Written by Jenny Gaeng

Saturday, May 18 is Colorado Public Lands Day. Like the best holidays, it’s not just a day; it’s a mission.

Eight years ago, I lay in a meadow under the stars, sea-level lungs aching after the climb, and gazed at the unimpeded Milky Way. At the edge of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, the galaxy smeared across the sky as if someone dipped their finger in chalk and trailed the color through space and time. For the first time, I saw myself in the context of everything, thanks to our public lands.

Koda, Organizer Jenny Gaeng’s dog, in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.

Year after year, I returned to the Sangre de Cristos. I canoed to a waterfall in a glacial lake, learned to spot wild raspberries, climbed a fourteener and tearfully spat that I would never do it again (then I did it again). I brought guest after guest to the meadow of my metaphysical baptism: my mom, my friends, a once-true love, a random Tinder date. I presented the land and the lake as if I owned them, chatting proudly about weather and geology. Yes, the Sangre de Cristos were mine; they belonged to all of us, as public lands do. It seemed uncomplicated.

My story isn’t unique, nor is the fact that it’s one colored by privilege.

I started to research the history of the area. I learned that the Southern Ute camped and traveled in the Sangres, hunting elk and gathering roots and seeds for medicine. I read the dramatic crest of the mountains served as a fortress against invasions — before the Spanish found their way in from the south. I found out that “Blanca Peak” is another name for Sisnaajiní, the sacred eastern boundary of the Navajo homeland; today, the tribe still fights to protect this area from oil and gas drilling operations.

Front Range Field Organizer Jenny Gaeng.

Millions of people visit Colorado’s public lands every year to hike, climb, ski, hunt, fish, and maybe have a life-changing experience as I did. And like me, the vast majority of visitors are white — nearly 95% of visitors to Forest Service lands self-identified that way during monitoring from 2010-2014. The disparity between racial demographics and National Forest visitors in Colorado ranges from 30-70%.

The roots of this fact are not a mystery. The United States has an established history of white supremacy that is set up, protected, and perpetuated by racist policies across our economy, government, and the systems these institutions create.

“Public lands for all,” we say. But you can’t just tell someone they own a locked building and expect them to find a way inside; everyone needs a key. I was lucky enough to be handed one.

On the ridge to Sisnaajiní , renamed and known now as Blanca Peak, in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. The colonial practice of “discovering” and renaming landscapes erases the indigenous history of our lands and continues throughout the modern era.

Representation, marketing, and centers of outdoor recreation help cultivate a homogenous outdoor culture. It’s personified by being thin, fit, and clad in expensive gear; it’s predominantly male, cis, heterosexual, and hinges on the knowledge to survive and thrive in the wilderness. It’s what we see on the cover of Outside Magazine and it’s what we see on trails throughout Colorado. Coloradans that identify as nonwhite can hike for days in the Colorado backcountry without seeing a face that looks like theirs.

And that brings me to my mission — to our mission.

Gazing down at the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.

Outdoor adventurers and activists of all races, genders, and backgrounds are upping the representation game and inspiring new generations. You should pay more attention to their words and ideas than mine, and Conservation Colorado will be featuring their voices in the lead-up to Public Lands Day. Let’s talk about it. Let’s raise their stories as high as Mt. Elbert!

We love our public lands in Colorado. We love them enough to fight for them, which is the reason Colorado Public Lands Day exists. We love them enough that we’ll never stop trying to make them the best they can be — which means looking critically at our history, and shaping our future to be more inclusive and representative of all Coloradans.

We have to work together. I’m never sure of the way forward, and I’m bound to say the wrong thing or screw up at some point — we all are.

As Teresa Baker said in a recent episode of the Safety Third podcast, “Rebranding the Outdoors: “This is going to feel inauthentic as hell — because it hasn’t been done…push your fears aside about it not feeling authentic because that’s just where we are.”

If I can climb Crestone Needle and cross the Conejos River in the spring snowmelt, I think I can learn more about what it takes to make public lands truly representative and open to all people. I think you can, too.

Today, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm David Bernhardt as Secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt will replace former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who resigned in disgrace last December under a cloud of ethics violations.

