The 2013 ‘State of the Rockies Report Card’ is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

February 2, 2014

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Click here to go to the download page at Colorado College. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado River Basin, covering a major portion of the eight-state Rockies region and extending into Mexico, has been the unified focus for all parts to the State of the Rockies Project during summer 2011 and the 2011-12 academic year and again for summer 2012 and 2012-13 attention. This basin encompasses portions of seven states in the American Southwest and continues into Mexico, supplying water to households, communities, businesses and farms, as well as natural ecosystems. Roughly 40 million people rely on the river for water, energy, food, and healthy ecosystems. Climate studies indicate the potential for inadequate water supplies throughout the 1,700-mile river system from the ori- gins of the Green River high in Wyoming’s Wind River Range to its historic outlet over the Colorado River Delta, emptying into the Sea of Cortez. Along its twisted path arise majestic mountains, deep canyons, tributaries, and a wealth of flora and fauna. The basin is indeed a natural treasure of world- class caliber, but heavily threatened. We have dedicated two years of focus on the Colorado River Basin in order to help assure that the next generation inherits a natural and economic system as spectacular, diverse, and bountiful as has existed in the past, but is in transition today. The changes currently underway and those needed for the future must have new voices, especially those of today’s youth, for they will live with the results.

More education coverage here.


State of the Rockies Project: Episode 5 — A New Way Downstream #ColoradoRiver

June 5, 2013

Take the time to watch the video. Will and Zak do a great job telling the story of the Colorado River Basin in these times. Join them in navigating Lake Powell on a solar raft.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


State of the Rockies Project: Whither climate variability in the Colorado River basin?

April 16, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Climate variability was one of the areas student researchers at Colorado College included in this year’s “State of the Rockies” report card, unveiled last week. The students recommended legal changes and management options that maintain the sustainability of the river.

It’s important to the Arkansas River basin because more than half of the water supply for its largest cities, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, comes from the Colorado River. Some of the water for farms is also imported, and the additional water has improved recreation opportunities in the Arkansas River basin. Without imports from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Twin Lakes and other transmountain diversions, the cities would further dip into the water supplies used for agriculture and recreation that sustain the rest of the Arkansas Valley. “Generally arid climate makes the Colorado River basin particularly susceptible to climate variability,” the Colorado College report states.

The wide swing in water availability has little to do with the well-publicized — sometimes disputed — warnings of global warming in the 21st century. Instead, knowledge of past conditions is tied to a growing body of scientific evidence found in tree-ring studies. Trees add more growth when times are wet, and are an accurate indicator of drought…

In recent talks, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs said those who drafted the Colorado Compact realized the variability of flows in the river and tried to account for the difference in wet and dry years. “This idea that we don’t have to build new reservoirs — forgive me — doesn’t hold water,” Hobbs said…

“I’ve often wondered what the Anasazi thought when they packed up and left,” said John Stulp, water policy adviser for Gov. John Hickenlooper, at a water conference earlier this year. “If I could go back and tell the chief that Colorado would have a population of 5 million people in 2012 that would double in 50 years, what would he think? Yet today, we have the same water resources as Mother Nature chooses to drop on us.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


State of the Rockies Project: ‘It’s so hard to imagine when you look at the river as it passes through Glenwood Springs that it just dries up at the Mexico border’ — Zak Podmore

April 15, 2012

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

“Where there used to be 3,000 square miles of wetlands in the Colorado River delta, there is now less than 10 percent remaining,” Podmore described. “It’s so hard to imagine when you look at the river as it passes through Glenwood Springs that it just dries up at the Mexico border,” he said. Podmore and Stauffer-Norris, both 23, paddled their kayaks 1,700 miles from the Colorado River Basin headwaters on the Green River to the Gulf of California…

In Mexico, the river turns into a complicated series of canals. Then, much of the final stages of the trek involved hiking through desert farmlands, mud flats and dried-up river beds before they finally reached the beach on the Sea of Cortez. “No hay agua en El Rio Colorado.” Those were the words of a Mexican fisherman they encountered one day late in the journey as they pulled their kayaks from one of the canals. “There’s no water in the Colorado River.”[...]

“The lower river just gets more interesting,” Will Stauffer-Norris said in a phone interview along with Podmore this past week. “Usually rivers get bigger and bigger as you go farther downstream. But the Colorado just keeps getting smaller.

“This big river turns into a creek, then just dries up in the original riverbed,” he said. “It’s pretty eye-opening to see that first-hand.”

Adds Podmore, “You go from some of the best fly fishing in the world in Wyoming, through the gas drilling and industrial areas, then into scenic wilderness canyons and these massive lakes.”

“To see the river the whole way and how it’s used in different ways really makes you appreciate it,” he said.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


The ‘State of the Rockies Report Card’ is hot off the press

April 12, 2012

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Here’s the announcement from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project:

This 2012 State of the Rockies Report Card is titled The Colorado River Basin: Agenda for Use, Restoration, and Sustainability for the Next Generation. The sections of the Report Card include a summary of the Rockies Project Source to Sea trip, an investigation into the Colorado River’s many diversions and uses, and an assessment of the “Law of the River,” among many other topics.

The Rockies Project aims to inspire Report Card readers and Rockies events attendees to creatively contemplate, discuss, and engage in shaping the future of our beloved, beautiful, and fragile region-the Rocky Mountain West. Enjoy!

Here’s the first installment of a three-part series analyzing the report from Walt Hecox (director of the project) writing in the Mountain West News. From the article:

Colorado College’s 2012 State of the Rockies Report Card is dedicated to a single topic of vital interest: the past development, present condition, and future options for the Colorado River Basin. We add a special dimension: the perspectives of today’s youth who will become tomorrow’s Basin users and stewards.

Competing interests for water rights and a dwindling supply of the vital natural resource have created challenges for the Colorado River Basin, which stretches across portions of seven Southwestern states. Some experts predict that by 2050, climate change and burgeoning uses of the river system will result in inadequate water to meet all of the shares allocated for municipal, agricultural, industrial and wildlife use, two-thirds to nine-tenths of the time.

But such a crisis can be averted, if actions are taken now, according to findings from this year’s State of the Rockies Project.

Conducted by students and faculty at The Colorado College in Colorado Springs, each year a research project is undertaken to increase public understanding of issues affecting the environment and economy of the Rocky Mountain region.

This year’s topic of study: The Colorado River Basin. Student researchers spent last summer and the 2011-2012 academic year analyzing the 1,400-mile waterway, wrote sections of the Report Card on critical dimensions, and recommended five action steps so that a viable, living Colorado River Basin exists, even thrives for the next generation. Their work was unveiled and the Report made public during the April 9-10 State of the Rockies Project Conference.

Held at Colorado College, the conference not only unveiled the report but also featured as guest speakers U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who discussed the challenges of saving the river basin now and in the future. And Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed what future generations can do to manage the state’s water resources.

