Plains to Peak Bulletin Fall 2014 A Publication of Colorado Collegeâ€™s State of the Rockies Project
2014-15 Speakers Series: Fall Semester Events Monday, September 8th, 2014
Sharing Water: What an Environmental Experiment in Mexico can Teach us About the Future of the Colorado River John Fleck, Reporter for the Albuquerque Journal and Author We began our 2014-15 Speakers Series with a talk from long-time Albuquerque Journal reporter John Fleck. He specializes in New Mexico’s tenuous water situation and the climate issues that underlie it. John’s talk covered the recent experimental pulse flow of water discharged into the Colorado River Delta during the spring of 2014. John emphasized that while the environmental successes of the experiment, through riparian restoration and habitat improvement, were outstanding achievements in their own right, the process by which a diverse group of stakeholders came together to agree on the pulse flow shows positive signs for the future of the contested Colorado River.
Thursday, October 9th, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in Packard Hall, Colorado College
Climate Policy: How Can Science Be Used More Effectively Dr. Marcia McNutt, Former Director of the USGS, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal Science The State of the Rockies Project is a co-sponsor of this Colorado College Alumni Climate Workshop event. In this talk, geophysicist and Colorado College alumna Marcia McNutt will examine the role of science in climate policy. For years now, economic and political considerations have trumped science in policy decisionmaking. The climate crisis is characterized by ever more dire predictions from scientists and the continued inaction of the federal government. Public policy must address global climate change if we are to curb its consequences. But what are the solutions for increasing the role of science in climate policy? Focusing on some success stories, McNutt will tease out strategies that work in addressing this multifarious issue. McNutt is the former director of the U.S. Geological Survey and the current editor-in-chief of the journal Science.
Monday, December 1st, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in Gates Common Room, Palmer Hall, Colorado College
A West that Works: Grass, Soil, Hope Courtney White, Co-Founder of the Quivira Coalition The third event of the 2014-15 State of the Rockies Project Speakers Series will feature Courtney White, author of the recently published book, Grass, Soil, Hope. A former archaeologist and Sierra Club activist, Courtney dropped out of the ‘conflict industry’ in 1997 to co-found the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to building bridges between ranchers, conservationists, public land managers, scientists and others around practices that improve land health (see www.quiviracoalition.org). Today, his conservation work focuses on building economic and ecological resilience on working landscapes, with a special emphasis on carbon ranching and the new agrarian movement.
Visit www.StateoftheRockies.com for more info regarding this year’s speakers series and events planned for the spring semester. 2
Table of Contents 4 Letter from the Director
The Contested Landscape of Greater Canyonlands
Faculty Director Eric P. Perramond Assistant Director Brendan Boepple Rockies Project Fellow Sam Williams Rockies Project Student Researchers Max Hittesdorf Brooke Larsen Emma Longcope Caroline Martin Kevin Moss GIS Technical Director Matthew Gottfried
By Brooke Larsen, Rockies Project Student Researcher
A message from the new State of the Rockies Project Director on the Project’s 2014-15 focus and a vision for the coming years. By Eric Perramond, Rockies Project Faculty Director
This summer, as part of the Project’s focus on large area and landscape-scale conservation, one of our researchers dove into the contentious issue of public land in Utah and the many proposals for the future management of the Greater Canyonlands region.
In the Field with the Rockies Project Research Team
During the summer of 2014, the Rockies Project once again continued its tradition of field research engaging a diverse group of stakeholders from Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Utah. This account of the Project’s field research covers some of the many benefits of getting out on-theground and interacting with those people closest to the important issues we investigate. By Emma Longcope, Rockies Project Student Researcher
12 Ranching for Conservation:
Social Capital in the Rural West
Across the West, ranching has a storied past. From the iconic cowboy, to a perception associated with environmental degradation, collaboration in rural ranching communities has important connections to landscape-scale conservation. By Max Hittesdorf, Rockies Project Student Researcher
14 Rediscover the Prairie:
Raising Awareness of the Great Plains on Horseback
During our 2014-15 focus on Large Area and Landscape-scale Conservation in the Rocky Mountain West, the Rockies Project has been proud to partner with the Rediscover the Prairie Expedition as they seek to raise awareness of the Northern Great Plains.
