The executive director of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute doesn’t bother segregating business and pleasure: Rebecca Jewett’s work is her passion. Since filling the position in 2008, Jewett has directed a small staff and an enormous volunteer base in land conservation and restoration efforts throughout the region. Originally from Longmont, she came to the Springs to attend Colorado College and decided to make a home here with her husband. Jewett, 30, says she is dedicated to preserving the area’s natural landscape and aids that effort every day. She took some time to discuss with the Business Journal her passion, her purpose and how they play a part in preserving the Pikes Peak region.
Can you talk about RMFI and what role it plays?
We are a local land conservation organization that is focused on doing ecological restoration work in the region. We work primarily with public land management agencies and assist them in various management needs, such as restoration, recreation management, trail construction, and we do the work primarily with volunteers. Last year we mobilized about 2,200 community volunteers and engaged them in public land stewardship in the region.
How did you come to work for RMFI?
I started full-time here in 2008, but I actually became involved with the organization back in 2003 while a student at Colorado College. I participated in a volunteer program through RMFI. We spent a week doing trail work, and I was hooked.
Can you tell me about your background in nonprofit/environmental work?
I’ve always been passionate about the environment, and especially the land. I grew up in Longmont, and spending time in the outdoors was a big part of my upbringing — doing lots of hiking, playing in the mountains and skiing. So I’ve always had an appreciation for the land and for the natural landscape. When I first started volunteering for RMFI, it was a way to connect my passion with doing really important work on the ground. I studied political science at Colorado College and then got my master’s degree from the University of Denver in environmental and natural resources law and policy. I am definitely putting that to work through the land conservation projects that we take on.
How do your own values align with those of RMFI?
Working at RMFI not only is in alignment with my values for land conservation but also my values for the community, and working for a nonprofit is such a fantastic way to be involved in the community and to give back to the community. So I really love that aspect of my job. We interact with so many different people, whether they are volunteers, or partners, or funders. It’s really such a neat way to be involved, and to be invested, and it’s just a really cool job.
How would you characterize the YP community in Colorado Springs?
There are pockets of really great young professional groups, but I also think that there is a lot more the city could do to encourage young professionals to move here, stay here, grow here and really become invested in this community.
What do you see in the future for RMFI and for yourself professionally?
RMFI has done a lot to increase its presence here in Colorado Springs and in the Pikes Peak region over the past couple of years, which I think is really important because we are based here — this is our home. I could see us expanding to other service areas within Southern Colorado as the need arises. The past couple of years we have been addressing wildfires, recreation needs in heavily used areas, and if there is a need in a different area I think we would consider that.
A priority of mine is to continue engaging the community and really working to engage a diversity of ages, interests and just different types of people in the community in this kind of work. The landscape — Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods — define us as a community. They are our skyline. So I think taking the time to give back to the land is really important for this community, and to be a part of the community, and to protect and serve our natural identity and our resources.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love playing outside: hiking, rock climbing, running and skiing are all passions of mine. I also love to cook. My husband owns his own business, Oxbow Labs, so I also help out a lot with that.
Do you have any advice for young professionals in the Springs?
I would really encourage other young professionals to get involved — volunteer, serve on boards — with nonprofits in the community that they are interested in. I think it is such a neat way to give back to the community in which we live.