#Snowpack news (March 1, 2022)

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map February 28, 2022 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 28, 2022 via the NRCS.

The Latest IPCC Report: What is it and why does it matter? The UN released a new #climate report—here’s what it says, and what we can do about it — The Nature Conservancy #ActOnClimate

Click the link to read the article on the Nature Conservancy website:

The IPCC released a new climate report. But what exactly is the IPCC? What does this report mean? How is this report different from the previous reports? Is our situation as grim as some of the news headlines make it sound?

We’ve prepared this guide to help you understand what this new climate report is, what its findings mean for our world and what we can do about them.

What is the IPCC and what do they do?

IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is the scientific group assembled by the United Nations to monitor and assess all global science related to climate change. Every IPCC report focuses on different aspects of climate change.

This latest report is the second part of the IPCC’s 6th Assessment report (AR6 WGII). It compiles the latest knowledge on climate change, the threats we’re already facing today, and what we can do to limit further temperature rises and the dangers that poses for the whole planet. This report focuses on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

What should I know about the latest IPCC report?

This most recent IPCC report shows some similar things as the last reports which you may already know about: that climate change is already causing more frequent and more severe storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and other extreme weather events.

What makes this report different is that it includes more recent science, allowing it to describe the effects of climate change with greater accuracy. The increased frequency and severity of these events threaten the health and safety of millions of people around the world, both through direct impacts and by making it harder to produce food and access clean water.

What’s particularly troubling about the latest IPCC report is that the scientists say that warming temperatures are leading to more “compound extremes.” This is when multiple climate hazards (such as extreme temperature and precipitation) occur simultaneously in the same place, affect multiple regions at the same time, or occur in a sequence. For example, sustained higher temperatures can decrease soil moisture, which will suppress plant growth, which in turn reduces local rainfall, which leads to more drought in an escalating feedback loop.

Is there any hope then?

Yes. Climate change is here today, reshaping our world in ways big and small. But that doesn’t mean our future is predetermined. Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference when it comes to the future impacts of climate change. We still have the ability to limit further warming, and to help communities around the world adapt to the changes that have already occurred. Every action counts.

What can we do to stop climate change?

When every fraction of a degree counts, we must use every tool available to us. That means accelerating the global transition to clean energy and doing more to leverage nature’s ability to fight climate. It also means finding more climate-friendly ways to produce food and creating climate-resilient water sources.

We also need to learn how to adapt to the effects of climate change that are already here—and provide assistance to the marginalized communities that are hit the hardest. Doing all of this requires more investments in climate action—both through greater public funding and through innovative private funding strategies, such as the use of carbon markets.

What can I do about climate change as an individual?

  • Learn how to talk about climate change: We can all help by engaging and educating others. Our guide will help you feel comfortable raising these topics at the dinner table with your friends and family. Download our guide to talk about climate change.
  • Share your thoughts: Share this page on your social channels so others know what they can do, too. Here are some hashtags to join the conversation: #IPCC #ClimateAction #NatureNow
  • Join collective action: By speaking collectively, we can influence climate action at the national and global levels. You can add your name to stand with The Nature Conservancy in calling for real solutions now.
  • Keep learning: Educate yourself and share the knowledge—you can start with some of these articles, videos, and other resources.
  • #YampaRiver Fund grant requests due April 4, 2022 — Steamboat Pilot & Today

    Yampa River. Photo credit: Yampa River
    Integrated Water Management Plan website

    Click the link to read the article on the Steamboat Pilot & Today website (Suzie Romig). Here’s an excerpt:

    The community-based collaborative Yampa River Fund is accepting applications through April 4 for $195,000 in funds available for conservation and restoration activities that positively impact Yampa River basin flows and support natural resource-based livelihoods including agriculture and recreation.

    Eligible applicants include state and local government entities, public districts, irrigation entities, mutual ditch companies, homeowner associations and nonprofit organizations. The grant guidelines and application are posted at YampaRiverFund.org/grants. Technical support is available for applicants to help develop grant proposals.

    The Yampa River Fund, which launched in September 2019, is dedicated to identifying and funding activities that protect the water supply, aquatic habitat and multi-beneficial opportunities provided by the Yampa River. The fund was created through a partnership of 21 public, private and nonprofit entities representing the Yampa River basin. Total grants for $200,000 from the endowment fund were awarded to six projects in 2021 stretching along the Yampa River from Maybell to Craig and Steamboat Springs to Oak Creek. In 2020, five projects were awarded a total $200,000.

    #Brush holds informational open house regarding Watershed Protection Ordinance — The #FortMorgan Times #SouthPlatteRiver

    Credit: Morgan County Quality Water Source Water Protection Plan

    Click the link to read the article on The Fort Morgan Times website (Katie Roth). Here’s an excerpt:

    Members of the Brush community got a chance to bring forward concerns and questions about the Watershed Protection Ordinance during a two-hour informational open house Wednesday, Feb. 23 with City of Brush staff and City Attorney Dan Krob.

