Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) reopened as RRWCD tries to retire wells for Republican River agreement — The Yuma Pioneer

From the Republican River Water Conservation District (Deb Daniel) via The Yuma Pioneer:

The USDA recently published the 2018 Farm Bill Environmental Assessment. It states that the 2018 Farm Bill provides the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, the discretion to permit dryland agricultural uses on land enrolled under a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement.

In Section 2.4 of the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment of the Conservation Reserve Program it states that the USDA has determined to not allow dryland agricultural uses of land while enrolled in CRP under a CREP agreement.

USDA also announced that the agency is once again accepting CREP applications. Well owners interested in applying for this conservation program should contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. The sign-up deadline for CREP this year is September 30, 2020. The Republican River Water Conservation District also offers supplemental contracts to well owners who have a CREP contract with FSA. Annual payments received from FSA are dependent on which county the well is located in. The RRWCD pays different levels depending on the location of the well. In 2016, the Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA) approved the operation and accounting for the compact compliance pipeline and Colorado’s compliance efforts in the South Fork Republican River Basin.

South Fork of the Republican River

This agreement also requires Colorado to voluntarily retire up to an additional 25,000 acres from irrigation in the South Fork Republican River Basin. Of that amount, Colorado must retire at least 10,000 acres by 2024 and the remaining 15,000 acres by December 31, 2029.

As part of this requirement, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado agreed upon a boundary of the South Fork Republican River drainage basin (shown as South Fork Focus Zone (SFFZ) in map). Wells located in the SFFZ are paid a higher annual payment by the RRWCD to encourage permanent retirement of acres in this area.

Anyone interested in applying for a CREP contract should contact your local FSA office or Deb Daniel, General Manager of the RRWCD at the RRWCD office (970) 332-3552, mobile (970) 630-3525 or by email deb.daniel@rrwcd.com.

Kansas River Basin including the Republican River watershed. Map credit: By Kmusser – Self-made, based on USGS data., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4390886

Despite population growth, development boom new study finds Boulder County’s water quality remains good, but not great — The Boulder Daily Camera

E.coli Bacterium

From The Boulder Daily Camera (John Spina):

Despite the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently proposing several segments of Boulder County’s waterways as impaired, data collected by the Keep It Clean Partnership, which coordinates water quality monitoring for seven municipalities in Boulder County show the region’s water quality has remained relatively stable over the last five years.

“There were no notable issues with temperature, we saw significant decreases in levels of nitrogen and arsenic, E Coli levels remained stable, and we saw some increases in phosphorous but it remained below the state standard” Kevin Peterson, project coordinator of the Keep It Clean Partnership, said following the organization’s release of its 2018 Water Quality Report. “That’s a success, especially considering the population growth in the area.”

While Peterson refrained from directly citing a cause for this trend, he gave a nod to all the work the County and the various cities and towns have done to improve their handling of stormwater and treatment of wastewater, as well as to reduce nutrient pollution from agriculture.

The state’s decision to designate the section of Boulder Creek from 13th Street east to its confluence with South Boulder Creek as impaired, he said, was in large part the result of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment changing how it measures E Coli…

Meghan Wilson, a spokesperson for the City of Boulder, agreed.

“We’re aware that the methodology has changed in terms of designating stream segments as impaired,” she said. “My understanding is the condition has not changed, rather how they are designated has changed.”

While Peterson said ridding E Coli from a waterway is exceptionally difficult in urbanized areas, Cristina Ramirez, the Keep It Clean Partnership’s outreach specialist, noted there are several ways people can help reduce levels, including picking up dog waste, properly maintaining your home’s septic system, limit the amount of fertilizer applied to lawns and ensure irrigation systems aren’t overwatering and sending excess water into the gutter.

“The future is going to be warmer, hotter. #ClimateChange is appearing here and now, and it is not going away” — Laurna Kaatz #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Maroon Bells reflected in Maroon Lake. Photo credit: Wikipedia

From The Colorado Sun (Mark Jaffe):

The specter of climate change underscores the importance of gauging how well Colorado’s mountains can wring moisture from those enigmatic flakes

As the world’s climate warms, forced by the buildup of man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the key questions for the arid West will be how much snow falls on the region’s mountains and how much usable water it will yield.