Kelly Nordini, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, released the following statement in response:

“Being a Colorado native does not give David Bernhardt special qualifications for running the Department of the Interior, and shame on Senator Gardner for letting the fox guard the henhouse simply because he’s from the same neighborhood. Senator Cory Gardner made a huge mistake with his vote today, given Bernhardt’s troubling record and spiraling conflicts of interest. Westerners love their public lands and the environment and Bernhardt cannot be entrusted to protect them on our behalf.

“Senator Gardner likes to talk about protecting public lands for future generations, but today’s vote to confirm a former oil lobbyist puts the public lands we love at risk. This is yet another instance of Senator Gardner telling Coloradans one thing and then doing the opposite.”

Whether you think about it every day or once in a blue moon, mining significantly impacted Colorado’s past — and continues to influence the present and our future.

Mining operations helped build Colorado’s economy — and many of our towns’ names reflects this relationship: consider Leadville, Silver Cliff, Telluride, Eldora, or Goldfield. While it’s important to celebrate our shared history, it’s vital to recognize that the environment surrounding these communities still bear the scars demonstrating its ungilded past.

Consider the decaying and decrepit structures, dangerous tailing piles, and toxic pollution that impact our waterways. Though the mining fueled the state’s economy, it came at significant costs that still affect Colorado communities and our environment. It’s time we stop living in the past and implement legislation that reforms how the state approaches modern mining activities. Luckily, our legislators are one step ahead of us.

On its way to Governor Polis’ desk, HB 19-1113 — Protect Waters From Adverse Mining Impacts aims to address the lingering problems descended from mining operations and pollution. HB 19-1113’s directive is clear: to protect the health and safety of Coloradans by making sure that water quality impacts are accounted for and long-term impacts are avoided in the mining process.

Senator Kerry Donovan

For senate sponsor Kerry Donovan, preserving the health of our rivers is a central aspect of how we must address Colorado’s ongoing mining operations to preserve the natural resources “that all Coloradans depend on – like water.”

We all remember the Gold King Mine spill in 2015. An estimated 3 million gallons of toxic sludge poured into the Animas River, turning its water into an unseemly orange, and contaminating water sources across the West. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated situation: Colorado has more than 23,000 inactive or abandoned mine sites leaching toxins and polluting more than 1,800 river miles. “Water quality statewide is suffering from pollution,” reflected Rep. Barbara McLachlan, one of the House sponsors of HB-1113, four years after the Gold King Mine spill.

In many cases, the companies who made their riches from mining our state’s minerals are no longer around to pay the clean up costs. Take the Summitville Mine in the San Luis Valley. Taxpayers ended up footing a bill worth over $21 million to cover the bankrupt company’s costs.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either. There are over two dozen mines that need similar treatments — and require similar clean up costs — in Colorado.

Representative Dylan Roberts

For Representative Dylan Roberts, another sponsor of the bill, the next step to clean up our rivers is clear: to implement better practices to make sure the long-term impacts from mining are not impacting our water quality.

Once signed into law, HB-1113 will change three aspects of the current process:

  1. The industry can no longer rely on self-bonding: Self-bonding, a practice that allows a mine operator to offer financial proof of resources to cover clean up costs instead of providing the resources upfront, most often forces taxpayers to pay out when companies encounter financial strife or bankruptcy. Currently, Colorado is one of only seven states that allow this practice, signalling to Coloradans members that it’s time to change the way the mining industry operates.
  2. Taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill to clean up operators’ messes: The current law only requires land remediation, not water, to be factored into the size of the bond. Thanks to this bill, operators will be held accountable and required to provide financial evidence they can afford clean up costs and not pass along to taxpayers.
  3. Mining operators can’t rely on perpetual pollution as their Plan A: Industry operators must set a “reasonable” end date for their clean up efforts. Though the law will not require operators to set a specific date, they must estimate a time frame to complete clean up efforts — helping to avoid perpetually polluting mines like Summitville.

Voices of Support


Tom McNamara

HB-1113 protects more than just our waters: it protects every living thing that relies on healthy rivers, including Colorado’s natural ecosystem and wildlife species. Testifying about the importance of the mining bill, avid sportsmen and Conservation Colorado member Tom McNamara spoke of how clean water supports the ecosystems that Colorado wildlife and citizens rely on:

“This legislation puts forward common sense reforms that protect the taxpayers AND our ecosystems, while not affecting current producers and allowing future mines to operate. HB1113 will preserve Colorado’s mining legacy, while working to better safeguard and support today’s outdoor recreation economy.”

