On Monday, the first speaker of the State of the Rockies Project Speaker Series, Gary Tabor, spoke about the State of the Rockies Project and general goals for the future.

The State of the Rockies Project is comprised of CC students, faculty, and staff who strive to increase understanding about the interactions between society and the environment. In addition to holding discussions and inviting speakers to campus, participants also gather data regarding their general inquiries and publish informative reports.

Each summer, CC students are selected to work as student researchers for the current investigation. Traditionally, projects span about one year, but since 2011, the focus has remained on the Colorado River Basin.

Tabor, Executive Director of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, spoke about the importance of maintaining natural ecological processes and being conscientious of the impact that our society has on the earth.

While conservation may be feasible on a smaller scale or within a particular park, Tabor explained that the principle mission of environmentalists should involve researching how to perform the same conservation on a larger scale.

“We’re seeing extinction. We’re seeing the whole ecological function of the planet in a new phase, and this is the reality that we’re going to have to live with for the next few millennia,” Tabor said.

In addition to the student-faculty collaborative research that occurs over the summer, the Project conducted two field expeditions that allowed CC staff to explore and conduct research in some of the most widely venerated parts of the West.

The first expedition, known as Source to Sea, kayaked from the headwaters of the Green River in Wyoming to the Colorado River Delta in Mexico. Their trip and the issues related to water supply and demand were produced into the full-length documentary, Remains of a River.

The second field expedition, the Down the Colorado Expedition, began in Rocky Mountain National Park and backpacked, kayaked, and rafted the other major arm of the Colorado River Basin, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. That project culminated in a video series that was co-released with Canoe and Kayak magazine.

Tabor sees the Colorado River Project as an example of how to understand a large issue and analyze the data to propose a solution. He became familiar with this kind of pursuit through his involvement in the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

“National Parks, once seen as sufficient for conserving wildlife populations, will need to be reassessed to adapt to a changing climate, but so will everyone else, from ranchers to outdoor recreationalists,” said Program Coordinator of the State of the Rockies Project Brendan Boepple.

This summer, the two groups of Rockies staff met with over 30 conservation organizations and land agencies. In addition to these conservation experts in the field, summer researchers also met with federal officials and tribal leaders in order to amass the most comprehensive and insightful information.

“If we were to continue our focus on landscape-scale conservation for another year, it would be great to turn our focus south to some initiatives in Arizona and New Mexico and continue to develop the Project’s relationships and visibility in the Southern Rockies,” Boepple said.

Awareness of environmental issues is increasingly becoming part of civic responsibility, especially for college students. “It’s your vision to look beyond this city, look beyond this state. So many universities forget that they have a mission beyond education to do good for the world,” Tabor said.

Thankfully, CC is aware of the bigger picture and our role in making changes, but there is room for improvement. “Many students are aware of the immediate effects of climate change, but don’t look to some of the secondary issues that affect elements of the environment, our economy, and our communities,” Boepple said.

For more information on the State of the Rockies Projects, upcoming speakers, and links to videos from the projects, visit: www.coloradocollege.edu/other/stateoftherockies.com.

Megan Masuret

Staff Writer

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