Click here to download the report. Here’s the abstract:
We quantify long-run adaptation of U.S. corn and soybean yields to changes in temperature and precipitation over 1951–2017. Results show that although the two crops became more heat- and drought-tolerant, their productivity under normal temperature and precipitation conditions decreased. Over 1951–2017, heat- and drought-tolerance increased corn and soybean yields by 33% and 20%, whereas maladaptation to normal conditions reduced yields by 41% and 87%, respectively, with large spatial variations in effects. Changes in climate are projected to reduce average corn and soybean yields by 39–68% and 86–92%, respectively, by 2050 relative to 2013–2017 depending on the warming scenario. After incorporating estimated effects of climate-neutral technological advances, the net change in yield ranges from (−)13 to 62% for corn and (−)57 to (−)26% for soybeans in 2050 relative to 2013–2017. Our analysis uncovers the inherent trade-offs and limitations of existing approaches to crop adaptation.
A new report details global warming’s impact on Yellowstone Park, changes that have begun to fundamentally alter its famed ecosystem and threaten everything from its forests to Old Faithful geyser. Such troubling shifts are occurring in national parks across the U.S. West.
In 1872, when Yellowstone was designated as the first national park in the United States, Congress decreed that it be “reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, and sale and … set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Yet today, Yellowstone — which stretches 3,472 square miles across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho — is facing a threat that no national park designation can protect against: rising temperatures.
Since 1950, the iconic park has experienced a host of changes caused by human-driven global warming, including decreased snowpack, shorter winters and longer summers, and a growing risk of wildfires. These changes, as well as projected changes as the planet continues to warm this century, are laid out in a just-released climate assessment that was years in the making. The report examines the impacts of climate change not only in the park, but also in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem — an area 10 times the size of the park itself.
The climate assessment says that temperatures in the park are now as high or higher as during any period in the last 20,000 years and are very likely the warmest in the past 800,000 years. Since 1950, Yellowstone has experienced an average temperature increase of 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, with the most pronounced warming taking place at elevations above 5,000 feet.
Today, the report says, Yellowstone’s spring thaw starts several weeks sooner, and peak annual stream runoff is eight days earlier than in 1950. The region’s agricultural growing season is nearly two weeks longer than it was 70 years ago. Since 1950, snowfall has declined in the Greater Yellowstone Area in January and March by 53 percent and 43 percent respectively, and snowfall in September has virtually disappeared, dropping by 96 percent. Annual snowfall has declined by nearly two feet since 1950.
Because of steady warming, precipitation that once fell as snow now increasingly comes as rain. Annual precipitation could increase by 9 to 15 percent by the end of the century, the assessment says. But with snowpack decreasing and temperatures and evaporation increasing, future conditions are expected to be drier, stressing vegetation and increasing the risk of wildfires. Extreme weather is already more common, and blazes like Yellowstone’s massive 1988 fires — which burned 800,000 acres — are a growing seasonal worry.
The assessment’s future projections are even bleaker. If heat-trapping emissions are not reduced, towns and cities in the Greater Yellowstone Area — including Bozeman, Montana and Jackson, Pinedale, and Cody, Wyoming — could experience 40 to 60 more days per year when temperatures exceed 90 degrees F. And under current greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, temperatures in the Greater Yellowstone Area could increase by 5 to 10 degrees F by 2100, causing upheaval in the ecosystem, including shifts in forest composition.
At the heart of the issues facing the Greater Yellowstone Area is water, and the report warns that communities around the park — including ranchers, farmers, businesses and homeowners — must devise plans to deal with the growing prospect of drought, declining snowpack and seasonal shifts in water availability.
“Climate is going to challenge our economies and the health of all people who live here,” said Cathy Whitlock, a Montana State University paleoclimatologist and co-author of the report. She hopes “to engage residents and political leaders about local consequences and develop lists of habitats most at-risk and the specific indicators of human health that need to be studied,” like the connection between the increase in wildfires and respiratory illness. Sounding the alarm isn’t new, but the authors of the Yellowstone report hope their approach, and the body of evidence presented, will convince those skeptical about climate change to accept that it’s real and intensifying.
The report describes a scenario that is now all too common across the American West and in the region’s renowned national parks, from Grand Canyon in Arizona, to Zion in Utah, to Olympic in Washington state. Record warming and extreme drought mean there is not enough fall and winter moisture, leading to steadily declining mountain snowpack. Many iconic venues may soon lose the very features they were named for. Most striking is Glacier National Park in Montana, where, since the late 19th century, the number of the park’s glaciers has declined from 150 to 26. The remaining glaciers are expected to disappear this century.
In Joshua Tree National Park in California’s Mojave Desert, extreme heat — coupled with a prolonged drought — has wreaked havoc on the eponymous species. Because of drought and wildfire, the park is poised to lose 80 percent of its renowned Joshua trees by 2070.
Swaths of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado have suffered massive die-offs of white pine and spruce as warming-related bark-beetle infestations have killed an estimated 834 million trees across the state. And in Yosemite National Park in California, the rate of warming has doubled since 1950 to 3.4 degrees F per century. Yosemite is experiencing 88 more frost-free days than it did in 1907. The park’s snowpack is dwindling. Its remnant glaciers are fast disappearing. And wildfires are becoming more common. In 2018, the park was closed for several weeks because of dense smoke from a fire on its border. The National Park Service says that temperatures could soar by 6.7 to 10.3 degrees F from 2000 to 2100, with profound impacts on the Yosemite ecosystem.
The Yellowstone assessment paints a detailed portrait of the past, present and future impacts of climate-related changes.
“This is one of the first ecosystem-scale climate assessments of its kind,” said co-author Charles Drimal, water program coordinator for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “It sets a benchmark for how the climate has changed since the 1950s and what we are likely to experience 40 to 60 years from now in terms of temperature, precipitation, stream flow, growing season and snowpack.” Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, Montana State University and the University of Wyoming were the lead scientists on the report.
The report’s study of snowpack and its link to water offer the biggest takeaways for Westerners who might question how or why they’re impacted. Rocky Mountain snowmelt provides between 60 to 80 percent of streamflow in the West, and hotter temperatures mean reduced snowfall and less water for cities as far afield as Los Angeles. For the millions of people living in cities across the West, many of whom are reliant on runoff from the snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, these trends jeopardize already insufficient supplies. The dangers are starkly evident this summer, as years of drought and soaring temperatures have left the West facing a perilous wildfire season and water shortages, from Colorado to California.
“All that snow becomes water that goes into the three major watersheds of the West — some of it goes as far as L.A. — and that comes together in the southern edge of Yellowstone National Park,” said Bryan Shuman, a report co-author and geologist at the University of Wyoming. “Looking at projections going forward, that snowpack disappears.”
The Yellowstone, Snake and Green rivers all have headwaters in the Greater Yellowstone Area, feeding major tributaries for the Missouri, Columbia and Colorado rivers that are vital for agriculture, recreation, energy production and homes. Regional agriculture — potatoes, hay, alfalfa — and cattle ranching depend on late-season irrigation, and less snow and more rain equals less water in hot summer months.
Then there are the rapidly growing tourism and hospitality industries that rely on Yellowstone’s world-class rivers and ski areas for angling and black diamond runs. Fishing is now regularly restricted because of high water temperatures that stress fish.
“Even mineral and energy resource extraction need to be part of this discussion,” said Whitlock, referring to Wyoming’s oil and gas industry, heavily reliant on large amounts of water. Industry may be the slowest to evolve, but it’s among the most at-risk, she said.
Many locals do quietly acknowledge the reality of what’s happening, she said, but community buy-in remains tough in this culture war hotspot, where many farmers and ranchers have long opposed government land intervention.
The land in the Greater Yellowstone Area, comprising 34,000 square miles, is among the last, largely intact temperate ecosystems in the United States and includes two national parks (Grand Teton in Wyoming is the other), five national forests, and half a dozen tribal nations. It’s also home to 10,000 hydrothermal features, including 500 geysers. Recent research has shown that in periods of extreme heat and drought, geysers such as Yellowstone’s renowned Old Faithful have shut down entirely.
The current conditions do have some historical precedent. In the last 10,000 years, Yellowstone has experienced periods of dryness equal to or greater than present, said Whitlock.
“That’s a lens to look at the past,” said Shuman, who once trekked the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail to get a sense of the land. “If you add just a few degrees, you fundamentally alter things. When you walk across these high mountains, you can see they used to be covered in glaciers. It’s like walking in the ruins of Ancient Rome. That Ice Age world was only 5- to 7-degrees F colder than the pre-industrial era.”
“The water in those mountains is the water supply of the West and it’s drying up,” said Shuman.
In Yellowstone, the threat to human health and livelihoods may be the strongest incentive to take steps to soften the blows from climate change.
“Water is the thing everyone is most concerned about, and in general, people are receptive,” said Shuman. “Our economic future depends on adjusting.”
Just how the residents of the Greater Yellowstone Area will adapt is an open question, but researchers say that acknowledging the myriad problems that are now daily realities for many, from ranchers to anglers, is the first step toward a productive dialogue.
As the West experiences a growth surge, Cam Sholly, Yellowstone National Park’s superintendent, writes in the report that “the strength of local and regional economies” hangs in the balance if no steps are taken to rein in global warming.
Said Whitlock of Montana State, “When you think about the temperature curve that looks like a hockey stick, my parents pretty much lived on the flat part of the curve, I’m on the base, and my grandkids are going to be on the steep part. Our trajectory depends on what we do about greenhouse gases now. By 2040, 2050, we can flatten the curve. But the business-as-usual trajectory, 10 to 11 degrees of warming in Yellowstone and much of the West — what we do in the next decade is critical.”
The Greater Yellowstone Area includes both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, as well as surrounding national forests and federal land. National Park Service
Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone National Park. Photo credit: Pixabay via NOAA
In Yellowstone National Park. Photo credit: Pixabay via NOAA
Yellowstone Falls photo credit Abby Howe via the Department of Interior.
This summer, a historic drought and its consequences are tearing communities apart and attracting outside attention to a water crisis years in the making. Competition over Klamath River water has always been intense, but now there is simply not enough, and all the stakeholders are suffering.
“Everybody depends on the water in the Klamath River for their livelihood. That’s the blood that ties us all together,” [Ben] DuVal said of the competing interests. “Nobody’s coming out ahead this year. Nobody’s winning.”
Those living the nightmare worry the extreme drought is a harbinger of global warming.
“The system is crashing … for people up and down the Klamath Basin,” said Frankie Myers, vice chairman of the Yurok Tribe, which is monitoring a massive fish kill on the river. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Twenty years ago, when water feeding the irrigation system was drastically reduced amid another drought, the crisis became a national rallying cry for the political right, and some protesters opened the main irrigation canal in violation of federal orders.
This time, many irrigators reject the presence of anti-government activists. Farmers who need federal assistance to stay afloat fear ties to the far right could hurt them.
Meanwhile, toxic algae is blooming in the basin’s main lake, and two national wildlife refuges critical to migratory birds are drying out. The conditions have exacerbated a water conflict that began more than a century ago.
Beginning in 1906, the federal government reengineered a complex system of lakes, wetlands and rivers in the 10 million-acre Klamath River Basin to create tens of thousands of acres of irrigated farmland.
The Klamath Reclamation Project draws its water from the 96-square-mile Upper Klamath Lake. But the lake is also home to suckerfish central to the Klamath Tribes’ culture and creation stories.
In 1988, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed two species of sucker fish as endangered. The federal government must keep the lake at a minimum depth to support the fish — but this year, amid exceptional drought, there was not enough water to do that and supply irrigators.
“Agriculture should be based on what’s sustainable. There’s too many people after too little water,” said Don Gentry, the Klamath Tribes chairman.
With the Klamath Tribes enforcing their senior water rights to help suckerfish, there is also no extra water for downriver salmon.
The Karuk Tribe last month declared a state of emergency, citing climate change and the worst hydrologic conditions in the Klamath River Basin in modern history. Karuk tribal citizen Aaron Troy Hockaday Sr. is a fourth-generation fisherman but says he hasn’t caught a fish in the river since the mid-1990s…
In most years, the tribes 200 miles to the southwest of the farmers, where the river reaches the ocean, ask the Bureau of Reclamation to release pulses of extra water from Upper Klamath Lake. The extra water mitigates outbreaks of a parasitic disease that proliferates when the river is low.
This year, the federal agency refused those requests.
Now, the parasite is killing thousands of juvenile salmon in the lower Klamath River, where the Karuk and Yurok tribes have coexisted with them for millennia. An average of 63 percent of fish caught last month in research traps near the river’s mouth were dead…
Near the river’s source, some of the farmers who are seeing their lives upended by the same drought say a guarantee of less water — but some water — each year would be better than the parched fields they have now. Some worry problems in the basin are being blamed on a way of life they also inherited.
Here’s the release from the World Weather Attribution:
During the last days of June 2021, Pacific northwest areas of the U.S. and Canada experienced temperatures never previously observed, with records broken in many places by several degrees Celsius.
Multiple cities in the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the western provinces of Canada recorded temperatures far above 40ºC (104 ºF), including setting a new all-time Canadian temperature record of 49.6ºC in the village of Lytton. Shortly after setting the record, Lytton was largely destroyed in a wildfire [1,2]. The exceptionally high temperatures led to spikes in sudden deaths, and sharp increases in hospital visits for heat-related illnesses and emergency calls [3,4,5]. Heatwaves are one of the deadliest natural hazards and this heatwave affected a population unaccustomed and unprepared for such extreme temperatures, for instance with most homes lacking air-conditioning . Currently available mortality estimates of at least several hundred additional deaths are almost certainly an underestimate. The full extent of the impact of this exceptional heat on population health will not be known for several months.
Scientists from the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Switzerland collaborated to assess to what extent human-induced climate change made this heatwave hotter and more likely.
Using published peer-reviewed methods, we analysed how human-induced climate change affected the maximum temperatures in the region where most people have been affected by the heat (45–52 ºN, 119–123 ºW) including the cities of Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver (with well over 9 million people in their combined metropolitan areas).
Based on observations and modeling, the occurrence of a heatwave with maximum daily temperatures (TXx) as observed in the area 45–52 ºN, 119–123 ºW, was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.
The observed temperatures were so extreme that they lie far outside the range of historically observed temperatures. This makes it hard to quantify with confidence how rare the event was. In the most realistic statistical analysis the event is estimated to be about a 1 in 1000 year event in today’s climate.
There are two possible sources of this extreme jump in peak temperatures. The first is that this is a very low probability event, even in the current climate which already includes about 1.2°C of global warming — the statistical equivalent of really bad luck, albeit aggravated by climate change. The second option is that nonlinear interactions in the climate have substantially increased the probability of such extreme heat, much beyond the gradual increase in heat extremes that has been observed up to now. We need to investigate the second possibility further, although we note the climate models do not show it. All numbers below assume that the heatwave was a very low probability event that was not caused by new nonlinearities.
With this assumption and combining the results from the analysis of climate models and weather observations, an event, defined as daily maximum temperatures (TXx) in the heatwave region, as rare as 1 in a 1000 years would have been at least 150 times rarer without human-induced climate change.
Also, this heatwave was about 2°C hotter than it would have been if it had occurred at the beginning of the industrial revolution (when global mean temperatures were 1.2°C cooler than today).
Looking into the future, in a world with 2°C of global warming (0.8°C warmer than today which at current emission levels would be reached as early as the 2040s), this event would have been another degree hotter. An event like this – currently estimated to occur only once every 1000 years, would occur roughly every 5 to 10 years in that future world with 2°C of global warming.
In summary, an event such as the Pacific Northwest 2021 heatwave is still rare or extremely rare in today’s climate, yet would be virtually impossible without human-caused climate change. As warming continues, it will become a lot less rare.
