‘We will all die if we continue like this’: Indigenous people push UN for climate justice — Grist #ActOnClimate

Indigenous leader and activist Txai Suruí (Photo: Gabriel Uchida )

Click the link to read the article on the Grist website (Joseph Lee):

As the United Nations General Assembly opens this week in New York, Indigenous people are taking to the streets, and waters, of New York to protest for climate justice and call on world leaders to recognize Indigenous rights. Starting Saturday, activists have protested in front of consulatesprojected images of deforestation on buildings in midtownsailed down the Hudson and East Rivers, and held a die-in in front of the New York Stock Exchange. 

“Every day we see violence increasing, Indigenous Peoples being murdered and the destruction of our territories happening at an accelerated rate,” said Dinaman Tuxá, Executive Coordinator at Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), a national organization that unites Indigenous communities in support of their rights. “We demand the immediate demarcation of our lands and full protection of our rights and lives, as this is the only way in which we can continue to contribute to the fight against the climate crisis.”

APIB members focused their attention on President Jair Bolsonaro, who is in New York to make an address before the General Assembly and has pushed for development of the Amazon at the expense of Indigenous people. From 2019, when Bolsonaro took office, to 2021, Brazil lost over 13,000 square miles of Amazon forest. In just the first six months of this year, 1,500 square miles of forest were destroyed, the highest ever for that time period. Bolsonaro’s policies have also led to increasing violence against Indigenous land defenders–last year at least 27 people were killed protecting their territories. “Further allowing deforestation puts biodiversity, the lives of Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities, and the global climate at risk,” said Carol Pasquali, Executive Director at Greenpeace Brazil, which helped organize the protest. “World leaders must be accountable and put people and the planet first always.”

Filipino groups, including the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, gathered in front of the Philippine Consulate to protest President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. ahead of his speech at the U.N. Indigenous leaders are concerned that Marcos Jr.’s government will continue the nation’s history of directing violence toward Indigenous people. The protest also marked the 50th anniversary of Marcos Sr. declaring martial law and starting a years-long campaign during which over 3,000 people were killed, 70,000 imprisoned, and 34,000 tortured

Indigenous activists are also using this week to push world leaders on concrete climate actions. Led by the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC), boats filled with activists sailed down the Hudson and East Rivers in New York to call on world leaders to support their calls for climate justice. 

Map of the Earth with a long-term 6-metre (20 ft) sea level rise represented in red (uniform distribution, actual sea level rise will vary regionally and local adaptation measures will also have an effect on local sea levels). By NASA – https://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/6863515730/ additional source http://www.livescience.com/19212-sea-level-rise-ancient-future.html (Live Science), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40213299

Indigenous people from Pacific Islands are often the most affected by rising sea levels and other climate impacts despite minimal contributions to the crisis, but have limited influence on the international level. “Our traditional knowledge is interrelated with our lands and this climate change is threatening to take this away, but we in Vanuatu will not be passive victims,” said Arnold Kiel Loughman, Attorney General of the Republic of Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. “We will do everything we can to defend the human rights of our people.”

Vanuatu and PISFCC are calling for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion on climate change – non-binding legal advice provided to the United Nations which carries significant weight internationally. As of 2017, only 28 advisory opinions have been requested, on subjects ranging from use of nuclear weapons to United Nations expenses. To date, the International Court has never heard a case on climate change. 

Advocates say the issuing of an opinion would put pressure on member states to review their policies and commitments, including strengthening the Paris Agreement by clarifying state’s obligations toward climate goals, and affirming Indigenous rights in the fight against climate change. For that to happen, the General Assembly must vote to send the case to the ICJ, which organizers believe is likely. Vanuatu and PSIFCC are calling for that vote and rallying support among countries through both diplomatic channels and public campaigning. 

“The [International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion] campaign was born out of this sense of urgency,”said Vishal Prasad, a campaigner with PSIFCC. “We are campaigning for an advisory opinion that seeks to bring together human rights and impacts of climate change on future generations.”

International financing for projects like oil pipelines and deforestation that harm the environment and violate Indigenous rights are also the target of activists this week. Indigenous groups, including the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, staged a die-in in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. “We start the week in Wall Street to ask decision makers what kind of projects they are supporting. We don’t want continued investment into the destruction of the Earth,” said Gustavo Sanchez, from Alianza Bosques. “We will all die if we continue like this.”

