Together, we fought for our future
As we reflect on this whirlwind of a year and a half, one word keeps coming to mind: together. During a pandemic that limited our very ability to be together, we saw unprecedented threats to our environment, public health, and communities. Our work is more urgent than ever, and it was clear we had to find new ways to connect and join forces. Our climate future, racial justice, and democracy depend on building solidarity.
And we’re proud to say that our Conservation Colorado community rose to the challenge. We came together this year on Zoom screens and in masks, in online chat rooms and in our local town halls, to fight for our future. Together, we strengthened our movement for climate action, achieved leading environmental justice policies, and won victories for our lands and water.
The crisis we face may be unparalleled, but our strength together is a force to be reckoned with as well. Here are just some of the achievements that Conservation Colorado, our members, supporters, and partners accomplished together in 2021.
We helped build a united climate movement.
Coloradans have already seen the impacts of the climate crisis firsthand. We’ve lived through record-breaking climate-induced wildfire seasons and their ramifications, from mudslides, to economic disruption. We’ve spent summers battling unprecedented drought, heat waves, and unhealthy air quality. The science is clear: we are altering our climate by pumping pollution into the air. Coloradans’ health, safety, and the places we love are at risk. To stop the worst impacts, we must act now.
So for the first time, Conservation Colorado brought together a coalition of more than one hundred environmental, environmental justice, youth, outdoor recreation, business, social justice, and other groups to fight for our climate future. Alongside this coalition, we pushed forward another landmark climate bill. We proved the power of our united community, and now our Colorado climate movement is stronger than ever.
And together, we won climate progress.
To mitigate the most disastrous effects of climate change, we must cut global emissions in half by 2030. At Conservation Colorado, we want to ensure our state not only does its part, but leads the way. Together with our partners, we fought for policies to hold our top-polluting sectors accountable for cutting emissions.
Even in the face of challenges , we passed over a dozen bills that make good progress on climate this session. These legislative wins will translate to real emissions reductions and community benefits:
And our work went beyond the legislative session, into rulemakings that will help limit emissions and protect communities. We worked towards strong regulations on oil and gas leaks, stronger assurance that industry will clean up their mess, and accountability measures for the transportation sector.
Along the way, we made sure environmental justice was at the forefront.
Latinx, Black, and Indigenous communities in Colorado have borne the brunt of pollution for generations. Meanwhile, they often don’t have equal access to the resources they need—time, funds, and political power—to fight back against pollution .
So we helped pass a major bill that is a monumental step toward identifying and addressing the harms of environmental injustice. The bill, HB1266, defines “disproportionately impacted communities,” and requires the Air Quality Control Commission to step up meaningful engagement with them. It also creates new environmental-focused positions within state government. These steps will give the people most harmed by environmental injustice more power in decisions that affect their health and well-being. And they will also position Colorado as a leader in the fight for an equitable environmental future.
We secured funding to protect and conserve Colorado’s lands and water.
Colorado is making progress towards the ambitious goal of conserving 30 percent of our lands by 2030. In 2021, we successfully advocated for more funding for the Colorado Water Plan, which will help conserve our over-allocated water supply. We also secured a whopping $37.5 million in stimulus funding to increase conservation efforts in existing state parks. Plus, the Keep Colorado Wild Pass we fought for will generate sustainable revenues for our state parks. The new funding for lands and water totals a record $130 million.
And we created more opportunities for equal access to the outdoors.
Communities of color in Colorado are twenty percent more likely than white communities to experience nature deprivation. This “nature gap” is the result of historical discrimination and segregation in outdoor spaces, limited access to nearby open space, and an exclusive outdoor industry.
That’s why we’re so excited that this year the Colorado legislature established an Outdoor Equity Fund. The Fund allocates at least $3 million per year to fund programs that connect disadvantaged youth to the outdoors. This will help reduce barriers for low-income people and people of color to enjoy nature in our beautiful state.
Finally, we helped elect pro-conservation local leaders who will serve their communities and keep these efforts going.
Our battles for clean air, green energy, and beautiful lands take place on stages both large and small. We need local leaders who listen to their communities and prioritize racial and environmental justice. Conservation Colorado proudly endorsed and supported twenty local candidates in Aurora, Commerce City, Pueblo, Thornton, and Westminster—our most racially diverse slate of candidates ever.
Even in a tough off-year election cycle, at least one candidate in each city where we endorsed won, ensuring we have voices for conservation in these key communities. We’re looking forward to working with these local leaders to move Colorado forward.
Our wins over the past year will make a real impact. But our work is far from over.
We’re at a pivotal point in the fight for our future. These next few years will be some of the most important of our lives. Scientists warn of a “Code Red for Humanity” if we do not quickly cut emissions. The U.S. is losing a football field of nature every 30 seconds, and biodiversity is declining faster than at any point in human history. As Colorado is increasingly strained by drought, wildfire, poor air quality, pollution, water shortages, suburban sprawl, and energy development, these impacts will fall disproportionately on communities who are already hurting the most. We still have a chance to ensure Colorado is a safe, healthy place to live for generations to come—but we need to act now.
We need even stronger policy to ensure Colorado gets on track to meet our climate pollution reduction targets. We need to address emissions from transportation, Colorado’s largest source of carbon pollution and most important next frontier for state-based climate action. We need to fight the environmental racism that results in communities of color experiencing more pollution. And we still have 14 million acres of land and waterways to protect to meet our goal of conserving 30 percent of Colorado’s lands and waters by 2030.
It will be an uphill battle, but we can win it together. In 2022, we’ll be fighting for policies that protect clean air, from stopping big polluters to limiting emissions that are accelerating the impacts of climate change including wildfires and poor air quality. We’ll be making sure Colorado invests new federal funds in a way that is beneficial for our climate. We’ll be pushing to conserve more of our land and water. And we’ll be working to elect pro-conservation leaders from the Senate to our city halls.
We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you for sticking with us, and stay in touch to hear about the many ways you can support our work in 2022.