Three New Projects to Protect #Water Supplies for Over a Million Coloradans — #Colorado State Forest Service

Click the link to read the release on the Colorado State Forest Service website:

There is a critical connection between clean drinking water and forests. For 80 percent of Coloradans, their water starts in the state’s forests before making its way downstream to their taps.

Given this connection, it is important for Colorado to protect its forested watersheds from the ever-present threat of wildfire to ensure residents and communities have water for drinking, agriculture and other uses. The Colorado Legislature recognizes this need and passed House Bill 22-1379 during the 2022 legislative session to fund projects that reduce wildfire fuels around high-priority watersheds and water infrastructure.

Today, the Colorado State Forest Service announces three projects funded through HB22-1379 that will reduce the risk wildfire poses to water supplies for more than a million Coloradans.

“We are excited to put these funds provided by the legislature to work in high-priority areas where an uncharacteristic wildfire could significantly impact water supplies and infrastructure,” said Weston Toll, watershed program specialist at the CSFS. “All three projects connect to prior fuels reduction work completed by the CSFS and our partners, so we can make an impact on a large scale in our forests.”

The CSFS received $3 million through HB22-1379 to fund forest management in critical watersheds and has allocated $1 million each to three projects in these locations:

Staunton State Park, Colorado. CSFS Photo.

Staunton State Park, Park and Jefferson counties

The project in Staunton State Park will build upon more than 800 acres of prior fuels treatments to reduce the impact a wildfire could have to water resources, communities, outdoor recreation areas and wildlife habitat. Creeks running through the park feed into the North Fork South Platte River, which flows into Strontia Springs Reservoir. Eighty percent of Denver Water’s water supply moves through Strontia Springs Reservoir.

This area, about 6 miles west of Conifer, is noted as a priority for action in assessments by the CSFS, Denver Water, Upper South Platte Partnership, Elk Creek Fire Protection District and in local Community Wildfire Protection Plans. It is also in a focus area for the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative.

“This project will allow us to get into areas of the park we haven’t been able to treat yet,” said Staunton State Park Manager Zach Taylor, “to reduce the risk of a wildfire spreading from the park to adjacent neighborhoods. The project also reduces wildfire risk to creeks in the park and the entirety of the drainage.”

Taylor said that the park has worked alongside neighbors in the area, including private landowners and the U.S. Forest Service, to address wildfire fuels since the park was acquired in the 1980s.

“Staunton State Park lies between all of these communities,” he said. “This project could set up the park for the next 5 to 10 years in helping us meet our goals for fuels reduction.”

Teller County, Colorado. CSFS photo.

North Slope of Pikes Peak, Teller County

The project on the North Slope of Pikes Peak will help protect essential drinking water and water infrastructure for the City of Colorado Springs. Reservoirs on the North Slope provide about 15 percent of the city’s drinking water supply. Work there will add to more than 3,500 acres of prior fuels treatments on Colorado Springs Utilities’ municipal lands and fill an important gap in treated areas around North Catamount Reservoir and the headwaters of North Catamount Creek. It will also help protect infrastructure that conveys water from the utility’s Blue River collection system to the reservoir.

The Pikes Peak Watershed is noted as a high priority area in plans by the CSFS, U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Springs Utilities. It is also in a focus area for the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative.

“Colorado Springs Utilities’ 34-year-long partnership with the Colorado State Forest Service has enabled many beneficial forest management activities that reduce the risks and impacts of wildfire in and adjacent to our watersheds,” said Jeremy Taylor, forest program manager with Colorado Springs Utilities. “Through the Pikes Peak Good Neighbor Authority (GNA), we’ve expanded this collaboration to include the U.S. Forest Service for cross-boundary work, and we’re now embarking on the Big Blue project on the North Slope of Pikes Peak. It’s a valued partnership that prioritizes working together to improve forest health and protect our water resources, public lands and neighboring private lands.”

Sheep Mountain, Grand County, Colorado. CSFS Photo.

Fraser Valley, Grand County

The project in the Fraser Valley will lower the risk of wildfire to water supplies for Denver and the towns of Fraser and Winter Park by reducing fuels on U.S. Forest Service, Denver Water and private lands. It connects to several prior treatment areas to establish a connected, large-scale fuel break that could allow firefighters to engage a wildfire in the event of a fire. During the William’s Fork Fire in 2020, the project area was identified as where a wildfire could spread into the densely populated Fraser Valley.

