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By Chuck McAfee

Thirty years for San Juan Citizens Alliance—this year we’re 30 years old and more effective than ever.

That’s what comes to mind when I think about the Alliance. The reasons that we are here are so fundamental—air, water, landscape, healthy lands, healthy communities, resilience. Yet our work is complex because of the ecosystems, organizational systems, connections and opposing forces that are elements of the fray in which we are engaged.

My time on the board—I recall our 20-year anniversary celebration and I have served on the Alliance board starting in 2008. As I leave the board, many descriptors come to mind around my view of the Alliance.

  • We are knowledgeable; we are committed; we are learners; we are creative.
  • We stand up, we show up right now.
  • We are proactive and are looking beyond today.
  • We are a steadying, experienced presence.
  • We continually bring new energy and ideas to our clear mission to protect the basics.

All systems are self-renewing and self-organizing, in that they adapt themselves as needed to match their current situation. The Alliance is like that. We use the most effective strategies for the desired outcome, ranging from decade-long collaborations to protect local watersheds like the Dolores River and Hermosa Creek to litigation and direct action to protect the HDs and Greater Chaco from  oil and gas development. We respond to and push back against challenges that threaten our basic values. We persevere through them toward a better outcome for the communities we serve.

We create challenges to other systems when we are presented with threats. These threats often lead to opportunities to make immediate and lasting positive impacts. We adapt our presence, processes, and structure to meet the need. We show up. We partner with others at all political and social levels, because everyone needs and cares about clean air and water. We have been successfully working this way for 30 years and we will continue to be effective and creative this way into the future.

Our stability comes from a deep clarity of what we are doing and why we are doing it.

One thing that stands out for me now as I step away from the board are the people—the board, the Alliance staff, and our members and supporters. I have never felt more confident and grateful than I do now about the people who do the work. There are three criteria I use when deciding about joining a board of directors.

  1. Am I passionate about the mission?
  2. Can I make a difference?
  3. Will I have fun working with the people?

The answer to these questions has remained a resounding “yes” for me. Best of all are the folks who govern and staff the Alliance. It’s stimulating and fun to hang out with such dedicated, knowledgeable, accessible, and creative people. They know how to do what they do. They support each other. They make a difference.

The board and the staff are doing the right things for the right reasons, with ever-increasing effectiveness. I am proud of the Alliance. I am honored to have participated on its board, and I depart with a smile on my face and confidence in the future of the Alliance. Very fine.

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Chuck McAfee lives in Montezuma County and served on the Board of Directors for San Juan Citizens Alliance from 2008 to 2016. Although retired, southwest Colorado is a better place because of his full time work as an advocate and volunteer in the community.

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