Past 2016-2017 Speakers Series Events

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 at 7:00pm, Gaylord Hall, Worner Student Center, Colorado College

Telling the Climate Change Story

Susan Joy Hassol, Director of Climate Communication


The science is clear that climate change poses a serious threat to life as we know it, yet the broader public has largely failed to grasp the urgency of action. To what can we attribute this communication failure, and what can we do about it? This talk will include current information on what Americans think about climate change. It will address problems with communication and offer high-level suggestions for improvement. It will address both what we say and how we say it, dealing with framing, psychological and cultural issues, and questions involving language. And it will point the way to a hopeful vision both for communicating more effectively and for tackling the climate challenge.

Susan Joy Hassol is a climate change communicator, analyst, and author known for her ability to translate science into English, making complex issues accessible to policymakers and the public for 25 years. Susan is the Director of Climate Communication, a non-profit project that helps scientists and others communicate more effectively. She has written and edited numerous high-level reports, testified before Congress, written an HBO documentary, addressed many influential groups, and appeared on national media. Among her many projects, Susan was the Senior Science Writer on all three U.S. National Climate Assessments. For more information, see

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 at 7:00pm, Gaylord Hall, Worner Student Center, Colorado College

The Gold King Mine Spill and the Legacy Impacts of Mining

Dr. Rory Cowie '04, Hydrologist and Program Director of Mountain Studies Institute


The August 2015 Gold King Mine spill near Silverton, CO turned the Animas River orange, sparking national media attention and re-igniting public outcry to address a long history of mining impacts to watersheds across the west. The legacy of past hard-rock mining in the United States includes more than 200,000 abandoned or inactive mines, thousands of which are located in the Rocky Mountains. At the time the mining operations were at their highest levels, environmental controls were limited or non-existent, leading to a wide range of environmental impacts. The impacts include movement of sediments, discharge of acidic waters, and the release and transport of metals and other contaminants that can pose a risk to human health and/or the environment.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with approval from the local government and regional stakeholders, has proposed placement of the Gold King Mine site on a National Priorities List (NPL) making it eligible for additional study and cleanup resources under EPA's Superfund program. The proposed listing, known as the Bonita Peak Mining District site, consists of 48 historic mines or mining-related sources located in the Animas River watershed near Silverton, CO.

Mountain Studies Institute (MSI) is an independent not-for-profit research and education center based in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado to develop "science that people can use" to address local and regional environmental issues. With funding from the EPA, Trout Unlimited, and the City of Durango, MSI has monitored water quality and ecological health of the Animas River before, during, and after the Gold King Mine release. Dr. Cowie is a hydrologist and program director for water research at MSI and is currently contracted by the EPA to conduct hydrologic investigations in the Bonita Peak Mining District. Dr. Cowie's current research addresses the interactions between legacy mine sites and natural water cycles to understand how the mines are impacting water quality in the Animas River. After receiving his degree in Biology from Colorado College, Dr. Cowie moved to Telluride, CO where he began his career in environmental restoration in the San Juan Mountains. He went on receive his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado focusing his research on the processes controlling hydrologic fluxes in natural and human altered mountain regions around the world. Dr. Cowie is currently working to develop targeted remediation strategies to clean up abandoned mine lands and improve water resources in headwater regions of the American West.

Monday, November 7th, 2016 at 7:00 pm, Gaylord Hall, Worner Student Center, Colorado College

A Drop in the Rain Barrel: Modernizing Colorado's Water Policy

Theresa Conley, Water Advocate at Conservation Colorado


Initiated in 2015, the state legislative efforts to legalize residential rain barrels took on a life of its own - garnering nationwide attention and tremendous support both inside and outside the Capitol here in Colorado. Positioned as a conservation tool to foster greater awareness of one's water use and our rain patterns, one question lingered throughout the process, why were rain barrels illegal in the first place?

Learn more about House Bill 16-1005 that legalized residential rain barrels: why took two sessions to get the bill passed, who opposed the bill, and what it takes to get legislation through the General Assembly and onto the Governor's Desk. Theresa will also discuss water law and policy in Colorado, as well as what efforts Conservation Colorado is taking to protect our rivers while stretching our limited water supplies further.

Monday, December 5th, 2016 at 7:00 pm, Gaylord Hall, Worner Student Center, Colorado College

Revising Reservoir Operations for a Changing West

Dr. Reed Benson, Professor of Law and Chair of the Natural Resources & Environmental Law Program at the University of New Mexico School of Law

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Federal agencies built most of the West's major dams and still operate them today; their operations bring both benefits and costs to the region. Neither the Bureau of Reclamation nor the Army Corps of Engineers regularly revises its plans for operating these dams, meaning that the plans may be increasingly out of step with the needs of a changing West. If the agencies would review their long-term operating plans, evaluate a range of alternatives, and engage the public in the process, resulting changes in reservoir operations could help the region meet its water management challenges.