Our results provide a strong warning: our rapidly warming climate is bringing us into uncharted territory that has significant consequences for health, well-being, and livelihoods. Adaptation and mitigation are urgently needed to prepare societies for a very different future. Adaptation measures need to be much more ambitious and take account of the rising risk of heatwaves around the world, including surprises such as this unexpected extreme. Deaths from extreme heat can be dramatically reduced with adequate preparedness action. Heat action plans that incorporate heatwave early warning systems can strengthen the resilience of cities and people. In addition, longer-term plans are needed to modify our built environments to be more adequate for the hotter climate that we already experience today and the additional warming that we expect in future. In addition, greenhouse gas mitigation goals should take into account the increasing risks associated with unprecedented climate conditions if warming would be allowed to continue.
The heatwave considered in this study is linked to a slow-moving strong high pressure system, sometimes called Omega-blocking or “heat dome”, which brings descending and thus warm and dry air, as well clear skies, further heating the near-surface air. This high pressure system also reached record levels in terms of its strength, measured as the “thickness” of the lower part of the atmosphere, the so-called troposphere. The pressure values observed in the very strong blocking anticyclone are comparable to those observed in other parts of the world in recent heatwaves. The “Omega” blocking pattern is typically associated with heatwaves in this region. While the pressure system was record-breaking in its values, it was far less unusual compared to climatology than the associated extreme temperatures. Recent research suggests that climate change increases the chances for such stagnant high pressure systems in summer through weakening of the summer jet stream. As of yet, it is unclear if, and to what extent, such long-term dynamical changes play a role in this event.
An important feature of this extreme heatwave is that it occurred following a very dry spring over the Western U.S., so the absence of evaporative cooling could be an important factor in the exceptional temperatures observed. However, the northern part of the region impacted by this heatwave experienced wet anomalies in the weeks and months preceding the heat. Anticyclonic subsidence, and downslope winds were also present, and probably acted as additional heating factors. Overall, it is difficult at this stage to assess the extent to which these factors either in isolation or combined provide a good explanation of why the observed temperatures were so much higher than anything ever recorded in this part of the world. Hence, more research is needed to understand the processes as well as potential influence of human-caused climate change on them.
Here we provide a first estimate of the role of climate change on the extreme temperatures measured in the Pacific Northwest. We analyse the maximum daily temperatures as these are relevant to the impact of the event. While the minimum temperatures are also important for health impacts, we used only one index to keep the assessment straightforward. In this rapid study, we do not analyse the impact that human-caused climate change may have on specific aspects leading to the observed synoptic situation. We ask whether and to what extent human-caused climate change altered the likelihood and intensity of the analysed event. Specifically we analyse (1) how the likelihood of the yearly maximum temperature to be as high or higher than observed in June 2021 has changed and (2) how much less severe a heatwave with the same return period would have been in a world without human-caused climate change. It is important to highlight that, because the temperature records of June 2021 were very far outside all historical observations, determining the likelihood of this event in today’s climate is highly uncertain. All numbers shown assume that the heatwave was a very low probability event (about 1 in 1000 years) that was not caused by new nonlinearities. As in previous analyses, we only give a lower bound of the estimate of the influence of climate change on the change in probability of the event as the best estimate and upper bound are very ill-defined for extreme heat.
Based on this first rapid analysis, we cannot say whether this was a so-called “freak” event (with a return time on the order of 1 in 1000 years or more) that largely occurred by chance, or whether our changing climate altered conditions conducive to heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest, which would imply that “bad luck” played a smaller role and this type of event would be more frequent in our current climate.
In either case, the future will be characterized by more frequent, more severe, and longer heatwaves, highlighting the importance of significantly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the amount of additional warming.
The latest heat-related death numbers are alarming, yet they are likely a severe undercount and the real toll will only become clear after mortality statistics are reviewed for the role of heat in exacerbating underlying conditions.
 World Meterological Organization: June ends with exceptional heat
 Global News: Scenes of destruction after wildfire destroys village of Lytton, B.C.
 Vancouver Sun: Heat wave linked to massive spike in sudden deaths across Lower Mainland
 Oregon Health Authority: Summer 2021 Oregon ESSENCE Hazard Report
 CNN: Historic Northwest heat wave linked to dozens of deaths and hundreds of emergency room visits
 New York Times: Air-Conditioning Was Once Taboo in Seattle. Not Anymore.
Here’s a guest column from Melissa Sherburne that’s running in The Colorado Sun:
We all have a choice to either engage in efforts to help combat the loss of biodiversity and climate change, or watch from the sidelines.
Because we love our public lands and want to protect them for future generations, the Frisco Town Council recently unanimously passed a resolution that states that we stand with President Biden, U.S. agencies, members of Congress, state and local officials, and others in support of science-based, locally-led conservation efforts that help the country achieve the goal of protecting 30% of our country’s lands and waters by 2030, commonly referred to as 30×30.
These efforts are a part of the administration’s America the Beautiful vision for how the United States can work collaboratively to conserve and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife that support and sustain our country and create jobs and strengthen the economy.
Last month, the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts released an important peer-reviewed report that emphasizes the importance of looking at the loss of biodiversity and climate crises as one problem rather than tackling each individually. The report authors warn that if we don’t take this approach and instead try to solve these problems in isolation, we do so at our peril.
I am very encouraged that the 30×30 goal contained in the America the Beautiful vision does just what scientists are recommending by acknowledging that we have to address the loss of nature and climate change together. If we can restore whole ecosystems, then they will, in turn, cheaply and quickly absorb the carbon emissions that are the root cause of climate change and are wreaking havoc on the planet.
30×30 can ensure that we preserve a healthy network of biodiversity and protect our natural areas while not only helping to offset climate change, but also protect and restore more public lands that are foundational to our way of life, health, and economies in mountain communities like Frisco.
Local governments know how important it is to set attainable and forward-looking goals. Achievable targets can make small differences in the near term, and more significant impacts over the long term.
Making decisions about finite resources like lands and waters and climate change can be overwhelming, but they are so important because they have lasting impacts. We have to ensure that we are stewards for future generations.
I am proud that the Town of Frisco is committed to conserving our lands and waters. In 2020, we worked with Colorado Open Lands to place a permanent conservation easement on 10.88 acres in the Meadow Creek wetlands and also restored 0.41 acres of wetlands. This effort grew out of the need to restore and preserve a new wetlands area because we lost wetlands during the Frisco Bay Marina’s 2019 “Big Dig” project.
Because of this conservation easement, the land is protected from development allowing community members and visitors the opportunity to enjoy these lands for recreation and rejuvenation well into the future.
Because Frisco is surrounded by public land, we must continue to work in partnership with community partners, the U.S. Forest Service, Summit County, and Denver Water to protect natural resources and wildlife habitat, encourage human-powered recreation, and mitigate wildfire risk.
I would like our town to engage in more regional conservation efforts like Summit Safe Passages, which works to create safer roads for wildlife and people by building wildlife crossing structures across roads to reduce wildlife related collisions, ensure healthy wildlife populations and save taxpayers money.
We all have a choice to either engage in efforts to help combat the loss of biodiversity and climate change, or watch from the sidelines. I am grateful that President Biden has chosen the former by setting forth an inclusive and locally-led America the Beautiful conservation vision that includes the 30×30 goal — a way for us to collaborate and achieve results for natural resource protection at a national scale.
We and future generations will benefit if local, state, tribal governments, and local communities like Frisco can collaborate more frequently to achieve science-based voluntary landscape scale conservation.
Melissa Sherburne is a council member for the Town of Frisco, a board member for High Country Conservation Center, and a planning and public lands consultant with a master’s degree in Environmental Management degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder.
FromThe Associated Press (Lindsay Whitehurst). Click through and read the whole article and for the photographs. Here’s an excerpt:
For years, though, the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River has been shrinking. And a drought gripping the American West could make this year the worst yet.
The receding water is already affecting the nesting spot of pelicans that are among the millions of birds dependent on the lake. Sailboats have been hoisted out of the water to keep them from getting stuck in the mud. More dry lakebed getting exposed could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe…
The lake’s levels are expected to hit a 170-year low this year. It comes as the drought has the U.S. West bracing for a brutal wildfire season and coping with already low reservoirs. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, has begged people to cut back on lawn watering and “pray for rain.”
For the Great Salt Lake, though, it is only the latest challenge. People for years have been diverting water from rivers that flow into the lake to water crops and supply homes. Because the lake is shallow — about 35 feet (11 meters) at its deepest point — less water quickly translates to receding shorelines…
The waves have been replaced by dry, gravelly lakebed that’s grown to 750 square miles (1,942 square kilometers). Winds can whip up dust from the dry lakebed that is laced with naturally occurring arsenic, said Kevin Perry, a University of Utah atmospheric scientist.
It blows through a region that already has some of the dirtiest wintertime air in the country because of seasonal geographic conditions that trap pollution between the mountains…
Luckily, much of the bed of Utah’s giant lake has a crust that makes it tougher for dust to blow. Perry is researching how long the protective crust will last and how dangerous the soil’s arsenic might be to people…
Most years, the Great Salt Lake gains up to 2 feet (half a meter) from spring runoff. This year, it was just 6 inches (15 centimeters), Perry said.
“We’ve never had an April lake level that was as low as it was this year,” he said.
More exposed lakebed also means more people have ventured onto the crust, including off-road vehicles that damage it, Great Salt Lake coordinator Laura Vernon said…
Brine shrimp support a $57 million fish food industry in Utah but in the coming years, less water could make the salinity too great for even those tiny creatures to survive.
“We’re really coming to a critical time for the Great Salt Lake,” said Jaimi Butler, coordinator for Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. She studies the American white pelican, one of the largest birds in North America.
They flock to Gunnison Island, a remote outpost in the lake where up to 20% of the bird’s population nests, with male and female birds cooperating to have one watch the eggs at all times.
“Mom goes fishing and dad stays at the nest,” Butler said.
But the falling lake levels have exposed a land bridge to the island, allowing foxes and coyotes to come across and hunt for rodents and other food. The activity frightens the shy birds accustomed to a quiet place to raise their young, so they flee the nests, leaving the eggs and baby birds to be eaten by gulls.
As North America enters its peak summer growing season, gardeners are planting and weeding, and groundskeepers are mowing parks and playing fields. Many are using the popular weed killer Roundup, which is widely available at stores like Home Depot and Target.
In the 1990s Monsanto began packaging glyphosate with crops that were genetically modified to be resistant to it, including corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. Farmers who used these “Roundup Ready” seeds could apply a single herbicide to manage weeds during the growing season, saving time and simplifying production decisions. Roundup became the highest-selling and most profitable herbicide ever to appear on the global market.
China still dominates the pesticide industry – it exported 46% of all herbicides worldwide in 2018 – but now other countries are getting into the business, including Malaysia and India. Pesticides used to flow from Europe and North America to developing nations, but now developing countries export many pesticides to wealthy nations. More pesticide factories in more places leads to oversupply and even lower prices, with critical implications for human health and the environment.
The question of whether glyphosate causes cancer in humans has been hotly debated. In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization, classified it as a probable human carcinogen based on “limited” evidence of cancer in humans from actual real-world exposures and “sufficient” evidence of cancer in experimental animals.
There also are questions about possible linkages between glyphosate and other human health problems. A 2019 study found that children whose mothers experienced prenatal exposure to glyphosate had a significantly higher risk of autism spectrum disorder than a control population.
However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority maintain that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans and does not threaten human health when used according to the manufacturer’s directions.
A challenge for regulators
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the world community adopted several groundbreaking agreements to restrict or monitor sales and use of hazardous pesticides. These agreements – the Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions – target compounds that are either acutely toxic or persist in the environment and accumulate in animals, including humans. Glyphosate does not appear to meet these criteria, but humans may be more exposed to it because of its ubiquity in soil and water and on food.
Today a handful of countries, including Luxembourg and Mexico, have banned or restricted the use of glyphosate, citing health concerns. In most countries, however, it remains legal with few restrictions.
Scientists are unlikely to reach consensus soon about glyphosate’s health and environmental impacts. But that has also been true of other pesticides.
For example, DDT – which is still used in developing countries to control mosquitoes that spread malaria and other diseases – was banned in the U.S. in 1972 for its effects on wildlife and potential harm to humans. But it was not thought to cause cancer in humans until 2015, when scientists analyzed data from women whose mothers were exposed to DDT while pregnant in the 1960s, and found that these women were more than four times as likely to develop breast cancer than others who were not exposed. This study was published 65 years after the first congressional testimony on DDT’s human health impacts.
Science can take a long time to reach conclusive results. Given how widely glyphosate is used now, we expect that if it is definitively found to harm human health, its effects will be widespread, difficult to isolate and extremely challenging to regulate.
In our view, growing concerns about glyphosate’s effectiveness and possible health impacts should accelerate research into alternative solutions to chemical weed control. Without more public support for these efforts, farmers will turn to more toxic herbicides. Glyphosate looks cheap now, but its true costs could turn out to be much higher.
This article has been updated to remove a reference to glyphosate detection in breast milk, which was based on a study that was not peer-reviewed.
Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources:
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) launched a statewide public safety and digital media campaign around low head dams on Colorado rivers and streams.
Low head dams are engineered structures built into and across streams and river channels and represent a serious drowning hazard causing several accidents and fatalities in recent years.
“Led by the Department of Natural Resources, the low head dam initiative is a positive step to increase public safety and awareness around low head dams across Colorado,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of Colorado DNR.
Low Head Dam Safety Campaign Awareness
Designed to educate the public about the presence and necessary safety precautions surrounding low head dams to convey the drowning dangers that low head dams present to river users. Public safety at low head dams is becoming an increasingly important issue as the population of Colorado increases and citizens recreate more and more on waterways within the state.
“Together with our partners, the goal of this campaign is to improve public safety and encourage river users to know their risks before they enter a Colorado waterway,” stated Bill McCormick, P.E., P.G., Chief of the Division of Water Resources Dam Safety Branch and chair of the Colorado Low Head Dam Safety Steering Committee, a multi-agency effort formed in 2019 in the interest of river safety.
The safety campaign takes aim at Colorado’s river recreationists and visitors. It includes radio, digital and social media education and awareness content. Other elements of the effort will include training for first responders who conduct rescues at low head dams and signage at selected low head dam sites to direct river users to safety before going over the dams.
The official kick-off was held at River Run Park in Sheridan, CO. It included representatives from the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance (Amber Weber), American Whitewater (Hattie Johnson), Mile High Flood District (Laura Kroeger), Public Safety Advocate and former State Legislator (Ruth Wright), Wright Water Engineers (Andrew Earles), and first responders specializing in swift water rescue (Technician Kyle Purdy, Denver Rescue One).
What is a Low Head Dam?
Low head dams are engineered to divert streams and rivers for agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses; to prevent erosion and degradation of stream channels (grade control structure); and in recent years have been engineered to provide recreational amenities for boating, rafting, and tubing. An example of a recently constructed combination grade control and recreational structure is at River Run Park in Sheridan, CO. Diversion structures can be difficult to detect by uneducated river users approaching from upstream. Once river users go over a diversion structure low head dam, they can become trapped, and it can be extremely difficult to get out. Unfortunately, this situation has resulted in many drownings.
Like humans, trees need water to survive on hot, dry days, and they can survive for only short times under extreme heat and dry conditions.
During prolonged droughts and extreme heat waves like the Western U.S. is experiencing, even native trees that are accustomed to the local climate can start to die.
Central and northern Arizona have been witnessing this in recent months. A long-running drought and resulting water stress have contributed to the die-off of as many as 30% of the junipers there, according to the U.S. Forest Service. In California, over 129 million trees died as a consequence of a severe drought in the last decade, leaving highly flammable dry wood that can fuel future wildfires.
Trees survive by moving water from their roots to their leaves, a process known as vascular water transport.
Water moves through small cylindrical conduits, called tracheids or vessels, that are all connected. Drought disrupts the water transport by reducing the amount of water available for the tree. As moisture in the air and soil decline, air bubbles can form in the vascular system of plants, creating embolisms that block the water’s flow.
The less water that is available for trees during dry and hot periods, the higher the chances of embolisms forming in those water conduits. If a tree can’t get water to its leaves, it can’t survive.
