High Country Conservation Center receives $75K EPA grant to create climate equity plan | SummitDaily.com

High Country Conservation Center receives $75K EPA grant to create climate equity plan

The High Country Conservation Center intends to create a climate equity plan, using a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Liz Copan/For the Summit Daily News

The High Country Conservation Center plans to develop climate solutions for underserved communities using a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The conservation center found out that it would receive the agency’s environmental justice grant in December and has spent the past two months developing a plan to organize a committee of community leaders and stakeholders that will form ideas for creating an equitable approach to climate problems.

Ultimately, the conservation center hopes to better understand the challenges of underserved communities and alter existing policies or create new policies to address those. The final product would be a plan to present to local leaders in spring 2023, similar to the center’s 2018 Climate Action Plan.

“To meet our climate action goals, we need to engage everybody across the community in strategies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jess Hoover, climate action director at the conservation center.

The conservation center is in the very early stages in creating its committee and developing plans so many of the details about this work are yet to be determined, Hoover said. The conservation center plans to reach out to representatives from organizations like the Summit School District, Mountain Dreamers and the Family & Intercultural Resource Center.

The goal is to let the underserved communities inform what work needs to be done when it comes to climate issues.

Underserved communities, like non-English speaking people and people living in poverty, are often disproportionately impacted by climate disasters. Hoover pointed to the example of the Marshall Fire that displaced thousands of people from their homes in Louisville.

“If you lose your house in a wildfire, what is your capacity to move elsewhere or rebuild?” Hoover said. “It’s a lot harder if you are a lower-income resident or if you’re a linguistically marginalized resident.”

The issue isn’t specific to Colorado. Climate researchers across the United States have been studying the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities for years. In coastal cities, flooding and hurricanes exacerbate inequities for low-income groups, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s National Climate Assessment report.

“People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts,” the report stated.

In Summit County, inequity relating to climate change can present itself as anything from higher-than-average energy costs to pollution for people living near Interstate 70, Hoover said.

The conservation center’s plans have already received support from some Summit County leaders. At a Feb. 10 Summit School District board meeting, board member Chris Guarino applauded the organization’s efforts. Guarino said he was invited to sit on the committee to develop the climate equity plan.

“We should really have some really engaging and exciting conversations about climate equity,” Guarino said at the meeting. “We could talk about mass transit, but who lives near the mass transit and who struggles with that access?”

Hoover said anyone who has thoughts on how the center can better engage underserved communities or what policies should be included in the plan can reach out to her at jess@highcountryconservation.org.

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