Diversity is the blood running through the veins of the 2016 SHIFT Festival.

“We know we have to be more diverse and more culturally relevant,” SHIFT founder and director Christian Beckwith said. “If it’s not, we fail.”

The 2016 SHIFT Festival is a combination of discussions, keynote talks, evening entertainment and networking events that kicks off Thursday. The goal is to unite natural allies around the common goal of protecting the public lands where people recreate.

New to SHIFT this year is the Emerging Leaders Program, which started Monday and runs until Thursday on the Teton Science Schools Jackson Campus.

Over 30 young adults from around the country are joining to learn how to make the most of their time at the SHIFT Festival. The four-day program is meant to prepare the diverse group of young leaders for advocacy, Beckwith said. When they get to the SHIFT Festival on Thursday they will be ready to contribute on a significant scale.

Whether it’s working on community development projects in Philadelphia, getting more Latinos outdoors in Southern California or involving college students in outdoor pursuits, all of the participants in the program are looking to the future when it comes to outdoor recreation and conservation.

“If it’s the same people having the same conversations again and again, nothing changes,” Beckwith said. “And that’s what we’re changing up.”

SHIFT was commissioned in the spring of 2013 but really began to hit its stride last year, Beckwith said. Since then the festival has focused on how outdoor recreationists can help conserve and protect the public lands they use.

“We’re trying to create a coalition of interests to try to protect these places,” Beckwith said.

SHIFT Festival attendees come from all walks of life. They don’t all have the same point of view, but Beckwith believes that when people get together with a common goal they have a lot more power to accomplish it.

“There’s no way any of us operating in these little silos is up to the task,” Beckwith said. “The only way we will succeed is working together. That means putting aside the small differences to work on the bigger issues.”

As a mecca for outdoor recreation and conservation, Jackson Hole was the obvious choice to host a summit like this.

“Outdoor recreation and conservation have evolved in tandem,” Beckwith said. “Although I like to say outdoor recreation got [to Jackson] first.”

Early explorers climbed the Grand Teton, and people came to Jackson to recreate and make their lives in the mountains. And then they realized they had to protect those places.

“What that has always spoken to me is the power of this place to draw you into it,” Beckwith said. “You want to be engaged. That’s been here longer than this realization that we have to take care of it.”

The SHIFT Festival brings stakeholders and people from around the world, but the entire event is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased for the whole festival, specific days or just for the evening entertainment. For a full schedule, and how to attend the SHIFT Festival, see the sidebars. To buy tickets visit SHIFTJH.org.

Thursday’s program will include a talk by author and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams on “Our Public Lands.”

Friday night’s entertainment is all about adventure, inspiration and film. Stacy Bare will speak and serve as master of ceremonies.

The Adventure, Inspired Film Program features seven short films ranging in subject matter. From climbing Teewinot, the life of Douglas Tompkins, pedaling to peaks, art and African-American women walking, the films are all meant to inspire in some way.

Bare is the director of Sierra Cub Outdoors, which hosts hundreds of thousands of people a year in outings from picnics to major mountaineering and riverine expeditions. Bare is passionate about getting people into the outdoors, no matter what their background is or what they look like.

“Not just bearded white guys who wear plaid,” Bare said. “And I am a bearded guy who wears plaid.”

Filmmakers and storytellers will have the chance to talk about their films. Bare said the evening offers the opportunity to have conversations with the filmmakers — to tell stories and give opinions on how to conserve public lands.

“Hopefully people will feel like it’s a conversation they’re having in their living room,” Bare said.

“When 1 Million Black Women Walk” is one of the films you can’t miss, Bare said. African-American women are getting together in their communities through Girl Trek and walking for their health, which cascades into every facet into their lives. The women are helping transform their communities.

“If you watch that film and don’t feel moved, you need to get yourself checked,” Bare said.

The film program begins at 7 p.m. Friday at the Center for the Arts. Tickets cost $15.

Bare received a SHIFT award at last year’s festival, and he couldn’t believe that organizers offered him the opportunity to help host and lead some of the events.

“It’s pretty surreal to be up onstage in Jackson with peers and people I look up to onstage with me and in the crowd,” Bare said.

On Saturday evening, outdoorsman and award-winning author Steve Rinella will speak at the People’s Banquet, the closing event of the festival.

The People’s Banquet brings together local chefs, farmers, cheese makers, bakers and brewers for an evening of food and sustainability.

There will not only be delicious food but also engaging conversation and ideas.

Rinella knows a bit about food, but he won’t be doing any cooking on Saturday. He hasn’t been to a grocery store for meat in years, and he jokes about how his children don’t eat anything but wild game.

“My kids are the only ones who walk through the Seattle school system with a musk ox sandwich,” Rinella said. “They’re getting a very in-depth education about food.”

His writing and his television show, “MeatEater,” deal heavily with food, specifically wild and sustainable food.

His keynote talk will focus on the intersection of hunting and fishing and conservation and why conserving wild lands is important.

“For much of my life I made the mistake of thinking the resources we used and relied on were magical or inexhaustible,” Rinella said. “People had a hard time conceptualizing that these resources were finite. I came to see that we cannot just assume that our resources are on autopilot, without people wanting to care for them or fight for them. In some way we’re very selfish beings.”

Rinella is used to speaking to large crowds, but this may be a first for him: The crowd won’t be heavily skewed to one perspective or another. We all have common interest, he said, and areas where we can work together on behalf of wildlife.

“We’re kind of pushing for the same thing,” he said, “but always suspicious of groups that could be our allies.”

After his speech Rinella will be joined by Whit Fosbough, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. That part of the night is billed as an interview, but Rinella said it will function more like a conversation. They will go over questions that they have for each other and discuss issues.

A large problem in the country is people’s growing reluctance to spend time with and talk to people who don’t agree with each other’s opinions, Rinella said. It’s something he hopes to help with.

“Anything that I can do to help bridge some of the perceived gaps and find some common language and fight for the things that really matter,” Rinella said. “I think that’s a really noble enterprise.”

The People’s Banquet starts with cocktails and appetizers at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Center for the Arts. Rinella will begin his talk at 6:30, and the banquet will start at 8. Tickets cost $45 and include food but not alcohol.

Contact Erika Dahlby at 732-5909 or features2@jhnewsandguide.com.

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