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Earth Corps: A Rocky Mountain Field Institute Initiative

RMFI (rim-fee) n.

An organization of stewards and guardians, passionate about caring for the public land we all love and engaging our community to protect it.


Forty years after its inception, Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) is celebrating the conservation impact and stewardship it has provided to public lands throughout Southern Colorado.


Based in Colorado Springs, the non-profit organization has evolved over the years from a climbing access foundation to a conservation institute, providing volunteer-based trail and restoration projects, research and environmental education.


RMFI students atop a mountain during the 2021 Earth Corp field studies course. 2021 Earth Corp participants. Image via RMFI


Founded in 1982 as the American Mountain Foundation, RMFI has its roots in providing and improving rock climbing access in the southwest, primarily in the Pikes Peak region. Although RMFI’s scope has changed since then, they still hold close to their original core values: improving access and caring for the outdoors for all people to enjoy.


Behind the Scenes

It takes many active hands to see their mission through to fruition, and caring for our public lands is a massive responsibility. In a typical year, RMFI engages thousands of community volunteers in their efforts to improve, conserve and protect our open spaces and parks.


Besides on-the-ground volunteers, RMFI also engages the wider community, working with dozens of land management agencies, project partners, donors and supporters to ensure that the work they do is a collective effort that improves not just the natural environment, but the lives of our friends, families, neighbors and fellow community members.


Focused on the Future

Environmental Education lies at the heart of RMFI’s mission, providing the “why” behind the on-the-ground work. Earth Corps(Se abre en una ventana nueva), RMFI’s signature, award-winning education program, is an 18-day immersive outdoor educational experience, during which college students from across the country work, learn, and live in the Colorado backcountry.


“I am writing this at 11,000 feet. I have not showered in 17 days, and I am about as happy as I've ever been in my life. If someone had told me 3 weeks ago all of the things that I would experience, I probably would have been too scared to do it. But standing on the other side of all these hurdles, I have never felt more capable or connected to the outdoors.” -Elena Costa-Smith(Se abre en una ventana nueva), a 2020 RMFI Earth Corps Field Studies Student


Upon completion of the program, students earn 4 college credits in Geography and Environmental Studies.


A group of RMFI students hold up their Osprey packs Osprey donated 16 packs to support RMFI’s Earth Corps 2021 field studies course. Image via RMFI

This year, Earth Corps was hosted on the western slopes of Pikes Peak, where it celebrated its 20th anniversary in action. The students learned the ins and outs of outdoor leadership, stewardship and trail building as they helped with the continued construction of a new trail to the summit of Pikes Peak—the Devils Playground Trail.


When not working on the trail, the students followed a rigorous educational curriculum including assigned readings, class discussions, and a final exam. The students were also visited by a number of guest lecturers from organizations including the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado College and the Catamount Center for Environmental Science and Education.


Their packs, donated by Osprey, helped students carry their work gear and class materials from camp, to the work site and on a number of recreational hikes, including a summit hike to the top of Pikes Peak.


Public and private partnerships like the one between Osprey and RMFI are critical to assuring that, as a community, we can properly care for and steward our public lands into the future. Small non-profit organizations like RMFI often rely on community supporters to fill needs that would otherwise go unmet.


The generous donation from Osprey ensured that the Earth Corps students—who will become the next generation of conservation leaders—were well-prepared for their adventure into the Colorado wild.


Get Involved

Want to learn more or get involved with RMFI? Make a donation(Se abre en una ventana nueva) or sign up to be a volunteer(Se abre en una ventana nueva) today! To learn more about RMFI’s educational programs, visit their website(Se abre en una ventana nueva).


Written by Carl Woody, RMFI Program Director