Drought stress also weakens trees, leaving them susceptible to bark beetle infestations. During the 2012-2015 drought in the Sierra Nevada, nearly 90% of the ponderosa pines died, primarily due to infestations of western pine beetles.
Fire damage + drought also weakens trees
Although fire is beneficial for fire-prone forests to control their density and maintain their health, our research shows that trees under drought stress are more likely to die from fires. During droughts, trees have less water for insulation and cooling against fires. They may also reduce their production of carbohydrates – tree food – during droughts, which leaves them weaker, making it harder for them to recover from fire damage.
Trees that suffer trunk damage in a fire are also less likely to survive in the following years if drought follows. When trees have fire scars, their vascular conduits tend to be less functional for water transport around those scars. Traumatic damage to the vascular tissue can also decrease their resistance to embolisms.
So, burned trees are more likely to die from drought; and trees in drought are more likely to die from fire.
What does this mean for future forests?
Trees in Western forests have been dying at an alarming rate over the past two decades due to droughts, high temperatures, pests and fires. As continuing greenhouse gas emissions warm the planet and drive moisture loss, increasing the frequency, duration and intensity of droughts, research shows the U.S. and much of the world will likely witness more widespread tree deaths.
The impact that changing drought and fire regimes will have on forests farther in the future is still somewhat unclear, but several observations may offer some insight.
There is evidence of a transition from forests to shrublands or grasslands in parts of the Western U.S. Frequent burning in the same area can reinforce this transition. When drought or fire alone kills some of the trees, the forests often regenerate, but how long it will take for forests to recover to a pre-fire or pre-drought condition after a large-scale die-off or severe fire is unknown.
Science denial is not new, of course. But it is more important than ever to understand why some people deny, doubt or resist scientific explanations – and what can be done to overcome these barriers to accepting science.
Action #1: Each person has multiple social identities. One of us talked with a climate change denier and discovered he was also a grandparent. He opened up when thinking about his grandchildren’s future, and the conversation turned to economic concerns, the root of his denial. Or maybe someone is vaccine-hesitant because so are mothers in her child’s play group, but she is also a caring person, concerned about immunocompromised children.
We have found it effective to listen to others’ concerns and try to find common ground. Someone you connect with is more persuasive than those with whom you share less in common. When one identity is blocking acceptance of the science, leverage a second identity to make a connection.
Challenge #2: Mental shortcuts
Everyone’s busy, and it would be exhausting to be vigilant deep thinkers all the time. You see an article online with a clickbait headline such as “Eat Chocolate and Live Longer” and you share it, because you assume it is true, want it to be or think it is ridiculous.
Action #2: Instead of sharing that article on how GMOs are unhealthy, learn to slow down and monitor the quick, intuitive responses that psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 thinking. Instead turn on the rational, analytical mind of System 2 and ask yourself, how do I know this is true? Is it plausible? Why do I think it is true? Then do some fact-checking. Learn to not immediately accept information you already believe, which is called confirmation bias.
Action #3: Recognize that other people (or possibly even you) may be operating with misguided beliefs about science. You can help them adopt what philosopher of science Lee McIntyre calls a scientific attitude, an openness to seeking new evidence and a willingness to change one’s mind.
Recognize that very few individuals rely on a single authority for knowledge and expertise. Vaccine hesitancy, for example, has been successfully countered by doctors who persuasively contradict erroneous beliefs, as well as by friends who explain why they changed their own minds. Clergy can step forward, for example, and some have offered places of worship as vaccination hubs.
Challenge #4: Motivated reasoning
You might not think that how you interpret a simple graph could depend on your political views. But when people were asked to look at the same charts depicting either housing costs or the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over time, interpretations differed by political affiliation. Conservatives were more likely than progressives to misinterpret the graph when it depicted a rise in CO2 than when it displayed housing costs. When people reason not just by examining facts, but with an unconscious bias to come to a preferred conclusion, their reasoning will be flawed.
Action #4: Maybe you think that eating food from genetically modified organisms is harmful to your health, but have you really examined the evidence? Look at articles with both pro and con information, evaluate the source of that information, and be open to the evidence leaning one way or the other. If you give yourself the time to think and reason, you can short-circuit your own motivated reasoning and open your mind to new information.
Challenge #5: Emotions and attitudes
When Pluto got demoted to a dwarf planet, many children and some adults responded with anger and opposition. Emotions and attitudes are linked. Reactions to hearing that humans influence the climate can range from anger (if you do not believe it) to frustration (if you are concerned you may need to change your lifestyle) to anxiety and hopelessness (if you accept it is happening but think it’s too late to fix things). How you feel about climate mitigation or GMO labeling aligns with whether you are for or against these policies.
Action #5: Recognize the role of emotions in decision-making about science. If you react strongly to a story about stem cells used to develop Parkinson’s treatments, ask yourself if you are overly hopeful because you have a relative in early stages of the disease. Or are you rejecting a possibly lifesaving treatment because of your emotions?
Feelings shouldn’t (and can’t) be put in a box separate from how you think about science. Rather, it’s important to understand and recognize that emotions are fully integrated ways of thinking and learning about science. Ask yourself if your attitude toward a science topic is based on your emotions and, if so, give yourself some time to think and reason as well as feel about the issue.
Everyone can be susceptible to these five psychological challenges that can lead to science denial, doubt and resistance. Being aware of these challenges is the first step toward taking action to meet them.
Now, more than ever, consumers are making a plea for sustainability — and they’re not just requesting more recyclable products, they’re willing to pay premium for them, especially from brands and companies they trust.
“Americans are seeking out and are willing to pay a premium for environmentally friendly products,” according to a recent study from GreenPoint, an environmental technology company. The study went on to state that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable products, but most (74 percent) don’t know how to identify them. According to the study, 78 percent of people are more likely to purchase a product that is clearly labeled as environmentally friendly.
“The consumer is demanding more sustainable packaging options, and has been for awhile now,” stated Jeff Watkin, director of marketing for Sev-Rend, a manufacturer of high-performance packaging for the produce industry. “This has trickled up to the retailer side of the process and they are placing firm timelines in place to achieve these goals.”
A survey conducted by Accenture of 6,000 consumers in 11 countries across North America, Europe and Asia, revealed that, “while consumers remain primarily focused on quality and price, 83 percent believe it’s important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents said they’re currently buying more environmentally friendly products than they were five years ago, and 81 percent said they expect to buy more over the next five years.”
It’s not just retailers and consumers that are concerned about the sustainability of the products they buy and sell; it is becoming a must for brands and company employees as well.
Employees today do not just want to “work for paychecks” (although fair pay is obviously important), but they also want to “work for companies with missions that promote inclusivity and sustainability, not divisiveness and harm to the environment,” stated an article written by Forbes earlier this year.
Spring Born, a 3.5-acre indoor hydroponic farm, is breaking ground in the CEA industry. The company is one of the first leafy green greenhouses in Colorado to undergo USDA Organic Certification. Spring Born products will be available for retail distribution starting August 2021.
“Spring Born combines innovative technologies and hardworking individuals that, when put together, provide fresh, healthy, quality greens better than anyone on the market,” said Charles Barr, president. “We care about the state of our environment and building sustainable practices that leave a lasting impact on our local community. Our company looks forward to supporting the community with nourishment but also economically with jobs and added business.”
Their advanced technology supports an efficient and sustainable environment for the greens and the local community. All products are grown and packed hands-free, pesticide-free, and use significantly less land and water than farm fields. The indoor farm grows, packs and distributes products directly from the greenhouse to support a long shelf life of 14 days at retail.
“Our greens are grown in a protected environment, not susceptible to the risk of harsh natural elements,” Barr said. “Spring Born promises unique varieties with consistent quality and supply year-round.”
With consumer preferences in mind, Spring Born currently offers four unique varieties available in standard retail and club-pack sizes. Spring Born will open its doors for tours and variety testing in July 2021. Contact email@example.com or learn more at http://www.springborn.us.
American farmers are conservationists at heart, but it can be a challenge to know where to start when it comes to conservation planning. Finding the right technical assistance and determining whether a conservation practice actually works for your land isn’t always easy.
The new Resource Stewardship Planning Guide, backed by NRCS science and developed by the editors at Farm Journal, is now available to help. This free workbook is the first in a three-part series published as part of America’s Conservation Ag Movement, a public-private partnership that helps producers use profitable and conservation-minded practices. The Soil Health Guide is currently available, and a Water Quality Guide will be available soon.
Here are 10 tips from this new interactive workbook—available in digital format to download for free.
Tip 1: See what other farmers are doing
Learning from other producers’ conservation experiences is a great way to evaluate what might work in for you. In this workbook, you’ll find plenty of stories from farmers across the U.S., including row crop producers from the Midwest, cattle ranchers from the Plains, and more.
Tip 2: Make a plan and write it down
Check out pages 4-7 for a primer on the process of conservation planning. Then fill out workbook pages 8-10 to see where your own farm stands and to identify some practical next steps you might take. There’s a cheat sheet on page 11 with some examples to get those gears turning!
Tip 3: Same farm, different land types
A farm is rarely composed of a single giant parcel. Instead, it often spans soil types, terrains, and counties. That’s why it’s important to know where you are and what type of land within a field you’re dealing with. Page 12 breaks down four common categories: cropland; associated agricultural lands; grazing, pastureland, and rangeland; and animal feeding operations.
Tip 4: Scout for conservation opportunities with cropland
If you raise crops such as corn or soybeans, pages 13-16 are for you. Starting with a soil loss assessment, you can begin to identify where conservation in your fields can deliver the strongest ROI. This section will also help you take stock of unique attributes of individual fields, such as proximity to adjacent bodies of water. The flow chart on page 15 can help you determine what you need and who can help.
Tip 5: Reduce costs through associated ag lands
Some spots in fields have notorious problems like ponding, erosion, or poor productivity. In these places, it might make sense to consider how you might save a precious resource—capital. Pages 17-21 provide insights on associated ag lands and illustrate how farmers are reimaging them for better lands and a better bottom line.
Tip 6: Grazing opportunities
Fencing is an infrastructure investment that NRCS programs can use to help livestock producers. From pages 23-27, you’ll discover that conservation planning isn’t just for row crop—it applies to every farm or ranch, albeit with its own specific toolbox of best management practices.
Tip 7: Stewardship spans feed, manure, and more
If you raise livestock, then feed handling, waste management, and other activities have a central role in conservation planning. Learn how to integrate stewardship into these staples of farm life from pages 28-36. Then meet hog producers from South Dakota who are putting these principles to work.
Tip 8: Rent land? Engage the owner
Conservation might seem like a big investment of time and money, but in many cases, stewardship begins with an evaluation of what you—and your landlord—care most about when it comes to the farm. Pages 37-40 illustrate practical ways to start a conservation about rented land to ensure both parties benefit.
Tip 9: Pencil it out
If you’re skeptical about whether conservation can have positive financial benefits, check out page 41. There is a step-by-step example of how stewardship can be a win-win for your business and the natural resources you manage.
Tip 10: Find a trusted adviser
Now that you’ve explored the many ways in which conservation planning can make a difference for farms like yours, it’s time to ask: Who can help me do that? From pages 43-46, you’ll find practical tips for locating the right kind of technical service provider in your local area. There are plenty of links so that you can do your own research online.
Interested in learning more about how conservation can help your farm? Click here to get your free guide to explore what the next step of your own conservation journey might be.
America’s Conservation Ag Movement is organized by Trust In Food, a Farm Journalinitiative, in partnership with the Farm Journal Foundation. Financial and technical support is provided by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and leading agribusinesses, food companies and nonprofit organizations.
The U.S. is in far different shape today than it was last Memorial Day, and many Americans are, too.
According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, undesired changes in weight driven by pandemic stress are widespread: 42% of adults reported gaining weight, with a median weight gain of 15 pounds, while 18% reported undesired weight loss. About 66% of people reported changes in their sleep habits, and 23% of respondents reported an increase in alcohol use.
The switch that got flipped in March 2020 to social distancing, remote schooling, mask-wearing and long-distance work – or no work – is switching back almost as abruptly. With little preparation time, many people are faced with wanting to be in top form for reentry. Resuming – or beginning – healthier habits is a wonderful goal. Trying to get back to normal too quickly, however, may be hard on joints and hearts. Here is a guide to help you get back in shape without hurting yourself.
It is vital to begin with acceptance of your current state while you plan and implement changes. It may be necessary to hold two seemingly contradictory truths at once – a core tenet of dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. A classic example of DBT is when a therapist tells a client, “I love you exactly the way you are, and I’m here to help you change.” The statements are simultaneously in opposition to each other and true.
Doing this in terms of pandemic-driven changes involves three steps:
Take note of the current reality, such as, “I am up 10 pounds,” “I am drinking more than before the pandemic,” or “I’m not getting enough exercise anymore,” but without negative self-judgment.
Make realistic, measurable goals for change: “I want to lose a pound in four weeks,” “I want to climb a flight of stairs without becoming breathless,” or “I will drink alcohol only when out with friends.”
Create a plan to achieve these goals.
Also, wanting to take good care of oneself, rather than wanting to look or be a certain way, is an important focus. A little self-knowledge goes a long way here. People who tend to go “all in,” rather than doing things gradually, need to be sure their plans are safe by seeking professional guidance from a reliable source, such as getting weight loss advice from a family doctor rather than from people or companies that a New York Times opinion writer recently described as “weight-loss profiteers.”
How can this process be applied to some common pandemic-driven health problems? Here are some suggestions.
One of the most effective and “simple but not easy” ways to normalize sleep is to pay attention to one’s sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene includes having a distraction-free, dark, quiet place to sleep. This may require using a sleep mask, blackout curtains or a white noise machine, and having no TV in the bedroom.
Even parents of very young children who may find these steps unrealistic can make some changes to help improve sleep, such as avoiding naps, sticking to a schedule, developing a routine, and engaging in some physical activity to tire oneself out before bedtime. Having a cutoff time for caffeinated beverages, as well as avoiding late night dining and too much alcohol, also help.
If excessive snoring is a problem, or getting very sleepy and dozing off throughout the day, or any other unusual symptoms, consulting a doctor should be part of the plan.
To come up with a safe exercise plan, start with an honest self-assessment. This includes looking at your current age and physical condition (particularly knees, hips, lungs, heart and balance); weight and weight changes during the pandemic; and activity levels before and during lockdown. The National Academy of Sports Medicine offers a downloadable questionnaire that can help with making this self-assessment.
Remember there are weight bearing, aerobic and stretching types of exercises. With each, begin at a level of comfort and gradually go slightly further. For example, if the goal is to start running, consider starting small, with a 30-minute routine a few days a week that involves a jog for one minute followed by walking for four minutes. Each week up the ante, such as shifting on the second week to jogging for two minutes then walking for three.
If the goal is to start walking, setting a time limit can help to achieve tangible goals: a 10-minute walk a few days the first week, 15 minutes the next week and so on, until the walk lasts 30 minutes and happens a few times a week. Then focus on increasing the pace.
Whether they involve mental or physical health – while this tends to be an artificial separation – post-lockdown behavior changes should begin with an accurate assessment of how things are, a realistic goal for what they will become, and a plan to get there. All of these should reflect care and love for one’s self and one’s body.
With children and families out floating the Las Colonias River Park behind them, community leaders gathered to celebrate the opening of the park amenity and recognize the work it took, over more than 30 years, to clean up the area and turn it into the park it is today.
The River Park has been open since May of 2020, but the celebration had to be delayed, as most things were, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a year later leaders from the city of Grand Junction, Colorado Mesa University, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and others came together Thursday afternoon to speak about the impact of the park.
Parks and Recreation Director Ken Sherbenou spoke about the history of the Las Colonias Park, which had previously been the site of a junkyard that was contaminated with uranium mill tailings. In the late 1980s, a group of citizens got together to clean the area up…
Throughout this project the community had support from GOCO, which helped with the original Watson Island cleanup with a grant in 1995 to the River Park itself, which used a $350,000 GOCO grant, as well as funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Fund, for its construction…
There were many partners that made Las Colonias and the River Park possible, Sherbenou said, which included a number of federal and state agencies, as well as local partners. He said going forward it will lead to more people becoming stewards of the Colorado River.