More coverage from R. Scott Rappold writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The conference is an annual exercise for students to study an environmental issue facing the West. This year’s event focused on the Colorado River, the source of 80 percent of Colorado Springs’ water. [Interior Secretary Salazar] said the interstate compacts that delineate how the water is shared are flawed, and scientists overestimated the flow of the river by up to 2 million acre feet, using data from only recent wet years, not drier times…

Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, also spoke Monday. She said records from tree rings show periods of long droughts, slow to arrive and slow to lift, some lasting 28 years. So the snowy 2010-11 winter may have been the anomaly, and this winter may be the eventual norm. “The record shows the Colorado plateau, as far back as recent centuries, is pretty much drier than what we as Americans have experienced,” McNutt said…

McNutt quoted explorer John Wesley Powell, who urged that water rights to the river be left in the hands of small water districts, advice that was ignored. “You saw what has happened to the Colorado River. It no longer reaches the ocean,” she said.

Here’s a Q&A session with McNutt and Salazar from the Huffington Post:

Salazar: “When we look at the economy and conservation, there are those who would have us choose between them and I think that’s a false choice. We can do both conservation and energy development and good economics in a way that we have done here in Colorado — Great Outdoors Colorado is one of the great examples where we’ve been able to improve the quality of life here, and those are the kinds of things that I think are good for job creation and also good for conservation.

More State of the Rockies Project coverage here. More Colorado River basin coverage here.


State of the Rockies Project: Governor Hickenlooper names conservation as a major part of the solution to Colorado’s supply gap

April 11, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While talking about the ongoing efforts to find statewide solutions through the more traditional route of roundtable meetings, Gov. John Hickenlooper suggested the answer to projected water shortfalls could be found in social media — the favored means of communication and sometimes creative solutions for today’s young people. Hickenlooper spoke Tuesday at Colorado College as part of the release of the 2012 State of the Rockies report…

As mayor of Denver, Hickenlooper witnessed conservation reduction of nearly 20 percent after 2002, largely because of creative messages crafted by Denver Water to encourage saving water.
“We now have collaboration and a conservation ethic,” Hickenlooper said. “The next step is to take those frameworks and drive conservation to another level.”[...]

One student asked Hickenlooper what the state is doing to “combat more pipelines across the Continental Divide.” “Conservation, where we take as little as possible from the West Slope,” Hickenlooper replied. Saying the whole state is better off with a healthy Colorado River, he urged both urban and agricultural conservation techniques to reduce transmountain diversions.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Denver’s done better than most U.S. cities, with residents reducing use by 20 percent since 2002 to 160 gallons a day, but “we can make dramatic additional efforts,” Hickenlooper said. “Our self-discipline in the amount of water we use is going to be the foundation of everything we will do,” he said.

Yet further drawdown of the over-subscribed Colorado River is continuing as state officials support two major projects that would divert more river water across the Continental Divide to sustain Front Range urban communities…

Beyond conservation, “we’re going to need some more dams, ways to manage water,” Hickenlooper said.

Two rival pipeline projects would divert an additional 100,000 acre-feet or more of water from the upper Colorado River basin in Wyoming to the Front Range. A state-backed task force is exploring the idea. State planners calculate that Colorado could be entitled to as much as 900,000 acre-feet of unallocated river water under the 1922 interstate compact that governs use of the river. Hickenlooper declined in an interview to rule out a Wyoming diversion, saying that “we have to let that process run its course.”[...]

“‘The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.’ Colorado has to find a balance so that rivers can live alongside our human culture,” Save the Colorado coordinator Gary Wockner said. “The next year or two will be pivotal. Every water project on the table is proposing to drain more water out of our river.”

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More coverage from Ben Noreen’s column running in The Colorado Springs Gazette. He writes:

As many other water users have pumped their share of the Colorado and we’ve learned more about the river’s annual flow, it is becoming apparent that Colorado Springs’ share of the river is a bit tenuous. That’s the central theme of this week’s conference at Colorado College, “The Colorado River Basin: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability for the Next Generation.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper joined in Tuesday, re-stating something that has become increasingly apparent since the 1970s: “Bigger and better dams are not going to be the solutions.”

More coverage from Debbie Kelley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

The remark: Denver wouldn’t be Denver without Western Slope river water. Hickenlooper said what he meant was that all Front Range cities, also including Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Fort Collins, benefit if everyone uses less water. Because by keeping more water on the Western Slope and using less in urbanized areas, not only do skiing, white-water rafting and other tourism businesses succeed, but so do the ranchers and farmers. “There’s a direct benefit here. A home on the Front Range is worth more than a home in Kansas City or Indianapolis,” he said…

Hickenlooper says he advocates new creative ways of saving water and a commitment from every resident to do so. Front Range utilities companies now use about 60 percent of the water that originates in the upper Colorado River basin.

“A lot of it is our own self-motivation or discipline,” Hickenlooper said. “How we make it joyful and give people a kick out of it? I think that’s where the youth come in. If we can find ways of using that combination of youthful exuberance and optimism and technology, we have the formal framework to achieve changes.”

Hickenlooper also praised his Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which he helped create last year between stakeholders in the Denver area and on the Western Slope to improve management of future water projects.

But it does not address two additional proposed diversion projects that would further deplete the river. And unlike U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who spoke at CC’s conference on Monday, Hickenlooper did not mention the potential impact of oil shale development on the river, which some in Congress are pushing for, including U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs.

More conservation coverage here.


State of the Rockies Project: Interior Secretary Salazar says develop but protect the environment at the same time

April 10, 2012

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From the Associated Press via the San Francisco Chronicle:

Salazar spoke during the State of the Rockies Project conference at Colorado College, where students have been studying how to preserve the Colorado River basin…

…climate change, drought and population growth in the West have heightened interest in how the states and Mexico can continue sharing the [Colorado] river and still support irrigation, hydropower, tourism, recreation, agricultural and municipal needs and wildlife. Salazar said the Colorado River Compact that outlines how seven Western states and Mexico will share the river system’s water was created without the best science or knowledge. The agreement wrongly assumed there was 2 million acre-feet more available than there really is, he said. Nevertheless, he said the compact will not be reopened. Within Salazar’s department, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is reviewing ideas for how to address a projected imbalance in Colorado River basin supply and demand.

Meanwhile the U.S. and Mexico continue to negotiate details of how to share the river. Salazar’s appearance Monday came the same day that 25 conservation groups delivered a petition urging the U.S. and Mexico to allow some flows to return to the dried-up delta where the Colorado River flows into the Gulf of California. Salazar said the U.S. and Mexico hope to announce results of the negotiations soon. He didn’t give a timetable.

More coverage from Debbie Kelley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

As President Obama’s appointed U.S. Secretary of the Interior, the San Luis Valley native and 1977 CC graduate is familiar with the problems associated with what’s often called “the hardest-working river” in the nation. “The Colorado River is already a water-short river — more water has been allocated than what that river has today, not only along southern states but with the treaty with Mexico,” Salazar said during the 2012 State of the Rockies Project conference, which continues Tuesday. But Salazar assured the hundreds of conference attendees that his department is working on the issues and hopes to announce a new allocation agreement with Mexico soon.