    City Administrator Monty Torres began the meeting with a presentation providing information like the historical context of the City’s water and goals of the ordinance. Torres listed the goals: protect water quality, protect water quantity, protect agricultural and historical uses, minimize impact to quality of life, ensure a streamlined permitting process and coordinating with other permitting entities as needed.

    He also mentioned the Source Water Protection Plan, which was put together beginning in 2008 with the help of Morgan County Commissioners, Morgan County Quality Water and even some landowners…

    City staff members are trying to fight to protect water from any potential contaminants on behalf of all Brush residents, but frustrated landowners spent much of the open house engaging in passionate discussions in opposition to the ordinance. Many argued that their families, who have lived in Brush for generations, have kept the water clean. Like the city, they do highly value clean drinking water. However, they do not want restrictions on their land and are opposed to potential permit application fees (though staff does already have the power to waive or refund application fees when they see fit).

    Staff does understand that current owners have kept the water clean but are concerned about future owners who may not be as careful and courteous. Staff members are also trying to avoid major costs for the city, such as a water treatment plant that would cost millions.

    Colorado State University’s #Colorado Forest Restoration Institute to co-lead $20 million infrastructure project to address #wildfire risk challenges — @ColoradoStateU

    Smoke billows from the Cameron Peak Fire. Photo by Karina Puikkonen

    Click the link to read the release on the Colorado State University website (Nikki Martinez):

    In an effort to improve forest resilience and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the Interior West, three organizations, including Colorado State University’s Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, are receiving $20 million from the U.S. government.

    The funds are part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed by President Joe Biden in 2021, which will go to enhancing key systems and processes to mitigate the impact of forest fires.

    The award will be made to the Southwest Ecological Restoration Institutes, which includes the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute as well as Highlands University’s New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute and Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute. The Southwest Ecological Restoration Institutes were created through congressional legislation passed in 2004 and charged the three institutes with promoting adaptive management practices to restore the health of fire-adapted forest and woodland ecosystems of the Interior West.

    The Colorado Forest Restoration Institute is housed in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources.

    The three institutes will work collaboratively on three key components with the funding. They will develop a national database of existing data on fuel treatments and wildfires, work with managers, planners, and policymakers to facilitate use and applications of the data, and research outcomes of forest management and wildfires to learn what works.

    “The work we’re charged with developing under the Infrastructure measure will create opportunities for land and fire managers, scientists and community stakeholders to co-produce actionable knowledge to lessen the harmful effects of wildfire events to people and the environment,” said Tony Cheng, director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute and professor in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship.

    According to Cheng, the new funding aligns with the CSU land-grant mission and offers an opportunity to grow CFRI’s existing data management, application and research efforts to be accessible for a wider audience.

    The funding is prompted by climate change-driven increases in fire activity and fire season length, continued development in the wildland-urban interface and interactions between fire and disturbances like pest and pathogen disturbance.

    Considering recent wildfires like the Cameron Peak and Marshall fires in Colorado, Cheng said that the stakes are at an all-time high to create actionable plans for mitigation.

    “We’re up against a natural force for which our systems of land management, fire management and land-use development are ill-suited,” Cheng said. “The systems we do have are really being tested. We can’t drive wildfire risk to zero, but there are ways we can live with these risks and mitigate those impacts.

    “When land and fire managers, scientists and stakeholders work together to craft and apply science-based solutions, we can better realize this goal.”

    Land and fire managers and community stakeholders in Boulder County huddled around CFRI geospatial mapping products aided by CFRI’s science and outreach staff. Photo by Tony Cheng.

    CSU expertise

    The new projects will leverage CSU’s strengths and build on each institutes’ existing efforts, said Brett Wolk, one of Colorado Forest Restoration Institute’s assistant directors.

    For example, the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute recently completed a statewide database of forest vegetation management and wildfires for Colorado, complementing a similar effort for New Mexico and southern Colorado led by the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute. The data serve as a foundation for the decision support tools and collaborative processes that Colorado Forest Restoration Institute deploys around the state and throughout the Interior West. The national database will be developed using similar types of data across the country.

    The data are only the starting point, Wolk said. Making data meaningful for land and fire managers, scientists, policymakers and community stakeholders working in their specific places is a critical function the institutes excel at and is called out in the Infrastructure provisions.

    “Unless the data is situated within a social context where people can understand how it applies to their work, all the best data and science in the world won’t change decisions or outcomes on the ground,” said Wolk. “That’s why the SWERI’s work to co-develop solutions with partners and empower decisions that are science informed but also locally relevant.”

    A third component of the funding is researching outcomes of past treatments to improve future decisions. This will build on deep research expertise at the Arizona and Colorado institutes, exemplified by a recent Colorado Forest Restoration Institute co-led publication and accompanying podcast evaluating accomplishments of the Forest to Faucets partnership aimed at protecting Denver’s water supply from devastating wildfires.