Reed D. Benson is a Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, where he teaches courses relating to water law, natural resources, and administrative law, and chairs the school's Natural Resources and Environmental Law Program. Prof. Benson has published nearly thirty articles on western water law and policy, focusing largely on environmental issues and federal water project operations, and he is a co-author of the Water Resource Management casebook from Foundation Press. He spent four months in 2015 as a Fulbright Scholar, serving as Visiting Chair in Water and the Environment at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, where he did research on dam operations in southern Alberta. He served from 2002-08 on the University of Wyoming law faculty. Before he began teaching, Prof. Benson worked in Oregon for the nonprofit conservation group WaterWatch, including five years as executive director. He has also worked as an attorney for a Boulder, Colorado law firm, for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC, and for the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies (now Western Resource Advocates). He earned a B.S. with honors in economics and environmental studies from Iowa State, and a J.D. magna cum laude from Michigan.

Monday, February 27th, 2017 at 7:00pm, Gaylord Hall, Worner Student Center, Colorado College

International Water Law and Indigenous Water Justice: Through the lens of the Columbia River Treaty Review

Barbara Cosens, Professor and Associate Dean of Faculty at University of Idaho College of Law


International law develops through consent and customary practice among nation states and the domestic law of these sovereign nations establishes the framework for their engagement across borders. The arena of international engagement has historically been closed to Indigenous governments, but with growing recognition of Indigenous rights to self-determination and increasing capacity to assert those rights, this assumed exclusion is in question.

The Columbia River basin is one stage on which the test of the role of Indigenous peoples in international law is playing out. The review of the Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada has triggered not only rethinking of the development, management and ecological function of the river, but of who should play a role in decisions regarding its future. This talk will use the current review of the Columbia River Treaty as a window on both international water law and the role of Indigenous populations in shaping and implementing that law.

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 at 7:00 p.m, Celeste Theatre in the Cornerstone Arts Center at Colorado College

Our Natural Economy: Capitalizing on Colorado's Unique Place in the Rockies

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This event is sponsored by the El Pomar Foundation's Pikes Peak Heritage Series and the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project.

Conservation in the West: Public Opinion Entering the Trump Era

Lori Weigel, Partner at Public Opinion Strategies


In January 2017, for the seventh year in a row, the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, in conjunction with Lori Weigel, Public Opinion Strategies and Dave Metz, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, conducted the Conservation in the West Poll. The survey, conducted in seven western states, explores bi-partisan opinions in each state and for the Rocky Mountain West region concerning conservation, energy development, the role of government, and citizen priorities. The survey now includes polling in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Lori Weigel is a Partner with Public Opinion Strategies, based in the firm's Colorado office. Weigel has directed research efforts for hundreds of political and public affairs campaigns throughout the country, including polling on behalf of presidential campaigns in the last four consecutive presidential elections. Over the last 15 years, Weigel has been instrumental in the successful election efforts on behalf of dozens of common sense judges and Attorneys General across the country.

The Landscapes and Changing Economy of the West: The Economic Contribution of Public Lands

Ray Rasker, Executive Director of Headwaters Economics


Rural counties in the West with more federal lands are performing economically better than their peers, and those with National Parks, Wilderness, and National Monuments are doing even better. Why is that? Ray Rasker will explore how changes in the global and national economy have transformed the vast open spaces of the American West from a liability to the region's primary economic advantage.

Ray Rasker has written widely on rural development and the role of environmental quality in economic prosperity, and is well known in policy circles in the U.S. and Canada. He has a Ph.D. from the College of Forestry, Oregon State University, M.Ag. from Colorado State University, and B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Washington.

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 at 7:00pm, Gaylord Hall, Worner Student Center, Colorado College

What's on Tap? Colorado's Water Future


Amy Beatie, Executive Director of the Colorado Water Trust
Scott Campbell, Principal at Innovative Conservation Solutions
Rebecca Jewett, Executive Director of the Palmer Land Trust
Jeff Kahn, Water Law Attorney at Lyons Gaddis


Colorado water experts from a law and consulting firms as well as land and water trusts will address current issues affecting the state's water policy and management, and cover innovative actions underway throughout the state to address our most important resource.

This event is co-sponsored by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project and Palmer Land Trust.

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