This map shows the snowpack depth of the Maroon Bells in spring 2019. The map was created with information from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory, which will help water managers make more accurate streamflow predictions. Jeffrey Deems/ASO, National Snow and Ice Data Center

“As climate changes, we need a more accurate understanding of the water in the snowpack,” said Deems, 46, who got hooked on studying snow as a University of Colorado undergraduate, in part because, as a backcountry skier, he was interested in avalanches. “So far it has been difficult to measure snowpack and get good information on how much water is going to come out of it.”

Snow is elusive. It comes in storms that mix and mingle with mountains and forest. Even after the storms leave, winds continue to move it around the landscape. “Pretty rapidly it becomes a difficult problem to simulate the snow accumulation process,” Deems said.

“Snow is close to its melting point, so it can change its character over a short distance or time,” he said. “It’s weird stuff.”

The big Earth system models (ESMs) used to plot global climate change have challenges simulating snow. Deems said he hopes the data generated from remote-sensing exercises, like the airborne observatory, will eventually “nudge the ESMs in the right direction.”

Workstations SnowEx aircraft February 17, 2017.

The airborne observatory is the result of a collaboration between the snow and ice data center, which is affiliated with NASA and CU Boulder. Deems has been with the project since it began in 2012.

Lidar – light detection and ranging radar – measures the snow-water equivalent and the mass spectrometer measures the albedo, the snowpack’s reflective capacity, an indicator of melting.

The airborne observatory is part of NASA’s larger SnowEx project, which aims to estimate how much water is stored in Earth’s snow-covered regions.

The snow-pit measurements were to help calibrate – “ground truthing” scientists call it – the remote sensing data from the airplane above.

Snow presents a water-gauging enigma

What scientists know from on-the-ground observation and model simulations is that in the last few decades, there has been less snow in the West, and it is likely there will be even less in the future.

In ascertaining what is going to happen to the region’s water, understanding snow is the most bedeviling element.

When it rains, it rains. But snow only comes when both the precipitation and temperature are just right. At warmer temperatures, the air holds more water and the snowfall is bigger, but a few degrees more and the snow turns to rain.

Since 1980, the area covered by snowpack has declined 20% in the low to middle elevations across the basins of the Colorado, Missouri and Columbia rivers, according to a study led by U.S. Geological Service (USGS) researcher Gregory Pederson. This contributed to low stream flows and a more active fire season.

A tree-ring paleo study by Pederson found that in the last 1,000 years, there were only two periods of sustained low snowpack that compared to current levels — from 1300 to 1330 and from 1511 to 1530.

But in each of those cases, there was a regional split, tied to forces such as the El Niño, the periodic warming of Pacific Ocean waters, which led to drying in either the northern Rockies or the southern Rockies while the other area was wet. Now the dearth of snow stretches across the West.

“Over the past millennium, late 20th-century snowpack reductions are almost unprecedented in magnitude across the northern Rocky Mountains,” according to a research paper by the Pederson team.

An analysis by researchers at Oregon State University and the University of California, Los Angeles found that between 2005 and 2016, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Cascades declined at 90% of the snow-monitoring sites with long records, with a third posting drops that were “significant.”

To see what the future may hold, a team led by John Abatzoglou, a University of Idaho geography professor, regionalized temperature and precipitation projections from 20 of the global ESMs and added data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Snow Telemetry System (SNOTEL).

There are about 730 SNOTEL sites across the West and Alaska. Each has a “snow pillow,” akin to a waterbed filled with antifreeze that measures the density of the snow and its water content.

In warmer areas, such as the Cascades, snowpack reductions of 35% to 70% were projected by mid-century, according to the Abatzoglou models. In the coldest locations, including the middle and southern Rockies, snowpack was seen declining 5% to 20%.

But the model also showed that in a few of the coldest, high-elevation stations, including some in Colorado, the impacts of warming would be offset by increased precipitation. Still, overall the loss of snow would lead to an 18% decline in the flow of the Upper Colorado River.

