Government Puts Outdoor Industry Size at $373 Billion — Outside Magazine

From Outside Magazine (Frederick Reimers):

The outdoor recreation economy is officially a big deal. On [February 14, 2018], the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released numbers detailing the economic power of the outdoor recreation industry, showing it comprises 2 percent ($373.7 billion) of the entire 2016 U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

It’s an impressive figure that puts it on the scale of industries like construction (4.3 percent); legal services (1.3 percent); agriculture, including farming, forestry, and fishing (1 percent); and, most significantly, mining, oil, and gas extraction (1.4 percent). The report also stipulates that the outdoor industry is growing by 3.8 percent, a faster rate than the overall economy (2.8 percent).

The BEA report was two years in the making, initiated when President Obama signed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act. Signed in 2016, it directed the federal agency to measure the outdoor economy with the same tools it uses to chart other industries and the economy as a whole. “We’ve wanted our industry to be counted as a discrete sector of the economy for more than a decade now,” says Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). “We are really pleased to have data that allows us to talk about our industry in the same ways that other industries that use public lands are discussed.”

The Economics of Conservation – Land Trusts Are Economic Drivers — @TaosLandTrust

Photo credit: Jim O’Donnell via the Taos Land Trust

From the Taos Land Trust (Jim O’Donnell):

In some ways, the impact of our work as a land trust is obvious. There is the stunning view of our valley from the overlook south of town. That is something every Taoseño treasures when coming home from a trip to Santa Fe, Albuquerque or further afield. There are the wide vistas to Taos Mountain across the fields north of Overland Sheepskin Company or the rolling forested mesas of Wolf Springs Ranch on the drive to Tres Piedras. Visually, our work protecting Taos’ landscape is kind of hard to miss.

Perhaps not quite as visible are the economic benefits that come with preserving these lands and building a connection between land and community. As Taos grows and changes Taos Land Trust aims to be a partner in bringing the positive economics of conservation to Taos.

Even though most conservation easements are placed on private land, there are huge benefits to the community as a whole. These include water supply protection, flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching and other outdoor activities, carbon sequestration, erosion control, agricultural crop production – AND economic growth. HOW?

Tax Benefits

For those who have placed land under a conservation easement with a land trust there is an upfront tax benefit. By removing the land’s development potential, the easement typically lowers the property’s market value, which in turn lowers potential estate tax. In New Mexico landowners at any income level can qualify for a tax credit worth 50% of the appraised value of the conservation easement up to a maximum of $250,000. That means money in people’s pockets that can be spent in the community or saved to enhance economic security.

Property is More Valuable

When a community protects open space, that community becomes a more desirable place to be. People enjoy vistas, parks, recreational opportunities and accessible natural areas. A trip to Kit Carson Park or Fred Baca Park on any given day will prove this point. These amenities in turn make land surrounding these protected areas more attractive.

Travel and Tourism

Tourism is a key component of the Taos County economy. In fact, we are the most tourism-dependent county in the state. There is no mystery as to why people come to Taos. From the wilderness areas in our surrounding mountains to the National Monument in our backyard, the Taos economy is built on open space recreation. All those people coming for our amazing open lands spend money on recreational equipment sales and rentals, special events, food, lodging and so on. Our open spaces and parks attract visitors and locals alike, creating revenue for local businesses.

Attracting New Businesses

Increasingly, the American economy is dominated by tech and knowledge companies. These type of businesses are not tied to a specific location as manufacturers are. These businesses have more freedom in choosing where to locate.

We all know that Taos needs more jobs. A wide range of studies show that when many businesses consider relocating they increasingly take into account the quality of life in the places where they might want to relocate. A number of studies note that these types of businesses (that typically pay well above minimum wage) seek to locate in places with open space, parks and protected lands. It is the same with retirees. Retired people bring money into communities and, again, surveys indicate that they typically to live in a place where recreation opportunities are plentiful. Communities that fail to provide recreation opportunities for retirees tend to see their tax base erode when retirees leave the community.

