The opportunities to get involved in the climate fight are endless, and that can be overwhelming. But the beauty of people power is that you don’t have to do everything. “You don’t need to quit your job and become a climate activist,” said Genevieve Gunther, founder of the media-focused group End Climate Silence. “With enough people, one little thing every week, even a tweet, can make a huge difference.”
Some people may read this and believe it is pointless. That we are too late. That none of it matters. The fossil fuel industry knows this is not true. Their fear of a determined, pissed off public is why they promoted campaigns of climate denial and “individual responsibility” in the first place. They knew if people were unsure about the problem, they’d waste time fighting about it instead of mobilizing to fix it. They knew if people were confused about the solution, they’d waste time trying to change themselves and each other instead of the system.
However worse the climate crisis gets now depends on how quickly society transforms. How quickly society transforms depends on how many people demand it. The most harmful lie being spread about climate change today is not that it is fake. It’s that nothing you can do can help save the world.
The Chatfield Reservoir south of Littleton was built as a flood control measure after the devastating floods in 1965 and is the centerpiece of a beloved state park. But it now serves a new purpose: providing more water storage for the Front Range without adding a major footprint. After a three-decade planning process, the reservoir level was raised 12 feet and storage space has been reallocated to add 20,600 acre-feet of storage, including an environmental pool of up to 2,100 acre-feet.
“At first blush, this doesn’t sound so complicated. You’re taking water storage that already exists and making it multi-purpose storage without any impacts to the dam itself,” says Charly Hoehn, general manager of the reallocation project. But it was the first project of its kind in the state, so Hoehn’s team had to act as “guinea pigs” on permitting and mitigation issues.
While the project didn’t require new dam construction, it was not without challenges. State park facilities had to be moved, and there were environmental concerns, like the removal of trees and wetlands to accommodate the higher water level. The Audubon Society of Greater Denver unsuccessfully sued to stop construction, citing impacts to birds and the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. Polly Reetz, the Audubon conservation committee chairperson, says she continues to question “whether this would even work at all” with the project’s relatively junior water rights and doesn’t think it was worth impacting “a very important birding area.”
Other green groups worked with project organizers on a mitigation strategy that placed a value on each piece of land that would be affected (accounting for impacts to wetlands and animals), then found other areas to offset any damage. The result was significant restoration to flows on nearby Plum Creek and bank stabilization primarily upstream on the South Platte River to prevent erosion. The environmental pool will accommodate timed releases to help address some low-flow conditions downstream on the South Platte River. Final approval and the completion of mitigation work in 2020 allowed the new storage to begin, but Hoehn says that the low spring runoff allowed only a “marginal amount” to be stored in its first year.
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Karina Puikkonen):
Ranches are critical to the Rocky Mountain region, serving as the West’s water towers, food providers, land stewards and hubs of local economies and communities. With ranch managers now in high demand but in short supply, Colorado State University’s new Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship program is designed to help fill the gap and preserve this critical role.
The new graduate-level program in the Warner College of Natural Resources builds on the expertise of college researchers, faculty and staff. Warner College professors have worked on sustainability and improving rangelands and the environment with ranchers, farmers and herders around the world, from Colorado to Mongolia.
“CSU and our college provide the perfect starting points for this new program,” said Dean John Hayes. “We have an incredibly strong group of researchers in several departments, including ecosystem science and sustainability, forest and rangeland stewardship and in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory in the Warner College. It’s an honor to have been approached by members of the ranching community to launch this program and to partner with them.”
A business, natural resource and place of retreat and respite
Ranch owners view the forests and rangelands on their properties through multiple lenses: as a business growing traditional and non-traditional livestock, as a place offering hunting and fishing opportunities, as a natural resource with forest management and preservation needs, and as a place of retreat for themselves and guests. Managing all these values requires a unique combination of knowledge, skills and experiences.
Photo credit: Paul Evangelista via Colorado State University
Photo credit: Tony Vorster via Colorado State University
The new program features academic and research components across the university, according to CSU Research Scientist Paul Evangelista.
A new Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship specialization for the master’s degree in natural resource stewardship is housed in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship. A second facet fosters research on these working landscapes with the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) at CSU. The third leg is a partnership with CSU Extension and ranching-affiliated organizations to develop an apprenticeship program that builds knowledge and skills for a working ranch manager.