A website’s author may not be its author. References that confer legitimacy may have little to do with the claims they anchor. Signals of credibility like a dot-org domain can be the artful handiwork of a Washington, D.C., public relations maven.
Unless you possess multiple Ph.D.’s – in virology, economics and the intricacies of immigration policy – often the wisest thing to do when landing on an unfamiliar site is to ignore it.
Learning to ignore information is not something taught in school. School teaches the opposite: to read a text thoroughly and closely before rendering judgment. Anything short of that is rash.
My research team at Stanford University recently tested a national sample of 3,446 high school students on their ability to evaluate digital sources. Armed with a live internet connection, students examined a website that claims to “disseminate factual reports” on climate science.
Students were asked to judge whether the site was reliable. A screen prompt reminded them that they could search anywhere online to reach their answer.
Instead of leaving the site, the vast majority did exactly what school teaches: They stayed glued to the site – and read. They consulted the “About” page, clicked on technical reports, and examined graphs and charts. Unless they happened to possess a master’s degree in climate science, the site, filled with the trappings of academic research, looked, well, pretty good.
The few students – less than 2% – who learned the site was backed by the fossil fuel industry did so not because they applied critical thinking to its contents. They succeeded because they hopped off the website and consulted the open web. They used the web to read the web.
As a student who searched the internet for the group’s name wrote: “It has ties to large companies that want to purposefully mislead people when it comes to climate change. According to USA Today, Exxon has sponsored this nonprofit to pump out misleading information on climate change.”
Instead of getting tangled up in the site’s reports or suckered into its neutral-sounding language, this student did what professional fact checkers do: She evaluated the site by leaving it. Fact checkers engage in what we call lateral reading, opening up new tabs across the top of their screens to search for information about an organization or individual before diving into a site’s contents.
Only after consulting the open web do they gauge whether expending attention is worth it. They know that the first step in critical thinking is knowing when to deploy it.
The good news is that students can be taught to read the internet this way.
In an online nutrition course at the University of North Texas, we embedded short instructional videos that demonstrated the dangers of dwelling on an unknown site and taught students how to evaluate it.
At the beginning of the course, students were duped by features that are ludicrously easy to game: a site’s “look,” the presence of links to established sources, strings of scientific references or the sheer quantity of information a site provides.
On the test we gave at the beginning of the semester, only three in 87 students left a site to evaluate it. By the end, over three-quarters did. Other researchers, teaching the same strategies, have found similarly hopeful results.
Learning to resist the lure of dubious information demands more than a new strategy in students’ digital tool box. It requires the humility that comes from facing one’s vulnerability: that despite formidable intellectual powers and critical thinking skills, no one is immune to the slippery ruses plied by today’s digital rogues.
By dwelling on an unfamiliar site, imagining ourselves smart enough to outsmart it, we squander attention and cede control to the site’s designers.
Spending a few moments vetting the site by drawing on the awesome powers of the open web, we regain control and with it our most precious resource: Our attention.
About this event
Participants will meet and check-in at the Morgan Conservation District’s office at 8:30 a.m., with the ride beginning at 9:00 a.m. Tours on the ride include an irrigated corn producer, a dairy farmer, and a local vineyard. The tour will wrap up with lunch at the vineyard. This is a 7-mile ride, with approximately 3 miles back to town. Your registration includes an Ag Bike Tour water bottle and hat. Lunch will be provided by Blue Ribbon BBQ. Cost of tour is $30 and cost of lunch (without tour) is $20. RSVP by May 15th. Please contact us with any questions!
Here’s Joe Lewandowski’s guest column about his retirement from Colorado Parks & Wildlife that’s running in The Pagosa Springs Sun:
Storytellers, often, are relegated to the outside but always trying to look in, constantly hoping for entry into some unique situation or adventure or thought process that functions to make a story compelling, heart-wrenching or, simply, interesting.
I started my formal storytelling career in Colorado as a reporter at a weekly newspaper in Vail in the late 1970s. After more than 20 years writing for four newspapers and a dozen other publications and websites, I tired of the daily deadline grind. That’s when I saw an advertisement for a “Public Information Officer” (PIO) for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
While the job would be a step away from objective journalism, I knew it would offer a unique vantage point for storytelling. Fortunately, my experience proved worthy and in 2005, I landed the position as the PIO for what was then DOW’s Southwest Region, a location of big mountain ranges, vast expanses of public lands, canyons, rivers and, of course, abundant wildlife. I saw this as a story-rich environment.
The job provided the unique position I’d often thought about — being on the inside. I worked alongside biologists, district wildlife managers (DWMs, once called game wardens), wildlife researchers, hatchery man- agers and later, park rangers and managers. My job entailed asking them questions, explaining their good work to the public and conveying the importance of wildlife and outdoor spaces and recreation to the people of Colorado. For the first time in my writing career, I was working on the same team as my sources. I was focused on positive, one-sided stories — something my journalistic colleagues would likely frown upon.
As I got to know my colleagues, I started hearing about things I’d never known. Sure, I’d always considered myself an environmentalist, but I didn’t know about the importance of the nitty-gritty on-the-ground work being done by dedicated, smart, professional biologists and scientists who care deeply about wildlife. And an extra bonus for me — most of them loved to talk about their work.
In no time, I was going out on the types of adventures I’d dreamed about as a kid. Walking into wild, untrammeled and mysterious locations on the lookout for wildlife.
Consider the subject matter I was given to work with:
Along with three others tracking newborn lynx, I stood on a ridge and looked down onto a hillside thick with trees, fallen logs, boulders and brush. The crew had found the gen- eral location of a female lynx thanks to its telemetry collar. The cat’s move- ments had stopped, indicating that it had made a den and given birth. Our job that day was to find the kit- tens, assess the litter and record the findings.
The lead researcher, Tanya, said, “OK, let’s find the kittens.”
Looking at the forest tangle, I was incredulous. “Where do we look?” I asked.
Tanya laughed and said, “Under every log and bush and outcrop.”
An hour later, she yelled out that she’d found the kittens. Three, each a little fur-ball, not much bigger than a coffee cup. The kittens cried and squirmed; and circling us warily but helplessly prowled the mother, issuing low, mournful growls.
And then I got to write a story about that little adventure.
On other occasions, I rode along with DWMs making the rounds along remote roads during hunting season. When we’d pull up to a camp, hunters would happily walk out to greet us and pepper the wildlife officer with questions about where to find the elk. On another ride-along, I observed as a DWM explained to an Oklahoma couple that the location of the two cow elk they’d killed was far from the area described on their licenses. They each had to pay a $1,500 fine, didn’t get to take the meat home and had to admit their guilt.
In early summer one year, I accompanied a crew of about 10 into the Weminuche Wilderness to find native cutthroat trout in a tumbling, 15-foot wide stream. The crew carried “electrofishing” gear, shocked the water and stunned the fish temporarily. Then the aquatic biologists spawned the fish right on the stream bank, placed the fertilized eggs in a container and took them back to the Durango hatchery. The eggs hatched and from a few dozen fish, thousands of progeny eventually emerged and eventually restocked. I learned that the success of natural reproduction by fish is about 1 percent, but nearly 100 percent at a hatchery. Some purists criticize the human meddling, but without our help, there would be very few, if any, native cutthroat trout. Of course, it was humans who screwed up the trout’s habitat in the first place. So, this work on a backcountry stream showed that humans can also right some wrongs.
While I never doubted that most people value wildlife, I learned through this job that deliberate effort is needed to maintain this resource. Thanks to far-sighted conservationists who stepped up in previous cen- turies to maintain natural systems, latter-day conservationists working for wildlife agencies can dedicate their life’s work to the conservation of wildlife.
One early spring day, I stood on the banks of a small stream that courses from the flanks of the Uncompahgre Plateau toward the Gunnison River. Kevin, an aquatics researcher, explained that this stream often goes dry by mid-summer. Yet three species of native fish — the flannel mouth sucker, the bluehead sucker and the roundtail chub — make a run up this stream every year to spawn. Sometimes called “trash fish” because they usually don’t rise to an angler’s lure, Kevin showed me the beauty and uniqueness of these species. These fish have survived for tens of thousands of years and are only found in the greater Colorado River Basin. They battle torrents of icy run-off, survive in silt-filled water and often spend months in muddy pools. The suckers are built like 2-foot long torpedoes, sturdy and streamlined. And Colorado Parks and Wildlife employs aquatic biologists to make sure these fish survive the continuing onslaught of physical insults humans throw at them.
I wrote about that, too, hoping that readers would gain an under- standing of why we can’t lose these unique creatures. Because if we do, something of ourselves will die along with them.
I’ve crawled into dens with bears — they, fully sedated — while researchers examined cubs and changed GPS collars on the sows. A couple of times, I was enlisted to hold 3-pound cubs underneath my jacket to keep them warm while the researchers finished their work. They whined and growled and squirmed and clawed and I fell in love with them immediately.
Another day, I squeezed into a tight opening of a cave located in a small canyon in western Colorado. Hidden in the back were lion cubs. As I crawled, I listened to Ken, a mountain lion researcher “We have a collar on the mother and we know from the GPS signal that she’s far away hunting and eating. That’s a good thing, because if she showed up while we were taking her cubs she’d turn us into confetti.”
I paused as I considered our vulnerability. But I had every reason to trust Ken, who had worked for three decades studying mountain lions. We pulled three cubs from the cave, placed small radio collars on them (they’d rot and fall off in a couple of months), collected blood for the genetic information it would provide and returned the cubs safely to the cave.
I’ve been along for the capture of pronghorn, turkeys, deer, elk and bighorn sheep. I’ve placed my hands on them and felt the magnificent fur, muscles and bones of these animals that spend all of their living minutes in the wild lands of Colorado.
All my stories, of course, weren’t about adventures. I also wrote about meetings and proposals and other mundane and necessary business to which a public agency must attend.
The great stories, the interesting stories, however, I was always ready and willing to tell. At parties and in grocery stores, people would ask me about some critter they saw or about something I had written. On chairlifts or in random meetings in bars or along trails with strangers, I was often asked what I did for a living in Durango. As soon as I started explaining my job, it was always apparent that people wanted to know more. I was happy to tell them a quick story and proud to say that I worked for an agency that was dedicated to taking care of wildlife and land and water.
Now, however, after 16 years with the agency, 45 years in Colorado and 67 years as a resident of this planet, I am taking my leave from this job. I feel honored and privileged to have been hired to tell my fellow Colora- dans all these stories.
I owe a great debt to all the people in this agency who took the time to explain the intricacies of how a ptarmigan molts, how a bear knows when to go into hibernation, the value of wetlands, how to reestablish native trout and more and more. To those who have read my stuff, I thank you. And rest assured that there are many more stories to come from the next lucky writer who gets this job.
Joe Lewandowski retired as o the PIO for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Southwest Region on April 30.
The Minnesota-based company recently filed suit in Michigan Court of Claims against the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and its drinking water standards adopted last year. 3M called them “the result of a rushed and invalid regulatory process, scientifically flawed, and reliant on speculative and unquantified purported benefits to justify the costly” rules.
Nessel said the suit is a way for 3M officials to go after the limits for PFAS compounds in drinking water. 3M officials in their suit contend the cleanup efforts will cost millions of dollars in the first year and would continue to climb.
Michigan’s attorney general has sued 3M, along with other PFAS manufacturers, to recover clean up costs, damages to the environment and natural resource damages caused by PFAS contamination. State officials have contended that many of 3M’s products with PFAS ended up contaminating the environment that include land, drinking water and other natural resources.
“3M profited for years from its sale of PFAS products and concealed its evidence of adverse health impacts from state and federal regulators,” Nessel said in a statement. “It is no coincidence that this out-of-state company is resorting to attempts to rewrite our state’s standards put in place to protect Michiganders from PFAS in their drinking water.
Here’s the release from the Department of Interior:
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed rule to revoke the January 7, 2021, final regulation that limited the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Significant concerns about the interpretation of the MBTA have been raised by the public, legal challenges in court and from the international treaty partners.
This proposed rule provides the public with notice of the Service’s intent to revoke the January 7 rule’s interpretation of the MBTA and return to implementing the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and applying enforcement discretion, consistent with judicial precedent.
“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a bedrock environmental law that is critical to protecting migratory birds and restoring declining bird populations,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Today’s actions will serve to better align Interior with its mission and ensure that our decisions are guided by the best-available science.”
“Migratory bird conservation is an integral part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “We have heard from our partners, the public, Tribes, states and numerous other stakeholders from across the country that it is imperative the previous administration’s rollback of the MBTA be reviewed to ensure continued progress toward commonsense standards that protect migratory birds.”
On January 7, the Service published a final rule defining the scope of the MBTA as it applies to conduct resulting in the injury or death of migratory birds protected by the MBTA. This rule made significant changes to the scope of the MBTA to exclude incidental take of migratory birds, with an effective date of February 8.
The Service extended the effective date until March 8 and opened a public comment period. Rather than extending the effective date again, the agency believes the most transparent and efficient path forward is instead to immediately propose to revoke the rule.
The Service requests public comments on issues of fact, law and policy raised by the MBTA rule published on January 7. Public comments must be received or postmarked on or before June 7, 2021. The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2018-0090, and will include details on how to submit your comments.
The agency will not accept email or faxes. If you provided comments in response to the February 9, 2021, notice to extend the effective date, you do not need to resubmit those comments. All comments will be considered.
On March 8, 2021, Interior rescinded the 2017 Solicitor’s Opinion M-37050 on the MBTA that had overturned decades of bipartisan and international consensus. The reasoning and basis behind that M-Opinion were soundly rejected in federal court. The Endangered Species Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, as well as state laws and regulations, are not affected by the Solicitor’s Opinion M-37050 or the January 7 final regulation.
Lights Out Colorado is a voluntary program to help migratory birds.
The National Audubon Society, the International Dark Sky Association, and Denver Audubon are partnering to promote the new program.
Every year in North America, more than 3.5 billion birds move north in the spring and 4 billion birds fly south in the fall. More than 80 percent of them travel at night, navigating with the night sky. However, as they pass over big cities on their way they can become disoriented by bright artificial lights and skyglow, often causing them to collide with buildings or windows.
While lights can throw birds off their migration paths, bird deaths are more directly caused by the amount of energy the birds waste flying around and calling out in confusion. The exhaustion can then leave them vulnerable to other urban threats and deplete their energy needed for surviving migration and producing chicks in subsequent breeding seasons.
Fortunately, the simple action of turning off lights can help birds navigate urban environments and protect them from unnecessary harm. The National Audubon Society, the International Dark-sky Association, and Denver Audubon have partnered to launch Lights Out Colorado, a new program that aims to help Coloradans save millions of birds as they take part in spring and fall migrations.
Lights Out Colorado provides two simple steps communities can make to have a big impact on birds:
Shield outdoor lights to prevent light from being emitted upwards.
Turn off lights by midnight during bird migration seasons (April-May and August-September).
It is particularly important to take these measures as early in the evening as possible, as migrants begin their nocturnal migrations at dusk, during spring and fall migration periods. In addition to helping birds, these efforts have the additional benefits of reducing energy usage and saving money.
There are several common-sense exceptions to these guidelines. First, lighting activated by motion sensors can stay powered on. Second, businesses open late can keep their lights on until the business closes. Third, lighting needed for safety should stay on. Finally, local governments may choose from a variety of options for public lighting. Only lighting that is not needed should be shut off.
FromThe High Country News (Jonathan Thompson) [April 16, 2021]:
On March 22, a young man pulled into the parking lot of a King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado, got out of his car and shot an elderly man several times before walking into the store and shooting people indiscriminately with a semi-automatic weapon. By the time his rampage was over, 10 people were dead, including grocery store workers, shoppers and the first police officer who responded to the call. This was just six days after a shooter killed eight people, mostly Asian women, in Atlanta, Georgia. Then, just over a week later, on March 31, another man shot and killed four people, including a 9-year-old-boy, in Orange County, California.