Beyond just open spaces and parks both tech business and retirees look for towns that are walk-able or bike-able and while Taos is not quite there yet, we are working with our partners to make bike paths, sidewalks and trails more available to Taoseños.

Reduced Costs to Town and County

The fact is that sprawl development is expensive. It costs more to hook people up to vital infrastructure like water, sewer and electricity that more they are spread out. Not to mention the road building and other transportation issues. Compact or focused development reduces state and municipal costs on road maintenance and delivery of services from water to solid waste to transit, to fire and police protection and school buses. Taos needs to protect its most valuable landscapes while increasing its densification.

Support Farming and Ranching

Land conservation supports working landscapes on which many in our county depend.

Farms and ranches are sometimes referred to as “working lands,” because they produce products and value for communities. The category also includes forests that produce timber and other wood products in a sustainable manner. The Trust for Public Land points out that:

“Lori Lynch, an economist at the University of Maryland, studied what farmers do with the money they earn from selling development rights as part of farmland preservation. Farmers in Maryland who had participated in conservation programs were more likely than other farmers to have invested in their farm over the past five years and to have attended workshops to learn new technologies and enhance their farming skills. According to the research, money paid to the farmers for the easement purchases circulated back into the local economy via debt reduction, savings or farm investment, farm operation financing , or retirement investment. Some bought more land or equipment.”

Clean Water, Clean Air

Parks and conserved lands reduce storm water by capturing precipitation, slowing its runoff, and reducing the volume of water that enters the storm water system. Think of our Rio Fernando property and how our work to restore that wetland will increase clean water in our community and better manage the flow of that water.

Many communities have to build expensive infrastructure like drainage channels and storm sewers to deal with flooding from storms or big winter runoff. There is also the question of how to pay for and deal with nonpoint-source pollution caused when water picks up chemicals and contaminants from parking lots and other impermeable surfaces. As the impacts of climate change become more severe (think of Hurricane Harvey) a resilient community will need to rely on ecosystem services to deal with increased rainfall and other severe weather events.

Trees and shrubs in parks and open spaces remove air pollutants that endanger human health and damage structures. Trees and other vegetation promote air quality by taking up pollutants through their leaves and diffusing them into their cells.

Health

We all know that one key way to incorporate exercise into daily activity is to walk or bike for errands near home. However, many towns such as ours unfortunately do not facilitate easy exercise. As mentioned before, we are working with local governments and citizens to develop land use regulations, mapping and paths to shape our community into one where Taoseños can easily integrate exercise into daily activity. And our conservation work has a role too. Some of the land we have protected can eventually be used for greenways that support hiking, biking, and other human-powered transportation.

We’re all in this together. Taos Land Trust is a partner and resource in building a resilient and thriving future – and economy! – for our northern New Mexico community.

Northglenn water-wise landscaping program returns

The Xeriscape Garden at Denver Water. Xeriscaping is a cost-effective way to save water and beautify your yard.

From the City of Northglenn via Colorado Community Media:

The City of Northglenn is partnering with nonprofit group Resource Central on its popular ‘Garden In A Box’ program to provide low-water gardens to local residents.

The program helps Colorado residents conserve water and save money. It’s a regional water conservation program that provides an assortment of water-wise plants and flowers that can reduce outdoor water use by up to 60 percent. As a participating community, Northglenn residents can get a limited number of $25 discounts on these water-saving plants through this nonprofit program.

“Local families are rethinking their grassy yards,” said Neal Lurie, president of Resource Central, a Boulder-based nonprofit. “Traditional turf lawns are surprisingly thirsty and expensive.

After years of watering and mowing, people are starting to look at how drought-tolerant gardens can help simplify their yards.”

There are five new Garden In A Box kits this year, with a big focus on colors and pollinators. The new kits include “Hummingbird Delight,” “Butterfly Bounty,” and “Colors of Colorado.”

Additional kits focus on vegetable gardens, shaded areas, sun-loving flowers, and attracting honeybees. All gardens are Colorado-grown, pollinator-friendly, and available for pickup in May or June.