Colorado College State of the Rockies Project
Eric P. Perramond is the Faculty Director for the State of the Rockies Project. An Associate Professor in the Environmental and Southwest Studies Programs, Eric’s research focuses on water issues in New Mexico. Brooke Larsen is a 2014-15 State of the Rockies Project Student Researcher. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, she is pasionate about public land issues in her home state. Emma Longcope is a 2014-15 State of the Rockies Project Student Researcher. Emma enjoys combining her passions for outdoor recreation and environmental education to educate people about the natural world. Max Hittesdorf is a 2014-15 State of the Rockies Project Student Researcher. As a sociology major at CC, Max spent the summer focusing on social capital in rural ranching communities and ranching’s connections to conservation. Robin Walter and Sebastian Tsocanos are Colorado College graduates of the class of 2012. Combining their interests for grasslands conservation with their equestrian experience, they are crossing the Northern Great Plains on horseback meeting with family ranchers, federal officials, and conservationists along the way.
Letter from the Director
by Eric P. Perramond, State of the Rockies Project Director For some 140 years, Colorado College has physically and intellectually engaged the Great Plains to our east, and the Rockies to our west. This year, as we celebrate a dozen years of the State of the Rockies Project, we continue our central mission: creating opportunities for field-informed undergraduate research projects, and connecting experts and speakers with our campus community. The State of the Rockies Project researchers explore our vast region, the American West, from the deserts and grasslands to the mountains from which we take our name. Our goal in this new bulletin initiative is to present our collective work in “plain speak,” a geographic play on words but also an effort to present our findings clearly and directly. Before introducing this year’s research, however, I wish to acknowledge the past Director and founder of the Rockies Project, Dr. Walt Hecox. Walt served CC for over four decades, and as a CC alum himself knew what Cutler Hall, one of Colorado College’s first buildings. the college had to offer. He devised the Rockies Project so that students could investigate our fascinating region and develop valuable skills to carry with them after graduation. Second, I wish to thank Assistant Director Brendan Boepple, who has made my transition as Director of the Rockies Project seem easy. Brendan is an alum of both CC and the Rockies Project, and we are all fortunate to have his knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm. I’m also grateful for the work of our very first Rockies Summer Fellow, Sam Williams, a May 2014 Environmental Policy graduate. Finally, I happily acknowledge the leadership of President Jill Tiefenthaler, the guiding logistical hand of Jermyn Davis, and their joint support for the Rockies Project. Many more people and foundations behind the scenes have come together to make the project viable in the long-term. And, of course, the most important members of the Project are our student researchers, who have been hard at work on this year’s theme.
State of the Rockies researchers in the alpine zone of Glacier National Park. July, 2014.
The State of the Rockies Project has attracted local, regional, and national attention, through its yearly glossy publications. We have also partnered with the Hewlett Foundation, thanks to their generous backing, to conduct polls on conservation attitudes and values in the western U.S. As we move forward, we will keep what works. We will recruit bright, interested, and dedicated students who wish to conduct summer research fellowships and connect with our region. The Rockies Project helps to train future conservation leaders. Our Fellows conduct field research, interview people affected by and confronting conservation issues, and meet experts with whom they can connect after their time at Colorado College. Each year, or two, we have adopted a new thematic focus for the group to study. This is our second year on Large Area and Landscape Conservation efforts in the Rockies and the West. Our summer research students have translated the larger theme to their specific interests. Kevin Moss is focusing on the impact of climate change on Western glaciers and snowpack. His interests linked to those of our first speaker, John Fleck, in block one. Fleck, an environmental reporter from New Mexico, reviewed and assessed the impact of the recent pulse flow on the Colorado River and its modest impact on the river’s delta in Mexico. Emma Longcope, a creative writing major, is compiling a series of pieces on the process behind the Rockies Project. Her State of the Rockies student researcher, Kevin Moss, introducing Albuquerque Jouressays will take readers behind the scenes, describing the nal reporter John Fleck at the first speakers series event of the year on Sept. 8, 2014. travel, research, and the voices of persons engaged in large-scale conservation work in the West. Environmental policy major Brooke Larsen continues her long-term dedication to Utah in her work on the Canyonlands region and the on-going efforts to resolve state and federal protection efforts. Max Hittesdorf visited the open range and will examine how ranching can “fit” into conservation landscapes in the West. Max will also be our point person when Courtney White (founder of the Quivira Coalition) comes to town in early December to speak about his latest book on carbon ranching. Later this year, student researcher Caroline Martin will lead a discussion of wolf re-introductions in parts of the American West and the balance between wolf conservation and the perspectives of ranchers struggling to make a living. None of these are easy topics, nor do easy answers exist, but we invite you all to join us in thinking through the challenges as well as opportunities that lie ahead. The Rockies Project has often touched on the subject of water resources and their allocation in the West, a pertinent and hotly-contested issue, to be sure. Over the next two years, we intend to hone this focus. Please stay tuned. On a final note, I also want to add that we have an exciting exploratory crew this year, “Rediscover the Prairie,” and I invite you to track their progress at: http://www.facebook.com/RediscoverThePrairie. Track the Rockies Project as it unfolds and evolves on our own Facebook site as well at: http://www.facebook.com/StateoftheRockies. As always, we look forward to hearing from you. If you have ideas, please share them with me or Brendan. Onward. Eric P. Perramond, State of the Rockies Project Director
