Two Colorado nonprofits collaborate to give North American Mountains a global voice

Contact: Rebecca Wallace, Aspen International Mountain Foundation, at rebwallace@comcast.net and 970-927-0313

Aspen, CO – January, 25, 2012 -- Two Colorado nonprofits—the Aspen International Mountain Foundation (AIMF) and the Telluride Institute—have submitted a major report on sustainable development in North American mountain ecosystems and communities for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, a.k.a. Rio+20. 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.

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.

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. It introduced a specific chapter (Chapter 13) on mountains as fragile ecosystems in Agenda 21—a comprehensive blueprint of sustainable development actions to be taken globally, nationally, and locally by UN organizations, governments, and major groups. 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.

AIMF, a Colorado nonprofit corporation, 501(c)3, formally organized in 2001, is dedicated to promoting sustainable development in the world’s mountain communities. It evolved from a decade of its founders working collaboratively with the United Nations’ Environment Program, the City of Aspen, the Aspen Institute, Aspen Sister Cities, and other public and private organizations to produce a series of international conferences focusing on issues facing mountain communities. This past fall, AIMF was invited by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to establish the North American Hub for its Mountain Partnership Program in Aspen. The Mountain Partnership is a voluntary alliance of partners, including 50 countries, 16 intergovernmental organizations and 118 major groups and NGOs, dedicated to improving the lives and livelihoods of mountain people and protecting mountain environments. Currently, AIMF is undertaking a fundraising campaign to raise money to establish the Hub.

The Telluride Institute was founded 28 years ago to create strong local environmental and cultural activities. Their programs demonstrate innovative and practical methods for building and sustaining healthy communities and environments. Rocky Mountain News called the Telluride Institute “the World’s highest altitude think tank,” and others have called them a “think-and-do tank” because of the practical, hands-on, results-oriented nature of their programs. The Telluride Institute works both locally and globally to meet Wallace Stegner’s challenge to Westerners to “build a society to match the scenery.” AIMF and the Telluride Institute continue to explore ways in which they can further collaborate and advance the goals of the Mountain Partnership. You can download a copy of Sustainable Mountain Development: North American Report at www.aimf.organd www.tellurideinstitute.org.