As the climate warms, agriculture in Colorado is on the front lines. The agriculture industry in Colorado is worth $41 billion, and so the impacts that climate change will have on food production should be of tremendous importance to all of us.

We interviewed two researchers to get a sense of what the impacts may be. Colorado State University researchers Dr. Pat Byrne and Dr. Scott Denning both work to understand how crops can adapt to climate change.Their research may help farmers identify ways to adapt to climate change in the future.

The Problems that Colorado Agriculture is Facing

Dr. Denning explained that as the global climate changes, average temperature will rise sharply. Because Colorado is so far inland, this effect will be stronger because large bodies of water help mitigate temperature swings and Colorado is far from our oceans or Great Lakes. We can expect temperature increases in Colorado to be 1.5 to 2 times as large as global averages. Imagine the climate of Albuquerque as far north as Greeley.

Hotter temperatures come with longer growing seasons. But they also bring major problems for agriculture. Hotter temperatures make plants “thirstier” even as soaring temperatures reduce Colorado’s snowpack. That means a hotter Colorado is also a drier Colorado.

So, farmers will be needing to get more water for irrigation. With booming population growth, obtaining water rights is already challenging in Colorado. Dr. Denning’s biggest worry is water issues – for both plants and people. We’ll see an increase in irrigation needs for agriculture as snowpack decreases and city populations increase. As he puts it, “Where the heck are they gonna get the water?”

We get most of our water from snowpack. We divert about 83% of collected water to agriculture. Only 17% goes to cities. We’ve already seen a 20% decrease in snowpack.

Dr. Scott Denning

To make matters worse, climate change also creates more variability. Future summers may be cool and damp one year, but scorching and dry the next. As Dr. Byrne points out, it’s one thing to breed a strain of wheat that can withstand hot and dry. It’s another to create a strain that can withstand all extremes. Farmers will struggle to know what to plant in the face of the extremes predicted. Low yields not only spell economic trouble for farmers, but consumers as well.

The Research

Farmers are already adapting to this unpredictable world. They’re implementing low-till or no-till methods to reduce water loss, getting crop insurance, and starting to plant crops like sorghum and millet farther north. Crop diversity is good insurance against climate variability.

While the farmers who produce our food try to adapt, scientists are also searching for more drastic solutions. Dr. Byrne hopes his research on plant genetics will find or create a strain of wheat that thrives in a wide variety of conditions. He worries that common strains of wheat won’t be profitable for farmers in the future. He says of the struggle, “The biggest challenge is variability, not major changes in one direction. If, for example, we could [selectively breed plants] for increasingly hot and dry places. That would be hard but it would be possible. But what makes it hard is the swinging back and forth.”

Implementation

So far, scientists haven’t come up with a one-size-fits-all climate change solution for agriculture. But they are constantly looking for and researching new ideas. One of these is a technique called precision agriculture. Raj Kholsa, another CSU researcher, lays precision agriculture out like this: “Precision farming can help today’s farmer meet these new challenges by applying the right input, in the right amount, to the right place, at the right time, and in the right manner. The importance and success of precision farming lies in these five R’s.”

Farmers can remedy financial stress from low yields in other ways as well. Some farmers in Europe have had success in partnering with renewable energy companies to share land. The income from leasing land for windmills or solar can make a difference in tough years. Some farmers may take out crop insurance, which will pay them a sum of money if the harvest is bad.

Acting on climate change is imperative for our future food security as well as the current job security of farmers. Aside from supporting climate change champions politically, you can help by supporting local research institutions as they work to find solutions. Support local farmers financially through CSAs and farmer’s markets, and ask them if they use any of the mitigation efforts mentioned above. Supporting the right people with your dollars can help them make bigger changes in the future.

Written by Audrey Wheeler

Until last year, Volkswagen was perhaps best known for beetle cars and hippie vans. But in September of 2015, Volkswagen saw a storm of negative attention when the U.S. government found out VW had produced cars that cheated in emissions tests. In the end, Volkswagen admitted that 11 million of their vehicles worldwide were equipped with software that allowed the cars to cheat during emissions tests, making it seem like the vehicles were ultra-clean when in reality they were polluting far over legal limits.

