Now in our 35th season of stewarding Colorado’s public lands, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) is looking to the future and our many partners to help shape the next 35 years of stewardship. As we celebrate this milestone, we believe it’s important to consider what Colorado will look like over the next three decades and how different factors will impact the ways in which we care for our state’s public lands and natural resources.
Colorado’s population is expected to continue to grow, along with drought, wildfires, and extreme weather, making it more important than ever that we prepare for these impacts now. VOC has years of experience in organizing volunteer restoration efforts in response to fires and floods, and we now have several projects in place to thin forests and reduce the severity of these disasters in the first place.
These efforts are especially important as outdoor recreation on public lands is a growing economic driver in our state, generating $28 billion in consumer spending and supporting 229,000 direct jobs. With proper stewardship, the outdoor economy can continue to thrive in Colorado and support many jobs and tourism in the state. We will consider these factors and many others as we hold our strategic planning retreat with our Board and distinguished guests in July to help shape the next three years of our work.
VOC is not alone in looking to the future. Our partners at Xcel Energy recently became the first major U.S. electric company to announce a vision to produce carbon-free electricity for all of their customers by 2050. At the same time, they announced a new interim target to cost effectively reduce carbon emissions 80 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2030.
Xcel has already reduced carbon emissions by 35 percent since 2005 and has been dedicated to supplying cleaner energy to the customers and communities they serve. Xcel Energy has also demonstrated their commitment to the environment in partnership with VOC: the company has contributed funds, as well as volunteers, each year since 2012.
Xcel Energy volunteers have helped build sustainable trails, remove invasive weeds and flood debris, plant garden beds, and thin forests to improve forest health. Their grants have helped fund many more stewardship projects throughout the state, making a significant difference for the health and sustainability of Colorado’s public lands.
In the years to come, we hope that more Colorado companies will recognize the role they can play in shaping our state’s outdoors for the better. With an eye towards the future and strong public-private partnerships like the one between VOC and Xcel Energy, we can work together to preserve Coloradans’ quality of life and care for our state’s natural resources, for today and the future.