Telluride Mountainfilm Pays Tribute to National Parks


Telluride Mountainfilm Festival 2016. Photo: Alison Kelman

May 26th – 30th, in the snowy mountain village of Telluride, Colorado, thousands gathered from around the globe to watch, learn, laugh, and celebrate the power of film at the 2016 Telluride Mountain Film Festival.

This year’s Mountainfilm theme was cased around the U.S. National Park’s Centennial, making it a particularly special year for Tompkins Conservation to participate in the event.


Attendees to the filmmaker’s dinner had to bundle up after a spring storm sprinkled the mountains. Photo: Alison Kelman

The weekend kicked off on Friday with the all-day Moving Mountains Symposium, which highlighted the 100-year anniversary of U.S. National Parks. 12-year old Tonisha Draper kicked off the symposium with a moving performance, singing the Navajo national anthem, which echoed around the auditorium leaving the audience in silence and awe. MC’d by Cheryl Strayed (of the book Wild), the symposium hosted numerous experts on past and present day national parks, including:

Historian Douglas Brinkley – Douglas gave an engaging talk on the impact of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D Roosevelt, and how their love of natural places resulted in the protection of multiple endangered species and the creation of our some of our most beloved parks.

Betty Reid Soskin – The oldest park ranger in the U.S., Betty spoke about the role of race in the park system and her contribution to the creation of urban parks as a means of bring nature to underserved communities.

Michael Gauthier – A climber, guidebook author, and park ranger, Michael spoke about the issue of balancing growth and stewardship and the intersection of park management and recreation.

Vanessa Torres – As the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Los Angeles District Supervisor, Vanessa spoke to the importance of diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces as a means of engaging future park stewards.

Tom Butler – Tom outlined the life’s work of Tompkins Conservation and the global spread of national parks and wildlands philanthropy.

Kevin Fedarko and Pete McBride – Filmmakers, adventurers and conservationists, Kevin and Pete discussed their illuminating journey through the heart of the Grand Canyon and how the challenges facing the canyon are emblematic of the country’s entire national park system.


From left to right: National Park Rangers Vanessa Torres, Betty Reid Soskin, Michael Gauthier, and MC Cheryl Strayed answer questions from the audience during the Moving Mountains Symposium. Photo: Alison Kelman


Tompkins Conservation Editorial Director Tom Butler gave a moving presentation on the growing conservation movements in Chile and Argentina. Photo: Weston Boyles


Kevin Fedarko and Pete McBride presented on their Grand Canyon trek, which aims to bring awareness to the overdevelopment of Grand Canyon National Park. Photo: Alison Kelman

On Saturday, May 28th, the Palm Theater had a line out the door with attendees waiting for a seat at the Tribute to Douglas Tompkins. Speaking to a full house, festival director David Holbrooke welcomed the hundreds of attendees who had come to celebrate Doug’s life and legacy.

Renowned writer, environmentalist, poet, and activist Terry Tempest Williams spoke first, outlining the impact Kris and Doug had made on her life. She noted how after Doug’s tribute in San Francisco in January, Williams and her husband Brooks were inspired to purchase 1,120 acres of federal public lands to protect it from oil and gas drilling. There was not a dry eye in the house at the end of her speech, which wove together beautiful narratives on the imperative human connection to wild landscapes. In the words of Tempest Williams Williams, “We are at a crossroads. We can continue on the path we have been on, a path that privileges profit over people and land; or we can unite as citizens with a common cause – the health and wealth of the Earth that sustains us. We have arrived at the hour of land.”


Renowned writer and environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams opened the tribute to Doug Tompkins. Both Doug and Terry shared a deep love and commitment to national parks. Photo: Weston Boyles

Saturday’s tribute included a screening of the film Douglas Tompkins: A Wild Legacy, created by James Q Martin and Chris Cresci. The short movie highlighted Doug’s incredible life, from his first descents of white water rivers, to the creation of the global brand Esprit, to his enormous impact on the wild landscapes of South America and the world of conservation.

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The film was followed by moving speeches from Doug’s wife Kris Tompkins, Tom Butler, Rick Ridgeway, and Lito Tejada-Flores, one of the original organizers of Mountainfilm and a close friend of Doug for many years. It was Lito and Doug’s trip to Patagonia in 1968 and the subsequent film Mountain of Storms that inspired Lito to launch Mountainfilm. Each of the speakers spoke to Doug’s ability to “commit, then figure it out,” his love and appreciation for beauty, and his artistic attention to detail.


Kris Tompkins and festival director David Holbrooke answer questions from the audience. Photo: Weston Boyles


Tom Butler spoke passionately of Doug’s commitment to wild nature. Photo: Weston Boyles

The Tribute to Doug highlighted the vitality and endurance of Doug’s vision as Tompkins Conservation passes into a new chapter of conservation leadership and growth. We’d like to thank David Holbrooke and the Mountainfilm festival team for putting together this wonderful event. We’d also like to thank Terry Tempest Williams for her incredible speech and tribute, James Q Martin and Chris Cresci for putting together such an inspiring film, and all of the speakers who worked so hard to honor the memory of the incredible Douglas Tompkins.

Watch the full film: Douglas Tompkins: A Wild Legacy at

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