The Rocky Mountain Field Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of public lands in Southern Colorado. RMFI is committed to protecting and enhancing the ecological health of our land and water resources by completing projects focused on watershed restoration, forest health, and creating sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities. By prioritizing the involvement of community volunteers and youth, RMFI envisions a world where our work fosters vibrant and healthy natural systems that are respected and cared for by the public.
Founded in 1982 as the American Mountain Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute was originally established to provide funding for international climbing expeditions. During the mid-1980s, AMF Executive Director, and climber and mountaineer, Mark Hesse, began to notice the environmentally degrading impacts of climbers and other recreationists. He observed that these beautiful and treasured landscapes were quickly at risk of losing the very characteristics that drew people to them. In 1989, Mark catalyzed a group of friends and fellow climbers and began building trails and restoring impacted areas in Indian Creek Canyon, an internationally renowned climbing mecca in the dramatic desert landscape of Utah.
A decade later, Mark and his grassroots organization that became the Rocky Mountain Field Institute in 1997, had protected acres of sensitive terrain by closing roads leading into side canyons, established a sustainable trail and camping infrastructure, and raised the awareness of climbers and land owners in the area. In the 1990s Mark focused his efforts on climbing areas in Colorado, such as Eldorado Canyon, Shelf Road, and “Fourteener” summit trails. Today, RMFI still works at climbing areas in Colorado and Utah, but has grown to encompass a larger and more diverse skills set, tackling projects in the alpine and montane, watershed ecosystems, riparian zones, and sensitive foothill environs. In January 2014, Mark tragically passed away in a climbing accident. It is with great honor that we continue to carry on Mark's legacy at RMFI nearly 40 years after its founding.