Mark Waltermire

For Mark Waltermire, the owner and operator of Thistle Whistle Farm in Hotchkiss and board member of the Valley Organic Growers Association, HB-1113 is “a good step forward” to ensuring that farmers have the access they need to clean water, which is essential to the success of Colorado’s farms and businesses. The bill will help “take the financial burden of clean up off of our collective shoulders and puts it on those responsible” — the mining companies.

Bennett Boeschenstein

Bennett Boeschenstein, the mayor pro-tem of Grand Junction and city council member, recognizes the importance of water quality on Coloradans’ drinking water and local industries like agriculture, outdoor recreation and tourism. “Our farmers ranchers recreation and tourism industry and our citizens depend on having healthy rivers and streams,” he recently testified.

After years of testimonies, hearings, and meetings, a bill that protects our rivers from the adverse effects of mining is finally becoming law. This bill wouldn’t have passed without bipartisan compromise and grassroots support — a lot of which came from YOU, our members!

With your help, we can continue to grow our movement and make Colorado’s future one that we’re proud to leave as our legacy. Donate today to support our waters, our air, our environment, and our Colorado!

DENVER — Today, the Colorado legislature voted on final passage of SB 19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations. It now heads to Governor Jared Polis, who is expected to sign the measure.

Conservation groups responded to the bill’s passage with the following statements:

“Coloradans can breathe easier today knowing that our state is finally on track to put the health and safety of workers and residents, and our environment ahead of oil and gas industry profits. Thank you to our leaders who heeded voters’ clear message and delivered these overdue reforms.”

— Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“Rural Western Coloradans throughout our region applaud the passage of SB 181 and a critical step forward to protect our people and our environment while letting the industry continue to do business in our state. We thank the legislators who worked so hard to ensure communities living with oil and gas development have more a voice on decisions that directly affect their health and well-being.”

— Emily Hornback, Director, Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action

“SB181 is an important foundational step for impacted Coloradans. It is time that communities have a voice when it comes to massive industrial projects being forced into their neighborhoods and near their schools. Thank you to our legislators who stood up for Colorado’s impacted communities today.”

— Sara Loflin, Executive Director, League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

“These are the protections Coloradans are clamoring for. They’re vital for our health and safety and are needed nationwide. Governor Polis should sign this bill as soon as it hits his desk.”

— Sam Gilchrist, Western Campaigns Director, Natural Resources Defense Council

“Grand Valley Citizens Alliance members past and present have been working on health and safety issues in Garfield County’s gas patch for over 20 years. We want to thank both House and Senate legislators who made our vision reality – that people will finally have an equal voice about oil and gas development in their neighborhoods.”

— Leslie Robinson, Chair, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance

“Coloradans will finally have a voice when it comes to oil and gas development in our state. We thank our elected officials for listening to the urgent calls from Coloradans who are ready for change. The policy changes in Senate Bill 181 will help to make our communities healthier and safer.”

— Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

 

Industry groups spent heavily on misleading advertising against SB 19-181. Analysis conducted by Westword’s Chase Woodruff as the bill moved from the Senate to the House showed that “the fossil-fuel industry [outspent] proponents of SB 181 by more than a 15-to-1 margin.” That spending included included TV advertising that was labeled “misleading” by the Colorado Sun and, at various points, “full of overstatements” and not “not accurate at all” by 9 News’ Kyle Clark.

Once signed, SB 19-181 will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health safety and the environment over industry profits and create a commission with paid, full time experts;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Greatly reduce harmful air pollution including methane, a potent greenhouse gas;
  • Better protects property owners from forced pooling; and,
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rule making around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits.

Written by Juan Gallegos

When I first learned about organizing and the potency of speaking truth to power, one person leaped to the forefront of my mind: Cesar Chavez.

