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2018 Conservation in the West Student Photography Contest

In January 2018, for the eighth year in a row, the State of the Rockies Project released the Conservation in the West Poll. Conducted in eight western states, the survey explores bi-partisan opinions in each state and for the Rocky Mountain Region concerning conservation, environment, energy, the role of government, trade-offs with economies, and citizen priorities. The survey now includes polling in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Results are broken out into three basic categories: Western State Reports, Topic Reports, and Additional Reports. 

What do the wild, open spaces of the Rocky Mountain Region mean to you?

2018 Conservation in the West Poll voters strongly support protection of land and water and defend threatened National Monuments.  In the Spring of 2018, students submitted photographs of their explorations of the region to capture images of areas of conservation interest tied to the recent poll results.  Seen below are some of the photo entries from the 2018 photo contest displayed in Tutt Library during a week long Earth Day 2018 exhibit.  The CC community cast votes to determine the winner, Jason Edelstein '18. 

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Winning Photo by Jason Edelstein - 1/4000s, f/4, ISO 160, 105mm • Public Lands

This is a photo of Factory Butte in southern Utah taken at sunrise. Factory Butte and the surrounding land is managed by the BLM. 95% of Utah residents believe that outdoor recreation is a vital part of their economy however only 56% of the state believe in protecting national monuments and public lands. These two are intrinsically intertwined as we have seen recently with SIA’s Outdoor Retailer moving to Colorado after the announced privatization of Bear Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. Outdoor recreation occurs in public lands and much of Utah’s outdoor recreation involves hiking and sight seeing in the Eastern and Southern deserts’ majestic public lands.


Photo by Jason Edelstein - 1/4000s, f/4, ISO 160, 105mm • Outdoor Recreation

This photo was taken of a freestyle Kayaker in one of Denver’s new river parks on the South Platte River. The South Platte is a river on the eastern side of the continental divide that provides water for many Front Range cities and eventually flows out to the Midwest. It is the primary source of water for Denver, the largest city in the Front Range, and now a source of recreation as well. On the weekends in the summer the city is able to request an excess of water to be released from a reservoir in Aurora to form artificial waves. 75% of Coloradans consider themselves outdoor enthusiasts and 96% think that the outdoor recreation economy is a vital part of the greater Colorado economy. Most of our recreation, if not all of it depend upon the protection and reduction of stress on our watersheds.


Photo by Matthew Harris - 1/55s, f/11, ISO 200, 14mm • Energy and Water

This is an image of the Green River, near Bowknot Bend, a spot where the river doubles back on itself after a nine-mile turn. With its headwaters in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, the Green River runs for 730 miles before joining the Colorado River. These rivers are incredibly important to the West, with nearly 40 million people depending on their water for agricultural, industrial, and domestic needs. Populations along these rivers are in favor of protecting these resources and see water conservation, reducing pollution, and reimagining development as important strategies for doing so. These kinds of efforts require more resources being available to take care of our public lands, which is seen as equally important.

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Photo by Emily Kressley - 1/5000s, f/1.8, ISO 20, 4mm Outdoor Recreation

Wild open spaces in the Rocky Mountain Region mean just that, wild and free, and open and full of potential. Skiing is where I feel most in touch with myself. It might be the endorphins going from activity, or the vitamin D rich and powerful sunshine, or the sheer magnitude of the mountains, or just how blue the sky is. The fresh air, the dark pines, the peacefulness of the blankets of snow, but simultaneous liveliness of it all. Resting atop a mountain or hurtling down the face of it on two planks is what makes me happiest, and most myself. Skiing has been a constant beneficial force in my life since age 3, a place for family and friends but also a place for solidarity.

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Photo by Aidan Powell - 10s, f/3.5, ISO 2000, 16mm • Public Lands

This photo was taken in high desert of eastern Utah over second block break. After a long day of pedaling the Kokopelli trail, we were satisfied with this peaceful spot to rest for the night. Half a mile southwest of camp, the Colorado River runs broad. Remote expanses of public land in the American west are largely responsible for east-coasters like myself feeling drawn to this part of the country. I appreciate the wild spaces here, the BLM land, the jagged Rockies and the massive grassy plains. We get a glimpse of how the country looked before westward expansion - before the extraction industries, cities, and roads were a reality. When the only noises are the crickets and the occasional howl of a coyote, and despite my tired body, my mind is still - these are the moments that drive my desire to return again and again, in search of the quiet, untampered, wild places.


Photo by Harrison Raine - 1/500s, f/4, ISO 80, 7.2mm • Public Lands

The increasing frequency and severity of wildfires poses one of the greatest threats to our nation’s public lands. After a hundred years of extreme fire suppression, combined with a warming climates, forested areas of North America are primed to burn. This photo was taken on the Dixie National Forest in Southern Utah, where the Brianhead fire burned more than 70,000 acres. The Brianhead fire occurred in area that was overdue for a fire, based upon the natural fire regime in that area. With strong and funded fire management, it may be possible to reduce  fire potential in these areas through reintroduction of prescribed fire.