The river is ruled by a compilation of decrees, rights, court decisions and laws that together are referred to as the “Law of the River.” The keystone is the 1922 Colorado River Compact, an interstate agreement for general water allotments, which Salazar said overestimated by 2 million acre feet the annual amount of water that could be extracted from the river. In response to a question from the audience, Salazar said he doesn’t think the Compact will ever be opened up for negotiation: “The legacies that have been created over 89 years are so embedded in the Law of the River,” he said…

Salazar also seized on the connection between the dwindling water supply and the energy industry, deriding the push by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, for expanded oil shale development. “We need to let the world know how much water would be required to develop those oil shale resources — the estimates I’ve seen are over 1 million acre feet and some at 2 million,” Salazar said. “Where would that water come from? What’s going to be the consequences to the ranchers and farmers dependent on the Colorado River?”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado College: The State of the Rockies Conference takes place this week along with the release of the ‘State of the Rockies Report Card’

April 8, 2012

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From the website:

As a culmination of this year’s State of the Rockies Project work on the Colorado River Basin, the Project will be hosting a conference on the Colorado College Campus on April 9th and 10th, 2012. In addition to the release of the 2012 State of the Rockies Report Card, we will have a stellar line-up of speakers addressing the future management of the Colorado River Basin. Speakers for the Conference will include the Honorable Ken Salazar, Seceretary of the Department of the Interior, Marcia McNutt, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

More from the State of the Rockies director, Walt Hecox, running in The Denver Post. From the guest column:

At the annual State of the Rockies Conference in Colorado Springs this week, the 2012 State of the Rockies Project Report Card will focus on “Managing the Colorado River Basin: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability for the Next Generation.” Five undergraduate researchers will present their findings, including their recommendations to save the basin…

The state of the Colorado River Basin is dire: decades of population growth, climate change, damming and diversion for municipal and agricultural water use have endangered multiple animal species, diminished in-stream flows and led to the river’s lower section running completely dry. Experts predict that by 2050, there won’t be enough water in the river to meet the needs of the communities that depend on it.

As Podmore and Stauffer-Norris finished their journey [ed. from the headwaters of the Green River to the Colorado River Delta] in January, photographing and blogging as they went, they witnessed the most graphic evidence of this stark reality on the southernmost section of the river. In the Delta, once a lush network of wetlands, there is now normally only dirt and dying tamarisk. In their willingness to confront such a reality and their commitment to changing it, these two young men stand in direct contrast to the apathy evidenced by much of their generation. Not only that, they also aim to enlist their peers in efforts to resolve the messes created by previous generations.

“We need to view the Colorado River and its tributaries as a single body of water. Our actions can affect portions of the river thousands of miles downstream,” Podmore wrote in a February Huffington Post article. “As water becomes a more hotly contested resource in the Southwest, we need to recognize the benefits of protecting the whole river system.”

To change present basin management, we must pursue water conservation, innovative ways to share water between agriculture and municipalities, and find sufficient water to sustain riparian areas while fairly dealing with water claims of Native Americans and Mexico. No generation is more vital to this effort than today’s Millennials, who will soon hold the reigns of decision-making.


State of the Rockies Project: Will and Zak release a new video — ‘A Paddler’s Perspective on the Colorado River Delta’

March 12, 2012

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Here’s the link to the video. Will and Zak paddled from the headwaters of the Green River to the Colorado River Delta as researchers for Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Colorado College 2012 State of the Rockies Project: Zak Podmore — ‘Where’s the river?’

February 29, 2012

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Here’s an article by Zak Podmore about the State of the Rockies Source to Sea adventure where he and Will Stauffer-Norris paddled from the headwaters of the Green River to the Colorado River Delta. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for short bios of both paddlers. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Over the past 108 days, we’ve paddled more than 1,600 miles down the Colorado River and its longest tributary, the Green River. Our journey is part of Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project, an outreach research effort which this year focuses on environmental issues surrounding the Colorado River Basin…

From the time we launched until we crossed into Mexico in mid-January, asking where the river was would have been absurd. We always knew where the river was. That changed, however, when Stauffer-Norris and I, recent Colorado College graduates and field researchers for the project, reached the Mexican border. In southern Arizona, we traded our kayaks for five-pound, inflatable rafts, and paddled up to the Morales Dam, the 11th and final dam we would have to portage on the trip. There, we found a shocking sight.

On one side of the dam was the Colorado River. On the other was a trickle of water — much too shallow to float — which disappeared into the sand within a couple of miles. The mighty river that had carried us across six states and into another country had been entirely diverted out of its former riverbed 90 miles from the sea. For the next five days, we paddled through irrigation canals and pools of agricultural runoff so polluted we took pains to avoid touching it.

When the canals dried up, we attempted to follow the historical course of the river that hasn’t reached the sea since the 1998. We spent several days fighting our way through miles of invasive tamarisk and mud-cracked desert before finally reaching salt water. En route, we learned that our attempts to find the “original riverbed” were driven by a cartographer’s dream. The Colorado River once nourished more than 3,000 square miles of desert land from the Gulf of California in Mexico to the Imperial Valley in United States. The delta had no stable, narrow watercourse that could be easily converted to a blue line on a map. Instead, the river spread out into vast network of lagoons, wetlands and riparian areas, making the delta one of the most biologically diverse areas in the region.

But today, most of the delta is farmland, and the 320 remaining bird species must rely on pockets of agricultural discharge, too salty for continued use in agriculture. Before the river even reaches the Morales Dam near Yuma, Arizona, 90 percent of the water already has been diverted to the taps of cities as distant as Denver and San Diego, or converted into helping grow our wintertime supply of lettuce, carrots and other produce. At the border, the remaining water is funneled into a canal system and taken to the cities of Tijuana and Mexicali, in addition to hundreds of square miles of farms.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado College State of the Rockies Project: Will and Zak are almost to the end of their boat journey down the Colorado to the Sea of Cortez

January 23, 2012

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the SPOT map of their location.

From email from Jon Pushkin (Pushkin Public Relations):

Just a quick update. Will and Zak are nearly at the end of their four-month, Source to Sea journey down the Colorado River. You can see their new videos and photos here: http://coloradosourcetosea.coloradocollege.edu/[...]

The final two programs in the speaker series: On January 30 the program will look at how water issues are impacting the Native American and Mexican communities. On Feb. 6 the program will feature Harris Sherman talking about the impact of deforestation in the region: http://www2.coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies/speakerseries.html

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


State of the Rockies Project scores $175,000 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to assess attitudes about conservation in six Western states

October 25, 2011

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Here’s the release from Colorado College (Leslie Weddell):

Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project has received a $175,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to conduct a poll assessing attitudes toward conservation in six Western states. 


The “Colorado College State of the Rockies 2012 Conservation in the West Poll” to be conducted in January 2012 expands on work that was begun in January 2011 with the first-ever such poll, when voters in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were canvassed in a bipartisan poll. This year voters in Arizona also will be included.


Two polling firms, one Republican, the other Democrat, will use a bipartisan approach in developing topics to be covered and the wording of questions. Together, they will conduct a total of 2,400 randomly selected interviews, attempting to reach people via land lines and cell phones. The poll will be conducted in Spanish as well as English, and the firms used will be the same as last year, Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm), and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm).


