Rocky Mountain Chapter

Co-Chair, Rocky Mountain Chapter Conservation Advisory Committee

By Mary Coday Edwards

A resident of Colorado Springs for 35 years, Kirby considers himself a “relative newcomer” to the environmental movement. Joining the Sierra Club in 1990, Kirby became frustrated with the “’system’, which didn’t provide many avenues for the beginning environmentalist to protect our planet.”

Kirby HughesActivism Highlights
“We’ll be watching you ...’”

Serving as co-chair of the Conservation Advisory Committee (CONSCOM), Kirby is also RMC’s Mining Issues chair, as well as Groundwater chair.

“I love working on detailed issues, like mining and groundwater pollution issues. I’ve had some successes in the mining arena, but haven’t had the time to really focus on groundwater concerns,” Kirby said.

Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine (CC&V) knows “we’re monitoring what they do, via the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, with comments on every amendment they’ve had to the existing permit,” Kirby said. CC&V has increased its efforts to better protect the environment, “in accordance with the Mining Issues team’s suggestions submitted to the state,” he added.


The RMC’s CONSCOM consists of 13 issue areas.

“There’s a huge need for CONSCOM to more fully ‘develop’ each of its 13 issue areas and expand our areas of environmental coverage, so it’s clear Kirk [Kirk Cunningham, the other co-chair of CONSCOM] and I need to place a lot of our energies here. We’ve had some great successes in also forming ‘special issue areas’ within several of our 13 issue areas, and this needs to be continued,” Kirby explained.

RMC Volunteer Coordinator

Switching to his other role as volunteer coordinator, Kirby says he’s looking for help from the membership.

The Club needs “managers of people who can perform detailed conservation work. These ‘people managers’ have to deal with sometimes extremely talented volunteers, all with different opinions, directions, focuses, as well as the amount of time allocable to their endeavors. If you’re reading this article and are interested in being a conservation (personnel) manager please contact me. We have many different open positions, in all conservation areas!

“We’re currently defining a set of (functionally defined) ‘jobs’ that each issue area could electively use, to manage the larger set of volunteers addressing specific issues in each of the issue areas. I have a preliminary set of training materials for these ‘jobs’, and need an organizational trainer to help train folks for positions of responsibility. If you’re reading this article and are interested in being a conservation organizational trainer, please contact me.” Kirby urged.

Kirby believes that the RMC “is doing quite well from a conservation perspective. [But] we need to expand, or ‘bulk up,’ our issue area teams, as Joshua Ruschhaupt, our director, would state, and we need to be better integrated with all of our other chapter committees.

“We need you, our membership, to participate more with helping us manage and coordinate Club efforts, as well as perform environmental work in different areas.”

Life Philosophy Pulls Him Forward

Kirby Hughes - Yellowstone“One of my core observations is that the earth, including all life and its support environment are integrated into a single, self-regulating system, maintaining the conditions for life on our planet, an approach which is commonly known as the ‘Gaia Hypothesis’,” said Kirby, a physicist by training.

“As environmental concerns for the earth’s ecosystem will continue (forever), because mankind must ‘perturb’ the natural ecosystem to survive and thrive, we have a perpetual ‘battle’ to protect the earth’s (somewhat constant) natural balance from the demands of humankind. For us to be able to survive as a species, we have to assure our ‘perturbations’ are within the bounds needed to maintain this single, self-regulating system, supporting conditions for life on our planet – and including our own survival.”

When asked why he was still a member of the Club, he responded, “Why would I NOT still be a member? If you’re wanting to live on the planet Earth, one should responsibly understand the requirements for achieving a balance─and a better one than we seem to be fostering right now, I’d add─and dedicate some of our time and energies towards that end.

“What better place to accomplish this─provided you’re not planning to enter the ‘fight’ politically at a very high level─than by working with one of the world’s largest and powerful environmental organizations? We need to achieve a much better environmental balance than we currently have, and the Sierra Club is probably one of the best places to allow folks ─at all levels─to accomplish this.”

His goals for the future?

Immer gerade aus! which is German for ‘Onwards, straight ahead!’”


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