Regional Sustainability Plan finalized, but ‘stretch goals’ will depend on local priorities

       The final version of the regional sustainability plan, which has been in the works for about two years, was released this week.

Depicting the type of collaboration suggested in the Re-gional Sustainability Plan are LeeAnn Westfall (left), the sustainability coordinator at Pikes Peak Community College, and Christina McGrath, executive director of COPPeR, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. They are holding art pieces that PPCC students made from recycled materials (old wire and print publications at left and electronic parts at right), which Westfall displayed at the meeting April 18 where the final plan was released.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Although critics have expressed concern about a potential for increased government control of people's lives - based on plan ideas such as those for higher-density living and less use of cars - supporters insist that the plan's goals are merely meant as guidelines.
       The plan is stated in a 123-page document titled “Looking to Our Future - Pikes Peak Region 2030” (called “PPR2030,” for short, and supported by a 219-page appendix).
       “PPR 2030 does not create a mandate for any local government, institution, business, or individual,” the document's Executive Summary states. “Rather, it is a nonbinding blueprint to achieve a sustainable future… PPR 2030 provides a framework by which our local governments, institutions, businesses, and individuals can coordinate, collaborate, and find regional solutions to regional challenges.”
       A meeting April 18 at the Colorado Springs Utilities Conservation and Environmental Center, 2855 Mesa Rd., coincided with the plan's release. Close to 100 people were on hand. Presentations were given by representatives of entities that have been working on sustainability-related programs, including Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, UCCS, Pikes Peak Community College and the COPPeR art office (the arts are seen as key to a better economy and spiritual well-being).
       Fort Carson and Peterson announced major improvements, especially in such areas as reduced use of energy, materials and landfills. Colorado Springs is working in similar ways, including ideas for future parks that have more natural grasses.
       PPR2030 came together through the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), providing staff support for research and numerous meetings with various government, business and education leaders from the area.
       Funding came from federal grants and contributions from a few local nonprofit groups. However, a follow-up request to the federal government, seeking a grant that would have paid PPACG staffers to coordinate area implementation efforts, was denied last year.
       The plan proposes “stretch goals” (meaning they could be achieved if sufficient enthusiasm occurs and a number of related factors fall into place) up to the year 2030. In general, these goals state the expectation that as a by-product of collaborative sustainability people in the region will be healthier, wealthier and better educated, drive fewer cars, dump less trash, use more renewable energy, buy more food from local farmers and increase patronage of the arts.
       Some stretch goals have met with skepticism by people noting that the plan contains little hard data as justification. One example is the plan's 2030 energy goal to move to 50 percent renewables, even though Utilities' current renewable use is about 5 percent and concerns persist about switching to sources such as wind or solar because of their higher costs.
       Adding potential controversy is PPR2030's focus on reducing greenhouse gases - a goal related to the human-caused climate-change theory that is a subject of scientific and political debate. A related concern is how much, even if the theory is true, can be done about it. The only local community to make a concerted carbon-footprint reduction effort is Manitou Springs. In 2007, its announced goal was to reduce the city's greenhouse gases by 10 percent in five years; however, according to Manitou City Council-member Coreen Toll at the plan meeting April 18, the city has managed only 1 percent to date.
       For more information, call Susan Davies at the Trails and Open Space Coalition at 633-6884.

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