Survey results will be released by Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project, which, for the past nine years, has worked to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rockies through annual report cards, lectures, forums and other activities.


Key findings in last year’s poll included:

- 77 percent of respondents believe that stringent environmental standards and a strong economy can co-exist.

- 81 percent believe environmental laws should not be relaxed for oil, gas and mining companies.

- Three-quarters view wind and solar power as job creators and better energy sources than fossil fuels.

-Respondents overwhelmingly support paying up to $10 more a month for renewable energy use.

“These annual polls are becoming a valuable research tool to measure attitudes and opinions over time for the Rocky Mountain states,” says Walt Hecox, faculty director for the Rockies Project.

The focus of the 2011-12 State of the Rockies Project is “The Colorado River Basin- Agendafor Use, Restoration, and Sustainability for the Next Generation,” and seeks to bring a new perspective to the debates surrounding the multitude of issues and conflicts in the river basin.

The project began with a coordinated focus on the Colorado River Basin during summer 2011, conducted by student researchers. The results of this research are then coordinated with monthly talks by experts throughout the academic year, and the project culminates with a major conference in April 2012 and the publication of the 2012 State of the Rockies Report Card.

All State of the Rockies events are free and open to the public. More information about the project and the Conservation in the West polling effort are available at http://www2.coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies/

More conservation coverage here.


State of the Rockies Project: Should the Colorado River Compact be updated for the realities of the 21st Century?

October 24, 2011

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Last Monday Justice Greg Hobbs and law professor Larry MacDonnell were the guests of the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project. The subject was the Colorado River and its future, including Native American claims. Also discussed was the need to water population growth in Colorado and elswhere and whether or not the river has the water necessary to do so without drying up agriculture and recreation across the basin.

Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs marveled at how a river basin labeled by some early explorers as uninhabitable 150 years ago now supports 30 million people in seven states. The reason it can do that is because of the foresight of those who wrote the 1922 Colorado River Compact and subsequent legal instruments, which continue to be adapted over time.

Legal scholar Larry MacDonnell, of the University of Wyoming’s College of Law, said the water resources of the Colorado River are being squandered by unwise uses and the states should stop banking on further diversions and start looking at conserving what they now use. He advocated moving more agricultural water to urban uses to avoid the continued need to import water.

Hobbs and MacDonnell spoke on the Law of the River, and the compact documents are known, as part of the 2012 State of the Rockies Project, which is focusing on the Colorado River. The project, which includes research and field work by Colorado College staff and students, is in its ninth year. The project features a series of speakers on Colorado River issues over the next few months…

The West traditionally has brought in more water when it exhausts the natural supply, but MacDonnell believes it is time to re-evaluate how water is used instead. “Are we content with how the basin is using water?” MacDonnell asked, and then listed some instances where it is not being used wisely:

- The Imperial Valley uses one-fifth of the total volume of the Colorado River, and two-fifths of that grows alfalfa.

- A $1 billion desalinization plant treats water for $144 per acre-foot for delivery to Mexican farms.

- Water is applied at the rate of 10 acre-feet per acre to grow crops in the Arizona desert.

- One-fifth of the water stored in the lower basin simply evaporates

“Is this a sensible use of water?” MacDonnell asked. “In compromise, projects have been built that waste water.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado College: The next State of the Rockies Project speaker series topic is ‘The law and the Colorado River’

October 9, 2011

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Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs and Colorado River legal scholar Larry MacDonnell will discuss the Colorado River Compact on October 17. The presentation is the next for the State of the Rockies Project speakers series.

Since it’s been a while since I published one of Justice Hobbs’ poems I thought this would be a good occasion. Here you go:

Stegner

On wheels born Western man
he warned of that mobility
from which he sparng
unbridled optimism and the roar

Of the Reclamation Bureau he swore
as a blooming desert Mormon might
swear to God of locusts,
cranky cast iron stove he smoked
more we stoked his heat

Matter of lenses, I think,
his were not fit for preaching–
more for teaching in
a living room

Themes that marked him most

One-armed Major’s headlong
river plunge, careless harvest
of the wilderness, natural law
of limits, the good of settling in

Died in Santa Fe
not by hanging rope or pistol shot–
myths he fought cantankerous about–
but by Ford or GM truck
like many a Western man struck down

He in the line of duty,
a peace officer,
posting speed control signs
on the borders of our frontier minds:

Wanted
A True Civilization
Not A Ruthless Occupation
Disguised As Romantic Myth

Reprinted, with permission, from Colorado Mother of Rivers: Water Poems by Justice Greg Hobbs. Click here to order the book from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

A little of Wallace Stegner’s unbridled western optimism has rubbed off on two Colorado College grads, Will Stauffer-Norris and Zak Podmore, who will be traversing the length of the Green and Colorado rivers, Source to Sea down the Colorado River, starting this week. As soon as they hit Green River, Wyoming, they’ll be seeing a lot of the same stuff that John Wesley Powell did on his first trip down the river.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado College State of the Rockies Project presents ‘The Law and the Colorado River’ October 17

September 26, 2011

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Update: I had the wrong date in the original headline.

Here’s the release from Colorado College (Leslie Weddell):

Can a 90-Year-Old Set of Colorado River Laws Work in the 21st Century?
Colorado Supreme Court Justice and Colorado River Legal Scholar
 to Discuss Implications of the Law of the River

The future of the Colorado River Basin faces mounting challenges, including climate change and an exploding population growth in the West. Although roughly 27 million people rely on the river for water, energy and healthy ecosystems, some expert studies predict that by 2050 the river system will not be able to consistently meet the needs of those dependent upon it.

Can a nearly 90-year-old set of laws weather the turbulence of the 21st century?


Come hear Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs and Colorado River legal scholar Larry MacDonnell, of the University of Wyoming’s College of Law, discuss the implications of the river’s legal foundation for the next generation at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17 in the Richard F. Celeste Theatre in the Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., on the Colorado College campus.

The Colorado River Basin is ruled by a compilation of decrees, rights, court decisions and laws that together are referred to as the “Law of the River.” The keystone of these “commandments” is the 1922 Colorado River Compact, an interstate agreement created by the seven basin states with provisions for general water allotments. As municipalities, agriculture and environmental interests jockey for continued water supplies in the face of projected diminished flows, will the Law of the River be able to bend under new stresses or will it break?

This free talk is part the Colorado College State of the Rockies 2011-12 Project Speakers Series, where leading experts and well-known river advocates examine the Colorado River Basin and the complex water use, environmental and economic challenges facing future generations.

Monthly programs are scheduled through January 2012, leading up to a public conference April 8-10 where students will present the 2012 State of the Rockies Report, which examines current water, agricultural and recreational issues in the Basin and highlights how economic, demographic and climate changes will impact what the Colorado River looks like to future generations. Sessions with national experts will also explore the future of the Basin.

More water law coverage here.