The shootings kicked off what has become a gruesome and familiar routine. Calls for tighter controls on firearms rang out from the halls of state capitols to Washington, D.C., followed closely by cries from the National Rifle Association, warning followers that the government is coming for their guns. Americans then embarked on a gun-buying frenzy.
It’s hard to imagine how firearms manufacturers can keep up with such a surge, however. During most of the Trump administration era, sales were relatively flat — even after a gunman killed 58 people at a Las Vegas music festival — because gun-lovers knew that Donald Trump wouldn’t sign any new gun laws. But when COVID-19 hit the United States, guns and ammo began flying off the shelves at unprecedented levels. The busiest week ever for the FBI’s background check system was in March 2020, rivaled only by the weeks following the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.
A few months later, gun dealers had another hectic week, when Black Lives Matter-related demonstrations reached a crescendo. They were even busier following the election of President Joe Biden, who as a senator had helped pass a ban on assault weapons. In 2020, the FBI conducted 40% more background checks than the previous year. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that this translates to some 21 million guns actually sold, with about 8 million going to first-time gun buyers.
It was a boon for Ruger and Smith & Wesson, the nation’s largest firearms manufacturers, both of which reported record sales and profits last year. But the rush to acquire guns correlated with a significant and deadly uptick in gun-related violence.
Number of people killed in gun-related violence in 2020; and 2019, respectively (not including suicides).
Number of hours after the Boulder shooting that Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., sent out a fundraising email to her constituents warning, “Radical liberals in Washington … are trying to violate your due process and criminalize the private transfer of firearms.” Boebert owns a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, called Shooters.
Number of murders committed with “blunt objects,” including hammers, in 2019. In the wake of the Boulder shooting, Rep. Boebert told Newsmax: “In America, we see more deaths by hand, fist, feet, even hammers.”
Amount spent by gun rights groups on lobbying in 2020.
Amount gun rights groups have contributed to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during his political career.
Number of guns purchased in Colorado in February 2021, a 17% increase from February 2019.
Last year, there was a pause in mass shootings as narrowly defined — meaning incidents in which a single gunman kills four or more people in a public place. (Drug- or gang-related shootings and most domestic violence shootings are not included.) That’s only a tiny sliver of the bigger picture, however.
Gun violence actually escalated dramatically last year, leaving record numbers of people dead or injured. And if gun sales are any indication, there’s no end in sight: This January was the busiest month ever for the firearms background check system.
Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):
Colorado’s water supply is under threat from climate change and population growth. Limiting outdoor use is an increasingly popular approach to conserving water, yet to implement effective conservation policies, utilities managers need a better understanding of local outdoor water consumption.
That’s what led Colorado State University’s Melissa McHale, an associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, to explore what drives outdoor water consumption in an area projected to undergo significant population growth in the years to come.
McHale teamed up with scientists from the U.S. Forest Service and Denver Urban Field Station – a research and practice unit of the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station – and a water conservation specialist from Fort Collins Utilities.
Among the findings, McHale said trees can provide long-term benefits even if they need to be watered directly when they are first planted.
“Other modeling analyses have highlighted the benefits of tree shade,” she said. “But very rarely do we have real data that help us specifically create management decisions and policies that support the world we live in, and the balance we need to achieve.”
The research team found that residential properties with a higher ratio of vegetation cover to lot size tended toward less water consumption. McHale said that discovery was surprising.
“In semi-arid cities, tree cover is directly linked to land surface temperature,” she explained. “It’s a real positive result for us along the Front Range, because mature tree canopy may mean that people use less water outdoors.”
McHale said it would be ideal if people could use less water while also cooling the landscape with tree cover.
“But I’m not sure so far, the way we’re developing the land, if we’re providing opportunities in the best way we can,” she said.
Wealthier households and properties with small lots use more water outside, according to the study. These conditions are prevalent in current development patterns along the Front Range in Colorado.
“We need to make sure we provide enough space, in the right locations, for mature tree canopy to grow in these new developments,” McHale said.
Additional research from other semi-arid cities, like Salt Lake City, has shown that planting non-native trees may be better for reducing water consumption in such areas.
Local policies may hinder conservation efforts
McHale also said that subdivision homeowner associations may be setting and enforcing guidelines that encourage more outdoor water use. Most newer neighborhoods with houses built in close proximity to each other are governed by HOAs, and the research team wants to delve deeper into this question in future research.
Shaunie Rasmussen, research associate in the CSU Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and a co-author on the study, said with urbanization taking place so quickly, it’s imperative to get trees planted, to make sure they’re mature as people move into new houses along the Front Range.
“It’s important to establish this tree cover and to take advantage of the benefits of trees,” she said. “Based on our research, trees can be a water-saving resource.”
Rasmussen graduated from CSU in July 2020 with a master’s degree in ecosystem sustainability, a recently established program through the Warner College of Natural Resources, and is now based at the Denver Urban Field Station.
McHale said this research project aims to strengthen and expand upon the university’s land-grant mission.
“We’ve been really trying, as a university, to reinvent the way we engage with our communities,” she explained.
Teaming up with the U.S. Forest Service, which has played a central role in pushing the field of urban ecology nationally, was a natural fit. The City of Fort Collins has already made use of the research findings from other collaborative research projects with McHale’s lab, and included those results in planning documents and budget requests for city managers.
“That’s the essence of engaged research,” said McHale. “You learn something different by working together and the outcomes are more impactful. We’re all in this together.”
McHale was recently selected to be a member of Denver’s Sustainability Advisory Council, which was originally created in 2010 by Mayor John Hickenlooper, and continues today under Mayor Michael Hancock.
Pushback against a “meatless day” proclaimed by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis last month was predictably vigorous. It was part of the “war on rural Colorado,” said a state senator who runs a cattle-feeding operation. Twenty-six of Colorado’s 64 counties adopted “meat-in” proclamations. Governors from the adjoining states of Wyoming and Nebraska even gleefully designated an “eat-meat” day.
Afterward, Polis’s press aides pointed to the hundreds of do-good proclamations the governor issues each year, and the governor quickly declared his beef brisket the rival of any in Colorado.
But this proclamation differed from those affirming truck drivers, bat awareness and breakfast burritos. It called for broad change. Using the language of a “MeatOut” Day proclamation written by an animal rights group, his statement cited the benefits of a plant-based diet in reducing our carbon footprint, preserving ecosystems and preventing animal cruelty. It also noted the growing alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs.
In the 1880s, when my great-grandparents homesteaded in eastern Colorado, they grazed cattle on the short-grass prairie. Ranchers still do. Once off the range, though, our beef production is best understood as an industrial process. The foundation is grain.
In his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates explains the modern pyramid of protein: A chicken eats two calories’ worth of grain to give us one calorie of poultry. For cattle, it’s six calories of feed to produce one calorie of beef. I’ve stood in rows of corn tassels 12 feet high at maturity, the growth boosted by luxuriant applications of fertilizer. I’ve pinched my nose while driving past feedlots large enough for 80,000 or more head. I’ve heard the bellow of cows minutes away from the knife at slaughterhouses.
Denver no longer has slaughterhouses but still prides itself on its livestock heritage. The annual Western Stock Show puts cowboy hats in high-end restaurants and strip joints alike. Cattle represent 50% of Colorado’s $7 billion agriculture economy, and livestock altogether 70%. After Polis’s proclamation, livestock producers debated boycotting Denver’s Stock Show for other venues — perhaps Oklahoma.
Even a legislator from one of metro Denver’s poorer neighborhoods objected to Polis’s proclamation, pointing out that nutritious vegetarian options aren’t available to many of her constituents.
But it’s not just low-income areas that lack meal choices. Fast-food franchises in big cities and small towns all cater to the lowest-common denominator, their high-volume enterprises predicated on cheap meat, especially beef. The consequences are that we now have bulbous bellies and too many heart attacks. We struggle to live with restraint.
The meaty issue here is not about meat vs. no-meat. Rather, it’s about scale and processes. What have we sacrificed in pursuit of volume?
Credit the ranchers who graze cattle holistically in an attempt to replicate the once-vast herds of bison. But also note that grass-fed beef needs buyers. Most holistically raised cows get further fattened on grain. That’s where the market is.
There’s also the looming issue of cows contributing to climate change, as highly polluting methane comes out of both ends of cattle. Gates, always the technologist, insists that innovation can reduce the carbon output of agriculture by reducing our yen for real beef. He put his money where my mouth is by investing in a vegetarian product called the Impossible Burger. Last week I had one. It fooled me. I thought it was beef.
Meanwhile, the urban-rural divide remains starkly real and evident in voting and development patterns. While cities struggle to contain their growth, many small towns struggle to hang on. Ironically, the economies of most of these at-risk rural towns are premised on industrial-scale agriculture.
Rural Colorado never has liked Polis, a savvy businessman from the exurbs of Boulder who favors market solutions. He had barely warmed his gubernatorial seat when handmade signs began showing up on rural country roads asking “Why does Polis hate…” You fill in the blank.
This meatless proclamation was tone-deaf. It could have narrowly affirmed meatless alternatives rather than decried meat. Denial and anger will not prevail, though. I’m reminded of when coal producers, 10 and 15 years ago, were fighting the future of renewables instead of figuring out their place in the world to come.
Though most of us may continue to eat beef, some of us have already begun to shift away. Polis was perhaps the unwitting messenger of that truth — that cows in the West are no longer sacred.
Can technology save the Colorado River? A growing number of entrepreneurs and investors think so. To that end, the Denver-based Colorado River Basin Fund is raising $5 million to help promising new water technology companies bring their wares to market.
“We want to nurture startups that need access to money,” said Will Sarni, a general partner in the fund. “That’s where we think we can be part of the solution.”
Worldwide dozens of investment funds target water, through stocks in publicly traded utilities and direct investments in existing technology and infrastructure companies, among others. Just like some mutual funds focus on gold stocks or energy stocks, there are funds that focus on water stocks, such as the Invesco S&P Global Water Index.
But Sarni says that the newly formed Colorado River Basin Fund is the first private investment initiative focused on one place, the Colorado River.
The launch of the new investment fund comes as concern over the Colorado River intensifies. The river is mired in a 20-year drought which has caused its flows to decline by more than 16 percent since 2000, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Those declines are expected to continue as the climate warms and mountain snow packs shrink.
Lon Johnson, a general partner in the new fund, said it is focused not on profiteering off the sale of water rights, but in finding technical solutions to keep the seven-state Colorado River system viable.
“Often when you think about investment into the West, your mind would go to the exploitive side. How do we profit off this crisis? That is not what this is about,” Johnson said. “What we’re seeking to do is identify the technologies that address scarcity and water quality within the basin. And then help them commercialize and scale.”
Researchers and entrepreneurs are pursuing dozens of technologies that could help the river become more sustainable even as population demands grow and climate change threatens to further reduce flows.
Sarni said the Colorado River Basin Fund will focus largely on satellite and digital technologies that will help farmers use their water more efficiently and help smart homes do the same.
Sarni and Johnson join a growing group of investors and accelerators hoping to speed the creation of new solutions by backing promising startups. Among these is an international initiative called Imagine H20, which has raised more than $500 million to date, according to its website, to help fund new technologies tackling worldwide scarcity and water quality issues.
And several young water technology companies are already in the market, including Boss DeFrost, a Denver-based company whose device allows restaurants to dramatically slash the amount of water they use to thaw meat and other foods.
In Montrose there is the Delta Brick and Climate Company, which is dredging reservoirs and using the clay to make bricks. The brick ovens eventually will be fired with methane captured from leaking coal mines. The strategy frees up space in reservoirs, allowing them to store more water. And by removing methane from the atmosphere, the company plans to generate carbon credits that can be sold, generating revenue in addition to that generated from the sale of bricks. Chris Caskey is founder of the three-year-old startup and has won small government grants to fund operations thus far.
He said he’s been frustrated by the traditional investment community, which often requires entrepreneurs to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in seed capital before it will formally invest, and which can impose aggressive timelines on products to allow investors to cash out quickly.
But Johnson said he and Sarni have years of experience working in the water sector and that they are aware of the challenges.
“We believe traditional ‘tech’ investors aren’t always a natural fit for water entrepreneurs because those investors may have unrealistic expectations for growth and scale, and then ultimately on the investment return,” Johnson said. “The water sector is fragmented, and growth takes time and skill…our investment strategies and how we intend to work with companies after we invest will reflect this.”
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at email@example.com or @jerd_smith.
…Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has declared a state of emergency due to the massive encroachment of drought impacting all the state’s more than 54 million acres.
The U.S. Drought Monitor puts 90% of Utah in the category of “extreme drought” and says that more than 2.7 million people in the state are impacted. Southern Utah recently elevated its drought to exceptional — an even worse category…
Most of the state is sitting at between 75% and 80% of average snowpack for this water year, which officially ended Thursday.
On its face, that doesn’t sound necessarily that scary.
But Jordan Clayton, supervisor of the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Utah Snow Survey, said it is more complicated than that…
The summer of 2020 was the driest ever logged in Utah and Nevada since record keeping began 126 years ago…
Those dry soils will absorb much of what is already predicted to be a poor performing runoff at anywhere between 25% and 75% of average…
Heather Patno, a hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the drought is impacting states across the Upper Colorado River Basin…
While the upper basin will be able to meet its downstream water delivery obligations to lower basin states like Nevada and California, Lake Powell will be sitting at critical elevation levels…
The good news, she stressed, is that there has been a smattering of water years over the last two decades in which Lake Powell rose by 50 feet or more.
In 2019, for example, basin-wide snowpack was at 145% of average, she said, and other generous water years helped boost Powell levels…
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in March warned that nearly half the country is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions in what could be the most significant spring drought since 2013 impacting an estimated 74 million people.
In fact, its seasonal drought outlook into June 30 of this year projects that most of California and all of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico will have drought that persists…
Utah’s ranchers and farmers are already taking steps to brace for a financially debilitating season in the agriculture industry.
Farmers who normally plant corn, which demands a lot of water, switched to spring grain that can be harvested in 60 to 90 days.
Other farmers have cut back their farming acreage by 30% or even half.
The problem is that corn yields greater revenue per acre and many fields will go fallow…
With snowpack below average across the state — southwest Utah is sitting barely north of 50% — that becomes a problem for Utah when 95% of its water comes from snow, Clayton said.
The directors of 13 state recreation offices are asking the federal government to adjust requirements that states and local communities must provide matching funds to secure Land and Water Conservation Fund money
The diverse Confluence of States — which champions outdoor recreation as a driver for economic growth and conservation, as well as public health — is asking federal lawmakers to help unlock the gates guarding the $900 million-a-year Land and Water Conservation Fund…
The outdoor recreation state directors are asking for relief from federal rules requiring the dollar-for-dollar match. When the economy is strong, that matching amplifies the impact of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. When communities are crawling out of a pandemic, federal support could be left untapped.
The Confluence of States this week sent letters to the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, who is chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and Interior Sec. Deb Haaland. The group says waivers, loans that can be converted to grants or a reduction of the one-to-one match could help support hundreds of projects and jobs across the country…
[Nathan] Fey and his fellow outdoor recreation office directors have been working with federal and state land managers to identify the bottlenecks that are hindering the flow of support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which this year is set to be fully funded for only the second time since its inception in 1964…
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office is compiling a list of shovel-ready projects across the state that could connect communities with trails and improve recreational infrastructure in rural communities, like a new river park on the Yampa River in Craig.
The projects are not just about supporting outdoor recreation and tourism economies, Fey said. Improvements to recreational access and trails can help Colorado’s rural communities appeal to businesses looking to relocate from urban settings…
While the now 13 members of the Confluence of States have worked to support a recreation economy in their own states — Colorado, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming — the letter urging a relaxation of the match requirement for LWCF support is the first time the group has taken collective action…
But the money has been slow to arrive. Earlier this month, the Forest Service released its 2021 land acquisitions project list, with nearly $124 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for 35 parcels. The list included Garfield County’s Sweetwater Lake, a 488-acre property adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness that has long been eyed for development.