This week, the famous labor organizer, Latinx leader, and environmental activist is on the mind of a lot of Coloradans. As we honor his legacy on Cesar Chavez Day on March 31, we must remember Chavez’s compassion for the workers he mobilized, his passion for the issues he addressed, and the emphasis he placed on intersectionality.

Cesar Chavez speaking at the Democratic Convention in New York City in 1976.

Chavez immersed himself in the communities he worked in and people he advocated for, living in the same housing and conditions as the farm laborers he was organizing. He suffered with them, working in the same contaminated environment and enduring the same health effects.

Inspiring broad and diverse communities can be difficult for any organizer, from California to Colorado. Big change comes from small, often incremental acts. The slow, complicated processes of advocacy and democracy can often be a deterrent to organizing communities, rather than a source of inspiration.

“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease,” said Chavez. Part of the problem, Chavez recognized, is that wealth and whiteness often equal power in the modern political system. “When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn” about environmental hazards, Chavez concluded.

Promotorxs at the park

Decades later, we still see this disparity between environmental justice and our communities of color, including the Latinx community. So, we’re working to do something about it.

The Protégete program began with one goal in mind: to build power in Colorado’s diverse communities so that everyone can participate and influence the political decision-making process. Often, the interests of Colorado’s Latinx folks and communities of color are superseded by well-financed campaigns and inherent prioritization of the wants of wealthier — and often, whiter — communities.

In its five years, Protégete has graduated over 200 people from the Promotorxs leadership development training. Promotorxs, also known as community navigators, train and learn about how the power of a shared identity can spur meaningful change in the government and environmental justice space. Promotorxs are also expected to complete a project that betters the environment and their community; this can range from park cleanups to data collection on air quality and health impacts.

The program also helps mobilize hundreds of Latinx folks at the Colorado State Capitol day during the annual Latinx Advocacy Day training, which Protégete co-sponsors every year. This year, almost 300 Latinx folks attended the event and had the chance to learn what it takes to organize around diverse issues and connect with lawmakers.

One thing that we can say is that we are working to make sure that our local governments “give a damn about smog, oil leaks, and the devastation of the environment.”

Protégete Director Juan with Dolores Huerta

It is my privilege to carry the torch in my new role as director of this wonderful program. Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, who together started the United Farm Workers Union, are two of my heroes. They taught me that we don’t live single issue lives. Issues like racism, a lack of education, and poor access to transportation reinforce one another — and disproportionately impact communities of color.

As our team strives to engage and empower marginalized folks in the environmental movement, we take guidance from the folks that came before us. Cesar Chavez was a great organizer, who — although he was not flawless — formed one of the most effective grassroots organizations in modern U.S. history.

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”

As we honor Cesar Chavez and his work, we must remember that his fight encompassed the right to work and live in a healthy environment with clean air and water. No one should have to choose between a dignified wage and a safe environment. For Chavez, and for me: our future is worth the fight.

For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 28, 2019

Contact:

  • Garrett Garner-Wells, Communications Director, Conservation Colorado, 303-605-3483
  • Emily Gedeon, Conservation Program Director, Sierra Club, 720-308-6055

DENVER — Today, Governor Jared Polis, House Speaker KC Becker, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg announced a bill to ensure health, safety and the environment come first in our oil and gas regulatory system.

The bill will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health safety and the environment over industry profits;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Better protect property owners from forced pooling; and,
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rulemaking around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits.

Over the last decade, Colorado’s oil and gas industry has stood in the way of numerous reforms. They blocked efforts to protect health and safety and spent millions on politics and public relations. At the same time, the industry has cut corners on public health and safety, brazenly sited industrial oil and gas operations in residential neighborhoods, and ignored their obligation to develop and maintain a social license to operate. These actions have resulted in a backlog of overdue reforms that this bill seeks to correct.

Conservation groups responded to the bill’s release with the following statements.

“Coloradans have a right to expect that their health and our clean air and water come first — this is Colorado after all. But our current laws governing the oil and gas industry have not kept pace with industrial processes that are ever closer to our neighborhoods, leaving them to bear the consequences. We must reform Colorado’s broken oil and gas system so that our health, safety and environment are not a question but a top priority for state regulators.”

  • Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“The lack of modern, common sense protections from fracking for oil and gas in Colorado has endangered the health of our children, and put our first responders in harm’s way. It’s time for change. It’s time for Colorado’s leaders to put the health and safety of Coloradans before the profits of oil and gas companies.”

  • Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

“As a resident of Battlement Mesa, I have come to understand that the COGCC usually behaves as a partner with the oil and gas industry rather than an advocate for protecting the health and safety of Colorado citizens. Their mission to ‘foster’ oil and gas development leaves citizens at serious risks with little or no recourse when major industrial operations move into our communities. NOW is certainly the time for change at the COGCC!”

  • Dave Devanney, member, Western Colorado Alliance

“It is time for leadership, and it is time for meaningful action to put health and safety first when it comes oil and gas. Big oil has become increasingly brazen over the last few years in running roughshod over Colorado communities – forcing massive industrial operations in the midst of homes and schools and forcibly taking the minerals of tens of thousands of private Coloradans. It is time that our legislature act, and put the health, safety, and property rights of our communities first.

  • Sara Loflin, Executive Director, League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

In response to Senate passage of S. 47, which would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), among other provisions, Conservation Colorado issued the following statement from Executive Director Kelly Nordini:

“Today’s vote is the first step in fixing a problem of Congress’ own making. It was tragically unnecessary for LWCF to expire in the first place and though Senator Cory Gardner supports LWCF, we saw no real leadership to make it happen. And, in a state where three-quarters of voters consider themselves outdoor recreation enthusiasts, Senator Gardner missed another major chance that his colleagues in Utah and New Mexico took advantage of: to conserve thousands of new acres of public lands. As the only Colorado Senator to never sponsor a wilderness bill, Senator Gardner should support the CORE Act immediately and work to ensure its passage.”

Today, Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse announced they are introducing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, the most significant and broadly supported effort to protect Colorado’s public lands in a generation.

This public lands package combines several popular proposals into a single bill that will protect wild places across the state, including:

  • The Continental Divide and Camp Hale in the White River National Forest, the most-visited national forest in the U.S. New wilderness and special management areas, as well as the country’s first National Historic Landscape, will preserve the history, wildlife, clean water, and booming outdoor recreation economy in the area;
  • The iconic mountains in the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests of southwestern Colorado, by expanding popular wilderness areas and including lands that were left out of initial wilderness designations;
  • The Thompson Divide in the White River National Forest, by ensuring that no future oil, gas, or mining development occurs on its rugged, wild lands. This will protect historic ranching and agriculture, outdoor recreation opportunities, and the state’s largest intact aspen grove along Kebler Pass; and,
  • The Curecanti National Recreation Area, which will be formally established by Congress as a unit of the National Park system, includes an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities including boating, hiking, and fishing.

Together, this bill will protect approximately 400,000 acres of iconic Colorado public lands for future generations.

“Coloradans love our lands and this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse have put together— protecting some of Colorado’s most popular, iconic and historic public lands in a way that is widely supported by locals. We urge the entire Colorado delegation to listen to Coloradans and pass the CORE Act in this Congress.”

  • Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“The CORE Act continues a proud Colorado tradition of protecting our wild lands, clean water and outdoor recreation opportunities for future generations.  This legislation would protect some of the best that Colorado’s public lands have to offer, including pristine watersheds and key wildlife habitat along the Continental Divide, three popular fourteeners, and the rugged mountains and ranching heritage of the Thompson Divide. The CORE Act has something for everyone and all Coloradans stand to benefit. We are thankful for the leadership from Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse in writing the next chapter of Colorado’s proud history of supporting wilderness and public lands.”

  • Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director, The Wilderness Society

“We are grateful for Senator Bennet’s ongoing work to protect public lands in Colorado, and that Representative Neguse is championing these important issues as well. Both of them understand how important these lands are to residents of Colorado and our way of life — as well as people throughout the country who utilize and cherish these public lands.”

  • Will Roush, Executive Director, Wilderness Workshop

“The Colorado Mountain Club is pleased to see the CORE Act protect some of the most iconic landscapes in our state. This legislation protects an array of recreation opportunities —  backcountry skiing in the Ten Mile Range, climbing and mountaineering in the San Juans, mountain biking in Summit County, and hiking and camping along the Gunnison River –- and these designations will ensure that Colorado’s unique outdoor experiences are preserved for future generations.”