The Grand County Wildfire Council identified the project area as a high priority through planning efforts by the CSFS, USFS, Bureau of Land Management, Denver Water, Grand County and local fire departments.

“These projects are critical for watershed health and source water protection for Denver Water and our 1.5 million customers. Healthy forests equal healthy watersheds,” said Christina Burri, watershed scientist with Denver Water. “Denver Water is so grateful for the partnerships and collaboration that make these projects possible.”

The CSFS expects work on these projects to begin in 2023 and will monitor the project work in future years to evaluate its impact and efficacy. All three projects allow the CSFS and its partners to achieve goals and enact strategies identified in the 2020 Colorado Forest Action Plan and are in areas identified as priorities in the plan.

“Governor Polis and the Colorado legislature have made tremendous investments to protect our watersheds from the increasing threat of wildfires and the Colorado State Forest Service is at the forefront in moving these projects forward”, said Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “The three projects announced today build on existing efforts to increase resiliency and make impactful investments in key watersheds to create healthier forests and reduce the threat of future wildfires.”

“Thank you to the Colorado Legislature for making the $3 million available for this important work and to our many partners for working alongside the Colorado State Forest Service on these projects,” Toll said. “Together, we are making a landscape-level impact and leveraging our collective resources toward the goal of lowering wildfire risk to water supplies and protecting one of our state’s most precious resources.”

The San Juan Mountains receive 52 inches of snow, schools close — The #PagosaSprings Sun #snowpack #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #ardification (January 22, 2023)

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

Heavy snows came to Pagosa Country this week, causing Archuleta School District to call snow days on Jan. 17 and 18, among other disruptions. Sites in Archuleta County received between 22.4 and 35.6 inches of snow in the storms be- tween Saturday Jan. 11 and Jan. 18, according to the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network website. Snowfall totals varied throughout the county, with the highest amount reported near Village Lake. A report from Wolf Creek Ski Area indicates that Wolf Creek had received 16 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours and 52 inches from the latest storm as of approxi- mately 6 a.m. Jan. 18, bringing the midway snow depth to 106 inches and the year-to-date snowfall total to 219 inches.

According to the U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 22.2 inches of snow water equivalent as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

The Wolf Creek summit was at 131 percent of the Jan. 18 snowpack median.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 152 percent of the Jan. 18 median in terms of snowpack.

85 News Stories Were Written About #Denver’s Record-Breaking December Cold Snap, Only 4 Mentioned #ClimateChange — The #Colorado Times Recorder #ActOnClimate

Click the link to read the article which originally appeared on the Colorado Times Recorder website (Sean Price):

On Dec. 21, 2022, the temperature at Denver International Airport dropped 37° F (from 42° to 5°) in one hour, the largest recorded hourly drop in Denver in the National Weather Service’stracking history.

Colorado Times Recorder analysis of 85 news articles written about the record-breaking cold snap in Denver and surrounding areas found only four that mentioned climate change.

This is in spite of the fact that climatologists say such temperature dives are consistent with unusual weather patterns that are expected as part of a warming climate.

Click here to access the above spreadsheet, which includes links to the articles mentioned.

Our analysis reviewed articles written by local, statewide, and national publications that referenced the cold snap in Denver, even if the articles were not exclusively focused on the event. For example, an article in the Washington Post headlined “Winter storm to trigger dangerous blizzard, high winds and Arctic cold,” published on Dec. 21, served as a national roundup for many of the various extreme cold events in the U.S., but specifically mentioned Denver’s unusual cold rush. For that reason, we included articles like that from national outlets in our analysis. The Washington Post story did not mention climate change or global warming.

Of the four stories about the cold snap that reference climate change, three were published by the Denver Post. The other story was published by Axios and written by climate and energy reporter Andrew Freedman. The Axios story, headlined “’Historic’ winter storm and Arctic blast sweep across the U.S.” discussed the storm from a national perspective but did discuss the Denver cold snap as well as global warming’s impact on extreme weather.

The three Denver Post stories were written by reporters Bruce Finley and Sam Tabachnik, respectively, and were published between Dec. 21 and 22. Finley wrote two of the articles.

The Colorado Times Recorder asked Tabachnik why he decided to include a discussion on climate change’s effect on extreme weather events in his story.

“I think it’s important for reporters to mention climate change when they write about extreme weather to give readers the context that these events are more likely to occur as the planet warms,” Tabachnik said. “This is not a ‘both sides’ topic.”