The Contested Landscape of Greater Canyonlands by Brooke Larsen, 2014-15 State of the Rockies Project Student Researcher
For this yearâ€™s State of the Rockies Project, I researched the contested landscape of the Greater Canyonlands and the larger Southeastern Utah region. The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the designation of Canyonlands National Park, but the conservation of the larger Canyonlands landscape still remains uncertain. I analyzed four different policy case studies applicable to public lands across the state of Utah, all with potential implications for the future of Canyonlands. These include Americaâ€™s Red Rock Wilderness Act, Utahâ€™s Transfer of Public Lands Act, the proposed Canyonlands National Park expansion and Greater Canyonlands National Monument, and the Eastern Utah Public Land Initiative. These case studies not only provide a glimpse into the potential future of the Canyonlands landscape, but they also reveal cultural, political, socioeconomic, and legal factors important for understanding why landscapes such as Canyonlands are so contested in Southern Utah. I identified three main factors leading to this contest: identity preservation, resentment and dissatisfaction with the federal government, and a large, diverse mix of stakeholders who lack trust or understanding of one another. I interviewed over 15 stakeholders in the contest over Canyonlands and the larger Southeastern Utah region and these three themes continually surfaced. Stakeholders also discussed their desire for increased certainty on the future of public lands, emphasizing the need to address and create practical management strategies to resolve the contest over the region. Meetings with stakeholders revealed that the natural environment exists as only one aspect of the landscape, and that policymakers must address community and economic needs alongside the environment to sustainably conserve large landscapes.
State of the Rockies student researcher, Brooke Larsen, in the field with a representative from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
State of the Rockies researchers in Canyonlands National Park. July, 2014.
In addition to underscoring the difficulties to conserving large landscapes such as Canyonlands and the need to consider all aspects of the landscape in conservation policy, meetings with stakeholders revealed the diverse and complex interests in the region. Interests range from conservation and recreation to multiple-use, ranching, and energy development. Even within specific interest groups, various proposals exist. For example, within the conservation community itself various proposals exist for the conservation of the Canyonlands landscape, including a national monument, national park expansion, and national conservation areas. In addition, history complicates the diverse interests further as state trust land still exist in a checkerboard fashion on most of Utahâ€™s public lands, and the state has made over 20,000 right-ofway claims under an old statute in the General Mining Act of 1866. The complex and conflicting interests of the stakeholders in the region make finding a solution to conserving the community, economy, and environment of the Canyonlands landscape daunting. My research did not try to answer what we should do to conserve Canyonlands, but rather sought to understand the reasons behind the contested nature of the landscape in the first place. By looking at the history of the contest over Canyonlands, and analyzing the case studies mentioned above, I provide an analysis of the important factors leading to the contest. These factors must be understood and addressed in order to create practical and sustainable management solutions for communities, economies, and environments of large landscapes in Southern Utah. - Brookeâ€™s full report on the Greater Canyonlands region will be released during the spring of 2015. -
The Dugout Ranch, outside of Canyonlands National Parkâ€™s Needles District.
Missives From the Road
In the Field with the Rockies Project Research Team by Emma Longcope, 2014-15 State of the Rockies Project Student Researcher
I. â€œThe wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animals and birds, ford the streams and cross the bridges, and tell a good story when we get back home.â€? Gary Snyder, the Practice of the Wild
THE driving rain bit cold at my
legs as we shuffled back down the icy path toward Logan Pass. We paused, startled, as a mangy, snowwhite mountain goat emerged from the pines into a clearing rimmed with wildflowers. She was followed closely by a spindly-legged offspring. Apparently unconcerned by our presence, they made their way through the trees underneath towering granite cliffs, the younger staying close as they navigated the grasses and snow patches of the alpine. We stood separate and transfixed, following their progress until they passed out of view.
Our trip around the Rocky Mountain West was full of such moments, stories we happened across on the trail or the road or the river, points that caused us to stop and admire the various worlds we’re working to protect. Equally important, or likely more so, are the stories we heard from those we talked to along the way: the stories of times and places we haven’t witnessed but can imagine, the way the history of the people is etched into the landscapes we passed through.
But first, the facts, the “story bones.”
