CSU faculty worried Trump Administration will affect environmental research jobs

Tony Villalobos

With Trump’s order to halt on all contracts, grants and inter-agency agreements on government agencies such as Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park services, professors at Colorado State University are worried about how it will affect CSU and its students.

CSU has a number of faculty who are affected by this ban, and some who oppose the changes made by the Trump administration.

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Our of our biggest concerns is how proposed reductions in the federal conservation workforce and the reduction in budgets proposed for federal environmental agencies might affect career opportunities for our students,” wrote James Barborak, co-director of the center for protected area management in Warner College, in an email to the Collegian. “CSU has long been known as the ranger factory for its role in producing field staff for federal natural resources agencies. Even today many of our students might have hoped for a federal career as a ranger, interpreter, forester, wildlife or range manager or environmental scientist.”

CSU has worked alongside the EPA in a variety of projects over the years, including sustainability effort, methane research and hazardous waste study.

Barborak said he has noticed a shift towards career opportunities to CSU graduates in environmental non-profits, tourism environmental consulting companies and for private businesses.

“This trend will probably continue with the announced policy direction of the Trump administration,” Barborak wrote. “Proposed major investments in infrastructure, if they included helping address the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog of federal protected areas, could actually provide some new employment options, as could jobs related to environmental planning and mitigation to offset impacts of expanded resource extraction on federal lands.”

In an email to CSU faculty, Vice President of Research Alan Rudolph wrote a response to Trump’s orders.

“CSU currently conducts significant and impactful research under the sponsorship of the EPA,” Rudolph wrote. “These awards generate important discovery and translational impacts against real world environmental problems of significance to Colorado and the nation.”

The Trump Administration ban halted any posting of scientific facts, and limits posting to hours and scheduling. The ban also extends to interaction with reporters, preventing them from speaking with the media until further notice.

The EPA and the National Park Services have been directed not to talk about “national policy” in the wake of the new administration until a system can be derived that bests represents the new Trump Administration.

The social media halt inspired a number of “Alternative Parks” accounts to show up in it’s wake, posting and tweeting environmental facts and speaking out against the media shut down.

While the future of CSU graduates might be uncertain as the Trump Administration continues to change its environmental policies, Barborak said federal conservation agency staff are well trained and have been through similar changes in administration before. Among these federal agency staff are graduates from the Warner College of Natural Resources. Many students are worried about the uncertainty of their research and the state of jobs in environmental fields under the new administration.

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“I think it’s really unfair to the people trying to do their research and better the world that they live in. And silencing their voices isn’t fair to them and the work that they do,” said Quinn Milligan, Business and Ecosystem Science major. 

Trump has previously stated his wishes to cut funding to the EPA, how this would affect CSU remains to be seen.

“We are a diverse research community of strength and resilience,” Rudolph wrote. “We recognize our commitment to executing cutting edge research that is a pillar of our Land Grant mission, even in the face of uncertainty about federal funding and priorities.”

Tony Villalobos May can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @TheTonyVM.