One of those “motherf*ckers who has no excuses, period” Kirk Richardson grew up in a stable home with parents who instilled in him a love for the outdoors at a young age. “My father gave me free reign to explore the world,” he says. The Oregonian has climbed the Tetons of Wyoming, the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho and Mount Garfield in Washington—to name but a very few. The passion would lead him into jobs with Nike—which he joined as a shoe tester in the 1970s—to helming the top post at Keen, the Oregon-based outdoor wear company. Maybe it’s knowing what was at stake from a young age that made Richardson well suited to transition into becoming Keen’s corporate conscience, and led him and a small team to embark on a cross-country road tip. Dubbed “Live Monumental” the campaign visited festivals and events on a 7,500-mile road trip over nine weeks that ended in Washington D.C. Their goal was to encourage the Obama Administration to place under permanent protection five locations as national monuments: Gold Butte in Nevada, Boulder White-Clouds in Idaho, Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon, Mojave Trails in California and Birthplace of Rivers in West Virginia. A film of their journey premiers at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in San Francisco on April 22.
THE RED BULLETIN: What kind of an RV was it again?
KIRK RICHARDSON: We were in a 1976 GMC Eleganza, which had not seen a lot of love and attention maybe in the last 15 or 20 years. We had the car popping out of gear, no brakes. These old engines over heat, and you can run energy off the engine by running the heater. We were just on route 66 in the eastern Mojave Desert. Inside the bus it was probably 120 degrees. We were drinking water like you thought we had drunk too many beers. When we came into Durango, we had one bolt out of eight on the calipers for the disc brakes still attached. We had no brakes.
Sounds … challenging.
It was euphoric. It was fantastic. You found so many like-minded souls. Deeply interested souls and minds who cared deeply about protecting these places for future generations, and for the flora and fauna who don’t get to vote on Capitol Hill.
It seems as if protest is on its way back.
I think we’re witnessing an interesting moment, where public outcry or protests are coming back into fashion a bit. I’m excited to see where that goes … Private interests are beginning to become extraordinarily powerful, so it’s good to see people protesting on Capitol Hill to get the dark money out of politics. It’s a signal that people are motivated to push back.
What have the reactions on the ground been to your message?
People are largely supportive. I think there are a lot of reasonable people who understand, from a business perspective, that there’s no business on a dead planet. You want to live within your means. I don’t think we have been living within our means and that’s what’s gotten us into the challenges we face. I would say our passion to do the right thing and protect these special places outweighs the selfish knuckleheads.
What is the urgency?
It’s important because we’re making sure the next generation gets to do the fun stuff I could do, racing through the mountains and peaks and river sheds of the West. I want to make sure my kids and grandkids and their grandkids can do that. When you look at the 300-plus million visitors to our national parks every year, or—I lived in Germany for two years—the number of people from Northern Europe, who have traveled to the US once every five or ten years, they are itching to get to these wide-open spaces. It’s the biggest calling card America has.