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Fall in Jeopardy? Colorful Colorado’s Autumn Activities at Risk from Climate Change

Experts meet in Avon to enjoy a beautiful fall, discuss impacts looming from Climate Change

AVON CO.- Monday September 26. As a federal court in Washington DC was preparing for oral arguments in the fossil-fuel funded lawsuit to overturn the Clean Power Plan, Coloradans working for solutions met in Avon to discuss looming impacts to Colorado’s favorite fall activities.

While the colorful Colorado aspens against snow dusted peaks framed in a blue sky provided the picture-perfect backdrop, the subject matter was serious: Climate change puts much of what we cherish the most about fall in the Rocky Mountains at risk.

From the awesome display of fall foliage and our snowpack—important not only for winter sports and the economy, but for our farms and food systems which rely on irrigation; to hunting season, wildlife health, and the multi-billion-dollar industry supported by them: global warming could mean less of what we enjoy in autumn.

Jamie Werner, Forest Programs Director with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies started the discussion by presenting on the Center’s unique forest forecasting tool that allows the public to create a visual model of what climate change means for western forests. The tool allows viewers to watch the change to western forests over the next few decades under a ‘business-as-usual’ approach and under a model where we begin to act seriously on addressing the climate crisis. The forecast tool is available here.

“The aspens this time of year are stunning, and people want to know what climate change means for this species,” Werner said. “But all of Colorado’s forests face impacts and threats from a changing climate. It is not only scenery at risk: changing forest cover can mean detrimental impacts for high elevation snow cover and Colorado’s water supply.”

The topic of water queued up Pete Kolbenschlag, from the Colorado Farm & Food Alliance, an organization that connects farm and food stakeholders with climate action and conservation advocacy.

“Fall is a time of harvest,” Kolbenschlag noted as he shared some of his late peaches. “In Colorado that means irrigation, and that means reliable, predictable snowpack. Weather is variable, but growers rely on climate being more steady. Water shortages and changes in the freeze/thaw cycles can bring real harm to our agricultural operators.”

Kolbenschlag noted that oral arguments were scheduled to begin (on September 27) on a lawsuit backed by the oil and gas industry, coal companies, big utilities, and joined by 27 state attorneys general, including Cynthia Coffman in Colorado.

The lawsuit challenges the Clean Power Plan, part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan—our nation’s first federal plan to address climate pollution. Kolbenschlag also noted that India had just agreed to join China and the United States in signing the Paris Accords, a set of global commitments to act on climate.

“I am glad we came together today, to discuss these issues facing our state,” Kolbenschlag concluded. “But talk is not enough, now we need to act. The time has passed for excuses from elected leaders.”

Action was what brought David Ellenberger out from the National Wildlife Federation. Climate change is impacting habitat, altering seasonal migration and hibernation patterns, and increasing disease and pests that plague wildlife. While fruits and crops are exceptional this time of the year, they are not the only harvest that is on the mind of Coloradans. Hunting season means billions of dollars for Colorado communities, many in rural areas that have not seen the economy rebound like on the Front Range.

“If Coloradans care about wildlife, for its beauty and majesty, for its economic benefit, and because it is the ethical thing to do, then we need to send a strong message to policymakers that the time for political posturing is long expired. The Clean Power Plan and Paris Accords are important steps, but they require commitment. Leadership demands action not more delay.”

People that stopped by to enjoy the lovely afternoon and discussion included Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan. Eagle County has taken important steps to reduce its own contributions to carbon pollution and to start addressing looming impacts from climate change. Staff and visitors at Walking Mountains Science Center – where the roundtable was held – also joined the conversation.

–Photos by Ben Lehman, Lehman Images Ltd.

Drink and Act Locally

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s robust craft beer scene is world famous.

The Colorado Farm & Food Alliance networks Colorado family farms, winemakers, brewers, food producers, chefs, restaurateurs, and consumers—Working together to advocate for a balanced approach to resource use that supports: sustainable and secure local food systems, healthy lands and clean water, and a resilient farm, food, and drink economy.

We are a newly incorporated nonprofit in Colorado, and we are not yet engaged in any of the potential ballot measures that might be of interest to our constituents.

But we are considering getting involved in the effort to change Colorado’s liquor laws.  Because enhancing local food systems, and the placed-based economies that such support, is a top priority for our organization.

Cincinnati-based Kroger, Inc. along with Walmart–owned by America’s richest family and based in Arkansas–are pushing a rewrite of long-standing Colorado law regarding beer and wine sales in grocery stores. Many local brewers, wineries and community-based ‘Mom and Pop’ stores oppose the corporate-backed measure.

Big-Grocery (Kroger, Inc., Walmart, etc.) sells exclusive shelf space and not only product.  As we see Big-Beer (InBev, MoslonCoors, etc.) buy out small breweries it seems a real risk that the variety of small, locally produced beers, Colorado wines, and craft spirits will be mostly shut out in exchange for carefully marketed faux-microbrews, fewer Colorado wines, and  Big-Booze spirits.

The Colorado Farm & Food Alliance connects rural communities, food and drink producers, and consumers across the state “in the field and on the plate” to support policy that enhances sustainability and long-term food security.


Localvores, Pick Up Your Forks! Oil and Water Don’t Mix.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

By @ColoFarmFood, crossposted at ColoradoFarmFood.org 

Attention has been focused on Denver, as Governor Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force finishes its work, mostly avoiding the contentious issues that surround the industrial realities of oil and gas—noise, pollution, traffic, and impacts to land and existing uses—which led to its formation 18 months ago. 

Many of Colorado’s farmers, and the farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, wineries and sundry other businesses along those lines, meanwhile, were thinking instead of the weather.  Glad for snow, and the hope for a decent water year.

But watching the weather on the advent of spring does not mean many were not also watching what came out of the Task Force, and paying attention to oil and gas development generally, especially where it impacts or threatens business and operations.  And they always have an eye on their water.

Earlier this month concerned valley residents packed the Paonia High School to learn about and comment on the proposed Bull Mountain natural gas drilling and fracking project planned in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River, and the source of most of the area’s irrigation water. 


PAONIA — North Fork Valley residents are rallying again to try and stop oil and gas development involving tens of thousands of acres, but in this case face a daunting challenge because the land already is leased.

Some 200 people turned out at a Bureau of Land Management meeting at Paonia High School regarding SG Interests’ plan to drill up to 146 natural gas wells in the upper North Fork Valley, with many in attendance indicating their concern about the project.

…Residents Tuesday voiced concerns including possible air and water impacts, heavy truck traffic on Highway 133, the potential for harm to the Paonia area’s burgeoning organic farm industry, and whether the local economic benefits are enough to justify the risks. 

…“There’s no reason to use clean water for dirty energy extraction,” Jere Lowe, who owns a local organic farming supply company, said Tuesday.


The Bull Mountain Master Development Plan proposes almost 150 new natural gas wells.  In addition to their potential impacts on the valley’s water supplies, they would lie along the world-famous West Elk Scenic Byway in the heart of its aspen country.  

From there, public lands—many that could face future oil and gas development—stretch across Clear Fork Divide, Springhouse Park, Mamm Peak, and over into the Battlement Mesa area, where residents are raising similar concerns. 


Among those concerned about both her water and the earthquake risk are Williams’ mom and Gardner’s aunt, Alberta Payton. She lives on a ranch that has been in her family since 1892, and uses her well for drinking and domestic uses. It’s also used to provide water for cows on her property.