  • Julie Mach, Conservation Director, Colorado Mountain Club

“Over the past 10 years, a wide diversity of constituents has hammered out compromise agreements to ensure the future of treasured iconic Colorado landscapes in the San Juan Mountains.  We and other local proponents are tremendously appreciative that Senator Bennet has responded to the call from recreationists, businesses, landowners and local elected officials in Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel counties by sponsoring Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.”

  • Jimbo Buickerood, Lands and Forest Protection Program Manager, San Juan Citizens Alliance

“Considering how long and hard so many people have worked on protections for the San Juan Mountains and the expansion of the Sneffels Wilderness Area itself, it’s rewarding to see Senator Bennet honoring local community’s wishes in introducing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.  This reflects the consensus reached by citizens, stakeholders, and local elected officials.”

  • Jim Stephenson, Public Lands Chair, Ridgway-Ouray Community Council

“We thank Senator Bennet for his strong leadership in introducing the CORE Act in Congress.  In our area, the lands included for permanent protection include all those in the previously introduced San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill.  In the decade since the bill was first introduced, its boundaries and delineations have been refined to ensure that existing uses are still allowed, while critical areas are protected.”

  • Lexi Tuddenham, Executive Director, Sheep Mountain Alliance

“Colorado hunters, anglers and recreationists have long understood the need to proactively conserve those intact tracts of wildlife habitat and fisheries that sustain our longstanding outdoor traditions.  We appreciate Senator Bennet’s continued leadership to advance legislation in Colorado’s central and southern mountains that would help maintain the opportunities to experience the unique sense of solitude and challenge that our wild public lands and waters provide.  We standby ready to help move this legislation forward.”

  • Tim Brass, State Policy and Field Operations Director, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Resources
Video B-roll for Broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikDq0XHzsWI&feature=youtu.be
Images for Reproduction: https://www.wilderness.org/articles/media-resources/media-resources-colorado-outdoor-recreation-economy-core-act

Written by Audrey Wheeler

We are living during a pivotal moment for the protection of Colorado’s environment. With the opening of Colorado’s legislature and Governor Jared Polis being sworn in, we will enter the legislative session following a new era of leaders who were elected on their promises to protect our air, land, water, and people.

According to a survey of Colorado voters taken just after November’s elections, the environment was a major factor for voters’ choices. When asked which policy issue was “most important” in their vote for governor, 42 percent of independents chose “energy and the environment” as one of their top two options – the most of any issue tested. In other words, it wasn’t the economy, healthcare, education, immigration, or taxes that rose to the top for Colorado voters — it was energy and environment.

Coloradans voted for pro-conservation champions to lead our state government, so now we have the opportunity to pass bold policies that will protect our future! This year holds a lot of promise for taking steps to protect our air, land, water, and people. With Governor Jared Polis at the helm — who won his race on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy — we are gearing up for strong leadership from Colorado.

In 2019, we aim to make Colorado a leader on climate action, prioritize the health and safety of communities over oil and gas, and protect our lands and waters.

Our biggest efforts for climate action will be:


  • Taking bold action to protect our climate. A recent report from the United Nations found we have 12 years to act to prevent disastrous climate change. Colorado can lead the nation toward a clean energy economy. Xcel Energy’s recent commitment to a carbon-free energy grid by 2050 is a great start, and we can do more for our climate. As our executive director, Kelly Nordini, said in a recent news story: “Carbon’s a pollutant. We need to set a limit on that pollution and say as a state how we’re going to limit that carbon pollution.”
  • Making sure health, safety, and the environment are put first when it comes to oil and gas development. The oil and gas industry has had far too much influence over political and regulatory processes in Colorado. We need to put the health and safety of our communities first and have the best safeguards in the West.
  • Protecting the public lands, rivers, and streams that make Colorado a great place to live. As our population grows, we need to make sure our public lands are preserved, our rivers keep flowing, and our wild places are accessible for everyone to enjoy.

Learn more about these goals and how we plan to reach them at Colorado Conservation Future.

With these policies, we can take our future into our own hands. We can move forward on Colorado climate action, making our state a leader for the nation on clean air and climate change, as well as with safeguards that put people ahead of oil and gas industry profits. Let’s work together to seize this opportunity to protect the state we all love.