The added moisture in the air would lead to more of the snowpack coming from a handful of very heavy storms, while there would be fewer snowfalls over the snow season. That season will narrow to December through February.

The shoulder months of November and March, which have been in part of the snow season, will see a mix of rain and snow – except a few areas where snow will continue to dominate, such as central Colorado and the Unita and Bighorn ranges, according to the Abatzoglou analysis.

At “broad scales,” the models indicate a 30% decrease in areas across the West with temperatures favorable for snow, one Abatzoglou study calculated.

Still, figuring out what is going to happen in the mountains is tricky, Abatzoglou said in an interview. “We’ve under sampled our mountains. We don’t nearly have as good a record,” he said. “The models are coarse.”

“We’ve seen decreases in snowpack, but how is snow going to be moving forward?” he asked. One scenario sees years with large snowfalls and years with “snow droughts.”

Another University of Idaho study found that as temperatures increase, snow droughts will become six times more likely in the second half of the century.

“When water falls, it is so much more valuable when it falls over the mountains as snow,” Abatzoglou said. “It contributes substantially to ecosystems and regional water supplies.”

As the snowfall becomes more limited and variable, understanding the spatial patterns of the snowpack becomes all the more important. “Where are the refuges that will be able to hang on to snow?” Abatzoglou said. “If we get a little more on spatial estimates, we can get a better handle on water supply.”

A flight from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory gathers data about the snowpack above the reservoir on a June 24 flight. Information gathered from the flight helped Denver Water manage reservoir operations. Photo courtesy of Quantum Spatial

Digging by hand for details

Getting a handle was precisely what Deems and Elder were doing with their avalanche shovels. There are four SNOTEL sites in the Blue River drainage of Lake Dillon, Denver Water’s largest reservoir. Deems and Elder were above those SNOTEL sites.

It turned out when the Airborne Snow Observatory scans were twinned with the on-the-ground measurements, more than half of the season’s inflow to Lake Dillon was in the upper reaches of the mountains, even after the SNOTEL sites had melted out.

There was an estimated 114,000 acre-feet of water above the SNOTEL sites, enough water to supply nearly 300,000 families of four for a year.

“Those SNOTEL sites don’t measure anything above 10,000 feet in our watershed,” Elder said. “We have a large area above that, and we don’t get good information on it.”

[…]

“Ninety percent of water management is dealing with the extremes, the wet years and the dry years, which are getting drier, that is where climate change plays havoc,” said Douglas Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the CU Law School…

The goal is a policy that is adaptive and flexible, Kaatz said, because there is no crystal ball with which to tell the future. “We are aware of the limitations of what climate science can tell us,” she said. “We just don’t know what is really going to happen. That’s why planning for a range of scenarios makes sense.”

There is one certainty, she said. “The future is going to be warmer, hotter. Climate change is appearing here and now, and it is not going away.”

Analysis: Ag claims a win in #WOTUS rollback, but will it last? — The Sterling Journal Advocate

Pawnee Creek running high.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers announced this past week that they will roll back much of the 2015 clean water regulations known collectively as Waters of the U.S.

Whether that’s good or bad depends, as usual, on who you are, but membership in a particular group doesn’t necessarily mean support or opposition is consistent. Most of agriculture seems to be happy, but some ag groups are suing to block the rule rollback…

On the other side of the coin are farmers, ranchers and livestock feeders, along with those who manage surface water in the western U.S., who hailed the rollback as a victory of reason and logic, and respect for states’ rights to manage natural resources within their borders.

Colorado Corn released a statement Thursday in which CCGA President Dave Cure, a Wray, Colo., corn grower, asserted again the claim that farmers are better stewards that they’re given credit for.

“Farmers rely on clean water to make a living and often go above and beyond regulatory requirements to be avid stewards of all their resources,” Cure said. “The new rule clarifies oversight on dry land that is sometimes wet, something the 2015 WOTUS rule did not. These and other improvements allow the kind of farming practices to protect the environment to continue and new ones to be implemented without confusion.”

The Fertilizer Institute also praised the rule rollback saying the new rules “ensure a future with both clean water and clear rules.”

