State of the Rockies Project Continues to Grow

The State of the Rockies Project has added a sixth state, Nevada, to their annual Conservation of the West Survey. The addition expands the breadth of information on common opinion towards environmental issues in the Rocky Mountain West and reinforces the strength of the program, just a month before students will turn in applications to become fellows.

The survey was one of the main initiatives of the State of the Rockies Project. By working with both a Democratic and a Republican polling firm, the team was able to pull together a bipartisan depiction of how the population across the region regards environmental issues.

“We develop questions that are meaningful and relevant to ongoing issues in the West and we also have a few historic questions that we keep around to track public opinion on them,” said assistant Director Brian Boepple. “We hope that data contributes to the ongoing discussion about these issues in the West.”

About half of the survey’s questions are devoted to the main environmental focus of the project, which changes every two years. Currently, the State of the Rockies team is focusing on water.

“The Colorado River Basin is in the middle of a 15-year-drought and water is our most important resource,” said Boepple.

Aside from the survey, the most important publication of the project is the annual State of the Rockies Report, which includes the results of each fellow’s personal research projects. Fellows are chosen each year in the spring and take off as a team to travel across the region for ten weeks during the summer with Boepple and Director Eric Perramond.

Boepple encourages students to begin the application process for the 2016-2017 fellowship, due Feb. 10. “The core of the program is student-faculty collaborative research,” he says.

“There’s long been an idea that this is just an environmental program but it’s not,” said Boepple. “This year we had an anthropology, an environmental science, an economics, and a philosophy major.”

Through conducting individual research and working closely as a team, Boepple explains, fellows exchange ideas, allowing for a cross-disciplinary experience. “We want our econ major to be interacting with the philosophy major,” he said.

A former State of the Rockies Fellow, Brooke Larsen ’15, spent the summer researching large landscape conservation issues in southern Utah, specifically the greater canyonlands area. She recalls conducting an interview with a Utah Wildlands Coordinator for the Grand Canyon Trust and rafting down the Colorado River the summer before her senior year.

Now Program Coordinator for the project, Larsen helps plan and organize the summer research projects of new fellows.

“This is a great opportunity for students if you’re interested in environmental concerns in the West. It’s one of the best things to do on campus,” said Larsen. “We aren’t just talking to people, we’re actually experiencing the landscape.”

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