A coalition of Indigenous groups from Peru, including the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation, are calling on banks to divest from companies that destroy the Amazon, including Petroperú, a company they say is trying to build an oil pipeline on Indigenous land. The coalition presented a risk assessment to bank representatives that shows the environmental, financial, and moral cost to continuing with these investments. 

“We all know global action has been significantly lacking,” Vishal Prasad said. “We are not just fighting for the rights of people now, but those that come after us.” 

State of #Wyoming: #Water cuts might be forced on #WY by 2025 — WyoFile #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

A fisherman tries his luck near the dam at Fontenelle Reservoir Sept. 27, 2022. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Dustin Bleizeffer):

The state has neither the legal right, nor inclination, to preemptively curtail water use in the ongoing Colorado River crisis, according to Chris Brown, senior assistant attorney general for the state engineer’s water division. Only a determination by the Upper Colorado River Commission can result in a water curtailment order for Wyoming users subject to the Colorado River Compact, he said.

The earliest a curtailment order might happen, in Brown’s estimation, is 2025, if drought conditions persist and Colorado River flows at Lees Ferry downstream of Lake Powell in Arizona fall below a certain threshold. If that happens, the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office will implement water restrictions.

“The way things are going, it’s coming,” Brown told a crowd of more than 100 at the Sublette County Public Library in Pinedale Tuesday afternoon.

Exactly when and how much water Wyoming might be asked to conserve due to the Colorado River crisis depends on myriad factors — none more important, from a legal standpoint, than Wyoming’s obligation to the Colorado River Compact, according to Brown. And that “ends at Lees Ferry,” he said.

Chris Brown of the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office discusses the implications of the Colorado River Compact with water users in Pinedale Sept. 27, 2022. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Wyoming and the other upper Colorado River Basin states — Utah, Colorado and New Mexico — are obligated to send 7.5 million acre-feet of water to Lees Ferry annually, on a running 10-year average. Modeling by the federal Bureau of Reclamation suggests flows could fall below the threshold by 2025 or 2028. Much also depends on how the BOR regulates flows out of Lake Powell, Brown said. 

Ultimately, all seven Colorado River Basin states — along with the federal government, tribes and Mexico — have much to negotiate. Meantime, the state engineer’s office is initiating conversations with irrigators, municipalities and industrial water users about how they can use less water and still meet their needs. Voluntary and compensated conservation measures — backed by $4 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act — will be key to minimizing disruptions when there is a curtailment order, Brown said.

“How can you do more with less water?” Brown asked the Pinedale audience. “And what can we do to help you do your work with less water?”

Who’s vulnerable

In the event of a curtailment, Wyoming is only held responsible for its actual use, which averages about 600,000 acre-feet of water annually. Irrigated agriculture accounts for nearly 84% of the state’s consumptive use, according to the engineer’s office.

Other water users are also considered vulnerable, however, including trona processing plants, coal-burning power plants and municipalities. The City of Cheyenne, for example, relies on a water collection system that diverts otherwise Colorado River Basin-bound water for 70% of its municipal water supply. These water users are among some of the most “junior” in the pecking order of water rights, and therefore could be among the first ordered to reduce consumption.

A pump pulls water from the Green River at a Sweetwater County-managed recreation area Sept. 27, 2022. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Water rights in Wyoming are appropriated within the first-in-time, first-in-right doctrine. The earlier a water right was obtained, the more senior, the later are most junior. A curtailment order would be applied to those with the most junior water rights and work back in time until the curtailment volume is met. However, the Colorado River Compact, struck in 1922, does not apply to those with water rights appropriated before 1922. No matter how much water Wyoming might be asked to curtail under the compact, it would only apply to those with water rights adjudicated after 1922, according to Brown.  

One audience member asked Brown, “What if you’re one of the [junior] water rights holders and everything you have is going to get cut — are we just SOL?”

“You could be SOL,” Brown answered.

However, the Interior Department is expanding existing programs, and initiating new ones, to support trading, buying and leasing water allocations to encourage balance among users. Another irrigator at the meeting, George Kahrl, said he’s interested in forgoing some of his normal water use to help those with more junior rights — for compensation.

Ideally, those who benefit monetarily from voluntarily reducing their water use will invest that money into more efficient operations so they can maintain their agriculture operations with less water, Brown said.