Even in California, supposed bastion of socialist over-regulation, California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said this week’s release of the Navigable Waters Protection encourages farmers and ranchers.

“You won’t find a stronger ally than farmers and ranchers when it comes to protecting land and natural resources, because they depend on those resources to produce food and farm products,” Johansson said. “The new rule promises clear guidelines to help farmers maintain and improve water quality while retaining the flexibility they need to manage their land.”

Those who opposed the 2015 rules charged that the rules were unclear and, thus, overreaching. They claim that the regulations extend the EPA’s and the Army Corps’ regulatory reach over what is termed “navigable waters,” which ranchers, farmers and states argue gives the federal agencies’ unprecedented authority over drainage ditches and nearly anything else that can contain water. It was even supposed, among Logan County water experts, that Pawnee Creek, which runs water only once every few years, would be regulated under WOTUS.

The apparent intent of the rules was to clean up not just America’s major waterways, but also anything that feeds into them. After all, how can the Mississippi River be cleaned up if its tributaries are dumping millions of tons of pollution from upstream into it? Thus, the Big Muddy would best be protected by cleaning up the Missouri, the Platte, the South Platte, the Poudre, the Big Thompson and the Saint Vrain. That might make sense if there was no state oversight of surface water quality in Colorado. But there is. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – a state-sized version of the EPA – has stringent rules about water quality in Colorado, which is why all six municipalities in Logan County are spending millions of dollars to upgrade their water supplies and wastewater treatment systems.

Colorado also has decided that it was wasteful to have both the CDPHE and the Department of Agriculture setting regulations for water and air quality for agricultural producers, so CDPHE turned that regulation over to CDA. Federal oversight of the quality of surface water in Colorado would greatly complicate efforts by ag producers to make a living while still protecting the environment they depend on for that living.

That’s why, in 2015, Colorado’s Attorney General, Republican Cynthia Coffman, joined the attorneys general in 12 other states to sue to block WOTUS. North Dakota led the charge and was joined by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming, as well as the New Mexico Environment Department and State Engineer. Notice that all but Missouri are western states whose water laws are modeled after Colorado’s Doctrine of Prior Appropriation. It is always a fear in the West that when the federal government gets involved in water regulations, DOPA, also known as the Colorado Doctrine because this is where it was born, will be usurped by federal regulations modeled along the riparian doctrine best known east of the Mississippi. More than a century of water law and interstate compacts could be thrown into turmoil as a result.

Not everyone in the West was unhappy with the 2015 rules, however. According to Pamela King, reporter for E&E News, the New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association sued the that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers in October last year claiming that the government cannot revert to 1986 regulations governing which wetlands and waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. At that time there were 22 states in which the WOTUS rule was still in effect, and it was blocked in 27 other states.

The situation is fluid, so to speak, and a search of newspaper and webzine headlines on the subject shows anywhere from 12 to 18 states trying to block WOTUS and a fresh round of lawsuits shows states lining up to sue to keep the WOTUS regulations.

Through it all both supporters and opponents identify the push and pull by the president in office at the time. The 2015 regulations are called Obama rules, although they were adopted by supposedly autonomous and non-partisan bureaucrats at the EPA and Corps of Engineers; similarly, the repeal is laid at Donald Trump’s doorstep, although it was done by those same agencies after gaining input from myriad citizen organizations.

And Colorado still isn’t quite sure what it wants to do about WOTUS. In September the new attorney general, Democrat Phil Weiser, said that if he thought the EPA rollback went too far, he might take legal action. Attempts by the Journal-Advocate to find out whether that action has been taken yet hadn’t been fruitful by time of publication.

Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

I understand the farmers and ranchers point of view. I don’t worry about them much, they know the pitfalls of modern chemicals used in Ag, strive to be responsible stewards of the land, and know that developed Ag land has an exemption under the 2015 rules. However, the states and the U.S. government needs to keep a tight grip on the extractive industries and irresponsible folks that locate in rural areas and don’t pay for their pollution.

Arizona Rivers Map via Geology.com.

