Erin Riccio is passionate about protecting Colorado’s public lands. She grew up in Morrison on the Front Range and comes from a family of conservationists.
“My grandfather was involved in the Colorado Mountain Club back in the [1940s] and really instilled this love of the land for me and protecting these values that we all hold dear,” she said.
Now, she’s the Central Mountains Field Organizer for Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental advocacy group. She’s new to Carbondale and so is Conservation Colorado. Headquartered in Denver with offices around the state, the group opened the Carbondale office in early October.
“This is a valley that really takes conservation seriously, that is dedicated to the cause, and that I think needs to be more engaged in state level politics,” she said.
Riccio has been with Conservation Colorado since 2017. She moved to Carbondale from Grand Junction, where she held a similar position. “We really focus on getting things done through state policy,” she said. “We focus on getting policy passed around public lands protections, water conservation and quality, and addressing climate change.”
She added that the group occasionally works on the federal level when it comes to public lands policy but is mostly focused on state involvement.
“With the current presidential administration and some of the different entities they’ve put in place at the [Environmental Protection Agency], at the Bureau of Land Management, they’re rolling back a lot of these really important environmental agendas, like the Clean Power Plan, the EPA and BLM methane rules,” she said. “So now is the time for the state to really enact our own policies to counter what’s going on with the federal government.”
When the Trump administration rolled back the federal Clean Car Standards in 2018, for example, Riccio said that’s when Colorado decided to pursue its own standards.
“Under the Hickenlooper administration, we went after low-emission vehicle standards, making more fuel efficient cars available on the market,” she explained. “Under Governor Polis, it was taken a step further and now we have zero-emission vehicle standards, which get more zero-emission or electric vehicles on the market for consumers to buy.”
She said conservation policy needs to be maintained at all levels of government but states have a unique opportunity right now. “While the federal government is choosing inaction over action, the states can really play a role,” she explained. “But, it’s really up to all of us to ensure that all of these policies stay in place.”
As for county issues, Riccio said the group is looking at different ways to get involved.
Conservation Colorado plans to work locally on the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Act, the Colorado Water Plan, protecting communities from health and safety impacts of oil and gas activities, and implementing the state’s Climate Action Plan and SB-181. “It’s an exciting time for our state overall,” she said. “We see these twin processes really about reforming the industry in our state to prioritize these things that were never really on the radar before in the same way as well as continuing to address climate change.”
Conservation Colorado is leasing space, basically Riccio’s desk, in the Third Street Center office of Clean Energy Economy for the Region or CLEER, just down the hall from Wilderness Workshop and the Community Office for Resource Efficiency or CORE. Riccio said partnerships with these local groups were set up long before she started working with Conservation Colorado. “It’s really exciting to be working in closer proximity to them,” she said.
Riccio said that watching what is happening with the federal government inspires her work with Conservation Colorado. “I’ve really tried to live out the values my grandfather taught me through this job.”