2019 State of the Rockies Project

 Urbanization and Nature on the Front Range
Rockies 2019 Project

Colorado has one of the fastest growing populations in the country. Though many people are drawn here for the natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities offered in the state, rapid growth is putting pressure on these same resources. Climate change is further straining the state's environment, and drought, floods, and forest fires threaten many of Colorado's communities. Our current research explores the relationships among urbanization, nature, and climate change in Colorado.

One area of research we are undertaking looks at local and statewide initiatives to reduce carbon emissions through changing electricity production and transportation infrastructure. Research fellows are examining green transportation initiatives, particularly efforts to increasing electric vehicles across the state and local policies to enhance cycling infrastructure, both of which can improve public health and reduce the environmental impact of personal mobility. We are also examining efforts to reduce the cost and environmental impact of local energy production. As electricity production and transportation are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, these efforts have important implications for the overall environmental impact of our urban areas.

We are also examining ways that communities are preparing for a changing climate. This aspect of our research is examining the community assets that have helped agriculture dependent counties enhance resiliency in the face of drought and other threats to rural livelihoods; the variety of water transfer methods cities are adopting to secure a long-term urban water supply while supporting the needs of farmers and agricultural communities; and the political and technical challenges of city storm water management.

Overall, this year's State of the Rockies project seeks to illuminate ways that actors in Colorado are rethinking our relationship to a changing climate and to understand how these changes can be built upon to create a more resilient region.


Rockies 2019 Research Fellows

2019 Rockies Fellow Ethan Greenberg, '20, and Corina McKendry get Rockies research published.  
Contested power: Energy democracy and the repoliticization of electricity in the western U.S

Read their blog bulletins:  explore the challenges of changing climatic conditions in the Rocky Mountain Front Range

FellowsWebshot 19.20


Fellows Natalie Gubbay and Grace Harmon presented their research at the 2020 University of Denver Sturm College of Law RMLUI conference. This year, the conference aimed to integrate land use and water planning. Harmon's and Gubbay's research focuses on regional perceptions and challenges of urban and agricultural water demands.

Spiraling-Up Through Drought Responses in Colorado's Agricultural Communities
by Natalie GubbayNatalieandGraceRMLUIMAR20

Climate adaptation in agricultural areas occurs against a growing rural-urban divide, amid concerns of outmigration and declining small farm viability, and with considerable financial constraints. Capacity-based frameworks have been valuable in this context, and a growing body of research emphasizes the importance of local assets in empowering rural communities to thrive through change. The research presented here uses mixed-methods analysis to develop an index for adaptive capacity in Colorado's farming communities, discuss the role of the community capitals in conferring adaptive capacity, and identify mechanisms by which the community capitals are drawn upon for resilience and development in the agricultural context. Together, results emphasize an opportunity for synthesis between community resilience and community development in both research and practice. They also offer a tool to communities looking to harness local assets more effectively. View Gubbay's presentation.

Water Sharing Agreements in Colorado's Front Range
by Grace Harmon

Through a series of interviews and review of existing literature on alternative water transfer methods (ATMs), this investigation highlights the perceptions of water utility employees; regional entities, such as water conservancy districts; and third-party entities, such as land trusts, toward water leasing agreements. While ATMs are unique to the needs of region-specific interest groups, this research strives to draw parallels between ongoing and emerging agreements to assess the public benefits of temporary water sharing agreements. Findings indicate that the long-term viability of ATMs can be improved through methods such as conservation easements, rotational fallowing, or formalized water swapping; third party investment, and education and outreach to water providers and the general public to shift perceptions toward ATMs. These findings also offer insight into how emerging agreements are building upon the traditional definition of ATMs, leading to innovative and pioneering water agreements that significantly mitigate the effects of buy and dry. View Harmon's presentation.



Grace Harmon shares her research findings at the
Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute 2020 Conference,
University of Denver.
Photo by Corina McKendry


Read more about the 2019-2020 Rockies Research in the State of the Rockies Plains to Peaks Bulletin

Rockies fellows SCORE at CC's 2019 Family and Friends Weekend faculty-student researchSCORE19.20 conference

State of the Rockies fellows presented their summer projects during this year's Student Collaborative Research Experience (SCORE) conference. The Fellows' researched various topics across the Rocky Mountain Front Range -- from bike lane controversies in Colorado Springs to drought response in agricultural communities in eastern Colorado. Family and friends joined students, faculty, and staff in CC's Cornerstone Arts Center for this summer research symposium held annually during CC's Friends and Family Weekend. View the fellows' posters:



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