From The Tucson Sentinel (Jessica Meyers):

Clean-water rules unveiled Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency could remove the vast majority of Arizona’s waterways from federal oversight, a change environmentalists call bad news in a region where water is “super precious.”

[…]

While farmers may save legal fees under the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the government likely will not.

“We’ll absolutely be fighting it in court,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, who said the new rule will be one of President Donald Trump’s “ugliest legacies.”

“This sickening gift to polluters will allow wetlands, streams and rivers across a vast stretch of America to be obliterated with pollution,” Hartl said in a prepared statement.

Critics said the impact will be particularly strong in states like Arizona, where a 2008 EPA study said 94% of the waterways are ephemeral and intermittent – exactly the sort of waterways that will be exempt from federal regulation under the new rule…

The change is the latest step in the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back the Waters of the United States rule enacted under President Barack Obama. The so-called WOTUS rule was a response to complaints by landowners that there was no clear definition of waterways that fell under the regulatory control of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality declined comment on the new federal rule Thursday, except to say it is reviewing the proposal to “fully understand how it impacts Arizona waterways.” But, in anticipation of the new federal rule, the state has been working for some time on a Waters of Arizona definition that is aimed to fill gaps left by the federal approach and protect state waterways through a “local control approach.”

Wheeler said federal officials had states in mind when they created their new plan.

“Our new rule recognizes this relationship and strikes a proper balance between Washington, D.C., and the states, and clearly details which waters are subject to federal control under the Clean Water Act, and importantly, which waters fall solely under the state’s jurisdiction,” Wheeler said…

But Rep. Raul Grijalva tweeted that what he called the “#DirtyWaterRule endangers the drinking water for the millions of Arizonans and other Western residents who depend on the Colorado River.” Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, added that “clean water is a human right.”

[…]

The Center for Biological Diversity cited 75 endangered species that could be threatened by the change, with Hartl specifically noting the yellow-billed cuckoo and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, both of which live near streams.

“People and wildlife need clean water to thrive. Destroying half of our nation’s streams and wetlands will be one of Trump’s ugliest legacies,” Hartl said.

Map of Nevada’s major rivers and streams via Geology.com.

From Nevada Public Radio (Luke Runyon):

The updated policy excludes some wetlands and all ephemeral streams — which only flow after a heavy rain or intense snowmelt.

They act as tributaries to rivers that millions of people across the southwest count on for drinking water and irrigation.

In Colorado, about 70 percent of all streams will be affected by the new rule. In New Mexico and Nevada, it’s upwards of 90 percent.

Hay fields under Meeker Ditch 2. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Federal agencies on Thursday finalized a new clean-water rule that supporters including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton say provides much-needed regulatory certainty.

But opponents, including the administration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, say it will result in the weakest protections since the passage of the Clean Water Act nearly a half a century ago…

Tipton said in a statement that the previous uncertainty “left farmers, ranchers and private land owners unprotected from federal land and water grabs.” He said the clarification provided by the new rule “will restore long-standing states’ water rights and greater certainty for the Coloradans whose livelihoods depend on availability of water.”

But the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is criticizing the rollback, saying it could impact 70% of waters in the state…

“The EPA’s announcement today is alarming as it puts our precious waters at risk,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director, said in a CDPHE news release.

“In the absence of federal leadership, we are going to do everything possible to protect streams and wetlands in Colorado,” Patrick Pfaltzgraff, director of the Water Quality Control Division, said in the same release.

Polis released a statement saying in part, “Our administration will continue to reject attempts by the Trump administration to gut proven ways to protect our health and environment.”

[…]

Last April, the Polis administration and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted joint comments on the rule proposal that was finalized this week. Their letter said that as with many western states, the large majority of Colorado’s stream miles are intermittent or ephemeral. The state said the proposal would shrink federal jurisdiction far below guidance issued in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration “to a smaller number of Colorado waters” than what presidential administrations have required since the Clean Water Act’s passage. While many ephemeral waters aren’t jurisdictional under the 2008 guidance, the new rule categorically excludes them from jurisdiction, “regardless of their connection to downstream waters,” the state wrote.