VW Settlement infographicEmissions tests and air pollution limits are in place to protect human health and the air we breathe. Volkswagen’s “too-good-to-be-true” clean diesel cars emitted up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides (“NOx”) on the road, but hid these emissions during tests. These smog-forming pollutants, according to one estimate,will be responsible for dozens of premature deaths in the U.S. Nearly 600,000 cheating vehicles were sold in the U.S. before Volkswagen was found out, including 9,350 in Colorado.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to hold the company accountable, and the company agreed to pay large sums to reduce automobile emissions in each state where their cars were sold.

For Colorado, this means our state will receive $61.3 million to be used for certain activities to reduce emissions. It’s up to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) to decide how the money will be spent, and the agency is currently accepting public input on the decision.

This is a huge opportunity for Colorado to boost our transportation infrastructure in a way that will protect our clean air. Because VW’s cheating caused serious air pollution in our state, we are calling on CDPHE to maximize the benefits that this settlement could have for Colorado in terms of cleaning up our air clean and reducing carbon pollution. This means several things:


1. Allocate 15 percent of the funding (the maximum allowed by the settlement) to building out the charging network for electric vehicles (EV) across the state.

Colorado is currently the best state in the country for buying an EV because of our innovative tax incentives. But it’s important that we make it the best state in the nation to drive an EV.  Some Coloradans are hesitant to buy an EV because they are concerned there aren’t enough charging stations to get around the state (a fear also known as “range anxiety.”) We want to make sure there is a trustworthy network of charging stations across the state and the region.

If 15 percent of the VW money goes towards building charging stations, this could result in 60 fast charging stations on our highways. Fast charging stations can provide an 80 percent charge for an EV in 20-30 minutes.

Electric charging stations are far cheaper than gas stations to build, and a National Science Foundation study in 2015 showed that increasing the number of charging stations by 10 percent per million people boosted EV sales by nearly 11 percent in the area. Constructing new fast charging stations is one of the best ways for Colorado to incentivize use of EVs and clean up our air.

2. Work with surrounding states to cooperatively electrify all of the major highway corridors.

Sixty new charging stations would mean Colorado could position one every 30-50 miles along the state’s major highways. That’s enough to electrify 3,000 miles of Colorado highways, or all of I-70, I-25, and I-76, as well as most of U.S. 285, U.S. 160, U.S. 550, U.S. 40 and U.S. 50! This settlement provides an opportunity to build a network that makes EV trips practical in most places in our state.

Colorado highway infrastructure

And not only should we electrify our own highways, but we can and should coordinate with neighboring states to enable EV driving throughout the intermountain west.

3. Use the remainder of the funds to replace older diesel buses with clean electric buses.

The remainder of the settlement funds — 85 percent or about $52 million — could fund up to 125 new electric buses, which would be a huge leap in the shift to a cleaner transportation fleet.

Electric buses are by far the best option for a clean transportation future, as opposed to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles, because they emit far fewer health-harming pollutants. Transitioning to electric buses could cut 90,000 tons of carbon pollution over the lifespan of the buses — that’s the same as taking 17,000 cars off the road for a year!

Graphs that show greatly decreased NOx and VOC emissions in new transit buses

Importantly, electric buses would help clean up the air for disadvantaged communities that suffer greater health impacts from air pollution. Traffic pollution has grave impacts on our health, from asthma attacks in children to impaired lung function, premature death, death from cardiovascular diseases, and cardiovascular morbidity. Plus, bus routes often run through dense areas and neighborhoods with high volumes of pedestrians. Electric buses would reduce the noise and eliminate diesel fumes, benefiting those neighborhoods.

In a rapidly warming world where climate change is slated to have dangerous impacts in Colorado, this is a great opportunity to advance public transit in a way that is good for our air and our climate.  All in all, $61.3 million is enough to jump start Colorado’s clean transportation future. We’re working to tell the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment that the best way to use the money is the way that will benefit all Coloradans.

Written by Conservation Colorado staff

Outdoor recreation in a warming world is not getting easier. Shorter, warmer winters hurt ice climbing and skiing, while reduced snowmelt is challenging for fishing and whitewater sports. Hot summers push climbers and hikers into the fall and spring, increasing the risk of running out of daylight.