Wyoming ag operators need assurance that that’s how such programs will actually work out, Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) said. “I don’t know what those programs are or what they’re going to pay for, but we have to [maintain agricultural production] or we’re going to get hurt.”

Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District hires independent consultant to look at water plant cost — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike)

At its [September 8, 2022] meeting, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) discussed a proposal from Canterbury Construction Management Services for an independent cost assessment for the planned Snowball water treatment plant expansion. PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey opened the discussion by mentioning that, at the last PAWSD meeting on Aug. 18, the district had received a cost estimate from PCL Construction, the construction manager at risk for the plant, placing the cost at approximately $38 million, while the initial engineering estimate by SGM Engineering had placed the cost at approximately $25 million. Ramsey explained that the Canterbury proposal would include an analysis of whether the costs suggested by PCL are accurate and would cost $36,200…

Ramsey commented that building a smaller, expandable plant would be viable and could be included in the Canterbury assessment…The board then unanimously approved contracting with Canterbury to perform the cost assessment and examine the possibility of an expandable plant.

The water treatment process

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District discusses extension of Dry Gulch lease — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At its [September 8, 2022] meeting, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors dis- cussed a potential lease extension for Weber Sand and Gravel Inc. on Running Iron Ranch, the site of the Dry Gulch reservoir.

In the Aug. 25 letter proposing the renegotiate or extend the lease at the extension, addressed to both PAWSD board chair Jim Smith and San Juan Water Conservancy District president Al Pfister. Andy and Kathy Weber propose that the lease be extended for one year at a cost of $48,137.78 with the potential to renegotiate or extend the lease at the end of the year.

Pagosa Springs Panorama. Photo credit: Gmhatfield via Wikimedia Commons

2022 Ruth Wright Distinguished Lecture of Natural Resources

An Indigenous Leadership Perspective

Indigenous Peoples have long embraced a special responsibility to care for all living beings and steward their lands consistent with cultural, spiritual, and economic traditions. Fawn Sharp will share her perspectives on the relationship between human rights and climate justice, as well as advocacy under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, comparative experiences among Indigenous Peoples around the world, and local needs of tribal leaders and communities in the U.S.

Fawn R. Sharp
President, National Congress of American Indians

Thursday, October 13, 2022
6:00 p.m.
Wolf Law Building, Wittemyer Courtroom
Livestream/Zoom option available


Fawn R. Sharp (Quinault)
Fawn R. Sharp, a five-term President of the Quinault Indian Nation, now serves as President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest and largest American Indian and Alaska Native tribal government organization in the country. A leading voice in the global movement to address climate change, President Sharp has delivered presentations and published articles on this topic in venues throughout the United States and around the world. In 2021, President Sharp became the first Indigenous leader to be credentialed by the U.S. State Department to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), and she regularly advises UN bodies on the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. President Sharp’s international advocacy on climate change issues is informed by her experience as an elected tribal leader in the Northwest where environmental disasters have deeply affected Indigenous Peoples, lands, and resources.

Sharp graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington at the age of 19, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Washington in 1995. She has been honored by the National Judicial College at the University of Nevada and the International Human Rights Law program at Oxford University.

Thursday, October 13, 2022
6:00 p.m.
Wolf Law Building, Wittemyer Courtroom
Livestream/Zoom option available

The Ruth Wright Distinguished Lecture  is free and open to the public, but registration is required to attend and/or receive the livestream link.

During registration, please indicate your intent to join in person or remotely. On campus parking will be provided for in person attendees. 

Presented by the Getches-Wilkinson Center and the Colorado Environmental Law Journal

The 2022 Ruth Wright Distinguished Lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required to attend and/or receive the livestream link. During registration, please indicate your intent to join in person or remotely. On campus parking will be provided for in person attendees.

A special thanks to the Christensen Fund for their support of this important event.

Please accept this message from our friends at CSU’s, Salazar Center

Join the Salazar Center for the International Symposium on Conservation Impact

The Salazar Center for North American Conservation will host its fourth annual International Symposium on Conservation Impact Oct. 6-7 in Denver.

This year, the symposium will focus on transboundary conservation, specifically across the US-Mexico border, which spans nearly 2,000 miles across six distinct ecoregions and shapes a landscape that is home to more than 15 million people. The region represents a unique opportunity to explore how to improve conservation outcomes for both people and ecosystems – and how to do so in the context of multinational, transboundary collaboration.