The time to shape our future is now.

DENVER — Today, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted unanimously to adopt the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Program standards for cars and trucks. Vehicle emissions are among  the largest contributors to carbon pollution in Colorado and contribute to the smog and air toxins that threaten public health. The new LEV standards will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from cars that threaten our health and economy, help Coloradans breathe easier, and help families save money at the pump.

Ahead of today’s vote, more than 7,600 Coloradans called on the AQCC to adopt state emission standards for gas-powered vehicles. Colorado now joins thirteen states and the District of Columbia in adopting the LEV standards.

In 2012, the federal government adopted a national standard that mirrors the LEV Program, with the support of car manufacturers and federal regulators. The Trump Administration, however, is working to roll back those standards.

In response to extensive support at public meetings, the AQCC has also started a stakeholder process to consider adoption of a Zero Emission Vehicle Program. The ZEV Program would set benchmarks for car manufacturers to introduce more electric vehicles into the Colorado market, resulting in even greater emissions reductions from the transportation sector.

Organizations supporting the LEV standards have released the following statements:

Emily Gedeon, Colorado Sierra Club’s Conservation Program Director:

“In the face of rollbacks to clean car standards by the Trump Administration, Coloradans spoke out for cleaner air, and the AQCC listened. Not only will the new standards protect us from excessive, toxic car and truck pollution, but they will save Coloradans money because their new cars and trucks will travel further with each gallon of gas. We look forward to continuing to engage Coloradans to speak out to the AQCC to get cleaner cars on the road in Colorado.”

Garrett Garner-Wells, Director of Environment Colorado:

“Throughout this process, Coloradans sent a clear message: the cars we drive shouldn’t hurt the people and places we love. We applaud the AQCC for listening to the thousands of voices from throughout our state who want cleaner air and climate action by voting to implement low emission vehicle standards.”

Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation Director:

“We shouldn’t have to choose between getting to where we need to go and polluting our air. Adopting a statewide emissions standard is the right decision because it will reduce tailpipe pollution. It also saves us at the pump as car companies take advantage of rapidly advancing fuel efficiency technology and produce cars that go further on a gallon of gas.”

Sophia Mayott-Guerrero, Conservation Colorado Energy and Transportation Advocate:

“Transportation is the biggest contributor to climate change in the U.S. With so many people moving to Colorado, we have more and more cars on the road, giving us dirtier air and accelerating climate change. Colorado took an important step to clean up tailpipe emissions, and now we need to get more electric vehicles on the road.”

Noah Long, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“While the Trump administration is undermining public health, Colorado is stepping in to protect it by ensuring our cars are the cleanest in the nation. This will mean lower spending at the pump for drivers and cleaner air for our families and our future. The next step is just as important: The state must also move to spur sales of more electric vehicles.”

Michelle Robinson, Director of the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“Colorado’s decision is the right choice for drivers, for the climate, and for the future of transportation. By adopting this clean car program, Colorado will ensure that drivers will save hundreds of millions of dollars at the pump in the years to come, money that will be re-invested in the local economy. This decision will also cut oil use in Colorado, reducing the pollution that causes climate change.   At a time when the federal government is rushing to dismantle clean car standards, in defiance of science and common sense, state leadership is more important than ever. With the addition of Colorado, a growing coalition of clean car states will continue to spur innovation in the auto industry and move us toward a cleaner future.”

Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund:

“Clean cars for Coloradans is a mile high home run that means healthier air, a safer climate and cost savings. The new state clean car [ vehicle emission ] standards will protect Coloradans’ health and the state’s natural beauty, and will save people’s hard-earned money. The Trump administration has been undermining our most important health and environmental protections, but states like Colorado are stepping up with win-win solutions that will benefit everyone.”

Other organizations and public agencies to publicly support the increased LEV standards include Environmental Entrepreneurs, Ceres, Colorado Moms Know Best, the City of Aspen, the City of Fort Collins, the City of Longmont, Boulder County Public Health, the City and County of Denver, Eagle County Public Health, Jefferson County Public Health, Pueblo County, and the City of Lakewood Sustainability Division.