June 2020

Dear State of the Rockies supporters,

This has been a busy year for the State of the Rockies Project! Now in our seventeenth year, we have been working to expand the Project while maintaining our long-standing commitment to collaborative research and education on natural resource and environmental issues in the Rocky Mountain West.

The changes we made were focused on expanding Rockies resources and research to make opportunities for involvement available to as many Colorado College students as possible. One element of this was a new State of the Rockies course, which will be taught every year by the Faculty Director and based around the current research project. We have also begun providing seed grants for faculty starting up new research projects that are in line with the State of the Rockies mission. Finally, the State of the Rockies Project has entered into a new partnership with the Colorado College Journalism Institute, supporting our student journalists in their investigation of the lived experiences of the residents of the Rocky Mountain West around issues of conservation, climate change, and a changing regional economy. Information on all these projects and more can be found on our website, www.coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies.

In February, we celebrated the release of the 10th annual Conservation in the West poll. This professionally conducted, bipartisan poll surveys residents of the Rocky Mountain West on their opinions regarding conservation issues including public lands, water protection, energy production, wildlife and climate change. As in the past ten years, this year’s poll shows that Westerners overwhelming support greater protections for our public lands, water, and wildlife.

One shift in the poll findings that was particularly notable is the growing concern across the region about climate change and a desire for elected officials to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is also a strikingly high percentage of Westerners who say that conservation issues impact who they will vote for. Clearly, people in the West care about protecting and enhancing the environmental resources and beauty that define the region.  The poll has gained national recognition by The Denver Post, Forbes, Sierra Magazine, and  many other news organizations.  Read more recieved media attention.

The day-long Symposium to celebrate the milestone of the 10th annual poll was attended by around 200 Colorado College students, faculty and staff; conservation professionals; community members; and elected officials. It was a great opportunity to come together to discuss the past and future of Conservation in the West.

As always, student-faculty collaborative research is at the heart of the State of the Rockies Project. Colorado College students care deeply about the environment and about conducting research that can further efforts to protect the environment in a socially just way. The broad theme of our current research is climate change mitigation and adaptation in the region. In this Bulletin, you will find summaries of the research conducted by the 2019-2020 Research Fellows, all now recently graduated Colorado College seniors. Ranging from electric vehicle policies to the resilience of agricultural counties in the face of increasing drought, the research speaks to the wide range of ways that Coloradans are addressing climate change. For more information or the full write-up of any of the projects, please contact me. The Bulletin also reflects work accomplished this past year in partnership with Colorado College’s Journalism Institute and State of the Rockies supported faculty research, and faculty-guided student research projects.

This summer, a new group of Fellows is navigating the challenges of COVID-19 and conducting research remotely. Though not able to do the extensive field work that Rockies research often includes, they are taking on a number of important projects. They are investigating the extent to which subnational actors (states and cities) in the region are taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and whether they are doing so in a way that addresses social equity and climate justice. 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. Fellows 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.

Climate change is no longer a future challenge. Its impacts are already being felt in the West and around the world. The vulnerabilities of the Front Range, including drought, flooding, and wildfire, will only get more frequent and severe. And even as the West faces the challenges of a changing climate, population growth and urbanization are putting even more pressure on limited resources and are putting ever more people into harm’s way. Our research is looking at ways that communities are striving to adapt to and limit the severity of climate change’s impacts.

Thank you for your support of the State of the Rockies Project, and for your ongoing interest in the well-being and sustainability of the Rocky Mountain West.



Corina McKendry, PhD
Director, State of the Rockies Project
Associate Professor of Political Science