    The challenge, Wolk said, is applying the collective institutes’ knowledge and expertise across the entire U.S. At the same time, the opportunity for other states is to benefit from the collective knowledge across the institutes.

    “The Infrastructure funding designation by Congress reflects our increased impact, recognizes the collaboration among our institutions, and is a humbling testament that we provide services and products people value and find useful,” Wolk said.

    He added: “It’s a massive opportunity to help fast-track implementation of what’s working in forest and fire management, but research also shows big gaps in who has access to and contributes knowledge towards these forestry data and decision-making processes. If we can increase science application, while making incremental change to expand equity of ideas and resources among wider audiences, those will be our measures of success.”

    Rancher grapples with abandonment listing: 10-year state process asks: What is the value of water that is not being used — @AspenJournalism

    The Fetcher Ranch in northwest Colorado was started by John Fetcher in 1949. His son, Jay, says his dad was passionate about water issues. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

    Click the link to read the article on the Aspen Journalism website (Heather Sackett):

    Northern Colorado rancher Jay Fetcher looked out over the snowy fields of his family’s sprawling ranch 20 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

    Cows grazed on hay on a bright, frigid February morning in the tiny settlement of Clark. Fetcher has been ranching the 1,400 acres of hay meadows and pastures in view of the Mountain Zirkel Wilderness for most of his life.

    Fetcher’s late father, John, was a legend in the Steamboat area, who moved there to ranch in 1949. A founder of the Steamboat Ski Resort, he was also on the board of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and a director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    “He was crazy passionate about water,” Fetcher said.

    One of his legacies was putting the family ranch under a conservation easement, meaning the land would never be developed.

    “If we chose to develop it, we could put 70 homesites, but now, it will stay open space forever,” Fetcher said. “It feels good knowing there won’t be golf courses out here.”

    The land also has ample water rights. The ranch is flood-irrigated by a system of ditches that pull water from Sand Creek, McPhee Creek, Cottonwood Creek and the Elk River. But Fetcher is facing a complicated situation regarding one of the smaller, more junior rights in the portfolio that state officials believe has been “abandoned.”

    Abandonment is the official term for one of Colorado’s best-known water adages and concepts: “use it or lose it.” Every 10 years, engineers and water commissioners from the Colorado Division of Water Resources review every water right — through diversion records and site visits — to see whether it has been used at some point in the previous decade. If they don’t see evidence of use, they could place the water right on the abandonment list and a water court could make it official.

    Abandonment means the right to use the water is essentially canceled and ceases to exist. The water right goes back to the stream where another user can file an application to claim it and put it to beneficial use.

    Fetcher’s water right that is in jeopardy is 2.5 cubic feet per second from the Hoover Jacques Ditch that dates to 1972. This ditch pulls water from the Elk River and flood-irrigates a pasture. In a letter to Fetcher, officials from the Colorado Division of Water Resources say that aerial imagery and their data suggest that the land has not been irrigated in quite some time.

    Fetcher admits that it has been challenging to get water from the diversion point to the pasture five miles away through an unlined ditch, and the 40-acre pasture that it irrigates doesn’t produce much hay anyway. Fetcher often couldn’t take his full amount because the water just wasn’t available, but he hesitated to place a call because it didn’t seem worth it, he said.

    Water users who aren’t receiving their total share can place what’s known as a call, which forces upstream junior users to cut back so the senior water right can get its full amount. Older water rights get first use of the river.

    “It was really hard to get water through all our neighbors to actually use it,” he said. “By the time water gets there, it’s a trickle. And we just didn’t have time to run up there and irrigate a little bit of pasture.”

    The Fetcher property has eight different ditches, and a huge amount of work is necessary to maintain them, he said.

    “We want to make sure we don’t fall on the abandonment list with these other ditches,” he said. “We try to limit the labor on the ranch to make it profitable, so how does someone taking care of 800 cows have time to run around and make all of them work?”

    The Yampa River winds through hay meadows in the Yampa Valley in 1987, prior to construction of the dam that formed Stagecoach Reservoir. Photo credit: Bill Fetcher via Aspen Journalism

    El Paso County to use ARPA funds on #stormwater, and road infrastructure — KRDO

    El Paso County Justice Center. By David Shankbone – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3785987

    Click the link to read the article on the KRDO website (Jasmine Arenas). Here’s an excerpt:

    The El Paso County Board of Commissioners wants to be transparent about the allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act Funds, saying $25 million will go to surface and stormwater infrastructure.

    El Paso County ranks second in receiving the most funds in the state, with nearly $140 million in funds. County Commissioner for District 4 Longinos Gonzalez says they are planning to use the leftover funds on water, storm, and road infrastructure…

    This comes after the U.S. Treasury Department released the final rule for the state and local recovery funds in January allowing counties to use those dollars for the provision of government services…

    As for stormwater infrastructure, the El Paso County Department of Public Works has identified seven projects which amount to $10 million, an additional $5 million will be allocated for future projects…

    The county is also asking the community to submit proposals for an additional $20 million in water infrastructure grants.