resident who attended conference says that mountainous areas face similar challenges

Aspen, CO— November 27, 2011— Aspen resident Jim True discovered earlier this month that concerns over climate change in mountainous areas can bridge gaps between a wealthy, pre-dominantly white ski resort in America and a subsistence farming village in Uganda, Africa. Read more>



City First in Nation to Join Mountain Partnership

Aspen, CO—August 24, 2010— The City of Aspen has been welcomed as the newest member of the Mountain Partnership, an international voluntary alliance dedicated to improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world.

“By joining, Aspen is becoming part of a partnership that is comprised of 50 countries, 16 intergovernmental organizations and over 100 major non-governmental organizations,” said Sally Spaulding, community relations director for the City of Aspen. “Membership, which is free, will stimulate sharing of diverse resources, knowledge and expertise on topics such as global warming and watershed management.” Read more>


Davenport Hosts United Nations Mountain Day

ASPEN, CO—December 2, 2010— The Aspen International Mountain Foundation and the City of Aspen have teamed up to present a celebration of sustainable mountain living honoring United Nations Mountain Day. Read more>


Peak to Peak Mountain Partnership Newsletter

September, 2010 Newsletter— We wish to welcome three new members who have recently joined the Mountain Partnership: the city of Aspen (Colorado, USA), the Aspen International Mountain Foundation and the Sultan Qaboos University (Oman). Read more>