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Engaging a rural agricultural community in sustainability indicators and future scenario identification: case of San Luis Valley

Dubinsky, Jonathan, Baker-Jennings, Elizabeth, Chernomordik, Tamara, Main, Deborah S., Karunanithi, Arunprakash T.
Environment, development and sustainability 2019 v.21 no.1 pp. 79-93
greenhouse gas emissions, models, solar energy, stakeholders, Colorado
This paper describes a process of engagement with representative community stakeholders in a rural agricultural region—San Luis Valley (SLV) in southern Colorado—that helped identify locally relevant future sustainability scenarios to model and analyze using sustainability indicators. Over the course of two years, researchers and the community advisory board identified, deliberated, and, based on their input, conceptually framed future scenarios for modeling and analysis. The suggested scenarios (for modeling) that emerged through this engagement process were future solar energy development in the region, and changes to the cropping regime in the valley. SLV is a unique, geographically isolated agricultural region that has been looked at both by EPA and the state of Colorado as an ideal location for implementing sustainability measures. As a result of the present research, SLV now has the capacity to use local data to update region-specific greenhouse gas emissions and consumptive water use models. We find the community engagement process was successful both in terms of its usefulness in steering the research direction as well as its impact on community stakeholders involved in this project. Based on our experience, we recommend this community engagement approach to researchers seeking to improve the relevance and impact of region-specific sustainability analyses.