It wrote that the proposed rule “shifts the burden onto Colorado to protect federally excluded wetlands and waters, thereby saddling Colorado with the burden of protecting the quality of water received by nineteen states that receive Colorado waters.”

However, the Polis administration and Weiser, in the letter, supported the rule’s continued exclusion of prior converted cropland and its “recognition of the importance of upholding state sovereignty to administer and allocate water.”

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced the shift, which significantly narrows what waters can be defined as “navigable,” and thus subject to federal rules. It also lifts federal oversight for most groundwater, many wetlands and some streams, passing those smaller water sources to state and local control.

At a news conference Thursday in Colorado Springs, Mayor John Suthers, Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and EPA bosses praised the new rule, saying it will be bring clarity and certainty to businesses and farmers.

Bill McKibben has a message for Aspen’s billionaires — @AspenJournalism #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Private jets in Aspen. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):

Bill McKibben first wrote about the changing climate more than 30 years ago, and he continues to document global warming and speak out against the largest culprits. Most recently, he was arrested while protesting Chase Bank’s ties to the fossil-fuel industry.

McKibben will be in Aspen this weekend, learning to downhill ski and speaking as part of Aspen Skiing Company’s occasional speaker series Aspen U. Elizabeth Stewart-Severy talked on the phone with McKibben from his home in Vermont.

Wes Jackson, left, founder of The Land Institute, and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. Photo/©The Land Institute

You’re coming to Aspen to talk about climate change — but also to learn to ski. Under most projections, the ski industry is looking to suffer pretty badly from climate change. Why do you want to learn to ski now?

It must be said that I actually ski a lot. I’m a die-hard cross-country skier and just came in from a ski through our woods here in Vermont. But I am eager to get to Aspen and get up — I don’t know if I’ll be able to ski down the mountain, but I am eager to ride the chairlift up and just take a look at all the beautiful mountains from up top.

As for skiing, it could be one of the, I guess, less important but more painful casualties of the climate-warming era. Already, the number of days on average that winter lasts is shrinking. Already, in the West there is considerably less snow on average than there used to be. We’re starting to watch a whole season that’s helped define the psychology of people at our latitude for eons; we’re watching it begin to disappear.

The ski and outdoor industries want to move the needle on climate change and bring action on climate change. Here, locally, Aspen Skiing Company is focused on national lobbying efforts rather than emphasizing their efforts to reduce emissions from local operations. The company gets criticism for this and for hosting events like X-Games, which are taking place this weekend and have a large carbon footprint. Is that fair criticism?

I think actually at this point, the changes that we need to make are so large that probably the best leverage does come from trying to work on national and international policies.

I’m coming to Aspen mostly because, frankly, it’s where lots and lots of people in the financial industry come to play, and the financial industry — the biggest banks and asset managers in the world — are increasingly the focus of efforts to try and slow down climate change.

I think perhaps Larry Fink, from BlackRock, the single biggest financial company in the world, is a sometime-Aspenite. And you probably saw the fairly remarkable news that after unrelenting pressure from activists, BlackRock is now stepping up its efforts to at least begin doing something about climate change. We need a lot more of that.

So, for me, the fact that there are people in Aspen who need to understand the effects of their businesses on the one planet that we’ve got is the most significant draw.

So, are you coming to Aspen hoping to reach some of the super-wealthy people who come here on vacation, or with second- and third-homes or live here?

If I’m not able to reach them, then I’ll settle for reaching the people who take them for ski lessons and give them yoga classes and hope that it all begins to trickle down somehow to these guys, because we really — we’re out of time.

I was arrested in the lobby of a Chase Bank in Washington, D.C., the one nearest the Capitol — I wrote about it in The (New York) Times. We’re launching this big, big campaign to get players like Chase and the big insurance companies and the big asset managers — BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, Citibank, Wells Fargo, BofA (Bank of America) — to get them to do the right thing, because right now they’re doing the wrong thing and doing it with incredible effect. Just like the fossil-fuel companies, the big financial firms are now carbon majors. Their money is driving the destruction of the planet.