At the first presentation in the series Jonathan Waterman and Peter McBride tag-teamed a presentation about their book The Colorado River Flowing Through Conflict. Here’s a report about their recent appearance in Sante Fe, from the Sante Fe New Mexican. From the article:

McBride and Waterman are promoting efforts by the nonprofit Sonoran Institute and Patagonia, the designer of outdoor clothing and gear, to raise awareness of the river’s plight and raise funds to purchase water rights.

Their recently published book, The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict (Westcliffe Publishers, 2011), explores that idea as it showcases McBride’s gorgeous color aerial and underwater photos, and Waterman’s lucid prose. McBride also has produced an accompanying short film, Chasing Water.

McBride is particularly intimate with the river. Growing up on a Colorado cattle ranch, he played in and irrigated with Colorado River water. Only when he worked on the book with Waterman did he realize that the river no longer reaches all the way to the Sea of Cortez as it once did — and that a once-thriving 3,000-square-mile delta is the victim of the dryness.

“The river ran to the delta for 6 million years, and it stopped in the late 1990s,” McBride said during a recent visit to Santa Fe. “I think adding a little bit of water, and there are groups working on that, could bring (the delta) back quickly.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado College ‘State of the Rockies monthly Speaker Series’ kicks off September 12

September 4, 2011

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Update: From the press release for Monday night (Leslie Weddell):

Acclaimed photographer Peter McBride and award-winning author Jonathan Waterman will kick off the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Speakers Series on Monday, Sept. 12, presenting “The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict,” a discussion on the issues affecting the Colorado River Basin. They will present what they learned during the two years they spent documenting the Colorado River, which culminated in their book “The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict,” an award-winning short film, “Chasing Water” and a traveling exhibition currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Here’s the release. Here’s an excerpt:

Leading experts and well-known river advocates will headline the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project monthly Speakers Series, examining the Colorado River Basin and the complex water use, environmental and economic challenges facing future generations. This year’s topic is “The Colorado River Basin: Use, Restoration and Sustainability as if the Next Generation Counts.”

The Speakers Series, which is free and open to the public, kicks off on Monday, Sept. 12 with Peter McBride and Jonathan Waterman, who will discuss their book “The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict.” McBride and Waterman spent more than two years documenting the Colorado River culminating in the coffee table book, an award-winning short film, “Chasing Water,” and a traveling exhibition currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The talk will be presented at the Celeste South Theatre, Cornerstone Arts Building, 825 N. Cascade Ave. on the Colorado College campus (corner of Cache La Poudre Street and Cascade Avenue).

The Colorado River Basin winds 1,400 miles through seven states on its way to Mexico. It supplies water to households, communities, businesses and farms. Roughly 27 million people rely on the river for water, energy and healthy ecosystems. But climate studies and projected population growth indicate that unless immediate action is taken, municipalities, industry, agriculture and recreation will be unable to meet the water demands of the next generation. Some experts predict that by 2050, climate change and burgeoning uses of the river system will result in inadequate water to meet all of its allocated shares 65 to 90 percent of the time.

The Speakers Series features monthly programs scheduled through January 2012, leading up to a public conference April 8-10, where students will present the 2012 State of the Rockies Report examining current water, agricultural and recreational issues in the Basin and highlighting how economic, demographic and climate changes will impact what the Colorado River looks like to future generations. All lectures in the series begin at 7 p.m. Additional upcoming talks include:

Monday, Oct. 17 – “The Law of the Colorado River Basin: Rigid Relic or Flexible Foundation for the Future?” presented by Gregory Hobbs Jr., Colorado Supreme Court, and Larry MacDonnell, University of Wyoming College of Law Location: Richard F. Celeste Theatre, Cornerstone Arts Building, 825 N. Cascade Ave., on the Colorado College campus

Monday, Nov. 7 – “The Colorado River Basin: Environmental Perspectives and Action” presented by Bart Miller, Water Program Director for Western Resource Advocates; Jennifer Pitt, Director of the Colorado River Project for the Environmental Defense Fund; and Tom Chart, USFWS, Director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program
Location: Richard F. Celeste Theatre, Cornerstone Arts Building, 825 N. Cascade Ave., on the Colorado College campus

Monday, Dec. 5 – “The Colorado River Basin and Climate: Perfect Storm for the 21st Century?” presented by Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, and Jeff Lukas with the Western Water Assessment, and moderated by Beth Conover, editor of “How the West Was Warmed”
Location: Gates Common Room, Palmer Hall, 1025 N. Cascade Ave., east of Tutt Library on the Colorado College campus

Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 – “Unheard Voices of the Colorado River Basin: Bringing Mexico and the Native American Tribes to the Table” presented by Bidtah Becker with the Water Rights Unit of the Navajo Nation Department of Justice and Osvel Hinojosa, director of the Pronatura Noroeste’s Water and Wetlands Program Location: Gates Common Room, Palmer Hall, 1025 N. Cascade Ave., east of Tutt Library on the Colorado College campus

The State of the Rockies Project is an annual research study conducted collaboratively by undergraduate students and faculty to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rockies. For more information, or to learn how to connect to podcast and videos of each program, visit the State of the Rockies Project website at http://www.stateoftherockies.com.

For information, directions or disability accommodation at the event, members of the public may call (719) 389-6607.

About State of the Rockies Project
The Colorado College State of the Rockies Project is in its ninth year and seeks to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rocky Mountain Region. All events are free and open to the public, and we encourage the public to join the ongoing discussion of the issues that affect our beautiful yet fragile region. More information can be found by visiting the State of the Rockies Project website, blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel.


Colorado College: State of the Rockies 2011 research focus topic is ‘The Colorado River: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability as if the Next Generation Counts’

July 21, 2011

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An July 15, 2011 email from Rhiannon Hendrickson got buried in my inbox. She describes the students’ research topic this year. A thousand pardons. From her email:

I’m working with Colorado College to help promote its State of the Rockies project which seeks to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rockies. This year’s research focus topic is “The Colorado River: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability as if the Next Generation Counts.” I thought you might be interested to know that a group of Colorado College students are currently on a research road trip following the Colorado River from high in the Rockies down through the southwest. Stops along the route will include:

- Glenwood Springs, CO
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Moab, UT
- Canyonlands National Park
- Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Las Vegas and Boulder City, NV
- Imperial Valley of California
- Yuma, AZ
- The Navajo Indian Reservation

The two-week trip wraps up on July 24. You may follow the student’s travels and progress on their blog, as well as on Facebook and YouTube. More information about the State of the Rockies Project can be found at http://www.coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies/index.asp.

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Check out this excerpt from Natalie Triedman’s post from Glen Canyon Dam:

As we descended hundreds of feet in the Glen Canyon Dam elevator, our knowledgeable tour guide led us through the history of the dam. Construction lasted only three years, in part due to the around the clock work regimen. While efficient, this construction approach was grueling, taking the lives of 18 workers. We were able to see one of the twelve enormous buckets that were used to carry an aggregate five million cubic yards of cement during construction.

After our initial elevator descent, our group travelled down even further in order to see the powerplant’s eight generators. Each generator produces 165 mega watts when the reservoir is near capacity. Annual output from hydroelectric power is about five billion kWh- enough to support the annual electrical needs of 400,000 houses. In addition to the turbines that are currently in use, we saw one that had been recently removed after logging 41 years so it could be replaced by a more efficient and durable design.

