Outdoor retailer donates $26,300 to Return of the Natives project

For the fifth straight year, CSU Monterey Bay has received a grant from the outdoor recreation retailer REI for the university’s Return of the Natives (RON) project.

A $15,000 grant will support work with school children and local teachers, university students and community volunteers on habitat-restoration projects on Fort Ord public lands, the creeks of Salinas, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District lands and Marina Dunes Preserve. The funds represent a stewardship grant that REI awards annually.

An additional $11,300 was donated, representing the proceeds from the Banff Mountain Film Festival screening REI sponsored in Monterey last March.

“We’re trying to get people outdoors – like REI does,” said Laura Lee Lienk, RON director. “And we’re trying to get them to realize they can help the planet.”

Ellie Kincade, outreach specialist at REI’s Marina outlet, commended Return of the Natives for its outreach efforts and collaborations with the local community.

“When I came here five years ago,” she said, “everyone I met told me to partner with RON and Laura Lee.”

The two organizations now partner regularly to support volunteer opportunities.

Return of the Natives is dedicated to bringing people closer to nature and nature closer to people through hands-on experience in restoring habitats.

REI encourages protection and restoration of the environment through its philanthropic activities. In 2011, the Kent, Washington-based company gave away $4.48 million to 330 local and national nonprofit organizations to support outdoor stewardship and connect children to nature.