Let’s talk a little bit more about finance and climate change. As you mentioned, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, just announced that it would start placing a larger focus on climate change in its investment decisions. You wrote that this was “seismic.” Can you tell us a little bit more about the potential impact of such a move? Does it give you hope that we can turn things around?

I think it’s less seismic in the short-term details of the policies they announced, which are not all that far-reaching. They’re mostly talking about coal, not gas and oil, at this point.

The part that, when I wrote in The New Yorker, was seismic about it was simply that the institution with, by far the most money in the world, is now saying that they’re deeply unsettled about the financial future of the fossil-fuel industry. And so, as a result, everyone else will be unsettled about that future, too, and it’ll make it more expensive for these firms, these fossil-fuel companies, to raise capital, harder to find the people to back their insane ventures like new pipelines or going off to drill in the Arctic or whatever it is. And that’ll help. It’ll help. We don’t know exactly how much it will help, but it will definitely help some.

One of the reasons that we’re really going after the financial community is because they could move fast. Our political systems, you may have noticed, tend to move rather slowly, and that’s partly because of the enormous influence of the fossil-fuel industry on our political systems. But the financial industry can, when pressured, move quickly. And when it moves, it moves globally, which is an asset here, too, because they don’t call it global warming for nothing.

I want to come back to individual accountability. The young face of climate activism right now, Greta Thunberg, has really taken individual accountability to a whole new level. She refuses to fly as she lobbies for action on climate change.

I know her and like her and work hard with her, (and) she said this fall that the point of what she was doing was not to tell people that they should never fly. The point of doing it was to point out how hard it is to travel sustainably in the world now, and that’s a really effective and powerful and important thing to do.

What is the role of individuals in thinking about climate?

Well, I mean, look, we all know the things that we should be doing, and I hope people are — from eating lower in the food chain to lowering their carbon footprint in all kinds of ways. And if we had gotten started on all this when we should have, then those things might well have been enough.

I wrote the first book on climate change 31 years ago. One of the things I have to restrain myself from doing from time to time is saying, “Oh, if only you listened to me when.” Because 30 years ago, fairly modest changes would have added up over time to a real significant change at this point.

But not only didn’t we start changing, thanks to the fossil-fuel industry and their incredible disinformation campaign, we doubled down. We accelerated precisely in the direction we were moving. We’ve emitted more carbon since that first book came out than in all of human history before.

So now we’re at the point where the only way to make this math square is with real changes in the political and economic ground rules. That’s why things like the Green New Deal are so important. That’s why getting really systemic change out of Chase Bank or BlackRock is so important. So, along with the things that individuals need to be doing in their lives, really the most important things individuals can do is be a little less individual and join together with others in movements large enough to change those ground rules. That’s why we started things like 350.org or this new coalition at stopthemoneypipeline.com. We’re going to figure out lots of ways to aggregate that pressure and perhaps have it add up to enough pressure in a short enough period of time to help us catch up with physics.

You were recently arrested — the same day as actors Martin Sheen and Joaquin Phoenix — as you occupied a branch of Chase Bank to protest the bank’s ties to the fossil-fuel industry. Can you describe a little bit of what it’s like to be arrested for this?

Well, it’s never fun to be arrested, and that’s good. I mean, it should never be a kind of casual thing, because in a working society, one wants to do what the law says and so on. And it’s also disruptive to go into someone’s place of business and say, “We’re going to sit here for a while.” We obviously had no beef with the people working in the bank and told them so, and they were very receptive and kind to us.

But we needed to try and send a message that it’s not all right what Chase Bank is doing. They’re the biggest lender in the world to the fossil-fuel industry by a large margin. Since the Paris Climate Accords were signed, they’ve lent 29% more to the fossil-fuel industry than any bank on the planet. They’ve lent $196 billion.

They’re by far the biggest banker of the most-expansionary projects, all the new pipelines and deep-sea drilling and so on. Sooner or later, there has to be, I guess, a little impoliteness along the way. We tried hard not to be rude, but we stayed and, after a couple of hours, were taken away to the jail in the District of Columbia and spent eight or nine hours there and were released for trial in March.

You’ve also been arrested for protesting the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Can you explain the connection between climate change and these policies on immigration?