More education coverage here.


Colorado College State of the Rockies Project releases ‘Conservation in the West’ survey: Westerners favor environmental protection

February 25, 2011

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Here’s the release from the State of the Rockies Project:

Majority of Western Voters Believe Environmental Protections, Strong Economy Can Co-Exist

First-ever “Conservation in the West Survey” measures voters’ environmental attitudes in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — A new bi-partisan poll of inter-mountain West voters shows that a strong majority (77 percent) believe that environmental standards and a strong economy can co- exist. The findings, from the first-ever “Conservation in the West Survey,” reveal differences and many points of agreement among voters on issues such as conservation, regulations, renewable energy and other environmental issues.

The poll, conducted by Lori Weigel at Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz at Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), measured environmental attitudes of 2,200 voters in the five Western states January 23-27, 2011. The survey is being released by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, which, for the past eight years, has worked to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rockies through annual report cards, free events, discussions and other activities.

“This research underscores an interesting and important trend in these five states,” said Walt Hecox, Ph.D., professor at Colorado College and director of the State of the Rockies Project. “While there are differences of opinion on a range of issues, there are true common values shared between each state, including a commitment to protect the important natural resources that make this region so unique.”

“Particularly interesting is the emergence of renewable energy sources – such as solar and wind power – as a much more attractive option over traditional fossil fuels,” added Hecox. (According to the results, voters indicate more positive impressions of solar and wind power as energy sources than they do for coal or oil.) “Voters see renewable energy as producing jobs, and they have ambitious goals for using more of these sources to supply their states’ overall energy needs.”

[Click here for] some of the key findings. To view the executive summary or entire report, please visit:

http://www.coloradocollege.edu/StateoftheRockies/conservationinthewestsurvey_e.html

More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

Conducted by both a Republican and Democratic polling firm and produced for the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, the “Conservation in the West” survey found that voters thought the average percentage of their state’s electricity coming from renewable resources should be about 65 percent.

Generally expressing more positive impressions of solar and wind power than coal or oil (with the exception of Wyoming residents), 77 percent of all those surveyed felt environmental standards and a strong economy can co-exist. And 65 percent said they disagree that renewable energy is “too unreliable to be a significant part of our energy supply.”

And a majority of voters in all five states (70 percent), which also included New Mexico, Montana and Utah, said it’s “time to start replacing coal with other energy sources like wind and solar power.”

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The “Conservation in the West” survey, commissioned by Colorado College and released this morning, also found that two thirds of voters believe current laws protecting air, land and water should be strengthened or better enforced. Even when offered an economic rationale for relaxing environmental standards, 77 percent of voters surveyed said standards that apply to major industries must be maintained. Only 18 percent favored relaxing standards in an effort to boost the economy and generate jobs. The survey indicates most voters consider environmental protection and a strong economy to be compatible goals.

A majority in every state where voters were surveyed – Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – said they favor replacing coal with other energy sources such as wind and solar power. And 54 percent indicated they’d be willing to pay at least ten dollars more per month to increase the use of renewable energy to generate electricity in their state.


Colorado College: 2010 State of the Rockies Report Card

July 3, 2010

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Agriculture is the focus of this year’s report card. Click here to get your copy to read under the cottonwoods down by the creek this weekend.

Thanks to New West (Jill Kuraitis) for the heads up. From the article:

Colorado College’s 2010 State of the Rockies report, now in its eighth year of research and reporting on issues that define our lives in the mountain west, is focused on agriculture. The report provides the statistical overview of the region’s industry, but also delves deep into agricultural history, land and water use, demographics, production, finance, organization, and a “foodprint” of Rockies’ agriculture, according to project leaders.

States defined as part of the Rockies are Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Idaho.

The average age of farm operators in the U.S. has increased from 52 to 57 years old, and only between 1 and 6 percent earn all their income from farming. In the Rockies, female farmers have increased by 257 percent. Ethnic diversity among farm owners and operators is also trending upward.


New Survey: Conservation Could Impact 2014’s Ballot Box — Colorado College

February 16, 2014

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Here’s the release from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project:

Conservation and land use issues could have the power to sway how westerners vote in 2014 elections, according to the new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll.

“The West is a major political battlefield this year, and the poll tells us congressional candidates would be wise to consider their position on conservation and land use issues carefully,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Westerners want their air, water and land protected, and where a candidate stands on these issues could potentially sway votes.”

This year’s bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters across six states looked at voter attitudes on a list of issues, including land use, water supplies, air quality and public lands’ impact on the economy. The results show overwhelming -­‐ 85 percent -­‐ agreement that when the government closes national parks and other public lands, small businesses and communities’ economies in the West suffer. In a follow up message to elected officials and land managers, 83 percent believe funding to national parks, forests and other public lands should not be cut, as it provides a big return on a small investment.

“The Rocky Mountain region is politically diverse, with communities running the spectrum from red (predominantly) to purple to blue,” said Colorado College McHugh Professor of Leadership and American Institutions and regular Colorado political commentator Tom Cronin. “These poll results reinforce that a love for protected lands ties western voters together. Westerners across the political spectrum support the work of public land managers and expect conserved public lands to remain that way.”

Other public sentiments expressed in the survey include that:

• 72 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to promote more use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
• 69 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports enhancing protections for some public lands, like national forests.
• 58 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who votes to increase funding for land-­‐managing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.

The survey also holds warning signs for candidates, including that:

• 72 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports
selling public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.
• 67 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who reduces
funding for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.
• 54 percent of westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to
stop taxpayer support for solar and wind energy companies.

“Hispanics view the protection of our public lands as a moral obligation. It’s natural that this community would be drawn to candidates who support conservation,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “With the tremendous growth of the Latino voter bloc, especially in the Western states, we’re going to see engagement in environmental policy and advocacy for our public lands at levels we’ve never seen before.”

The results reflect the strong connection Westerners feel to their public lands, with 95 percent saying they have visited public lands in the last year. More than two-­‐ thirds of those surveyed said they would recommend an out-­‐of-­‐state visitor visit the outdoors, like a national park, rather than an attraction in town.

The government shutdown’s effects on Westerners are ongoing. When asked how they felt about the resulting closure of public lands, 89 percent responded with a negative emotion like annoyed, angry, concerned or upset. Potentially as a result of seeing what happens when public lands are no longer available, opposition to the sale of public lands increased from last year’s poll, with 74 percent now rejecting this idea.

The 2014 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) for a total 2,400-­‐person sample. The survey was conducted from January 7 through 13, 2014, and yields a margin of error of +/-­‐2.9 percent nationwide and +/ -­‐4.9 statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available here, on the Colorado College website

Click here for the presentation slides.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

More than three-quarters of Colorado voters say they oppose diversions of water to heavily populated areas of the state, according to a survey conducted by Colorado College.

The annual Conservation in the West poll, conducted for the college by Democrat and Republican pollsters, also found that a majority of Coloradans, 55 percent, favors allowing communities to regulate hydraulic fracturing and that 22 percent want the state to regulate fracking, the approach used to free up trillions of cubic feet of natural gas from formations deep below the surface.