More information and registration

Inflation, Abortion Top Issues — The Buzz

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

In a recent interview I said the Republican running in Colorado’s redesigned 7th Congressional district needs to “go on the offensive” with crime and inflation if he was to win. A new Fox News poll agrees. It reports inflation (59%), future of democracy (50%), abortion policy (45%) and high crime rates (43%), the top issues with inflation and crime rates helping Republicans, and abortion and democracy helping Democrats.

Related: Combustible Issues, New Faces – Denver Post

Federal officials set their sights on Lower #ColoradoRiver evaporation to speed up #conservation — KUNC #COriver #aridification

Lake Mead. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Interior

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Luke Runyon). Here’s an excerpt:

During a September Colorado River symposium held in Santa Fe, both Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton told attendees that the issue of evaporation and transit loss in the Lower Colorado River Basin were short-term priorities for their respective agencies. More than 10% of the river’s water is lost to evaporation from reservoirs, seepage and other losses, according to Haaland’s prepared remarks…

Accounting for evaporation has become a tension point among the river’s users in recent months. States in the river’s Upper Basin — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming — are already charged for evaporation from federally-managed reservoirs. An historical quirk left Lower Basin users without that same responsibility. Lower Basin users rely on court decrees that followed the Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. California as some of their governing documents. Those decrees never required accounting of evaporation from Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir. If federal officials push to change the accounting practices, the result would force a significant amount of water conservation on Lower Colorado River users. Total evaporation and transit losses in the Lower Basin fluctuate annually, but often surpass 1 million acre-feet, roughly equivalent to the amount of water the entire state of Utah uses from the river each year. Forcing users to account for the losses would tighten current water budgets in states that have come to depend on it, said John Fleck, a University of New Mexico water policy professor.

“It would be a huge change in how water is administered in the lower Colorado River,” Fleck said. “The states, especially California and Arizona, had come to depend on really big allotments that were only possible because we ignored the laws of physics and didn’t account for evaporation and system losses.”

Graphic credit: The Land Desk/Jonathan Thompson

NREL’s Fuels and Combustion Research Enables a Cleaner Aviation Sector To Take Flight #ActOnClimate

Aviation currently represents 8 percent of U.S transportation-related emissions. Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are helping U.S. airlines develop and validate new, net-zero-carbon fuels designed to slash carbon emissions. Using an innovative combination of fuel property measurements, molecular-level chemistry models, and high-performance computing simulations, NREL identifies cleaner, cost-competitive drop-in fuel solutions for this sector. From accelerating market-ready sustainable fuels to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving safety, NREL is enabling a cleaner aviation sector to take flight. To learn more, visit https://www.nrel.gov/transportation/s…. For a text version of the video, visit https://bit.ly/3QzIjoG.

Army Corps of Engineers: #Marble airstrip work is noncompliant: Streambank stabilization went beyond scope of permit — @AspenJournalism

A photo from August 2022 shows the streambank stabilization project area near the Marble airstrip. The Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter of non-compliance to the property manager because they determined the work falls outside of what’s allowed under the project’s permit. CREDIT: COURTESY PHOTO via Aspen Journalism

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

A streambank stabilization project on the Crystal River just west of Marble is on hold after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the work undertaken this past summer fell outside what is allowed by the project’s permit. 

The corps sent a letter of noncompliance, dated Sept. 27,  to Susan Blue, longtime manager of the Marble airstrip, regarding work on the Crystal River as it runs through the property. Corps staff determined that the activities did not fall within the parameters of the project’s Nationwide Permit 3, which covers maintenance, according to Tucker Feyder, a regulatory project manager for the corps who signed the letter.

“If they were just doing maintenance on that section that was previously authorized, it could have fit a Nationwide Permit 3,” Feyder said. “The current project went a little above and beyond that.”

A Nationwide Permit 3 authorizes streambank restoration work covering up to 450 linear feet, but the current project “appears to extend significantly beyond what was previously authorized,” the letter reads.

Feyder said the noncompliance did not rise to the level of a violation of the Clean Water Act. A Clean Water Act violation would typically occur when a project has no permit at all from the corps, he said.

“They made a good-faith effort to work under a nationwide permit, and unfortunately, it got away from the intent of Permit 3,” Feyder said. “So we are viewing it as a noncompliance at the moment.”