The Conservation Fund acquired the property last July for $7.1 million and plans to transfer the parcel to the Whtie River National Forest. The project ranked No. 8 on the Forest Service’s priority list with a request for $8.5 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Late last week the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region announced $1.3 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help support the purchases of “critical inholding areas, recreational access projects and core acquisition projects” that include Sweetwater Lake.
The Sweetwater Lake project is on track “and moving along well,” said Justin Springs with The Conservation Fund.
PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 30, 2021 Appreciation Week Recognizes Essential Services of Arizona Water Professionals PHOENIX – Every variety of event from music festivals to awards ceremonies has gone “virtual” in the era of the COVID-19 virus. The now-annual event to honor Arizona’s water professionals is following suit. The “Virtual Kick-Off” […]
FromThe High Country News [March 18, 2021] (Graham Lee Brewer):
On her first official day in office, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland met briefly with a group of 10 Indigenous journalists from national, local and tribal publications, including High Country News. The press conference, which was organized by the Interior Department and the Native American Journalists Association, appears to be a sign of the kind of increased access Haaland is willing to offer tribal media. As Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, has noted many times, both in her capacity as a member of Congress and a Cabinet nominee, she intends to make tribal concerns and regular consultation a significant part of her agenda. Here are some highlights from the half-hour session:
• Haaland spoke directly about her desire to involve tribes in federal decision-making in a new and unprecedented way. Tribal governments have long felt overlooked when it comes to consultation on federal contracts and land-management decisions, and their opinions have often been outright dismissed. Haaland said that she is determined to end that cycle. “So often everyone thinks that the BIA is the only location where Indian issues should be addressed, and we know that’s not true. Indian issues need to be addressed across the entire government.” She added that it’s important to consult with tribes early in any process, before decisions are made, and to give them proper access — no longer restricting public comments to online forums, for example, particularly when the tribal community in question might have limited broadband access. “I want the era when tribes were on the back burner to be over.”
• Tribal consultation also came up concerning the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting 30% of the country’s lands and water by the year 2030. Haaland touched on the necessity to revisit the boundaries of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, as well as of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, an area that is part of some important ancestral homelands, including her own. Haaland said that management decisions have to be made between all the parties involved, including the public and tribes. “I know that a lot of people rely on pristine environment for the outdoor economy industry that is all over this country, so I think taking a balanced approach is absolutely something that we would like to do.”
• Assistant Secretary to the Interior Brian Newland, a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe), also participated in the press briefing, and he indicated that the tribal recognition process — through which tribes seek federal recognition and access to federal funding and cultural protections — could evolve under Haaland’s tenure as well. “The department is consulting right now on a remand from two federal courts to look at whether tribes can petition again after they’ve been denied federal recognition from the department. We’ve gotten some feedback from the tribal consultation process and is something we are actively working on.” He added that the Biden administration is making it a priority to examine how lands are moved into federal trust, which is the process by which tribes turn private land into tribal-held land within their jurisdiction.
• Haaland shared an interesting anecdote from her early discussion with U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, regarding the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to restore the reservation of the Muskogee (Creek) Nation. The decision has rippled across eastern Oklahoma and will likely lead to the restoration of four other reservations. Haaland said that, after the decision, she called Cole to ask for his advice; an Oklahoma court decision this month reaffirmed the Chickasaw Nation’s reservation boundaries. “He said, ‘Let the tribes talk it out, let the tribes come to their own decision, they should not have any interference from Congress at this point. They need to be able to make their own decision.’ So, I want to respect tribes in every possible way.” Oklahoma’s attorney general, members of its congressional delegation, and some tribes, including the Chickasaw Nation, believe that Congress should play a role in resolving the lingering issues created when the state of Oklahoma, for over a century, illegally assumed criminal jurisdiction over the land in question.
• Haaland also made what appeared to be her first public comments about the citizenship of Freedmen, the descendants of those formerly held in the bondage of slavery by tribes; she has been criticized for co-sponsoring the reauthorization of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act in 2019, which excluded Freedmen descendants from housing assistance. Haaland acknowledged the complicated nature of the issue, noting that even some of her immediate family members cannot enroll in her tribe due to the Pueblo of Laguna’s citizenship requirements. Haaland said the housing bill must be reauthorized constantly to assist tribes. “Largely, for me, it is seen as a positive thing, helping tribes to navigate those issues so that they can provide.” She said she’s open to speaking with tribal governments that want to discuss the issue and is eager to “respect the tribes’ sovereignty and authority to determine membership.”
• In her opening remarks, Haaland spoke of the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on Indigenous communities, noting that more than 80% of the Interior employees who died from the disease had worked in offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A spokesperson for Interior later confirmed that 26 of the agency’s employees had died from the virus, and that 22 of them had been working in Indian Affairs.
Graham Lee Brewer is an associate editor at High Country News and a member of the Cherokee Nation. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an odd way, Boulder and Kremmling have a common bond. The school districts headquartered in the two places are the first in Colorado to have electric school buses.
First was the electric bus for the Boulder Valley School District, which rolled out in early March. The bus for the West Grand School District arrived in Kremmling on Wednesday afternoon and will be placed in service in early April.
Many more will be following across Colorado, as state aid has been approved for 14 buses. The grant program taps Colorado’s $67.5 million share of the Volkswagen settlement.
As for these first two districts, they’re very different. Boulder Valley has 30,000, West Grand 408 students drawn from Kremmling and outlying routes up the various valleys: the Muddy, Troublesome, Williams Fork, and Blue, as well as along the Colorado River to Parshall.
Darrin M. Peppard, the superintendent of schools at West Grand, credits activism by both Mountain Parks Electric, the local electrical cooperative, and the Boulder school district.
“We were notified by Mountain Parks Electric about the Volkswagen settlement funds grant. We weren’t entirely sure—an electric bus, our high altitude, the cold temperature. How is that really going to function?”
What sold West Grand was a trip to Boulder. The school district there had arranged to have an electric bus hauled from a school district in North Dakota. “It was a cold, cold, snowy day in Boulder—which was perfect,” says Peppard. “They fired up the bus, and the cabin temperature warmed much more rapidly than a diesel bus would in December.”
Making the electric bus even more attractive was the cost: nothing. West Grand got a grant for $301,000 from the state program. Mountain Parks Electric contributed $70,000 and Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the wholesale supplier for Mountain Parks, added $50,000. This includes the cost of the bus but also the electrical infrastructure at the bus barn for charging.
Chris Michalowski, the power use advisor at Mountain Parks, says the co-op’s capital funds—unclaimed credits of members who died or have left—were tapped to fund the bus. But the bus fits in with a broader goal of Mountain Parks to encourage transportation electrification.
“This is a great way to do that. It’s highly visible, easily recognizable, on the road twice a day,” he says. And that influence of the electric bus will encourage the parents of the bus riders to buy electric.
West Grand has changed little since the 1970s when this writer lived there. It is ranch country, but the largest employer is the molybdenum mill near the head of the Williams Fork Valley.
This new 78-passenger electric bus will have a route that runs 20 to 25 miles twice a day “up” the Blue River Valley, not quite to Green Mountain Reservoir.
The buses officially have a range of 120 miles. That said, when it was driven to Kremmling on Wednesday it was charged in Golden and again in Frisco.
Community reaction has been one of intrigue, Peppard says. “Is it going to work? Is it going to be OK? People are eagerly anticipating answers to those questions, and we are confident that it will be great.”
He expects the first surprise to be when people board the bus. “It’s extremely quiet.”
In Boulder County, the school district will study operation of its electric bus with an eye on cost savings. The district has 255 buses
ALT Fuels Colorado has been delivering grants for several years for electric and other vehicles that replace diesel vehicles 2009 or older. To be eligible, there must be a one-to-one trade-out.
The Vail Valley Foundation also was given $209,000 for an electric shuttle bus at the same time. Other school districts were given money for propane-burning buses.
Arriving as governor in January 2019, Jared Polis shifted funding, steering all Colorado’s $67.5 million share of the Volkswagen settlement into electric and renewable natural gas.
For example, both Waste Management and Western Disposal Services got grants for garbage trucks that will burn renewable natural gas, the latter from a sewage treatment plant in Boulder.
Grants have also been approved for electric buses: Steamboat Springs, Denver, Aspen (Country Day), and Durango. Aurora Public Schools have gotten funding for 7.
The city of Fort Collins has also received funding for an electric bus.
Matt Goble, program coordinator for ALT Fuels Colorado, says there’s a significant lag time between when a bus is ordered and when it is delivered. “Right now, there is a 6 to 8 month best-scenario,” he says.
Durango’s award may be unique in that the school district is partnering with La Plata Electric to do bus-to-grid charging. (A story coming in another issue of Big Pivots).
Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Chris Arend and Sara Leonard):
Colorado Establishes Water Equity Task Force
Task Force will help state better understand existing equity, diversity and inclusivity challenges involving Colorado water issues and inform the Colorado Water Plan
Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources announced today the establishment of a Water Equity Task Force to better understand existing equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) challenges in Colorado water issues and inform the Colorado Water Plan.
“In Colorado, water is the lifeblood of our state and critical for our economy, agriculture, wildlife and environment. This Task Force is another important piece in creating a Colorado for all and will inform our Colorado Water Plan by ensuring that future efforts in planning for Colorado’s water future are increasingly inclusive,” said Governor Polis. “I want to thank Director Gibbs and the Water Conservation Board for their leadership on these efforts and look forward to the work ahead.”
The 2005 Water for the 21st Century Act (HB 05-1177) ushered in a new area of regionally inclusive and collaborative water planning. That spirit was further codified in the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, which ensured that all water uses in Colorado are interconnected and of equal value. At the same time, Colorado has a broad and diverse populace who are not always represented in local stakeholder groups and who need to be engaged in the forthcoming Colorado Water Plan update (set for completion in 2022).
“2020 has highlighted the need to fundamentally address deeper societal issues – including equity in water policy decisions,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department Natural Resources. “This Task Force will build on the Governor’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Executive Order and efforts to build a climate equity structure; it is time to similarly create a water equity framework that can inform the Water Plan update.”
The Water Equity Task Force, managed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will bring together a group of 20 diverse stakeholders to meet over the next year to draft a set of concepts for consideration in the Colorado Water Plan update by the end of March 2022. The group will plan and develop a public workshop tentatively set for late 2021 to incorporate additional partners and voices to this effort. Details will be posted on the engagecwcb.org webpage.
“The Colorado Water Plan update will build on lessons learned, be more accessible, and will identify bold actions. I strongly support including equity considerations into our water planning to ensure that our efforts become more inclusive, welcoming, and communicative on a range of issues,” added Rebecca Mitchell, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director.
Members of the appointed Task Force include:
The 20-person Water Equity Task Force geographically represents the the legislatively defined nine basin regions across Colorado (representing each of the eight major river basins as well as the Denver metro area).
The membership includes nine water-experienced stakeholders with insights into Colorado’s current water planning efforts and basin roundtable structure, two members representing Colorado’s federally recognized Native American Tribes, the Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Ute tribes, and nine members representing community leaders not traditionally engaged in water issues.
Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups.
None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.
“To me that felt like it was a betrayal of the public trust,” she said. “I had been lying to people … unwittingly.”
Rogue, like most recycling companies, had been sending plastic trash to China, but when China shut its doors two years ago, Leebrick scoured the U.S. for buyers. She could find only someone who wanted white milk jugs. She sends the soda bottles to the state.
But when Leebrick tried to tell people the truth about burying all the other plastic, she says people didn’t want to hear it.
“I remember the first meeting where I actually told a city council that it was costing more to recycle than it was to dispose of the same material as garbage,” she says, “and it was like heresy had been spoken in the room: You’re lying. This is gold. We take the time to clean it, take the labels off, separate it and put it here. It’s gold. This is valuable.”
But it’s not valuable, and it never has been. And what’s more, the makers of plastic — the nation’s largest oil and gas companies — have known this all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite.
NPR and PBS Frontline spent months digging into internal industry documents and interviewing top former officials. We found that the industry sold the public on an idea it knew wouldn’t work — that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled — all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic.
The industry’s awareness that recycling wouldn’t keep plastic out of landfills and the environment dates to the program’s earliest days, we found. “There is serious doubt that [recycling plastic] can ever be made viable on an economic basis,” one industry insider wrote in a 1974 speech.
Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn’t true…
Here’s the basic problem: All used plastic can be turned into new things, but picking it up, sorting it out and melting it down is expensive. Plastic also degrades each time it is reused, meaning it can’t be reused more than once or twice.
On the other hand, new plastic is cheap. It’s made from oil and gas, and it’s almost always less expensive and of better quality to just start fresh.
All of these problems have existed for decades, no matter what new recycling technology or expensive machinery has been developed. In all that time, less than 10 percent of plastic has ever been recycled. But the public has known little about these difficulties.
It could be because that’s not what they were told.
Starting in the 1990s, the public saw an increasing number of commercials and messaging about recycling plastic…
These commercials carried a distinct message: Plastic is special, and the consumer should recycle it…
It may have sounded like an environmentalist’s message, but the ads were paid for by the plastics industry, made up of companies like Exxon, Chevron, Dow, DuPont and their lobbying and trade organizations in Washington.
Industry companies spent tens of millions of dollars on these ads and ran them for years, promoting the benefits of a product that, for the most part, was buried, was burned or, in some cases, wound up in the ocean.
Documents show industry officials knew this reality about recycling plastic as far back as the 1970s.
Many of the industry’s old documents are housed in libraries, such as the one on the grounds of the first DuPont family home in Delaware. Others are with universities, where former industry leaders sent their records.
At Syracuse University, there are boxes of files from a former industry consultant. And inside one of them is a report written in April 1973 by scientists tasked with forecasting possible issues for top industry executives.
Recycling plastic, it told the executives, was unlikely to happen on a broad scale…
And there are more documents, echoing decades of this knowledge, including one analysis from a top official at the industry’s most powerful trade group. “The costs of separating plastics … are high,” he tells colleagues, before noting that the cost of using oil to make plastic is so low that recycling plastic waste “can’t yet be justified economically.”
Larry Thomas, the former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry, worked side by side with top oil and plastics executives.
He’s retired now, on the coast of Florida where he likes to bike, and feels conflicted about the time he worked with the plastics industry…
Thomas took over back in the late 1980s, and back then, plastic was in a crisis. There was too much plastic trash. The public was getting upset…
So began the plastics industry’s $50 million-a-year ad campaign promoting the benefits of plastic.
“Presenting the possibilities of plastic!” one iconic ad blared, showing kids in bike helmets and plastic bags floating in the air.
“This advertising was motivated first and foremost by legislation and other initiatives that were being introduced in state legislatures and sometimes in Congress,” Freeman says, “to ban or curb the use of plastics because of its performance in the waste stream.”
At the same time, the industry launched a number of feel-good projects, telling the public to recycle plastic. It funded sorting machines, recycling centers, nonprofits, even expensive benches outside grocery stores made out of plastic bags.
Few of these projects actually turned much plastic into new things.
NPR tracked down almost a dozen projects the industry publicized starting in 1989. All of them shuttered or failed by the mid-1990s. Mobil’s Massachusetts recycling facility lasted three years, for example. Amoco’s project to recycle plastic in New York schools lasted two. Dow and Huntsman’s highly publicized plan to recycle plastic in national parks made it to seven out of 419 parks before the companies cut funding.
None of them was able to get past the economics: Making new plastic out of oil is cheaper and easier than making it out of plastic trash.
Both Freeman and Thomas, the head of the lobbying group, say the executives all knew that…
The industry created a special group called the Council for Solid Waste Solutions and brought a man from DuPont, Ron Liesemer, over to run it.
