RMCO Statements and News Releases

Stephen Saunders, the founder and president of RMCO, posted this statement about the organization shutting down:

The decision to dissolve the organization is driven by my reaching an age where I am ready to retire and devote full time to enjoying the next stage of my life. On the other hand, Tom Easley, RMCO’s long-standing director of programs, will keep up his efforts, though now in a different capacity. In recent years, much of what RMCO has done has been providing expert and administrative support to Colorado Communities for Climate Action – more on it in a minute – and Tom will continue doing that, now as an independent contractor to CC4CA. And CC4CA, which legally used to be an RMCO program, has already been operating as its own, separate entity. So that important work will outlive RMCO.

But RMCO itself will be dissolved. With that decision, it’s unavoidable that somebody in my shoes – the founder of RMCO and its only president – takes stock on how we did. The perspective of others doubtless is more accurate, but here’s mine.

We started with an ambitious desire to move the politics of the Interior West on the climate change issue in a more positive direction, first and foremost by working with leaders and institutions with broad credibility in the region to encourage them and support them in being more visible in taking on human disruption of the climate, and secondly by focusing on unique regional and local threats that might give pause to climate skeptics. That still seems like the right strategy, and I think we carried it out well. But America’s politics overall became more polarized over the years, and climate became the issue on which the divide was greatest – until, that is, covid came along and took the top spot. That polarization kept us from being able to do as much as we aspired to.

But we move on knowing that it’s been a good ride, for 17 and a half years.

Our first goal has always been to bring about more climate protection actions, across the Rocky Mountain region and particularly in Colorado, and especially at the state and local levels. When we started, Colorado’s then-governor would not let state officials acknowledge climate change. Now, the state government has a statutory framework of goals for reducing heat-trapping emissions and comprehensive regulatory authority to achieve the goals – just as we’ve long advocated. Of course, that’s the fruit of many labors, not just ours. But we have been pushing those ideas longer than anybody else has here. And we take pride in the role we’ve played in helping bring that about.

In the past few years, since Colorado Communities for Climate Action was launched, our state advocacy efforts have been through our support of that coalition. CC4CA is effectively the successor to our earlier Colorado Climate Network, and, now counting 40 local government members, it’s much stronger than that smaller network ever was. CC4CA is a potent force in the state and a model for the nation. And CC4CA is the best example of our partnering with institutional players who can make a big difference.

We’ve spread the word, too, about what a disrupted climate can do to us here in the Interior West, and what we can do about it. The titles of two early reports tell our focus: Less Snow, Less Water: Climate Disruption in the West, and Hotter and Drier: The West’s Changed Climate. It’s long been a sadness for us how much our reports have proven to be prescient. We like better that our reports, now 25 of them, have been covered by 18 of the 25 largest-circulation newspapers in the country, sometimes even on their front pages. All of our reports have taken detailed scientific information and distilled it into accessible form – and nothing in our reports has ever been challenged as inaccurate.

We’ve broken some new ground, too. As we started, we were the first to say that climate change is changing Colorado – as a present reality and danger, not just a threat for the future. Some of our best friends argued that was getting too far over our skis. Remembering that brings home how much things have changed over 17-1/2 years.

Back in 2007, we became the first nonprofit in the country to take the lead in developing the framework for a state government climate action – pulling together 116 leading Coloradans who developed 70 recommendations for actions to reduce the state’s contribution to and vulnerability to climate change. This effort served as a foundation that Governor Bill Ritter worked from when he took office, developing the state’s first official climate action plan.

In an early RMCO report, we were the first to call climate disruption the greatest threat ever to our national parks. Shortly after, citing our report, the National Park Service officially declared the same. And NPS began using the 300 million visits a year to our national parks as opportunities to build public awareness of climate change.

More recently, we reported on what the climate models project for specific changes in particular Colorado communities. Those have been the most detailed such analyses for any locations anywhere. For the Denver metro area, for instance, we showed that, with continued high emissions, a typical mid-century year is projected to average seven days 100° or hotter. The hottest year in mid-century could have every third summer day that extremely hot. We’ve seen how those startling local projections change attitudes.

In these and other ways, we’ve done what we can to protect the climate that does so much to make the Rocky Mountain region the special place that we love so much. Now, we pass our torch to all of you who share that vision.