Cool Ways to Help Here in the Roaring Fork Valley
The planet has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s, and as a result, the effects of climate change are impacting the Roaring Fork Valley through its people, environment, recreation, wildlife and water.
North America’s winter snowpack is melting faster and even disappearing in places. Its loss means drought for crops and cities throughout the American Southwest. By the 2020s, for example, loss of Sierra and Colorado River basin snowpack is likely to threaten more than 40 percent of Southern California’s water supply. Within 30 years, more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast may close because of warming climate.
In our own Roaring Fork Valley, winter recreation could be eliminated by 2100 – taking with it real estate values and a great deal of our tourist-dependent economic activity.
The average temperatures in Aspen could rise three to 10 degrees by 2080. This would impact not only the ski industry, but also the area’s ecology. By 2100, aspen trees, sub-alpine firs, elk, deer, bighorn sheep and pikas could be endangered or gone.
Our valley is using available resources to educate, to use resources wisely and to take action. Take the City of Aspen for example; Aspen’s electric utility now runs on 100 percent renewable power. Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) is taking steps that range from banning incandescent light bulbs and constructing five LEED Gold-rated buildings to developing a power plant that turns methane into electric power plant and eliminates three times ASC’s carbon emissions annually. (See Getting Green Done at Aspen Skiing Company in this issue.)
Downvalley, Garfield Clean Energy has helped save $1.7 million in energy costs while CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region) has organized 10 local governments into an intergovernmental collaborative that is working to reach aggressive energy efficiency and clean energy targets.
Semi-rural economies in and around the Roaring Fork Valley rely in part on recreational activities. For example, hunting, fishing, ranching and recreation in the Thompson Divide area support nearly 300 jobs and generate $30 million in annual economic value. The area’s clean water, clean air, rural and agricultural heritage, in addition to its recreational and sporting activities, are threatened by oil and gas development activities that contribute to global warming.
Both loss of snowpack and declining water quality threaten Colorado’s recreation and agriculture. A statewide water plan – a first-ever blueprint for keeping rivers and streams health – was unveiled by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in November. David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, says that “the Colorado Water Plan recognizes that healthy rivers are central to Colorado’s quality of life and help drive our booming, $13 billion recreation economy. If we want a future of Gold Medal trout rivers and outdoor opportunities, we need to plan for that future – and this plan is a step in the right direction.”
Even before the days of Teddy Roosevelt, recreationalists led the way as conservationists and environmentalists. It has always been in their best interest to preserve the wildlife and the habitat it needs, so perhaps its not surprising that Trout Unlimited is working with farmers and ranchers, primarily here on the Western Slope, to help them modernize irrigation techniques. The new water plan and the Colorado General Assembly are helping to provide incentives and funding to farmers and ranchers who change their irrigation techniques.
Tyler Baskfield, Colorado sportsman coordinator for Trout Unlimited, commented, “Whether we want a pristine place to hunt and fish, to be able to enjoy the backcountry on a hike, or to camp in an area without seeing the scars of oil and gas development, or to preserve a lifestyle and livelihood based off the land, large expanses of healthy ecosystems and habitat are critical.” He says that one exciting development, both in the Thompson Divide and in other western areas, is “sportsmen, the agricultural community and environmentalists working together to be more effective at protecting our interests. ”
It boils down to each resident in our valley pitching in and working hand-in-hand with neighbors. See page 34 for 10 ways to get started.