Garden In A Box is one of the largest programs of its kind in the United States, helping Front Range families transition more than 1.4 million square feet of land to beautiful, low-water landscaping. This initiative has saved more than 100 million gallons of water since the program started in 1997.

“It’s heartening to see so many people embracing this program,” said Devon Booth, water program manager at Resource Central. “Garden In A Box makes water conservation simple – change happens one family at a time.”

For more information about the program and to register for a box, visit http://ResourceCentral.org/gardens online or call them at 303 999-3820, extension 222.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservation District board meeting recap

Pueblo dam releases

From The Bent County Democrat (Bette McFarren):

The water supply is greater than normal, with Turquoise at 121 percent of normal, Twin Lakes at 98 percent of normal and Pueblo Reservoir at 135 percent of normal. The Pueblo Reservoir must be down to a certain level by April 15, making a spill possible to avoid flooding. Farmers are taking water they can use as requested to ease the situation. Reservoirs in the area are full or nearly full.

Since the rainfall has been less than usual in winter 2017-2018, the abundant water supply is good news for area farmers. The snowpack in the Arkansas River Basin is 59 percent of normal and 54 percent of last year. The normal peak date is April 11 and these figures are as of March 19. All the water in the flood pool must be out by May 1, so that an upriver rainstorm will not cause flooding on the lower river. Therefore, the reservoir will start spilling excess water on April 15. A spill benefits whatever entity has the call on the river; for example, it could be the Rocky Ford Highline, or Holbrook or Fort Lyon by priority dates (original priority date).

The hydroelectric plant being constructed at Pueblo Reservoir is progressing as planned. The Lease of Power Privilege has been finalized with the South East Colorado Water Conservancy District. Reclamation has approved the design, specifications, and submittals for phase 1 and 2 and is currently reviewing the final phase. Construction on the plant began in September 2017. The anticipated start-up for the first turbine is early June 2018.

The hydro produced will be purchased by Fountain and Colorado Springs, said Chris Woodka of the SECWCD on Thursday. “The reason is that Black Hills declined to incorporate the power into its portfolio.” SECWCD has a carriage agreement with Black Hills when the plant starts producing. Woodka continued, “The annual average for production is around 28 million kWh per year, which is basically enough for 4,500 homes.” Revenue from the plant will benefit the Southeastern District, but a 30-year contract with Fountain and a 10-year contract with Springs accounts for all power generated.

Colorado lawmakers should nurture the electric vehicle market, not punish it

Leaf, Berthoud Pass Summint, August 21, 2017.

From ColoradoPolitics.com (Will Toor):

EVs improve our air quality. Vehicles are one of the two largest sources of air pollution, and a majority of Colorado residents live in areas of the Front Range that violate federal air quality standards. Dirty air is unhealthy for all of us, and it has a particularly negative impact on children, the elderly, and people suffering from asthma or lung disease. Electric vehicles have no emissions from the tailpipe and are so much more efficient than gas cars. A 2017 study for the Regional Air Quality Council found that EVs emit 99 percent less volatile organic compounds and 30 percent less nitrogen oxides than a new gas car today.

EVs bring real economic benefits to consumers. Fuel cost savings can approach $1,000 per year for every electric vehicle. If Colorado is able to achieve the goals set out in the state’s recently adopted EV plan, consumers will save over $500 million per year by 2030. Those consumer dollars will be reinvested in our communities, supporting local businesses and creating jobs…

But the economic benefits don’t just help EV drivers; getting more EVs on the road also will lower everyone’s electric bills. EVs help utilities make more efficient use of their existing power plants and grid infrastructure (which all of us have to pay for), thereby spreading out the costs more and reducing the share that each of us pay.

Here’s how that works. Utilities have to build their power plants for peak electrical use, which normally happens during the day – and all of us pay a portion of that infrastructure cost. But most EV drivers charge at night in preparation for the next morning’s drive, and night is when other electrical demands are low and power plants have excess capacity. So by charging their cars at night, EV drivers help utilities pay down their fixed costs. A study by a national consulting firm found that every EV on the road drives down the total electricity costs paid by other customers by $650 — and by 2030, ratepayers could be saving $70 million per year! The same study found that high levels of EV adoption would lead to total net economic benefits across Colorado of $43 billion by 2050.