The finding of strong opposition to more diversions is unsurprising, said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy organization.

“Agricultural interests and many Club 20 members don’t like diversions, and there are additional groups who want to see stream flows for recreational purposes and they recognize diversions as a threat,” Petersen said. “People familiar with the West understand the impacts of diversions.”

Respondents favored devoting more time and resources to better use of the current water supply and encouraging the use of recycling, the survey said.

On hydraulic fracturing, 28 percent of Colorado respondents supported tougher laws and 29 percent said there should be better enforcement of existing laws, the survey said.

The results underscore the need for greater education about hydraulic fracturing, Petersen said, noting the practice has been in use in western Colorado for 60 years “and there has not been an issue.”

Across the West, 72 percent of respondents said they were more likely to vote for candidates who favor the promotion of energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Another majority, 69 percent, said they were likely to vote for candidates who support greater protections for public lands, such as national forests, and 58 percent said they’d be likely to support candidates who want to increase funding to agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.

The survey polled 400 registered voters in Colorado and 2,400 in the six Western states of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The survey was conducted Jan. 7 to Jan. 13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

More conservation coverage here. More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


Conservation: ‘Preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense’ — Ronald Reagan

January 9, 2013

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From The Trinidad Times (Jim Dipeso):

Imagine a Republican leader who racked up the following achievements: He fought smog by regulating vehicle emissions, kept dams from choking free-flowing rivers, set aside big chunks of wild backcountry for permanent protection, and supported a strong treaty to prevent harmful gases from mucking up the atmosphere.

Democratic operatives might just invite this candidate to switch parties, though GOP partisans might brand him a RINO, short for “Republican In Name Only.”

Such a leader existed, and his name was Ronald Reagan. The Gipper knew better than to pigeonhole the environment as a partisan issue. He may have said some dumb things about trees, but he also said, “If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense.”

Conservation issues historically have been bipartisan. There is no reason to accept nonsensical assertions from elected officials that environmental stewardship is for liberals but not for conservatives. Is this a naïve wish? Despite what you might hear from talk radio hucksters or politicians trafficking in divisive rhetoric, there is broader agreement on the importance of conservation than seems apparent on the surface.

Last year, Colorado College’s bipartisan State of the Rockies poll found broad evidence in six Western states that voters, by large majorities, value public lands for their contribution to quality of life, support clean air regulations, and believe renewable energy development should have high priority.

Western voters by and large believe a strong economy and strong environmental protections can co-exist, rendering conservation neither red nor blue. That is precisely the basis for the partnership struck up between the National Audubon Society and the Republican organization, ConservAmerica. It’s called the American Eagle Compact, and it sends political leaders a simple message: All of us have a stake in good stewardship of the air, water, land, wildlife and climate; conservation ought to be a national priority that transcends partisan boundary lines.

More conservation coverage here.


Upper Colorado River Basin Water Conference November 8-9 #CORiver

November 3, 2012

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

The conference, organized by CMU’s Water Center, will bring together water experts, policy makers and stakeholders from Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada for presentations on how we can better understand and respond to drier conditions.

Conference-related events begin Wednesday evening Nov. 7 and continue through Friday afternoon Nov. 9. All events will be held upstairs in CMU’s University Center and can be registered and paid for separately — just go to www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter for full details. If you pre-register by noon Monday, Nov. 5, you’ll get a free parking pass.

• Nov. 7, 7 p.m. — Reception/Film screening – $15: Things kick off on an entertaining note with a reception and viewing of the “Remains of a River” film from the Colorado College “State of the Rockies” program. The film is about boating from the headwaters of the Green River to the mucky remains of the Colorado River delta in Mexico and includes great river footage as well as funny and sharp commentary from the filmmaker/adventurers. Your $15 lets you view the film, meet the filmmakers and have two complimentary drinks.

• Nov. 8-9, beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day – conference panels plus networking breakfasts and lunches – $100: On Nov. 8, panels address the impacts of dust on snow and bark beetles; understanding and managing streamflows; agricultural efficiencies and water sharing; how to meet environmental water needs in cooperation with other uses; and household water conservation: how to do it, and its role in meeting future demands.

On Nov. 9, leaders of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study (due to be completed next month) will discuss the analysis and conclusions in the study, and a panel of stakeholders and experts will provide their reflections on how the study was conducted and what it means for managing water into the future — from Denver to Steamboat Springs to central Utah. The final panel will feature top water planners from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah discussing their states’ approaches to meeting future needs in the context of uncertain hydrology and obligations under interstate water compacts. Your $100 gets you into all the presentations as well as breakfast and lunch both days.

• Nov. 8, 7 p.m. – dinner with keynote address by John Stulp, special policy advisor to Gov. Hickenlooper on water – $25: Stulp, a farmer and rancher from Prowers County and former state Commissioner of Agriculture, also chairs Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee, which is seeking to work with stakeholders from each of the state’s river basins to develop a statewide water plan by 2016.

For more information on the conference and related events, check out www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter or call the Water Center at 970-248-1968.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Conservation in the West poll: Western voters across political spectrum agree — public lands are essential to our economy

January 31, 2012

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Here’s the release from the State of the Rockies Project:

The results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll find that western voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in- between – view parks and public lands as essential to their state’s economy, and support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey, completed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that swing voters across the west – who will be key to deciding the outcome of a number of U.S. Senate and governors’ races, and possibly the presidential race – nearly unanimously agree that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the economies of these states. Four in five western voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible.

Two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator.

Survey results are a sharp contrast to the energy and environmental debates currently happening in Washington, and in many state capitals. “Western voters consistently believe that conservation helps create and protect jobs for their states,” said Dave Metz. “In fact, by a 17 point margin, voters are more likely to say that environmental regulations have a positive impact on jobs in their state rather than a negative one.”

Seven in 10 Western voters support implementation of the Clean Air Act, and updating clean air standards. They see regulations designed to protect land, air, water and wildlife as having positive impact on public safety (70 percent), the natural beauty of their state (79 percent) and their quality of life (72 percent).

The survey also found strong approval ratings for most governors in the region, and an electorate divided in hotly-contested U.S. Senate races in Montana and New Mexico. Key swing voters in these contests often express pro-conservation views.

“What we read in the press and what politicians say about an ever-sharpening trade-off between environment and jobs in a deep recession do not square with views of many western voters,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Instead, those stubborn westerners continue to defy stereotypes, by arguing that a livable environment and well-managed public lands can be — in fact must be — compatible with a strong economy.”

The survey results echo the sentiments of more than 100 economists, including three Nobel Laureates and Dr. Hecox, who recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to create and invest in new federal protected lands such as national parks, wilderness and monuments. Studies have shown that together with investment in education and access to markets, protected public lands are significant contributors to economic growth.

Similarly, western voters voiced support for continued funding of conservation, indicating that even with tight state budgets, they want to maintain investments in parks, water, and wildlife protection. When specific local issues were tested with voters in some states – such as increasing the state’s renewable energy standard in Montana, establishing national monument protections for the Arkansas River canyon in Colorado, and updating energy standards for new homes in Utah – voters want to actually strengthen protections.

