Steamboat Springs Luther Propst's message was one that many members of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley had heard before.
"Conservation and good growth management correlate with economic prosperity," said Propst, who was the speaker at the Community Alliance's annual meeting Saturday night. "I'm convinced as our world becomes smaller (as the global economy grows), our competitive advantage in the West is it's a place where you can live in vibrant, diverse communities surrounded by wildlife."
The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage the community to support growth-control measures and protect the environment.
The importance of managing rapid growth and other challenges in Western states dominated Propst's presentation. He is the executive director of the Sonoran Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Ariz., that aims to "promote community decisions that respect the land and people of the West."
Community Alliance members were eager to find out how they should proceed in addressing the challenges facing the Yampa Valley.
The population in the Western U.S. is expected to grow 50 percent by 2030, and communities are struggling to maintain a "sense of community" while protecting the environment and building self-sustaining communities, Propst said.
"We have to look at water," he said. "That's where we are going to meet our day of reckoning with growth."
Propst also said communities need to think regionally, and people need to become more involved politically to affect change.
"Protecting what's important should not be a partisan issue," Propst said. "We're convinced that one of the most important things a community like this has to do is build a large cadre or group of folks who have a clear sense of what it takes to make progress."
After Propst's speech, about 60 Community Alliance members broke out into small groups and brainstormed ideas. One such group included Steamboat Springs residents Dave Epstein, Carole Milligan and Noreen Moore, who is the business resource director for the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative.
"He's saying kind of what we intuitively know, and it's really 'what can we do about it?'" Moore said. "We know now on the grassroots level what we're dealing with."
Their discussions centered around the importance of embracing change, the impact of wealth in the Yampa Valley and promoting a "sense of community."
"The wealth is going to accelerate so fast in the next 18 months," Moore said.
The group even discussed the idea of knocking on the doors of new multi-million dollar homes to meet the owners and assimilate them into the community.
"There needs to be better dialogue between newcomers, retirees and part-time residents," Moore said.
"There needs to be co-mingling between different neighborhoods, more community dinners," Milligan said.
The brainstorming session was something Milligan, Moore and Epstein said needs to happen again, but with more people.
"This is exactly what is needed," Moore said. "How do we do this on a communal basis?"