In one of those stories, National Weather Service meteorologist Russell Danielson explained to the Denver Post that unusually warm air near the North Pole pushed cold air south towards Denver, which contributed to the cold snap along with other factors such as high-level wind.

“When you dislodge that cold air, it has to go somewhere,” Danielson told the Post in a December interview. “It is a teeter-totter. … It is quite amazing at the moment — definitely an anomalous pattern. With climate change, we do expect more weather extremes. They are one thing we can expect more of going forward.”

Extreme weather events have increased in recent years across the globe, mostly due to climate change caused by carbon pollution from humans — though scientists point out that it’s not possible to conclude that a single weather event, like an extreme cold snap, is caused by climate change. A report from the environmental advocacy group EarthJustice discussed research that found that while rising global temperatures are decreasing the length of winters, they are increasing the severity of winter storms.

Dec. 21’s cold snap ranks as one of the most severe in Colorado history. DIA plunged to -24° F at one point, just 18 hours after being 51° F. That 75° temperature swing is a state record over that amount of time. One Twitter user who took a video of the visible cold front coming into Denver claimed that where he was, the temperature dropped 30° F in just over five minutes.

Several articles from Colorado media outlets focused on issues migrants and members of the homeless population in the state faced during the cold snap, including providing information on warming shelters in the area. Studies have found that climate change disproportionally affects marginalized communities, the homeless, and citizens of the global south.

This question — asking how journalists should cover extreme weather events in relation to climate change — is not a new one in Colorado.

In 2020, Corey Hutchins, Colorado College journalism instructor and author of the Inside the News in Colorado newsletter, wrote about how Colorado media outlets covered that year’s devastating wildfire season. Specifically, Hutchins interviewed journalists who explained the difficult position they are placed in: how to break news about an emergency (Colorado wildfires) while also placing said emergency in a broader context (how global warming contributes to harsher wildfire seasons in Colorado).

The Colorado Times Recorder asked Angie Chuang, a former reporter and current journalism professor at the University of Colorado Boulder about this dynamic.

“While I can’t speak for all journalists and organizations, I think it’s safe to say that most U.S.-based mainstream organizations don’t find the fact that climate change is affecting or causing extreme weather events controversial,” Chuang said. “The impact is real, and the human costs are as well. However, as specific events are breaking, there usually isn’t real-time information about the degree to which scientists, meteorologists, etc., can discern exactly how much a storm, cold snap, disaster, etc., is due to climate change vs. other factors. In the absence of that information, some reporters may opt to not mention that larger context.”

Chuang also explained her resistance to extreme weather coverage that reduces climate change as something that caused a specific event, as well as her view that journalists try to not frame the issue as whether or not they mention climate change in an article (as we did in our media analysis).

“I’d suggest that journalists not frame the issue as mentioning climate change vs. not mentioning climate change because the dichotomy relies on some determination that may be difficult to make on deadline about the root causes of the severity of the weather event,” Chuang explained. “Also, if we make ‘mention climate change’ the default practice, then we risk just that — the issue is reduced to a mention, the news equivalent of a hashtag, without examining deeper issues. Instead, I’d suggest climate change as an essential piece of contextual reporting all reporters covering weather events should consider and fully investigate — if not on deadline, then in follow-up stories.”

Chuang had a suggestion for how journalists can handle the balancing act of covering a breaking news event with ensuring the climate change aspect is not ignored.

“Beyond mentions, I’d urge journalists to look at climate change as a broader phenomenon that continues to exist and affect people and the environment whether or not a single event is ‘due to’ it,” Chuang said. “So if we look at a cold snap, the contextual reporting should address, ‘as temperature extremes likely become more common, who will likely be most impacted?’ (Spoiler alert: People with the fewest resources, who are already vulnerable.) The question of whether the event is due to climate change likely should be reported in a more in-depth way that looks at extremes over time and their impact over time, rather than focusing on a single event. That ongoing reporting, ideally, can be referenced during breaking news events, but should allow journalists to provide more information than a simple mention.”

Covering Climate Now, which partners with over 500 news outlets worldwide, published an in-depth explainer for journalists and newsrooms to improve their climate crisis coverage. It contains tips on how to better incorporate climate change into their coverage of extreme weather events.

The explainer states that “extreme weather stories that fail to mention climate change should, in turn, be viewed as incomplete and perhaps inaccurate.”

From the explainer:

National Public Radio and Nieman Reports have also published handy guides for journalists when covering the climate crisis.