Yes. That’s why I wanted to join in that — I mean partly just because I was sickened by all the endless pictures of children in cages, but I think people need to understand the deep connection between climate change and immigration.

As we make it too hot for people to farm in the places where they or their families have farmed for generation upon generation, they’re going to have no choice but to move. Some of that migration is going to be internal, but a lot of it’s going to have to be external. We think now that perhaps the biggest driver of immigration out of Honduras and Guatemala over the last few years has been a really dramatic drought there that’s made it almost impossible for small farmers to grow crops.

This is just the beginning. I mean, we’ve seen about a million people show up on our southern border, but the United Nations estimates that we could see, in the course of this century, a billion climate refugees. So we’re going to have to come up with some system other than walls and cages to deal with this, especially since the people who are becoming climate refugees, almost entirely, it’s not their fault. It’s not like anybody in Honduras or Guatemala or wherever — Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands — it’s not like they burned very much coal or gas or oil. I mean, that was us.

Aspen Journalism collaborates with Aspen Public Radio and The Aspen Times on coverage of the environment. A segment of this interview aired on APR on Jan. 23, and an excerpt ran in the Jan. 23 edition of The Aspen Times.

32nd Annual High Plains No-Till Conference Feb. 4 – 5, 2020 — The High Plains Journal

Click here to register.

From the Colorado Conservation Tillage Association via The High Plains Journal:

Twenty-six sessions at the High Plains No-Till Conference in Burlington, Colorado, have been approved for certified crop adviser credits. Eight of those sessions will also offer continuing education credits for licensed qualified supervisors, certified operators, and private applicators.

Scheduled for Feb. 4 to 5, the event will take place at the Burlington Community and Education Center. In addition to a trade show and outdoor equipment display, breakout sessions will be presented on an assortment of subjects, including soil health, regenerative grazing, farm profitability, specialty crops and technology. Farmers will also share their firsthand experience with composting, no-till and other conservation methods on producer panels dedicated to grazing cover crops and finding niche and direct markets.

The crop adviser credits approved for the event include four in Nutrient Management, four in Soil and Water Management, one in Integrated Pest Management, 10 in Crop Management, six in Professional Development, and one in Precision Ag.

In addition, continuing education credits will be available in the categories of Environmental Protection, Use of Pesticides, Agriculture Insect Control, Agriculture Weed Control and Stored Commodities Treatment

A full schedule and more information about the High Plains No-Till Conference can be found at http://www.HighPlainsNoTill.com. Online registration is available through Jan. 31, and walk-ins are welcome for the event. The $180 registration fee includes lunches, snacks, and access to all sessions, the trade show, and the Beer and Bull Social on Day 1.

Additional questions may be directed to Joni Mitchek at 833-466-8455 or coordinator@highplainsnotill.com.

The January 2020 newsletter is hot off the presses from the Water Information Program

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Demand Management – a Hot Topic!!
There was an in-depth conversation around the Demand Management topic!

Celene Hawkins stated that the Demand Management workgroups are just at the beginning stages of work and there are still many questions. There is a greater need for coordination and keeping a steady pace of the work, while not moving too quickly so as to not miss things, as these are very complicated issues and need to take that time that is needed to do the work. There will be a joint IBCC and Demand Management work-group meetings that will take place March 4-5 where discussion could take place about that better coordination and how the CWCB can support the work-groups moving forward.

Russell George stated that the IBCC is not a work-group in Demand Management, they intentionally stand aside because they wanted to be ready as the IBCC to pick any particularly thorny question with the statewide implication that needed their help. The IBCC believes that at this point in time, and because of what’s going on with the river as a whole and the water levels of the big reservoirs, Demand Management becomes probably one of the most important issues for discussion on Colorado water issues that there is today. George explained that we owe it to the other Upper Basin states who are going through this drill, to work together to find an approach that works in all four states or to learn together that Demand Management can’t be done. Whatever conclusion is reached, it needs to be based on open and careful consideration of Demand Management as a tool that is being evaluated, as called for in the Drought Contingency Plans and Legislation.

Southwestern Water Conservation District Area Map. Credit: SWCD