CSU Research Ecologist Paul Evangelista assisted with creating the new program. He said ranchers recognize that today’s values, needs and technologies are different in many ways from those of their grandparents.
“Every rancher knows they have to diversify their operations to live with the land,” said Evangelista, also an assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability. “This program is founded on establishing a basic ecological understanding of the land itself before deciding how to manage for it.”
The additional knowledge and pool of managers this program will produce can ensure that ranching practices continue working in tandem with ongoing changes in the land and in society.
A collaborative approach
The Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship program is unique in that it is largely informed by the Rocky Mountain ranching community. Tim Haarmann, a manager at the Banded Peak Ranch near Chromo, Colorado, saw the need for a specially trained Western ranch manager because of the region’s diverse climate, ecology and natural resources.
“Colorado and the surrounding states are unique because of the Rockies,” Haarmann said. “We have a lot of ranches with varied elevations and topographies. These high elevation areas provide a unique set of challenges and opportunities for ranching.”
Haarmann earned a doctoral degree in ecosystems ecology from the University of New Mexico, worked for the federal government as a land manager, operated a personal cattle business and has been a ranch manager for the last 15 years. It’s unlikely that anyone more qualified could have approached Evangelista and CSU Professor Emeritus Bill Romme about organizing a formal program to develop ranch managers with a breadth of knowledge and experience.
This connection between ranchers and scientists became the first step in figuring out how to develop a community-led program that benefitted the landscapes and livelihoods of the ranching community while also fulfilling the university’s land-grant mission.
“CSU is doing an excellent job in providing a hands-on approach to experiential education,” Haarmann said. “Ranchers don’t usually have the resources or ability to conduct the needed training or research and the university can offer this.”
The ranching community and CSU have already formed a unique partnership: All members of the program’s steering committee work in or with the ranching community and will provide expertise, offer their land as classrooms, and even help fund the program through private donations, while the university provides the education and training for students.
“That says a lot about how invested the ranching community is with this program in belief and need,” Evangelista said.
A natural resource-ranching experience
Offering the program at the master’s degree level allows students to apply the backgrounds they’ve gained from past ecology, agriculture and natural resource courses and experiences directly on these ranches.
“Ranch management is multifaceted and complex,” said Tony Vorster, a postdoctoral fellow in NREL who helped to develop the program. “It forces you to bring all these different disciplines together. Ranch management and ecosystem stewardship can be intimidating topics, but all backgrounds add knowledge to these conversations and skills to related solutions.”
Vorster and Evangelista have firsthand experience applying their own scientific expertise while developing ranching skills during the program’s development. This varied from conducting a thorough landscape assessment to learning how to repair broken fences and equipment.
This exchange of knowledge is at the core of how the Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship program will develop the modern Western ranch manager. Ranchers, natural resource professionals and academics will all learn something new. Evangelista said these private lands offer new and exciting conservation and management opportunities for land stewardship.
“The ranch owners we are working with are always finding new ways of doing things,” Evangelista said. “It’s a great way for science and management to come together.”
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Travis Duncan):
Due to low flows and warm water temperatures, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking anglers to voluntarily avoid fishing after noon on the 4-mile section of Tomichi Creek that runs through CPW’s Tomichi Creek State Wildlife Area, located just east of Gunnison, Colo. The voluntary fishing closure is in effect immediately.
“Currently, water temperatures are exceeding 71 degrees fahrenheit consistently,” CPW Aquatic Biologist Dan Brauch said. “The temperatures are tending to spike in the afternoon. Fish that are caught when temperatures are that high may experience increased stress and anglers may find it difficult to release fish safely.”
Brauch said anglers should fish early to avoid the higher water temperatures commonly seen in the afternoon and seek out high-elevation trout lakes and streams, where water temperatures are more suitable.
CPW aquatic biologists will be monitoring temperatures on the creek in the coming weeks to let anglers know when conditions have improved.
Anglers should be aware that many of the major rivers on Colorado’s Western Slope are experiencing adverse conditions heading into the hottest days of summer. Follow the Leave No Trace Principle to “Know Before You Go” to the West Slope this summer and check out conditions related to mandatory and voluntary fishing closures: https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/StatewideFishingConditions.aspx.
In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 700 cfs on Tuesday, July 13th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).
The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.
The Colorado Highway 119 Boulder Canyon permanent flood repair project is complete after two and a half years of construction.