Colorado Springs reflects many of the impacts of climate change on recreation seen across the state. For example, there was a ski hill at the Broadmoor until 1991, which is almost inconceivable to many newer residents to the Front Range. Ice climbing routes at popular local spots such as Silver Cascade are getting more and more unpredictable. And diminishing snowpack means less spring runoff, making whitewater sports difficult.

All of these things are on the mind of David Crye, Assistant Director of Colorado College’s Office of Outdoor Education in Colorado Springs. He helps organize skiing, climbing, rafting, and backpacking trips for students. Climate change affects his job, just as it threatens all of Colorado’s outdoor businesses, ski companies, and weekend warriors. Outdoor recreation is a huge part of the draw of Colorado College, so the program is important for administrators as well as for students.

David’s job revolves around planning educational outings for the students at Colorado College. This is getting challenging as Colorado’s fickle seasons become even harder to predict.

Hit-and-miss seasons for kayaking or ice climbing trips are frustrating for students and staff alike. When students are researching and proposing a trip, water or ice levels may be good–but when it comes to the day before the trip, conditions may have totally changed. This is frustrating for anyone trying to plan personal trips, but is especially problematic for structured programs like guiding businesses or school outings. These trips can’t easily be moved or rescheduled.

“Our programs exist to get people outside, expose them to nature and activities and find their place. College is about getting out trying out new things and learning – which isn’t always in the classroom,” explained David. With climate shifts causing fickle weather, students who were excited to learn about ice climbing or enjoy a scenic river may lose their chance.

While Colorado’s weather has always been reliably unreliable, climate change makes things even worse. This matters for outdoor programs, as David points out.  “Outdoor education helps our community be more cohesive and more in-tune with the world and nature. If students aren’t getting out and experiencing nature, or seeing the changes that are happening,  why would they even know or care to be an advocate for upcoming generations?”

Even historic trips are coming into question. Normally, Colorado College runs an Avalanche Safety course in mid-February. Last year, the snowpack was too low. Students got the same education in avalanche safety, but they missed out on the hands-on experience. David worries that these leaders may not actually have the experience needed to safely lead future trips, because their training took place in such bad snow.

In short, climate change doesn’t just affect high alpine creatures, coastal communities, or big ski resorts. It affects almost all forms of outdoor recreation, threatening our seasons and making planning nearly impossible. Soaring temperatures and unpredictable weather events are a major headache for guides, outdoor enthusiasts, and outing programs.

If current predictions hold true, what is now a major headache will soon become much more troubling. Boulder, Fort Collins, and Greeley were all recently named as cities that will be heavily affected by climate change. Greeley has seen one of the biggest increase in 100-degree days since 1970; Fort Collins is among the cities with the biggest increases in 90-degree days. Boulder is getting muggier – it’s ranked in the top three cities with the biggest dew point increase since 1970.

All these statistics show that you don’t have to be an ice climber to feel the effects of climate change. Daily bike commutes, summer runs, and walks with the dog could all change drastically.

Our multi-billion outdoor recreation economy is especially sensitive to the impacts of climate change. We can work to fix this by supporting good climate policy, electing leaders who make climate action a priority, and working on ways to limit our own personal use.

Written by Conservation Colorado staff

Imagine a game of Jenga. As each wooden block is removed from the tower, it becomes less and less stable. While the removal of one block has little effect, the removal of another will cause the entire tower to collapse.

Now, imagine each Jenga block is a species. There are plants, snakes, birds, mammals, and all the rest. Imagine each player is a threat to an ecosystem. There’s climate, habitat loss, and pollution. As each player removes a wobbly, loose piece, the entire tower gets shakier. Water pollution may remove a crustacean. Habitat loss easily takes out a few big predators. New diseases or fungus with expanding ranges hurt amphibians and bats.

The tower gets shakier.

But climate change is the biggest threat of all, the one that could cause the entire tower to tumble.

Maxwell Plichta with his research subject, the pika.