ERO, a natural resources consultant with an office in Hotchkiss, is leading the project for the property owner, Marble Airfield LLC. 

Marble Airfield LLC was, until Sept. 8, registered to the same post office box in Bentonville, Ark., as Walton Enterprises LLC. According to its LinkedIn page, “Walton Enterprises is a family-led, private family office supporting the personal, philanthropic and business activity for multiple generations of Sam & Helen Walton’s family.” Sam Walton was the founder of Walmart. (Aspen Journalism’s water desk is supported by a grant from Catena Foundation, a Carbondale-based philanthropic organization tied to Sam R. Walton, a grandson of Sam and Helen Walton’s.) On Sept. 8, the address to which Marble Airfield LLC was registered was changed to a location in Medford, Ore., according to the Colorado secretary of state website. 

The letter says Marble Airfield has 30 days to provide a plan on how to bring the project into compliance. There are three options: They can argue that the work does fall under the Nationwide Permit 3 classification; they can apply for a different permit; or they could voluntarily restore the site. In addition, the property owners must provide information on the work that has been completed; information on the work that still needs to be completed; an updated map of the work site; and a description of any proposed mitigation. 

This past summer, ERO contractors began work to restore the streambank along the Crystal River near the airstrip, which is about 1 mile long and was installed in the 1950s and ’60s. Annual maintenance of the riverbank has been required to prevent damage to the airstrip, according to ERO.

“Extreme weather events during the 2021 monsoon season and ongoing spring runoff have resulted in extensive erosion of the adjacent (eastern) riverbank and opposite (western) riverbank, causing many large conifer trees to topple into the river, ponding water and pushing river flows toward the airstrip,” ERO president Aleta Powers wrote in a memo to Gunnison County officials on Aug. 26.

This past summer, contractors began the work, which the corps had said in December was covered under the Nationwide Permit 3. But heavy machinery along the river attracted the attention of neighbors who contacted local environmental group Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association. CVEPA alerted Gunnison County, which issued a stop-work order on Aug. 12.

“We really believed at first report and as the information came in that this far exceeded the Nationwide Permit 3 for bank stabilization,” said CVEPA president John Armstrong. “We are happy the corps is taking action, but we are not necessarily pleased with the consequences.”

A photo from August shows the streambank stabilization project area near the Marble airstrip. The Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter of non-compliance to the property manager because they determined the work falls outside of what’s allowed under the project’s permit. CREDIT: COURTESY PHOTO via Aspen Journalsim

County violation

ERO is also working to resolve violations of the Gunnison County Land Use Resolution that led the county to issue the stop-work order. The county said the project violated its restrictive buffer for protection of water quality and standards for development in sensitive wildlife-habitat areas. The county also said the project needed a floodplain development permit. 

In response to the stop-work order, ERO on Aug. 26 submitted a memo and reclamation plan to the county. In the memo, ERO said the project was exempt from county regulations because it had a federal permit from the corps and because there are exemptions from county regulations for projects designed primarily for enhancement, protections, and/or restoration of water body banks or channels. 

ERO said the project includes removal of fallen timber caused by bank erosion, reestablishment of the deepest part of the river, revegetation of the bank, and reshaping native river cobble into jetties, all of which they say is exempt from the county’s standards for protecting water quality. ERO also asserted the project is in compliance with the county’s standards for development in sensitive wildlife-habitat areas. 

This map shows the streambank stabilization work along the Crystal River near the Marble airstrip. The project managers are working to resolve violations of the Gunnison County land use code. CREDIT: MAP BY ERO via Aspen Journalism

“ERO is committed to assist Marble Airfield LLC in demonstrating full compliance with the Gunnison County LUR, and to assist Marble Airfield LLC with ensuring the protection and preservation of the natural environment and wildlife,” the memo reads

Gunnison County has requested additional information from the property owners, including a wetlands delineation and the floodplain-development application. 

“We need additional information from the property owners in order to figure out next steps and determine a path towards compliance,” Gunnison County Building and Environmental Health official Crystal Lambert said in an email. “I imagine that this will take a lot more time, at least weeks, if not months.” 

To comply with Gunnison County, Powers from ERO said they will submit a floodplain-development permit application and have already submitted a reclamation permit application. She said they will also submit a preconstruction notification for a new permit from the corps per their requirement.

Map of the Roaring Fork River drainage basin in western Colorado, USA. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69290878