Hokkaido Wilds Foundation (Beta)

Currently, maintaining sustainable access to the wild places of Hokkaido is largely a volunteer effort. Whether it’s track maintenance, poop management (i.e., hut and campsite toilets), or hut maintenance, the vast majority of on-the-ground work is done by volunteers. We want to support that herculean effort.

北海道の山岳自然保全活動の多くには、ボランティアによる努力によるものです。登山道の維持や修繕、山トイレの維持や設置、山小屋の維持など、実際の「仕事」の多くは、草の根のボランティア団体がやっているのは現状。その素晴らしい努力を応援したいですので、本サイトから発生するすべての収益を、北海道の山岳自然環境活動や山岳安全に努める団体を支援するためのファンドにします。これから建てていきたいHokkaido Wilds Foundationはそのために存在してほしいと考えている(目指しているのは非営利型一般社団法人)。

AS OF 2019/04/05

In order to support groups and organizations achieve the goal of providing sustainable, responsible, environmentally friendly, and safe access to the Hokkaido outdoors, we are pledging 100% of revenue from the Hokkaido Wilds website to a fund dedicated to financial support for those groups. We’ll be supporting groups focusing on any of the following (and related activities) in Hokkaido (this list will grow).

  • Human waste management in the Hokkaido outdoors.
  • Mountain hut maintenance.
  • Mountain safety.
  • Track maintenance.
  • Environmental protection.
  • Outdoor advocacy and training.

At this stage, we don’t need revenue from the site to keep HokkaidoWilds.org running. Server costs at present are manageable. So we’re giving revenue away. Which makes it sound like we’re making money on the site. We’re not right now. But that may change as we begin trialing unobtrusive ways to help readers give back. This might include the following:

  • Commission earned on referrals. The main potential here is guiding referrals. If a HokkaidoWilds.org reader finds a route they’d love to do, but would rather do it with a guide, then it would be awesome to be able to connect that user with the best person for the job. We’re doing trials now in cooperation with Explore-Share.com (for both backcountry skiing and hiking). This is exciting because Explore-Share.com makes a huge effort to screen and connect with Hokkaido’s top born-and-bred, certified, local guides. We may add other platforms as time goes on. Personally, this is one of my preferred options – those who want to pay for a guide can indirectly contribute to a sustainable Hokkaido outdoors.
  • Donations. We haven’t got around to adding a donation button to the site yet…but we’re working on it. If we do, it will be as unobtrusive as possible.
  • Map sales. This is not happening any time soon, but it is a long-time dream of ours to be able to offer our PDF TOPOMAP+ printable maps as a print-on-demand product, printed on waterproof paper. Most people will just print them out themselves for free, and that’s totally fine. But if we can find a service where all we have to do is upload the PDF and the service takes care of the rest, then we’ll be all over it. A user anywhere in the world orders the maps they want and they get delivered to them anywhere in the world…a dream! RedBubble.com is a good example of this, but they don’t offer what we need.

We’re not going to do ads, and we’re not going to have a donate button on every page, in popup windows, or invading your dreams. Who knows, maybe we might do merch, but that’s not really helping achieve our core goal of providing information and practical tools for exploring the Hokkaido outdoors.

Do Hokkaido volunteer groups need help?

Japan is in a state of unprecedented population decline, and Hokkaido is a prong on the spearhead of that decline. If we exclude Sapporo City, Hokkaido is the second-fastest depopulating prefecture in Japan after Akita Prefecture in Honshu. Rural areas in Hokkaido are being hit the hardest. This means less local resources to support sustainable outdoor access. Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if people also stopped going into the outdoors. But just as population is declining, Hokkaido is experiencing almost exponential growth in inbound tourism.

Hokkaido year-on-year increase in foreign in-bound tourist numbers (from Hokkaido Tourism Statistics)

  • 2013 – 46% (total 1.2m)
  • 2014 – 33% (1.5m)
  • 2015 – 35% (2.1m)
  • 2016 – 11% (2.3m)
  • 2017 – 21% (2.8m)

While the vast majority of this increase is due to less ‘adventure’ oriented tourism (reference), there’s been a strong increase in people coming for the outdoors. Yes, this is putting a strain on local infrastructure and, unfortunately, search and rescue resources – SAR callouts by foreign visitors in the sidecountry now outstrips callouts by Japan-residents (see stats here).

We see a great opportunity here also. Hokkaido Wilds exists to provide English resources for the Hokkaido outdoors (for residents and visitors), and website access numbers are positive (almost 9,000 unique visits per month on our first full winter season operating). So we’re slowly introducing ways in which the increasing number of users of the site and the Hokkaido outdoors (both visitors and residents) can indirectly contribute and support the great outdoors here.

Long term goal

The long term goal here is to eventually set up a fully-fledged non-profit general incorporated association, a 一般社団法人(非営利型)(ippan shadan hojin hieirigata) in Japanese. This would give some legal structure to it all. It would mean the fund could live in its own legal entity’s bank account, not in Rob’s. It would also, importantly, add a level of accountability. While not a fully fledged 501(c)(3) equivalent NPO, there would be tax breaks for donations etc. As a loose goal, we’d be happy if we can say there’s a Hokkaido Wilds Foundation Inc. by November this year (2019).

Background

Even before launching The Hokkaido Wilds in November 2018, I (Rob) have been mulling over what to do with revenue (if any) that might be earned through the HokkaidoWilds.org website. Even before the launch, when I still posted everything on my old personal travel website http://14degrees.org, I got the odd email from people offering to donate money to me, in appreciation of what I was doing. In all cases I politely refused and encouraged people to share the word instead.

What I really wanted to be able to say was “donate your money to XYZ charity, a centralized charity committed to supporting sustainability in the Hokkaido outdoors.” However, as far as I’m aware, such a charity or organization doesn’t exist. Yes, there are plenty of local organizations doing great things in their local areas. Local alpine clubs with passionate members. But nothing centralized. And at that stage, I didn’t want the extra complication of setting up my own charity/fund – responsibility, ugh! But I feel like the time is right to start something.