The project spanned from Boulder to Nederland to repair damage from the 2013 floods.
Flood waters saturated the area in September 2013, causing numerous material slides, ditch damage and erosion to the roadway embankment. The floods also washed out the road in several places. Large amounts of debris that fell into the creek led to redirected water flows, which further contributed to erosion of the channel banks, undermining the highway.
Altogether, the project included:
13 miles of repaved highway
2 miles of entirely redesigned and reconstructed highway
Rock blasting to widen roadway in areas where highway was washed out
Rock stabilization to prevent rock slides
Cleaned, replaced or added culverts to convey stormwater drainage under the highway
New highway directional and safety signage
Removal of materials placed during emergency repairs
Repaired slopes where material failed in the storm
Re-established native grass seed and erosion control to slopes that were disturbed during emergency recovery work
New, more effective rumble strips
Concrete islands to improve the roundabout in Nederland
3,500 feet of trail extension in partnership with Boulder County
Recruitment for a large-scale study on the health effects of “forever chemicals” will start in the Fountain Valley this month and its results could help set federal limits on the chemicals in drinking water.
The work is part of the second large-scale study in the country to examine exposure to perfluorinated compounds — a family of manmade chemicals that linger in the body and have earned the nickname “forever chemicals” — and the health risks they pose.
The first large-scale study was done 15 years ago in Ohio and West Virginia and found probable links between the chemicals and conditions including high cholesterol, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancers, said epidemiology professor Anne Starling, with the University of Colorado.
This study through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is set to investigate health effects of the chemicals including impacts to the immune system, kidneys, liver and thyroid. It will also help determine if the chemicals change neurobehavioral outcomes in children trough tests of their attention, memory and learning abilities. The study was expected to begin last fall but it was delayed by the pandemic, Starling said.
Researchers plan to study 7,000 adults and 2,100 children exposed to perfluorinated compounds across seven states, including 1,000 adults and 300 children 4 and older in the Fountain Valley…
The study will also be the first to include people with high levels of a chemical found in firefighting foam in their blood, Starling said.
Firefighting foam from used by the military at Peterson Air Force Base contaminated the aquifer that residents in Widefield, Security and Fountain used for drinking water, studies have determined. After the contamination was found in 2016, drinking water providers for all three communities worked to ensure the water was safe. Since then, the Air Force has paid $41 million for three new water treatment plants to bring the level of chemicals down to nondetectable levels.
Researchers will take one-time blood and urine samples to help determine how the chemicals may have affected residents’ kidneys, liver and sex hormones, among other bodily functions. It will not examine whether the chemicals cause cancer.
The urine samples will likely be more indicative of forever-chemicals residents have recently been exposed to, Starling said…
The tests and residential histories should allow researchers to estimate the cumulative lifetime exposure residents have had to the chemicals, according to a news release.
The work will also examine the neurobehavioral effect of the chemicals in children because some smaller studies have suggested that exposure to the forever chemicals early in life may affect children’s development and response to vaccines, but the connection is not yet well established, she said.
The researchers plan to have children complete puzzles and problem-solving tasks, similar to activities they might do in school, as part of the study, she said…
The neurobehavioral tests will not diagnose problems in individual children, she said.
The upcoming study expects to build on a recent study of 220 residents in the Fountain Valley that found the median level of a chemical specific to firefighting foam in residents was 10 times higher than the national median. Some residents had levels of the chemical that were much higher, said Colorado School of Mines Professor Christopher Higgins, a lead researcher on the study…
Scientists don’t know whether the chemical specific to the foam is more or less dangerous than other forever chemicals, Starling said.
The levels of chemicals in residents seem to be dropping and that may be good if some of the health effects are reversible. But some people may still be experiencing long-term health effects…
Study participants will receive individual test results that could be shared with their doctor. The test results may not indicate a problem, but more and more doctors are becoming aware of the potential health effects of forever-chemical exposure, Starling said.
In the long-term, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academies of Science could use results from this study to help set enforceable limits on water contamination. No federal maximum limits on forever chemical contamination of drinking water exist, she said.
Recruitment for the study is expected to start later this month and researchers have set up an office in Fountain to meet with residents. Data collection could take 12 to 18 months. The entire study could be completed in 2024, although researchers should have results to share before that, Starling said.