Liesemer’s job was to at least try to make recycling work — because there was some hope, he said, however unlikely, that maybe if they could get recycling started, somehow the economics of it all would work itself out.
“I had no staff, but I had money,” Liesemer says. “Millions of dollars.”
Liesemer took those millions out to Minnesota and other places to start local plastic recycling programs.
But then he ran into the same problem all the industry documents found. Recycling plastic wasn’t making economic sense: There were too many different kinds of plastic, hundreds of them, and they can’t be melted down together. They have to be sorted out…
Industry documents from this time show that just a couple of years earlier, starting in 1989, oil and plastics executives began a quiet campaign to lobby almost 40 states to mandate that the symbol appear on all plastic — even if there was no way to economically recycle it. Some environmentalists also supported the symbol, thinking it would help separate plastic.
Smith said what it did was make all plastic look recyclable.
“The consumers were confused,” Smith says. “It totally undermined our credibility, undermined what we knew was the truth in our community, not the truth from a lobbying group out of D.C.”
But the lobbying group in D.C. knew the truth in Smith’s community too. A report given to top officials at the Society of the Plastics Industry in 1993 told them about the problems.
“The code is being misused,” it says bluntly. “Companies are using it as a ‘green’ marketing tool.”
The code is creating “unrealistic expectations” about how much plastic can actually be recycled, it told them.
Smith and his colleagues launched a national protest, started a working group and fought the industry for years to get the symbol removed or changed. They lost…
In response, industry officials told NPR that the code was only ever meant to help recycling facilities sort plastic and was not intended to create any confusion.
Without question, plastic has been critical to the country’s success. It’s cheap and durable, and it’s a chemical marvel.
It’s also hugely profitable. The oil industry makes more than $400 billion a year making plastic, and as demand for oil for cars and trucks declines, the industry is telling shareholders that future profits will increasingly come from plastic.
And if there was a sign of this future, it’s a brand-new chemical plant that rises from the flat skyline outside Sweeny, Texas. It’s so new that it’s still shiny, and inside the facility, the concrete is free from stains…
Larry Thomas, Lew Freeman and Ron Liesemer, former industry executives, helped oil companies out of the first plastic crisis by getting people to believe something the industry knew then wasn’t true: That most plastic could be and would be recycled.
Russell says this time will be different.
“It didn’t get recycled because the system wasn’t up to par,” he says. “We hadn’t invested in the ability to sort it and there hadn’t been market signals that companies were willing to buy it, and both of those things exist today.”
But plastic today is harder to sort than ever: There are more kinds of plastic, it’s cheaper to make plastic out of oil than plastic trash and there is exponentially more of it than 30 years ago.
And during those 30 years, oil and plastic companies made billions of dollars in profit as the public consumed ever more quantities of plastic.
Russell doesn’t dispute that.
“And during that time, our members have invested in developing the technologies that have brought us where we are today,” he says. “We are going to be able to make all of our new plastic out of existing municipal solid waste in plastic.”
Analysts now expect plastic production to triple by 2050.
Here’s the release from the NRCS (Brianna Randall):
One out of every three acres in the U.S. is rangeland. Two-thirds of these are privately owned, mainly by ranchers who graze their livestock in the open country of the American West.
Our rangelands produce premium beef, wool, and dairy. But it’s the plants that feed these livestock that are the foundation for profitable agriculture in the West.
But ranchers haven’t had a good way to measure how their grass is faring — until now.
The Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP), developed in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the University of Montana, allows producers to track changes in the amount and types of plants growing on their property.
RAP is a free online resource that provides data on vegetation trends across the West from the mid-1980s to the present; and it calculates how productive those plants are. A combination of long-term datasets shows landowners how their lands have changed over time, which translates directly into their operation’s profitability.
“We can finally quantify outcomes of rangeland conservation in terms of dollars and cents,” says Tim Griffiths, western coordinator for NRCS’s Working Lands for Wildlife.
Closing the gap to boost grass growth
Farmers in the central and eastern U.S. have been using technology to track changes in crop production for decades. As soon as they see that their plant productivity is declining — and revenues following suit — they can take steps to address the limitations and boost productivity again.
RAP provides the same power to ranchers.
RAP can show ranchers the gap between their potential production and the actual production they realize in terms of pounds-per-acre of grass. It helps landowners understand how much they can potentially gain by changing management practices to boost available forage and close the gap.
Landowners can see how their plant production has changed in a single month or over the span of several years. The technology can be used to visualize plant productivity in an area as small as a baseball diamond or as large as several states.
“Basically, RAP can prevent lost revenues by showing producers where their land is less effective at growing grass. It helps ranchers put the right practices in the right places,” says Brady Allred, a University of Montana researcher who helped develop RAP.
Preventing trees from robbing ranchers
One of the main threats to production and profitability on western rangelands is the expansion of trees onto grasslands. From eastern redcedar destroying tallgrass prairie to juniper marching across sagebrush grazing lands, woody species are costing producers millions of dollars in lost forage.
For example, the now-forested property in Nebraska pictured here produced zero pounds/acre of grass in 2014. But in 1985, RAP reveals that same property produced 2,200 pounds/acre of grass — before eastern redcedar consumed the once-fertile prairie.
“Last year, we quantified that western rangelands missed out on tens of billions of pounds of forage due to trees taking over prairies and shrub lands since 1990,” says Dirac Twidwell, rangeland ecologist at the University of Nebraska and science advisor for NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife.
This yield gap, says Twidwell is “costing producers hundreds of millions in lost revenue each year.”
Take the Flint Hills of Kansas, America’s most productive grasslands and the fourth-largest intact prairie left in the world. In 2019, RAP shows that this region produced 21.3 billion pounds of forage.
But RAP also shows that ranchers in the Flint Hills lost another billion pounds of forage in 2019 due to encroaching trees. That adds up to nearly 800,000 round-bales of hay lost last year.
Put in terms of dollars, those unwanted trees cost Kansas producers $8.3 million in lost revenue in a single year.
Stemming the tide of trees with technology
Using RAP’s satellite imagery, ranchers across Nebraska are burning seeds and saplings before they become trees; and in Kansas, ranchers are using RAP to cut trees across ownership boundaries to restore prime grass grazing lands.
New technology like RAP helps us “help the land” in order to sustain wildlife, provide food and fiber, and support agricultural families long into the future.
FromThe Colorado Springs Gazette (Seth Boster) via The Tri-Lakes Tribune:
Sometimes when Jennifer Barfield is having a bad day, she’ll drive north of her Colorado State University lab.
“I’ll end up in a pasture,” she said — a pasture of bison that she helped bring here to this rolling, open canvas near the Wyoming border.
Barfield, an assistant professor specializing in conservation biology and reproductive physiology, will stand at a distance and watch some of the 100 or so woolly members of this one-of-a-kind group in Colorado. Occasionally the bison come close, so close she can listen to them breathe and chew grass.
“It’s no secret I’m pretty attached to the animals we have in our herd,” Barfield said. “So sometimes when challenges arise or things are difficult … it helps me just to go out and spend some time with them. They’re very calm and peaceful and reassuring.
“And, yeah, I really feel like I draw a lot of my motivation and strength from reminding myself of what we’ve done, and that it’s a good thing, and being out there with the animals just really confirms that for me.”
A multigovernment collaboration based in Fort Collins calls this a conservation herd, genetic flag-bearers of the original, once-proud bison that roamed the plains in the millions before being hunted to near extinction during white man’s westward expansion. Descendants of those indigenous bison have been largely confined to Yellowstone National Park. They reportedly occupy less than 1% of their historic range.
But with assisted reproductive technologies steered by Barfield, a growing number of bison with those heirloom genes have set hoof again in Colorado and beyond — pure relatives, without cattle inbreeding.
Five years ago, on the contiguous lands of Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space, the conservation herd began with a male calf and nine adult females, some of which were the result of artificial pregnancies. Sperm and eggs from Yellowstone bison were cleaned by Barfield and her team preceding embryo transfer. This was to ensure the removal of the pathogen causing brucellosis, the disease notoriously plaguing that herd…
The sperm and egg cleaning treatment was built upon decades of technological advancements at Colorado State. Assisted reproduction development was mostly for the sake of livestock; techniques are routine in the beef and dairy industries, similar to the in vitro fertilization process people know.
It just so happened that land managers of Soapstone and Red Mountain had been looking for native herbivores. Grazing, managers knew, was important to soil and vegetation and overall ecological balance — balance that prevailed before these lands were bison kill sites in the 1800s, their bones left behind.
But there was an even greater mission hatched here five years ago, said Meegan Flenniken, with Larimer County’s Natural Resources Department.
“Our ultimate goal was really to create a herd that could act as a seed herd, to help establish bison with these heritage genetics elsewhere,” she said…
The lineage late last year expanded to a nature preserve in southeastern Colorado, where 10 bison of the conservation herd were transplanted. In the coming months, a bigger group is due for protected prairie in Montana.
Back in the 1980s, Berners-Lee envisioned the web as a network of community-minded academic researchers sharing their knowledge quickly and conveniently across the world. The main mechanism for this was the hyperlink – text that, when clicked on, led readers to something they were interested in, or to supporting material on the actual source’s website. This meant information was freely exchanged, with attribution. The priority was helping users find the material they wanted, wherever it was online.
Berners-Lee’s design serves the reader, but not everyone was as public-spirited: Companies like Facebook have been moving away from this principle since the web’s founding. These corporate platforms are designed to capture and dominate users’ attention – and turn it into money.
On Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, users’ options are even more restricted. People can post photos and text, but cannot directly share links to other websites. The only active links in a post are internal, for tagging others on Instagram and hashtags.
In my view, both cases show that Facebook doesn’t really want an interconnected web: It wants to keep its users on its own platforms. Facebook displays valuable information, but if people don’t click through, or there is nothing to effectively click on, then those who actually created the content will continue to have a hard time making money off their work.
Possible ways forward
The situation in Australia is a significant opportunity to examine how much power Facebook has over the ways people can seek information online.
Or news organizations could negotiate with Facebook directly in deals and avoid restrictive laws, as the proposed legislation is not even final yet.
News publishers could also ask regulators to help them gain more control over how news content is presented on platforms to increase link referral traffic, which is key to generating revenue. A return to simpler hyperlinks – and adding them to Instagram – could help more users click through on news stories while preserving the principles of the web. Just because advanced technology exists doesn’t mean it’s helpful in all situations or good. But then again, a basic old-timey solution may not work for those trapped in the “attention economy.
Editor’s note: The Conversation U.S. is an independent media nonprofit, one of eight news organizations around the world that share a common mission, brand and publishing platform. The Conversation Australia has publicly lobbied in support of the Australian government’s proposal.
A famous whitewater river in northern Quebec is the first place in Canada to be declared a person, legally speaking, under a new environmental strategy that’s taken off in some other countries.
The Magpie River in Quebec’s Cote-Nord was given legal personhood through twin resolutions by the local Innu council and by the local municipality of Minganie.
That united front, along with the river’s fame, makes it a “perfect test case” in Canada for the idea, according to a Montreal organization specializing in this legal tactic.
As a legal person, the river has nine distinct rights and the possibility of having legal guardians, said the groups in a joint press release…
The idea of treating parts of nature—places or animals—as persons under the law has become increasingly popular in some places, particularly in New Zealand, where Maori groups and that country’s federal government have together created the new status.
In one example, in 2017, New Zealand’s parliament passed legislation declaring the Whanganui River a legal person in the first-ever such case in the world.
It recognized the river, which is almost exactly the same length as the Magpie, as an indivisible, living being and conferred upon it the same rights and responsibilities as a human being.
The act also ended a long-running claims process between the government and Maori.
“It’s a shift of paradigm,” Yenny Vega Cardenas, one of the project’s leaders, told CTV News.
Cardenas is the president of the International Observatory on the Rights of Nature (IORN), which is based in Montreal and drafted the legal resolutions along with the rest of the group.
The idea isn’t just granting rights or protecting the river for future generations, she said, but “recognizing that… we are not the masters of the universe, over nature,” but that the relationship between humans and their environment is far more complicated and intertwined, she said.
The other countries where the strategy has been most used, other than New Zealand, are Ecuador and the U.S., she said.
The U.S. is also the one place where a high-profile effort recently failed: the town of Toledo passed a resolution declaring Lake Erie a person, in order to help them create stronger protections for the lake after toxic algae made the water undrinkable for a period in 2014.
A federal court struck down that resolution last year, saying it was too broad.
The river, almost 300 kilometres long, is famous for a series of rapids that have made it an international destination for whitewater enthusiasts—National Geographic ranked it among the world’s top 10 whitewater rivers.
But that same energy has also put it on the radar of Hydro-Quebec, the province’s state-owned energy corporation that has harnessed huge swaths of northern Quebec and its powerful rivers for hydroelectricity.
There is already one generating station on the Magpie, opened in 2007 by Hydro-Quebec and then sold in 2013 to smaller renewable energy company Innergex, which now owns it in partnership with the Minganie municipality.
However, Hydro-Quebec has shown interest in the river since then, including the river in its strategic plan about a decade ago and sparking a long battle over the idea of new dams on the river. Hydro-Quebec plans abandoned those plans in 2017, saying it didn’t need the extra energy.
In their press release, the groups involved said that their recent move is new way of trying to secure long-term protection for the river, given its appeal for energy producers.
The need to protect the river “has received regional consensus,” the groups wrote, “but the plan to declare the river a protected area has been thwarted for years by state-owned Hydro-Québec, due to the waterway’s hydroelectric potential.”
Hydro-Quebec told CTV that they have indeed “identified it as a river with potential,” and they would like to keep options open to be able to use it for hydropower, but there’s no simmering conflict over it right now.
“We understand that these people made a clear statement about their intention to protect this river,” said Hydro-Quebec spokesman Francis Labbé…
The leader of another Quebec environmental group said the personhood move comes after foot-dragging by the province.
It’s “a way for us to take matters into our own hands and stop waiting for the Quebec government to protect this unique river,” said Alain Branchaud, director of the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
Farmington, a city of 45,000 in the northwestern corner of New Mexico, has run on a fossil fuel economy for a century. It is one of the only places on the planet where a 26-kiloton nuclear device was detonated underground to free up natural gas from the rock.
The city’s baseball team was called the Frackers, and a home run hit out of their practice park was likely to land next to a pack of gas wells. The community’s economy and identity are so tied up with fossil fuels that the place should probably try a new name like Carbonton, Methanedale or Drillsville.
Over the last decade, however, the oil and gas rollercoaster here has shuddered nearly to a halt, and one of two giant coal-fired power plants is about to shut down. The carbon corporations that have been exploiting the local labor and landscape for decades are fleeing, taking thousands of jobs with them. Left behind are gaping coal-mine wounds, rotting infrastructure and well-pad scars oozing methane.
The pattern of abandonment is mirrored in communities from Wyoming to Utah to Western Colorado to the Navajo Nation. Community leaders scramble to find solutions. Some cling to what they know, throwing their weight behind schemes to keep coal viable, such as carbon capture, while others bank on outdoor recreation, tourism and cottage industries.
Yet one solution to the woes rarely comes up in these conversations: Restoration as economic development.
Why not put unemployed miners and drillers back to work reclaiming closed coal mines and plugging up idled or low-producing oil and gas wells?
The EPA estimates that there are some 2 million unplugged abandoned wells nationwide, many of them leaking methane, the greenhouse gas with 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide, along with health-harming volatile organic compounds and even deadly hydrogen sulfide.
Hundreds of thousands of additional wells are still active, yet have been idled or are marginal producers, and they will also need plugging and reclaiming.
Oilfield service companies and their employees have the skills and equipment needed and could go back to work immediately. A 2020 report from the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy found that a nationwide well-plugging program could employ more than 100,000 high-wage workers.
Massive coal mines are also shutting down and will need to be reclaimed. Northern Arizona’s Kayenta Mine, owned by coal-giant Peabody, shut down in late 2019, along with the Navajo Generating Station, resulting in the loss of nearly 300 jobs. The Western Organization of Resource Councils estimated that proper reclamation of the mine could keep most of those miners employed for an additional two to three years.
