Twenty five years ago, the Exxon Valdez spill, which spewed 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound spurred me to leave my job in New York City, move back to Colorado and to take a job knocking on doors campaigning for environmental protection.
In that same year that the Berlin Wall fell, the dismantling of the system of Apartheid began in South Africa; the first commercial Internet service provider began providing service and the first text message was sent. And, Western Resource Advocates was founded.
Founder Kelley Green, supported by many others, including David Getches and Maggie Fox, had a vision. That a new regional organization could use the law and trained attorneys to protect the West’s land, air and water. Kelly cajoled and prodded and convinced a handful of like-minded individuals to make pioneering investments to fund this work, and Western Resource Advocates was born. Kelly knew that in the West, we had something worth protecting.
Our 25th Anniversary Event on September 10th provided a great opportunity to look back on our founding and what we have done, and to honor some of those that have played an important role in Western Resource Advocates’ efforts to protect the West’s land, air and water.
At our event we were proud to recognize the pioneering contributions and continuing support of Connie Harvey of Aspen, Colorado and John Powers of Rifle, Colorado.
- Connie Harvey, was not only a pioneer in helping get Western Resource Advocates started, but is an inspirational conservationist in her own right. She plotted and planned the creation of the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Area and later on the Hunter – Fryingpan Wilderness Area.
- John Powers was also one of those pioneers investing in this vision to protect the West’s land, air and water. John is also an ardent conservationist spurring collaboration in our community and across communities through the creation of the Alliance for a Sustainable Colorado and the Alliance Center.
We also honored Jim Martin. I was moved when board member AJ Grant and former board member Maggie Fox awarded to Jim Martin the first Kelley Green Conservation Leadership Award.
Over a career of 30 years Jim worked to solve some of the West’s most pressing problems. Jim led Western Resource Advocates serving as President for two years, he served as Regional Administrator for EPA’s Region VIII, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and many other esteemed positions. Maggie and AJ shared wonderful stories that demonstrated Jim’s deep passion for and curiosity about the landscape he lived in and his lifetime commitment to conserving the West he loves.
It is clear that Western Resource Advocates has been blessed with amazing staff, supporters, and board leadership and has achieved many accomplishments. For example WRA:
- Protected millions of acres of land from development, such as Sonoran Desert National Monument;
- Protected flows of 9 major rivers in the West, such as the Gunnison River and safe guarded the Great Salt Lake;
- Successfully advocated for the closure of coal fired power plants, contributed to stopping the construction of new coal power plants and driven hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in renewable energy.
Yet we know that Western Resource Advocates’ mission, to protect the West’s land, air and water will likely not be fully achieved in our lifetime. Because we know that the threats to the West are many and they are substantial.
The WRA of the next 25 years, must be even more strategic and accomplish even more in the next 25 years than we have in the first 25. We must marry the traditional work of WRA’s policy expertise and technical capacity in economics, engineering, ecology and the law together with cutting edge strategy that ensures that we truly protect the West’s land, air and water.
Please join us if you have not already and together we will ensure the West continues to inspire and astound generations to come.
To see a full list of Western Resource Advocates’ successes over the past 25 years, visit our new accomplishments page on our website