I am one of five Colorado College summer student researchers for the State of the Rockies Project. Each of us has a different focus topic in relation to our theme of Large Scale Landscape Conservation. These range from ranching, to Southern Utah land use, to glaciers, and to the reintroduction of wolves into various ecosystems. We spent most of June and the beginning of July in a science classroom repurposed as an office, pouring over documents and books and GIS maps. We sought out stakeholders in our various fields and asked if they would help us strengthen our research and understanding.
Our “squiggly line” across the western United States.
We drew a squiggly line on a map on the office wall representing our projected path: some 3,500-odd miles through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. Early in the morning on July 14th, we loaded our van with food and gear for everything from glaciers to 100-degree heat and set out to trace that wandering line.
The State of the Rockies research team meeting with Meredith Taylor, outfitter and an advisory board member for Living with Wolves.
II. “Knowledge informs sense of beauty.” Jeffrey Lockwood “Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins as in art with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” Aldo Leopold, Marshland Elegy
WYOMING stretched ahead of us in the form of sprawling yellow grasslands and roads that continued,
unbending and interminable, until they reached the far-off blue hills. I slept on and off. When I awoke and looked out the window, the view never seemed to vary, but the fields changed from yellow to green to gray as clouds formed and dispersed. “The grassland is a setting that reflects my life, evoking the depth and wonder of the eternal present,” wrote Jeffrey Lockwood in the prologue to his book Prairie Soul: Finding Grace in the Earth Beneath My Feet. In person, Lockwood is earnest, interesting, and interested. At a coffee shop in Laramie, where he teaches science and writing at the University of Wyoming, he spoke passionately with us about the importance of a comfortable landscape, a home-place, and sense of place. “Knowledge informs sense of beauty,” he insisted. He talked of the unappreciated nature of the grasslands, the lack of representation of his beloved landscape in the literary world, and laughed, “Hell, even the desert gets more attention.” His connection to the earth in this region began in his youth, in evenings on the prairie, hunting lizards through tall waving grasses, captivated by the excitement of chasing the critters. These moments of connection with a place, the moments of story, foster appreciation. And cultivated appreciation, Lockwood noted, is far more meaningful than a passing sense of beauty, because cultivated appreciation requires investment. Awareness plays into this appreciation as well, and one way Lockwood fosters awareness of self and landscape is through the practice of writing. Writing involves paying attention and a “disciplined engagement with the world.” He seems to embody this engagement more than anyone. He stressed that “there is no such thing as a view from nowhere,” and that awareness of one’s perspective is crucial. “I just want to be keenly aware of what I’m bringing to this environment,” Lockwood said. Everyone holds attachments, and attachments form both biases and passions. “I like my attachments,” he smiled, “I want to cultivate them.”
Our conversation turned to climate change, the meaning of wilderness, and how to make a difference. “We think the stakes are about wilderness, but really the stakes are about identity,” Lockwood mused. We discussed the example of a young person recycling a cup instead of throwing it away. “In the grand scheme of things, that one cup will not make a difference,” Lockwood said, “but what will make a difference is that that person is now a person who recycles… we tell our own stories to ourselves, about the kind of person we are.” Those stories are what create your impact on this earth. That really hit me. Self-making is world-making. Good environmental writing, Lockwood said, should promote that sense of self, place, and perspective. “That’s the long haul.” He told a story, then. A classic tale of hiking to the top of Indian Pass as a younger man and regarding the extensive glaciers in awe, then returning years later to see that many of the glaciers had melted away and bare rock stood in their place. It was already sinking in that to know a place, or even to successfully advocate for one, we have to fully experience it. We have to be able to measure ourselves against it, to compare the way we are changing to the way a place is changing, to find the glaciers one year and find them gone the next. To take care of a place, we have to see it for its beauty, not its mere prettiness. Separation is detrimental and acknowledged investment is vital.