Peabody, however, still has not begun to meet its reclamation obligations. This is a failure not only on Peabody’s part but also of the federal mining regulators who should be holding the company’s feet to the fire.
Who will pay for all of this? Mining and drilling companies are required to put up financial bonds in order to get development permits, and they’re forfeited if the companies fail to properly reclaim the well or mine. Unfortunately, these bonds are almost always inadequate.
A Government Accountability Office report found that the Bureau of Land Management held about $2,000 in bonds, on average, for each well on federal land. Yet the cost to plug and reclaim each well ranges from $20,000 to $145,000. An example: In New Mexico, a company can put up as little as $2,500 per well that costs at least $35,000 to plug.
Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet tried to remedy this last year by crafting a bill that would increase bonds and create a fund for plugging abandoned wells. Republicans kept the bill from progressing, but with an administration that touted reclamation of mines and abandoned wells in a climate-related executive order, and a new Senate in place, the bill stands a good chance of going forward.
Economic development focusing on restoring the land once miners leave is a natural fit for beleaguered towns suffering the latest bust. Plus, by patching up the torn landscape these communities will help clear the path for other types of economic development, such as tourism or recreation.
“Restoration work is not fixing beautiful machinery … It is accepting an abandoned responsibility,” wrote Barry Lopez, the renowned nature writer who died recently. “It is a humble and often joyful mending of biological ties, with a hope clearly recognized that working from this foundation we might, too, begin to mend human society.”
The San Juan structural basin is primarily in New Mexico and the southeast corner of the Colorado Plateau. By US Geological Survey – Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the San Juan Basin Province of New Mexico and Colorado, 2002, USGS Fact Sheet FS-147-02, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5749904
San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.
Navajo Generating Station and the cloud of smog with which it blankets the region. Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson via The High Country News
Navajo Generating Station. Photo credit: Wolfgang Moroder.
Navajo Nation. Image via Cronkite News.
The Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.Photo credit Mike Robinson via the University of Washington.
Fly fishers on the San Juan River below the Navajo Dam.U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Biden/Harris supporter Cindy Honani stands outside the Navajo Nation Council Chamber while holding a sign above her head to protect herself from the snow in Window Rock in late October. Sharon Chischilly/Navajo Times via The High Country News
Here’s the release from the Colorado State Forest Service:
Forest managers are working together to address continued outbreaks of insects and disease in Colorado’s forests, including the spruce beetle, which remains the most damaging forest pest in the state for the ninth consecutive year, based on a 2020 aerial detection survey led by the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, and Colorado State Forest Service.
Every year, the agencies aerially monitor forest health conditions on millions of forested acres across the state. Today, the agencies released the results of last year’s aerial survey and survey map.
Due to pandemic safety protocols in 2020, trained aerial observers with the USFS and CSFS only flew over priority areas where there was a likelihood of forest pests causing widespread tree mortality.
In total, they monitored 16.3 million acres from the air, compared to 30.2 million acres in 2019.
Because of the reduced acreage observed, total numbers of affected acres are not included in the findings or in the forthcoming 2020 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests since comparisons between 2020 and other years are not possible.
Impacts from Native Bark Beetles
Despite the modified flights, observers were able to detect and track pests infesting areas of forests that were previously unaffected, including the spruce beetle and Douglas-fir beetle. While the intensity of these two native bark beetles decreased in 2020, they continue to infest and kill previously unaffected stands.
The Spruce beetle affects high-elevation Engelmann spruce. Primary areas impacted by this insect include newly infested forests in eastern Gunnison and western Chaffee counties. Both counties are experiencing severe, intense infestations. Spruce beetle populations also increased in Hinsdale, San Juan and La Plata counties. Beetle outbreaks in Huerfano and Custer counties continue to expand as well, though not as rapidly. In Grand County, the intensity of infestations has declined from past years as the beetle continuously depletes large-diameter spruce trees. Since 2000, the spruce beetle has affected at least 1.88 million forested acres in Colorado.
The Douglas-fir beetle continued to invade Douglas-fir trees in central and southern Colorado, particularly in Gunnison, Saguache, Hinsdale and Mineral counties, where infestations are severe.
Spurred by Drought Conditions
Weather continues to play an important role in creating conditions that exacerbate the activity of spruce and Douglas-fir beetles, as well as other forest pests, in Colorado. The amount of precipitation and daily temperature patterns affect how well trees can ward off pests to remain healthy and resilient. In 2020, winter and spring had average precipitation amounts. Thereafter, severe and extreme drought conditions across most of the state occurred through the summer and fall, further weakening trees and intensifying infestations of bark beetles and other forest pests.
“Unfortunately, our dry conditions are optimal for insect epidemics and tree diseases in many parts of the Rocky Mountains,” said Tammy Angel, Acting Regional Forester for the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. “Where possible, managing forests for age and species diversity can increase resiliency while ensuring diverse wildlife habitat, cleaner air and water, timber and grazing resources, and greener, safer landscapes for recreation.”
Spurred by drought conditions, the roundheaded pine beetle and associated native bark beetles continue to affect ponderosa pine forests in Dolores and La Plata counties in southwest Colorado. The intensity of this activity remains high in localized areas of the San Juan National Forest. Further to the south, pockets of affected areas within La Plata County are expanding.
The aerial survey also revealed that western spruce budworm continues to be Colorado’s most damaging and widespread forest defoliator. Budworm infested forests in south-central Colorado continue to experience intense disturbance. Over several years, defoliation from this insect may weaken a tree to the point where bark beetles can easily overcome the tree and kill it.
“Colorado’s forests are vital to the economic and ecological health of our state,” said Mike Lester, state forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service. “Our partnership with the USDA Forest Service on the aerial survey offers another great example of how we can effectively address forest health issues that span property boundaries by working together, like bark beetle outbreaks. With information from the survey, we better understand the health of our forests and can focus our efforts where they’ll make the biggest impact.”
The aerial survey exemplifies the agencies’ continued support for shared stewardship and the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2019, which establishes a framework for federal and state agencies to work collaboratively to accomplish mutual goals and respond to ecological, natural resource, and recreational challenges and concerns for the 24.4 million acres of forestlands in Colorado.
For more information on the insects and diseases of Colorado’s forests, and support for landowners seeking to achieve healthier forests, contact your local CSFS field office or visit http://csfs.colostate.edu.
The Roaring Fork Valley experienced a spread of Douglas fir, spruce and western balsam bark beetles last year but the infestations remained light compared to many other parts of the state, according to the latest assessment…
“I can share (that the) spruce beetle has moved into the Aspen area, particularly in the northern reaches of the Elk Mountains,” Dan West, forest entomologist with the state forest service, wrote in an email…
The aerial survey indicated the White River National Forest had about 160 acres of new spruce beetle activity that was detectable from the air. The infestation is likely more widespread, he said, because what can be seen from the air is usually less than what’s occurring on the ground.
The survey also determined that the Douglas-fir beetle infestation has intensified because of the Lake Christine Fire of July 2018 on Basalt Mountain.
“Moderately scorched trees are havens for bark beetles, and the trees along the burn perimeter were likely brood trees for these beetles,” West said.
Forest health assessments are vital because Colorado’s forests have come under pressure from climate change. Warmer temperatures and unpredictable precipitation levels are stressing trees, said Adam McCurdy, forest and climate director at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
He said Douglas-fir beetles have been a slow but growing problem primarily downvalley from Aspen, with spot infestations in Castle Creek Valley, the ridges north and east of Snowmass Canyon and the Fryingpan Valley…
McCurdy said Douglas fir trees have proven in the past to be resilient because they are hardier in a warmer climate. Recent droughts and warm temperatures have stressed them.
West agreed that drought in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout Colorado has made Douglas firs more vulnerable to beetles. Last year’s weather pattern added to the problem.
McCurdy pointed out that intense Douglas-fir beetle infestations are on the doorstep of Pitkin County, in eastern Gunnison County.
In addition to Douglas-fir infestations, the aerial survey map shows small outbreaks of western balsam bark beetles in higher elevations of the Independence Pass corridor as well as Castle and Maroon creek valleys. Sub-alpine fir trees are vulnerable to the western balsam bark beetles. There are also a few small pockets of spruce beetle infestations in the Roaring Fork watershed.
White River National Forest officials were concerned about a potential spruce beetle outbreak after a landmark avalanche cycle in March 2019. The slides wiped out untold acres of mature spruce and other trees in areas such as Conundrum Creek Valley and Lincoln Creek Valley.
West said there is limited potential for the debris piles to host an infestation…
The Colorado State Forest Service also identified disease in Colorado’s signature aspen trees as another emerging problem in 2020, largely because of drought.
McCurdy said there is ample evidence of aspen stands experiencing problems in the Aspen area: the Cemetery Lane side of Sunnyside Trail, upper Buttermilk and the west side of Castle Creek Valley downvalley from Toklat Lodge among them.
The White River National Forest announced Thursday a major proposal for a decades-long aspen management plan. The 2.3-million-acre forest contains an estimated 600,000 acres of aspen trees. About 375,000 acres are targeted for timber harvesting and prescribed fire to maintain and expand aspen stands.
A high-elevation spruce beetle-affected forest. Photo credit: Seth Davis via Colorado State University
Nearly every mature spruce tree has been killed by spruce beetle in this area of the Rio Grande National Forest in southwest Colorado. (Credit: U.S. Forest Service; photo: Brian Howell)
Some of the threats climate change poses to Colorado: shorter winters, forests killed by invasive pine beetles, and habitat loss for the Pika, which thrives in cold, high-altitude environments. Photo credit Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.
Area above Dillon Reservoir, seen in the upper left, before thinning and then after. Photos/Denver Water
Forest ecosystems around the world are under the gun from climate change, development, insect invasions and conversion to agriculture. This stand of lodgepoles in Colorado was clear cut after pine beetles killed most of the trees.
A scene in Summit County, between Farmers’ Corner and Summit Cove, overlooking Dillon Reservoir, both pre-treatment and afterward.
From Denver Botanic Gardens (Jennifer Ramp Neale):
Denver Botanic Gardens is more than just a place for peace, respite and beauty; it is a scientific institution. Between our Horticulture and Research & Conservation departments, we are home to more than two dozen women scientists. As we celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science today, we want to acknowledge the passion, leadership and dedication of our scientists.
I asked my colleagues how they see themselves as women in science, what role they think they may play in training the next generation of scientists and where they received their own training. Our backgrounds and expertise are as varied as the plants in our gardens. There is not one way to describe a scientist. Some of us have been in our career for decades whereas others are still in training. Most of us followed a fairly traditional educational path involving an undergraduate degree followed by graduate school, but some of us arrived at the Gardens after careers in other industries or after discovering a love of plants through life experiences.
One thing we all have in common is a love of observation and asking questions. Inquiry and creativity are, after all, at the heart of all scientific endeavors. We wouldn’t have the knowledge to identify a plant on a hike or grow plants in the Gardens without constant inquiry and seeking out knowledge. Science is the process of trial and error and learning and growing from those experiences.
One thing that many of our scientists commented on is the support networks they have found within their fields and the intense desire to give back to future generations by serving as mentors and supporters of young women and girls with an interest in science.
We are lucky to work in an environment where we are supported and respected. Very few of us feel like we are in the minority as women scientists, but we know this is not the case for all women pursuing scientific careers. We take great pride in our role as mentors, teachers and champions of the next generation of women scientists. We can all name a mentor along the way who supported us and showed us that we could be a scientist. It is now our job to continue to provide opportunities for those interested in science, to show them all the different ways someone can be a scientist, and to continue to share our passion and love for plants, fungi and nature with those we are lucky enough to meet along their journey.
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
Jim Broderick honored by Colorado Water Congress with Wayne N. Aspinall Award
Jim Broderick, a Pueblo native who has spearheaded regional and state water projects for nearly two decades, was given the top honor at the 2021 Colorado Water Congress convention.
Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, was presented the 2021 Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” award at the CWC virtual water conference Tuesday.
“What a great honor,” Broderick said, after being surprised by the award. “Let me thank the past winners for this award. I’d also like to thank the Southeastern Board of Directors for giving me the opportunity to do the work I love to do. I have been privileged to have people on staff who have helped me… Most of all, I thank my wife (Cindy) and daughter (Amy).”
“I couldn’t be more honored to present this award,” said Christine Arbogast, a water consultant who received the Aspinall Award in 2020. She grew up in Pueblo at the same time as Broderick, and works for the Southeastern District.
Pueblo dam releases
The exterior of the James W. Broderick Hydroelectric Power Facility at Pueblo Dam, which began producing electricity this week. Photo credit: Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District
Arkansas Valley Conduit “A Path Forward” November 22, 2019 via Southeastern.
Southeastern Board President Bill Long praised Broderick for advancing the Excess Capacity Master Contract for storage in Pueblo Reservoir, hydroelectric power at Pueblo Dam, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit, as well as other District improvements.
Eric Wilkinson, retired executive director of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and an Aspinall Award recipient himself, praised Broderick for his service to Water Congress.
Also on hand for the presentation were Southeastern Board Members Alan Hamel (a 2012 Aspinall recipient), Kevin Karney and Seth Clayton, who were gathered for a presentation on AVC immediately following the Aspinall presentation.
Broderick said he had no idea he was there for anything other than the AVC presentation.
Although about 250 people were in the virtual meeting at the time, only a few were in the Zoom meeting room with Broderick. Normally, there would be a larger crowd, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, only a few presenters were on-screen during the presentation.
Broderick was named executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District on November 1, 2002. The Southeastern District is the state authority for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which was created by an Act of Congress in 1962. Its primary purpose is to deliver a supplemental supply of water to the Arkansas River basin from the upper reaches of the Colorado River.
At the helm of the Southeastern District, Broderick completed the Excess Capacity Master Contract for storage in Pueblo Reservoir. The contract enables stakeholders to store non-Project water in Pueblo Reservoir for 40 years when space is available. The Master Contract covers environmental compliance issues which otherwise would require annual analysis, and firms up storage options for participants.
Broderick oversaw the construction of a 7.5-megawatt hydroelectric power plant at Pueblo Dam under a Lease of Power Privilege with the Bureau of Reclamation. The facility opened in 2019 and the Southeastern Board voted to name the James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant in his honor. The plant provides a source of clean energy, which is being purchased by the city of Fountain and Fort Carson (through Colorado Springs Utilities).
Broderick revived the Arkansas Valley Conduit project, meeting with stakeholders for a decade, shepherding the AVC through the NEPA process, working with Reclamation to develop AVC, and tirelessly urging Congress to fund the AVC. Those efforts paid off in 2020 with the first federal appropriation for construction of the AVC, which will begin by early 2022. The AVC will be a 130-mile long pipeline that will provide fresh drinking water to 40 communities with 50,000 people east of Pueblo.
Broderick in 2020 completed a two-year term as President of the Colorado River Water Users Association, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides a forum to exchange ideas and perspectives on the Colorado River. Its members include Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and the Ten Tribes Partnership. The group also works closely with Mexico. During his tenure at the helm, the seven states reached a Drought Contingency Plans agreement that describes how states will operate if there is a shortfall of water on the Colorado River basin.
Broderick is past president of the Colorado Water Congress and Arkansas Basin Roundtable. He is also a member of the National Water Resources Association and Family Farm Alliance.
He also served as a director for the Arizona Water and Pollution Control Association from 1996-1999, resided as president on the board from 2001-2002, chaired the Arizona Section of AWWA from 2001-2002., and was President of the Arizona section of WEF from 2001-2002.
Prior to joining the Southeastern District, Broderick was the Business Administrator for Tucson Water which served 700,000 customers at the time in Tucson, Arizona. In that position, he oversaw Financial Services, Operations & Maintenance Budgets, Capital Budgets, Rate and Revenues analysis, Asset Management, Information Technology Systems, Customer Service and Billing, Enterprise Call Center, Meter Reading, Demand-side Energy Efficiency Planning and reengineering for a multi-site operations.