Last week, 275 people came out to support Western Resource Advocates’ success protecting the West’s land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance with nature. We were honored to celebrate our 29-year history with long-time partners, new collaborators, and, of course, everyone who shares our love of the West. The theme of the night was radical collaboration. In order to solve big challenges like climate change, we need to ensure that those with seemingly different interests – even one-time foes – can sit down, seek understanding of one another’s perspectives, discover common objectives, and explore policies and incentives that achieve common goals.
Radical Collaboration as a Way Forward
WRA has always had a lot to celebrate over its 29-year history. We’ve protected over 2 million acres of land in our Western region. We’ve permanently protected flows in the Dominguez Canyons Wilderness, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and on the San Miguel River. We’ve also secured billions of dollars of new investments in renewable energy. But this year, WRA was particularly excited to celebrate and share in the success of a very different victory with our partners across the West.
Recently, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, the body that oversees the state’s largest electric utility, voted to approve Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan to dramatically cut carbon emissions, create new jobs, protect an important industry in a struggling area of the state, and bolster tax revenues in communities in Eastern Colorado. As WRA President Jon Goldin-Dubois said during his opening remarks:
“The Colorado Energy Plan was two years in the making. It was quick and it wasn’t easy. WRA first sat down with David Eves [Executive Vice President and Group President] and Alice Jackson [President of Xcel Energy – Colorado] in 2016. Xcel Energy wanted to invest in more renewable energy, wind, and solar. And we let David and Alice know that we’d be supportive if that plan met our objectives of reducing carbon emissions consistent with what the scientific community has said is necessary.”
The collaboration was a radical departure from the conventional wisdom that a healthy economy and protection of our environment are mutually exclusive. It represents a new way forward in our efforts to transition to a clean energy economy. With many of our partners and collaborators in the room that night, it was the perfect victory to celebrate with everyone.
A Night of Inspiration
It was a night full of inspiring stories and motivating leaders who are taking new approaches to conservation efforts throughout the West. WRA was honored to have the opportunity to recognize this year’s outstanding work by our collaborators across the West. We were lucky enough to be joined by leaders in outdoor recreation, wind energy, and Colorado’s own Senator Michael Bennet.
Leaders in Outdoor Recreation
Kim Miller, CEO of SCARPA North America, joined us first to talk about his work with WRA during the July Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Denver. His company shared space in its booth at the show and helped us launch our Protect the West campaign to rally the outdoor community to support our work on clean energy, healthy rivers, and protected lands. Miller made it clear SCARPA is committed to WRA’s future work to protect the West where the outdoor recreation community works and plays.
For that reason, Miller was the perfect choice to introduce WRA’s 2018 Emerging Leader in Conservation: Marshall Masayesva. Masayesva works as the Program Coordinator for the Ancestral Lands Hopi Office and Program Director for the Adventures of Hopi Program. He told us about his childhood working as a sheepherder on his grandparents’ farm, where he watched as warming temperatures changed the places he loved most. He is now working to incorporate outdoor recreation into reservation culture, sparking economic development and conservation as a way to save the places in the West that are economically and spiritually important to him and his community.
Chris Brown, President of U.S. and Canada sales and service for the wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, followed Masayesva to present our 2018 Leadership in Conservation Award to David Eves on behalf of Xcel Energy-Colorado. At Xcel, Eves has worked to demonstrate that clean energy investment can be beneficial to the company, its customers, and especially the environment.
Xcel Energy-Colorado has demonstrated real leadership in advancing its Colorado Energy Plan, which will secure a 60% reduction in the utility’s carbon emissions, ensuring that by 2026, over 50% of the electricity it generates will come from zero-emission, clean, renewable wind and solar energy from the nation’s largest battery storage facility. Eves remarked on the success we’ve seen to date, but also reminded everyone that we still have plenty of work to do to decarbonize the West.
Finally, we were fortunate to have Senator Michael Bennet join us to close out the night. Senator Bennet gave a passionate speech that expanded on the theme of the night – the necessity of collaborating across a diversity of interests and common values to solve big problems.
We could not have asked for a better night filled with partners, collaborators, and colleagues. A special thank you to this year’s sponsors:
- Brendon Cechovic
- Community Energy, Inc
- Matthew and Breckie Hunt
- Alliance Center
- Chelsea Congdon Brundige
- Conscience Bay
- Conservation Colorado
- Denver Water
- Environmental Communication Associates
- Jon Goldin-Dubois
- Noble Energy
- NRDC & E2
- Recurrent Energy
- Sierra Club Colorado
- Steve Erickson
- William Stites
- Center for Western Priorities
- Dean Callan & Company
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Guzman Energy
- Keyes & Fox
- Neptune Mountaineering
- Petros & White, LLC
- Xcel Energy
- New Belgium
- Kind Design