State of the Rockies
11 Mile State Park
Photo (above) by Riley Starling
Vivid flora complements the periwinkle hues of the beloved mountains and cheerfully clear sky. If adequate attention is not paid to abating climate change, Colorado risks losing its signature vibrant scenery. The pristine waters, currently home to an array of marine wildlife, are a testament to the positive impact environmental control and conservation can have in the preservation of natural resources.
Colorado College’s State of the Rockies project encourages students to explore critical environmental and social challenges of the Rocky Mountain West. Through faculty led research and out-of-classroom experiences, students gain an appreciation of the region’s physical characteristics and the impact of human land use activities while employing an inter-disciplinary approach to finding balance between human activity and our environment.
Rockies 2020-2021 Project
Climate Action in the Rocky Mountain West
Extreme heat, more intense wildfires, and growing water scarcity are just some of the challenges climate change is presenting to the Rocky Mountain West. And the people in the region are increasingly concerned about these impacts. According to the 2020 Conservation in the West poll, climate change is seen as the first or second most pressing environmental problem by voters in all of the eight Western states surveyed. Sixty seven percent of voters see climate change as a serious problem, with nearly three quarters of voters in the region saying that their governors and members of Congress should have a plan to address carbon emissions.
This year, the State of the Rockies Project is investigating the extent to which subnational actors (states and cities) in the region are responding to this growing public concern by taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, to the extent they are striving to reduce emissions, we are looking at whether they are doing so in a way that addresses social equity and climate justice. To answer these questions, we are analyzing the transportation, energy, and building policies of each of the eight states in the region and of the three largest cities in each state. Our goal is to offer an overall assessment of climate change mitigation policies in the Rocky Mountain West and where policy gaps need to be filled. We are also taking deeper dives into particular aspects of climate policy. These include a climate justice assessment of state policies, an analysis of regional light rail projects, and an investigation into affordable housing. Overall, this year’s project will shed light on climate action and equity in the Rocky Mountain West and what needs to be done to move the region forward on climate change.
This Bulletin contains summaries of the six 2019-2020 Research Fellows’ projects. Please contact us if you’d like more details on each study. The Bulletin also reflects work accomplished this year in partnership with Colorado College’s Journalism Institute, geology and GIS departments, and State of the Rockies supported faculty research grants.
Meet the 2020 Fellows
Rockies 2020 Fellows research adapts to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions
In response to the pandemic and the necessity of research being remote, we developed a project that all Fellows could work on together from wherever they were based for the summer. We decided to do an assessment of the climate policies being done by the states and major cities of the region. The goals were to 1) assess what is being done in the region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 2) set a baseline to be able to see if the Coronavirus recession impacts climate policies, and 3) evaluate if climate equity was incorporated into these policies. Rather than the individual, interview and field-based research that Fellows usually do, this project entailed the Fellows working together to conduct extensive content analysis of existing policies and government documents from the safety of their homes.
Leah Barazani is a senior from Maplewood, New Jersey. She is an environmental studies major interested in urban studies, environmental justice, and farming! In her free time she likes to bake bread and listen to music. She’ll be conducting her research from her home in New Jersey for the summer and she is looking forward to spending time with the other Fellows (hopefully) in the fall!
Emma Locke is a senior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is an environmental studies major interested in urban planning, green buildings, and environmental justice. In her free time, Emma enjoys trail running, cooking, and walking with her dogs. She is very excited for the opportunity to be a State of the Rockies fellow and looking forward to spending the summer in Colorado Springs.
Matthew Luzincourt is a senior from Wheatley Heights, New York. He is majoring in Organismal Biology and Ecology, minoring in Environmental Issues, and is the co-chair of the CC QuestBridge Scholars Network. In his spare time, he loves to hike, paint, and watch Animal Planet. Matt is excited to explore questions concerning urban energy systems and urban climate policy this summer!
Gracia Seeley is a junior from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is double majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies, and is excited to study the intersection of the two as a State of the Rockies Fellow. On campus, Gracia works at the Innovation Center, plays intramural sports and is involved on various student action groups like JStreet and Planned Parenthood Generation Action. She likes spending her free time outside and with friends, whether skiing, painting, or just lounging in the sunshine.
Hi, and thank you for visiting the State of the Rockies website! My name is Maddy Unger and I am an Environmental Studies Major/ Urban Studies Minor from Baltimore, Maryland. During my three years here in Colorado, I have grown increasingly interested in the changing landscape of the rural West, and the impact that agritourism and ecotourism has on agriculture, ranching and mining based economies. I am looking forward to exploring questions related to economic transitions, place-based relationships and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the North Fork Valley this summer. In my free time you can find me gardening, hiking and having social-distancing bonfires with friends.
Rockies 2020 Photo Contest
Photo by Andrew Hillenbrand
2019 State of the Rockies
Conservation in the West Student Photography Contest Winner
Conservation in the West poll
Winter Sunrise at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Photo by Stephen Weaver
Conservation in the West poll shines light on western voters' conservation concerns: bipartisan public opinion survey tracks 10 years of survey results
by Josie McCauley, '21
This February 20, 2020 the State of the Rockies Project celebrated the release of the 2020 Conservation in the West Poll Results during the 2020 Future of the West Symposium, with students, faculty, community members, and stakeholders all present.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock delivered the opening keynote address, emphasizing the unique connection Westerners have with the land and the importance of conserving such areas.
Poll results were delivered by Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy and Dave Metz of FM3 Research. Through 3,200 telephone interviews in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, researchers determined climate change to be the first or second most important environmental problem for each state. Poll results demonstrate an escalating public concern for climate change and climate and conservation related issues across the West, with with two-thirds indicating it to be a serious problem. 71% of Western voters believe removing the Clean Water Act protections was a bad decision, including a majority of voters across the political spectrum and rural voters. To see more poll results and data visualizations, click here (https://www.cwpoll.org/vis/).
Montana Governor Steve Bullock addresses
Colorado College students, faculty, staff, and
guests. Photo by Jennifer Coombes
An expert panel on The Future of Public Lands, discussed issues concerning equity in conservation, cultural connection to the land, and access to the outdoors, especially in more urban areas. Panelists included Maite Arce, President of Hispanic Access Foundation, Collin O-Mara, President of the National Wildlife Federation, Corina McKendry, Faculty Director of State of the
Rockies Project, Len Necefer, Professor at University of Arizona and Founder of Natives Outdoors, and Jennifer Rokala, Executive at Center for Western Priorities.
Students and faculty members engaged with conservation professionals from Conservation Colorado, Center for Western Priorities, the Hispanic Access Foundation and other western and national organizations. New Mexico Senator Tom Udall concluded the symposium with another keynote address, emphasizing the importance of conserving our wild lands for future generations.
Lively lunch conversations filled the main space of
Cornerstone Arts Center, Colorado College campus.
Photo by Josie McCauley
Colorado College students mingle and network with
environmental professionals during the State of the Rockies
Future of the West Symposium on February 20, 2020.
Photo by Josie McCauley
Rockies Rapid Response Research Projects
- Learn more and apply for a Rockies Rapid Response Research grant