To read more about the State of the Rockies field research, look for the remaining sections of Emma’s report in future State of the Rockies print and web materials. 11
Ranching for Conservation: Social Capital in the Rural West by Max Hittesdorf, 2014-15 State of the Rockies Project Student Researcher
About twenty years ago, the idea that grazing livestock would become a central component in the discussion of large landscapes conservation in the American West seemed ludicrous. Now, though, things have changed drastically. Ranching, and therefore livestock grazing, is talked about in a way that includes it as a viable means for not only conserving but also restoring previously damaged land, and for good reason. Ranchers and environmentalists have changed how they view and manage the land, based on a mutual interest in protecting the open lands of the West. However, while it appears as if the conflict between ranching and environmentalism has somewhat subsided, there now exists a new problem. How can ranching, which conserves land, manages livestock grazing in a sustainable way, and promotes collaboration through grassroots movements be sustained on a larger scale? How can we fulfill what author and public lands expert Charles Wilkinson calls a â€œcrossing of the next meridian, this time not a geographic marker but a line of intellectual, social, and government commitment?â€? This question is precisely what I grappled with this summer as a part of the State of the Rockies research project. In the process, I was able to go out into the field, literally and figuratively, to talk with ranchers, environmentalists, government employees, and others who are experts on the topic and hear their stories. Extensive reading of scholarly articles and books in the research process can only go so far. This part is important, of course, but actually hearing about the challenges that a rancher faces in the present society and integrating this information into oneâ€™s research is crucial. Without this litmus test, so to speak, research can become stagnant and it runs the risk of excluding the voices of those who are personally involved.
State of the Rockies Student Researcher Max Hittesdorf on the Lasater ranch in Matheson, Colorado. June, 2014.
A center pivot sprinkler rotates on a ranch outside of Potomac, Montana. July, 2014.
After going out into the field it was clear that there are no easy answers to the big questions about the sustainability of ranching for the future. This summer, the State of the Rockies team traveled to Montana to meet with a group called the Blackfoot Challenge. They are a community of ranchers, environmentalists, recreationalists, and government agencies, among many others, that strive to preserve the natural and cultural integrity of their area. The group has done some really great work in this field, and they are a poster child for other collaborative groups that have similar conservation goals. After visiting, I found myself wondering how the success of the Blackfoot Challenge could be recreated elsewhere. I soon realized that one cannot simply apply their model as a universal template for all other ranching groups. There is a lot of complexity in their history; specific factors have given them strength in their efforts today. At the same time, they prove that ranching for conservation, both environmental and cultural, is possible. In spite of the major challenges ahead, we must continue to ask ourselves: how can we protect and facilitate the types of ranching, which continue to sustain the landscapes and people of the American West? Even amongst potential solutions, perhaps the most valuable element of this research is the process of struggling with a seemingly unsolvable question. This process contributes to a greater understanding and appreciation of the sheer complexity of the issue. It helps illustrate the need to focus on the processes of conservation, as opposed to a narrowly defined end goal. And, at least in my experience, many of my preconceived notions about ranching and conservation were challenged by this work. I hope you choose to challenge yourself similarly and delve into my report. - Maxâ€™s full report on ranching, conservation, and rural communities will be released during the spring of 2015. -
During our 2014-15 focus on Large Area and Landscape Conservation in the Rocky Mountain West, the Rockies Project has been proud to partner with the Rediscover the Prairie Expedition as they seek to raise awareness of the Northern Great Plains. The duo of Robin Walter and Sebastian Tsocanos (Colorado College â€™12), along with their four horses and a mule are traveling across the prairie meeting with ranchers, conservationists, and federal officials to document the current state of the Great Plains and the work being done to conserve the economic and environmental landscape of the region. Americaâ€™s grasslands are one of the most unique, and under-appreciated, ecosystems in the United States. They are among the most imperiled natural systems in the world due to agricultural conversion, land and water mismanagement, urban development, habitat fragmentation, and fire suppression. Nearly all of the tall grass prairie ecoregions in North America were converted to agricultural use during the 20th century. This has made the protection of remaining natural areas and the restoration of degraded landscapes vitally important. It has also created the need for the development of ecologically informed agricultural systems.
To learn more about Robin, Sebastian, their equine companions, and this unique project, visit:
“About two weeks have passed since the four horses, Pearl the Mule, Sebastian, Winnie, and I were dropped off in the middle of a pasture in Northeast Montana. We were shepherded up from Bozeman by our good friend Riley, Sebastian’s little sister Eva, and her co-pilot Carley. The drive was long but beautiful. Somewhere in my mind was the very concrete fact that once we were dropped off it would take us 4 miles per hour to get anywhere compared to the truck’s 65.” -- Originally posted to Rediscover the Prairie’s blog on July 26, 2014. 15
State of the Rockies Project Mission:
Building upon Colorado Collegeâ€™s 130 years of service to the region, the Rockies Project conducts research and outreach throughout the Rocky Mountain West, helping Rockies residents clearly see our communities, our environment, and our economy so we can better shape our future.
The Colorado College State of the Rockies Project www.StateoftheRockies.com
14 E. Cache La Poudre St. Colorado Springs, CO 80903 Rockies@coloradocollege.edu (719) 227-8145
The State of the Rockies Project October 2014 Plains to Peak Bulletin