Despite all of these benefits, the state Senate recently voted in a party line vote to end the state electric vehicle tax credits (the House rejected this bill). Others have called for new fees on EVs, based on the argument that EV drivers don’t pay gas tax. But EV owners already pay an extra vehicle registration fee, that is designed to pay the same amount into the highway fund as a gasoline vehicle that is as efficient as an EV would pay. It doesn’t make sense to add even more fees at a time when EVs still make up a very small part of the market.

If we want to achieve all the benefits that EVs bring, we need to get a lot more on the road. Because Colorado has supported EVs with a tax credit and state investment in charging stations, the EV market here is one of the best in the country, with the sixth-highest market share of any state in 2017. Sales are growing by over 50 percent per year.

#Runoff news: #This year we might be able to skirt by” — James Eklund #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Colorado River Basin. Graphic credit: Water Education Colorado

Here’s a deep-dive into pressures on the Colorado River from Daniel Rothberg writing for Water Deeply. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Low runoff means that water users have less buffer room to prevent the river’s two major reservoirs from dropping below critical elevations, which would have considerable impacts on how water and hydropower are managed.

“This year we might be able to skirt by,” said James Eklund, an attorney at Squire Patton Boggs appointed by Colorado governor John Hickenlooper to represent the state’s interests on the Upper Colorado River Commission. But back-to-back years of low inflow like this year, “That’s a crisis. That’s a big problem,” he said. “That means we are going to almost certainly trigger a shortage in the Lower Basin or be below minimum power in Powell in the Upper Basin.”

The seven Colorado River states have closely watched reservoirs decline for years as the West has started what scientists view as a transition to a more arid environment. With lower runoff expected to become the “new normal,” both basins are facing two related questions: How do you boost reservoir elevations? And where is the best place to store the system’s water?

The answer for Upper Basin states is complicated, but stakeholders are facing more and more pressure to figure out a solution.

How to Make a Bank

For Lower Basin water users in California, Arizona and Nevada, the answer to the first question is easier. Because Lake Mead is upstream from its users, they can leave, or “bank,” parts of their Colorado River entitlements in the reservoir during shortages. In good years, they can make a call and get that water back.

Creating a “bank” in the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming is more difficult. Its major reservoir, Lake Powell, is located downstream of its users. If they conserve water to keep Lake Powell elevations high, it is lost to them forever.

Mesa County implements voluntary watering restrictions

West Drought Monitor May 1, 2018.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

So far, that drought looks to be worse than recent drought years, Grand Valley water officials gathered on the banks of the Colorado River said Friday morning in announcing the implementation of voluntary water restrictions.

The river, still tinged green instead of the muddy red it normally is as the runoff begins, was about half its normal size as well on a cloudless morning that heralded 70-degree temperatures.

“It’s running about 3,900” cubic feet per second, said Steve Ryken, office manager of Ute Water Conservancy District, gesturing to the river from the Blue Heron boat ramp. “It should be 7,500 in a normal flow.”

“And we’ve seen it 40,000,” said Larry Clever, Ute general manager.

That’s the tale that the water managers hope gets across to their customers: The water that almost always is here at the beginning of the runoff simply isn’t, and it’s not stored in high country snow, either.

Dealing with that shortage is a matter of good stewardship of a natural resource, said Dave Reinertsen, assistant manager of the Clifton Water District.

It also can stave off the day that water purveyors have to try controlling water use by imposing higher rates, said Joe Burtard, external affairs manager for Ute.

Grand Junction has plenty of storage and is benefiting from recent dam improvements, but its most recent snow survey showed the water equivalent of 37 percent of normal for the last 30 years, Utilities Director Randi Kim said.

Since the drought year of 2012, Clifton Water District has taken several steps to improve water quality, Reinertsen said, pointing to the construction of a new treatment plant, so customers are unlikely to notice a deterioration in taste.

Water quality is likely to be the first indicator of a drought and Ute customers might notice some taste difference, Clever said.