Conservation Priorities connects students and lawmakers

People gather for the Conseration Priorities Summit in Quigley Hall on Western's campus

Conservation Priorities connects students and lawmakers

Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 3:00pm

Students, faculty and legislators migled at Conseration Priorities Summit on campus this month.

Increased efforts across campus to promote sustainability have opened new doors, allowing Mountaineers to address environmental issues in state government.

On February 4, students and Gunnison residents gathered in Quigley Hall for the Conservation Priorities Summit. Hosted by Conservation Colorado, the event provided information about Colorado environmental measures and efforts. It also enabled lawmakers to hear the voice of Western’s student population.

The panel featured officials from Gunnison County, the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado State Senate. The event was similar to a town hall—officials participated in a moderated discussion with the public. Citizens could speak directly to lawmakers regarding the Western Slope’s biggest conservation priorities. By empowering those who love the Western Slope to hold their representatives accountable, the Conservation Priorities discussion left a big impact on students seeking to protect the environment.

The conversation continued after the event in Quigley's lobby, where lawmakers mingled with constituents. Students and citizens alike continued asking tough questions.

A theme familiar to young environmentalists emerged at the end of the event.  Lawmakers invited audience members to take action and gave encouraging words to students in the audience—many of whom were part of the Master’s of Environmental Management (MEM) program at Western.

The decisive action encouraged at the summit is a large part of the MEM philosophy. Many MEM students travel from other countries to participate in Western’s curriculum, quickly putting their knowledge into practice with conservation projects at Western and in their hometown communities. MEM work often involves independent organizations such as Conservation Colorado and the Peace Corps.

Speaking to lawmakers about key issues provided another perspective on environmental management and blended well with MEM values.

Western students are hard at work on new initiatives this semester—including intensified efforts in the MEM zero-waste program and sustainable gardening in the Pinnacles greenhouse. After such powerful discussion at this event, the future of conservation at Western looks bright.

Story by Anna Lhuillier.