In an era of such political division, perhaps there is one concept we can all get behind: public lands.
While widespread disagreement exists as to how much land we should protect, how it should be managed, who is able to utilize it and for what purposes, the idea that land should be set aside for the enjoyment of the people and the protection of plants and wildlife is as American as all of us.
It’s our common ground.
This was the idea behind an initiative launched by New Belgium Brewing Company over the summer. “As a beer built in the outdoor community, we saw an opportunity for Fat Tire to play a role in bringing people from across the political divide together as only beer can do,” says Leah Pilcer, director of communications and public relations at New Belgium. “In a time of increasing political polarization, protecting public lands is one of the few issues that unites us as Americans.”
Fat Tire’s “Finding Common Ground” film series “explores the power of understanding another’s perspective and setting aside differences to protect public land,” according to its website. The project, which lasted one month, was an opportunity for New Belgium to further align its business with its values as well as its history of both enjoying and working to protect the great outdoors.
“The name ‘Fat Tire’ was our founders’ homage to the early days of mountain biking, and our coworkers today enjoy these lands by biking, climbing, hunting, fishing and so much more,” says Pilcer. “With deep roots in the outdoors, New Belgium Brewing and Fat Tire have a long history of advocating for land and water. We regularly voice our support for strong protections and have donated over $10 million to organizations that protect the outdoors and get people outside to enjoy them.”
“In a time of increasing political polarization, protecting public lands is one of the few issues that unites us as Americans.”
Launched on July 15, Finding Common Ground features three short films in which two outdoor recreationists from different walks of life come together to share their passion for their sport with each other. “In doing so, we see how their love of the outdoors connects them,” says Pilcer. In some cases, the activities they enjoy seem to be in conflict with those of the other person.
New Belgium’s goal with the series was to raise up to $250,000 for organizations working to protect public lands by encouraging people to share, tag and enjoy. Each film had two benefiting organizations, and every time a video was shared, Fat Tire donated $1 to those nonprofits. Additionally, 1 percent of all Fat Tire sales during the month went to organizations working to protect the outdoors. People were also encouraged to use the hashtag #FindingCommonGround on social media to share their favorite place to enjoy the outdoors.
Although Fat Tire fell short of the $250,000 benchmark, with $160,000 in donations, Pilcer says support for the initiative was impressive considering it was the first project of its kind for New Belgium. The company is currently working on developing additional initiatives to tie into Public Lands Day on Sept. 28 as well as others through the end of the year.
Check out all three films below.
Part 1: The Climber & The Hunter
Filmed in the New River Gorge area of West Virginia, this film features Allie, a female bow hunter from the country, and Mikhail, a city-dwelling rock climber.
The nonprofit beneficiaries were Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, whose mission is to protect North America’s hunting and fishing heritage in a natural setting by protecting public lands, and Access Fund, which is focused on keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing environment.
Part 2: The Wheeler & The Biker
Filmed in the desert of Moab, Utah, this video follows two women in the male-dominated sports of wheeling and mountain biking. Renee, a mountain biker who grew up Navajo in Monument Valley, gets to know Val, the Jeep wheeler.
Proceeds from this video went to The Trust for Public Land, which works to create parks and protect land for people to ensure healthy and livable communities for generations to come, and Tread Lightly!, an organization focused on protecting and enhancing recreation access and opportunities by promoting outdoor ethics.
Part 3: The Angler & The Kayaker
In this video, filmed on the White Salmon River in Washington state, millennial and professional kayaker Tyler meets baby boomer and fly fisherman Leland.
The nonprofit beneficiaries for this film were American Whitewater, whose mission is to protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely, and National Wildlife Federation, which is focused on uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife continue to thrive in a rapidly changing world.