The Conservation Alliance represents a coalition of nearly 300 businesses that pool resources to fund and advocate for the protection of North America’s wild places and outdoor spaces. Through the collective power of its membership it engages businesses to take bold steps to conserve wild public lands and waters through grantmaking and advocacy.  

Beyond that, The Conservation Alliance organizes support to show that land protection and outdoor recreation directly benefit local and national economies by sustaining and creating jobs, improving quality of life for community members and generating revenue. Since 1989, the group has awarded more than $31.9 million in grants and helped protect more than 82 million acres and 4570 river miles, remove or halt 38 dams, purchase 22 climbing areas and designate five marine reserves. 

Running Insight caught up with Conor McElyea, senior director of membership and partnerships, whose primary role with TCA is to manage its business members – overseeing member recruitment, retention and cause marketing initiatives – for insight into how and why the work of The Conservation Alliance can benefit run and outdoor specialty retailers.

The importance of The Conservation Alliance’s mission … “As trail running continues to grow in popularity, trail access is critical to the success of both brands and retailers alike. Our work to conserve land and water is fundamentally good for business. For run specialty retailers specifically, this helps expand trail access in communities through North America, ensuring that runners have outdoor spaces to access now and into the future.”

Challenges for the Conservation Alliance … “The gears of politics and government can grind extremely slowly and priorities placed on conservation and protecting public lands are constantly shifting based on any number of myriad factors. For us, the mission always remains the same despite the challenge of the day and we continue to move the ball forward thanks to our members and their unique ability to tie conservation to economic stimulation in a way that gives us a seat at the table, regardless of the political dynamics at any given time.” 

Challenges/opportunities … “Any environment or administration will present both benefits and challenges. Geared with extremely strong support and impressive numbers demonstrating the growth of the outdoor industry, we are able to show the public’s appetite to protect and expand public lands irrespective of the nature of the political environment.” 

The current administration … “We are incredibly grateful to the Biden Administration, which  helped us deliver a record-setting year for conservation in 2023, using administrative action to protect nearly 12 million acres of land. The administration has shown incredible support for us in our goals in the past couple of years and we look forward to working with both the Administration and both chambers of Congress to continue to advance our conservation priorities in 2024.”


The retailer opportunity … “First and foremost, members of The Conservation Alliance help protect land and water that have a clear people and recreation benefit. And it’s those areas that are used by running consumers and in turn become part of the running industry’s supply chain.” 

The brand opportunity … “For brands that want to give back and have a positive impact, we can be a one-stop-shop for conservation giving. Through TCA, member companies have the ability to support 50 grassroots conservation organizations per year, all through one partner. They then have an opportunity to engage in advocacy efforts by leveraging a trusted partner and working in tandem with hundreds of their peers from the business community. That coalition approach provides both strength and cover in numbers. And at the end of the day, they’re given access to marketing materials and resources that they can share with their community around what they’re investing in and the impact that it’s having with real, tangible successes.” 

Getting involved … “If you work for a business, reach out and explore how your company can become a member. We have established ourselves as the business voice for conservation and want to invite businesses of all sizes and geographies to get involved and join the movement that we are creating. 

The level of commitment … “Membership dues are tiered based on revenue to make it approachable for businesses of all sizes to take part. Dues range from $500 a year for businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue, all the way up to $100,000 a year to be part of our Pinnacle membership program.” 

The Running Event connection … “I participated in TRE in both 2022 and ‘23, hosting educational breakfasts on the first day of each show. My goal has been to educate the running community on our work and start the conversation around how they can support. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, with dozens of highly engaged conversations with brands and retailers who have long felt like they should be doing more to give back, but haven’t known where to start or how to most effectively spend their dollars.” 

The run specialty business
participation ...
“Our representation from the running industry still has a lot of room for growth, providing exciting opportunities for continued education and engagement in the years to come.”


The Conservation Alliance’s goal for 2024 … “This year is all about growth and impact. This organization has deep and strong roots from within the core outdoor industry, yet in recent years has worked to diversify and broaden the representation of our membership, adding dollars to our grant program and powerful voices to our advocacy efforts. This year we hope to continue that growth with greater representation from outdoor segments that include run, bike, snow and fish, while also adding representation in natural foods/CPG and hospitality.” 

Focused efforts … “When it comes to impact, we are supporting active legislation and advocating for more National Monuments designations, securing large protections in California, Alaska and Colorado, protecting millions of acres and land and water that will benefit recreation access and the recreation economy.” 

For more:


Success stories for the running community … Nearly all of the campaigns that TCA supports improve trail access that benefit runners. Here are some recent examples of projects that its
funding has helped support:

• Green Mountain Conservancy, Deer Run Nature Preserve, VT

• The Frontera Land Alliance,  Lost Dog Conservation Easement, TX

• Trust for Public Land, Spence Mountain, OR

• Northeast Wilderness Trust, Woodbury Mountain Preserve or Grafton Forest Wilderness Preserve, VT

• Continental Divide Trail Coalition, CDT New Mexico State Land Acquisition Easement Project, NM

• The Trust for Public Land, White Rocks & Otter Creek, VT

• Ventura Land Trust, Mariano Rancho Acquisition Project, CA

• Central Oregon LandWatch, Save Skyline Forest, OR

• John Muir Land Trust, Almond Ranch, CA

• The Trust for Public Land, Catamount Community Forest , VT