While there are geographic and partisan distinctions on a number of key issues, such as energy development on public lands, the data show that the broad conservation values uniting westerners are much more prevalent than the occasional issues that divide them.

“The depth and breadth of the connection between westerners and the land is truly remarkable – - when people are telling us that public lands are essential to their economy, and that they support continued investments in conservation, even in these difficult economic times,” said Lori Weigel. “Westerners are telling us that we’ve got to find a way to protect clean air, clean water, and parks in their states.”

The 2012 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 2,400 registered voters in six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) January 2 through 5 & 7, 2012, and yields a margin of error of + 2.0 percent nationwide and +4.9 statewide.

The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website.

More coverage from Tim Hooper writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Other findings from the poll showed:

• 78 percent of Coloradans said that the state can protect land and water and have a strong economy at the same time.

• 93 percent agreed that, “Our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Colorado’s economy.”

• 63 percent of Colorado voters view environmental laws more as “important safeguards to protect private property owners, public health and taxpayers from toxic pollution and costly clean-ups” while 29 percent see them as “burdensome regulations that tie up industry in red tape, hurt them too much financially, and cost jobs.”

• 75 percent say Colorado should maintain protections for land, air and water in the state rather than reduce them in an effort to create jobs as quickly as possible.

• Only 34 percent said that, “One of the best ways to create jobs is to cut back environmental regulations that are weighing down Colorado’s businesses.”

• 71 percent support the EPA “continuing to implement the Clean Air Act by updating the standards for air quality, including for smog, dust, and emissions from power plants, factories and cars.”

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (Scot Kersgaard):

A full 67 percent of Colorado voters identify themselves as conservationists, including 62 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents. A whopping 93 percent say parks and open space are essential to the state’s economy.

The results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll find that Western voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in-between – support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife…

Two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing the need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator according to the survey…

Seventy-six percent want state Lottery funds to continue to be used to protect parks, wildlife habitat, and natural areas and school construction, instead of being redirected to the general state education budget. Sixty-six percent support protection of some of the lands in the Arkansas River Canyon as a national monument…

“Investments in conservation of our public lands and water are not only critical to providing quality hunting and fishing opportunities, but also a critical component of the $192 billion sportsmen contribute to our national economy annually,” said Gaspar Perricone, co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Sportsmen and women continue to value a stubborn stewardship of our natural places and the recreational opportunities those places provide.”[...]

In Colorado, 66 percent of hunters identified themselves as conservationists, 75 percent of anglers identified that way. Asked whether environmental regulations have a positive or negative impact on jobs in the state, 44 percent said the effect was positive, compared with 29 percent who thought regulations were bad for the job market.

More conservation coverage here.


Animas-La Plata Project: Colorado and Reclamation are getting close to a deal for storage in Lake Nighthorse

January 27, 2012

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Columbus Republic:

Colorado’s Legislature has authorized paying $36 million to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for its share of 10,460 acre-feet of water, plus interest on construction costs. But the interest has been building, and the $36 million likely won’t cover everything Colorado owes.

The tribes had proposed that Colorado allow its share of water to revert back to the tribes, which weren’t assessed for construction. The tribes would then sell the water back to the state at what they say would be a much lower price than what the state would pay the bureau…

However, after two years of talking with tribal representatives, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has directed its staff to move forward on contract talks with the Bureau of Reclamation, board director Jennifer Gimbel said.

Gimbel said the board took the tribes’ proposal “very seriously.” However some board members questioned whether outside parties would challenge the proposal in court. Though legislators have already approved $36 million for project water, some board members also questioned how willing legislators would be in future years to spend on Animas-La Plata project water.

If you’re interested in Native American issues in the Colorado River Basin please think about attending Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Speakers Series Monday night. The theme for the shindig is, “Unheard Voices of the Colorado River Basin: Bringing Mexico and Native American Tribes to the Table.” It should be a hoot, every presentation in the series so far has been.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


Ben Noreen to Colorado Springs residents (and the Front Range), ‘Your faucet depends on a dwindling resource’

December 7, 2011

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Ben Noreen was at the State of the Rockies speakers series presentation Monday night and penned this wakeup call for Colorado Springs residents, running in The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the column:

In Colorado Springs there is a tendency to think the [Colorado River] is far away, even though 70 to 80 percent of the water city residents use comes from the Colorado River Basin…the inescapable conclusion is that the city must promote conservation while developing other sources of supply. The same is true for the Denver metro area, where some customers depend on Colorado River water while others pump from groundwater supplies that eventually will be gone…

Whether you believe, as reputable scientists do, in global warming, there is no debate about some hard facts: Major reservoirs on the Colorado, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, have been drying up for decades and there is little chance they’ll ever be full again…

“The system is being run very close to the edge already,” said Jeff Lukas of Western Water Assessment, an organization that has focused on the Colorado. “What lies ahead for the Colorado River? Lower average flow is likely.”

I was at the presentation Monday as well and covered it live on my Twitter feed, @coyotegulch.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


‘Source to Fontenelle’ is the title of Will and Zak’s first video chronicling their journey from ‘Source to Sea’

November 12, 2011

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Update: I just realized that I didn’t include the link to the video in yesterday’s post.

“For some reason we’re starting this in October,” (Will or Zak) says, standing down valley from the headwaters of the Green River. The video shows some of the country and critters they’ve passed by in the first leg to Fontenelle Reservoir.

You can follow Will and Zak down the river on their blog source to sea down the colorado river: following the river from wyoming to mexico.

Their journey is in conjunction with Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project. The theme this year is The Colorado River Basin: Agenda for Use, Restoration, and Sustainability for the Next Generation. Student and faculty research revolves around the entire basin, environmental assessment, climate change, water law and interstate compacts, supply, distribution and historical Native American claims.

The next Speakers Series get-together is December 5 where Beth Conover will moderate a panel of environmental experts — working throughout the Colorado River Basin — in a discussion of Environmental Perspectives and Actions.

Here’s the link to a short video of October’s event featuring Justice Gregory Hobbs and University of Wyoming professor Larry MacDonnell.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Dan Morgan, ‘I don’t think anyone should expect Washington to do the right thing if citizens aren’t informed and raising hell

October 7, 2009

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Here’s a recap of College’s State of the Rockies series Monday session, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Among its many activities, the Environmental Working Group has compiled a database that details federal farm subsidies for conservation, disaster and crop support down to the farm level. For instance, Colorado farms received $3.1 billion in federal payments from 1995-2006. “If you’re going to change the world, you need data,” said Shannon, an award-winning journalist prior to joining the group. “I don’t think anyone should expect Washington to do the right thing if citizens aren’t informed and raising hell.”[...]

The Climate Bill would add the conflict of managing farmland for environmental purposes like sequestering carbon against the current dilemma of growing corn either as food or for ethanol. There are also efforts to exempt farms from the fuel consumption provisions of the bill, Morgan said.

More Colorado water coverage here.


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