This is the scenario we are faced with now. Colorado’s animals are facing threats from all sides, with climate change front and center. Take, for example, the pika. This high-alpine critter is “as charismatic and curious as you and me,” according to Maxwell Plichta. He’s been researching pika for 3 years with the Front Range Pika Project. He loves seeing pika on hikes and points out that they’re also an important species for gauging how the environment is reacting to climate change. They’re a furry, high-alpine “canary in a coal mine.”

Pika are in especially bad shape when it comes to climate change Jenga. These little critters don’t do well above 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If they can’t find a place to cool off, they die. Comfortable in the winter and high-alpine environments, pika can’t do well at both extremes. In Colorado, pika live in high mountaintops. This means that they’ve got nowhere to go if their home gets too warm.

Pika have already disappeared from a third of their habitat in Oregon and Nevada. Recent studies show pika are doing OK in Colorado – perhaps due to the high mountain habitat available. According to pika researcher Liesl Erb, “It is good news that pikas are doing better in the Southern Rocky Mountains than some other places. It is likely that the geographic traits of the Rockies are a big reason why we are not seeing significant declines, at least not yet.”

According to Erb’s research, the places in the southern Rockies that lost pika were the driest, not the hottest. She points out that some models predict the exact sort of hot, dry climate in Colorado’s future that dooms pikas. This just goes to show how difficult it is to predict how climate change will affect wildlife.

Pika are considered an indicator species. Removing their Jenga block from the tower may not cause its collapse. It shows the danger what could happen with unabated climate change. Pika are early, easy targets. Their demise may predict danger for less vulnerable species later. In other words, disappearing pikas could be a stark warning of what is to come.

Emissions and carbon pollution threaten the air, water, and climate of both animals and people. We can protect animals from climate change the same way we protect people – support good climate policy, elect leaders who make climate action a priority, and work on ways to curb our own personal use.

Written by Audrey Wheeler

Colorado has long been a leader for the nation in finding policy solutions that strike the right balance between responsible energy development and protecting our clean air, clean water, and treasured lands.

Our state’s past innovation and opportunities for the future were recently highlighted at a panel that Conservation Colorado helped organize in collaboration with the University of Colorado Wirth Chair in Sustainable Development.  The full video can be seen here:

The panelists — Dan Grossman, National Director of State Programs, Environmental Defense Fund; Will Allison, Director of the Air Pollution Control Division, Colorado Dept. of Health and Environment; Patrick Von Bargen, Executive Director, Center for Methane Emissions Solutions; Dr. Tanya Heikkila, Professor, CU School of Public Affairs; Jim Armstrong, President, Apogee Scientific —  had three major takeaways:

1. Colorado’s methane regulations are good for the economy and the environment

One in three Americans lives in a county with oil and gas operations, and right now, methane is leaking from over a million oil and gas wells. That’s over 7 million metric tons of methane spilling into the air each year – enough gas to heat 5 million American homes (at a cost of over $1 billion in lost methane).

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, so wasting methane means losing money for oil and gas taxes and royalty revenues. Those lost funds would have supported education, infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and conservation efforts in areas directly affected by energy development. Curbing methane pollution is also critical because it is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release, and is already responsible for a quarter of man-made climate change.

The good news is that cleaning up methane waste is a win-win. Oil and gas companies can benefit by bringing more natural gas to market, and entrepreneurs are breaking new ground and creating jobs in an ever-growing methane mitigation industry.

Addressing methane waste helps clean up our air. The same strategies used to cut methane will also help reduce ozone-forming pollutants and toxic emissions such as benzene, which threaten the health of those living closest to development. The Colorado methane rules will be critical to reducing ozone along the Front Range to comply with the new federal ozone standards. As Will Allison, Director, Air Pollution Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment put it:

“These [regulations] are a good step, but not the end game . . . the EPA recently lowered the health based ozone standard. This makes our challenges here on the Front Range all that much greater.”

Regulations to plug methane leaks are supported by companies in the oil and gas industry. In fact, a recent study by the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions found that representatives from oil and gas companies overwhelmingly agreed that the benefits of Colorado’s regulations outweigh the costs. Companies capture lost product for additional income and reduce emissions without incurring significant costs.  Additionally, because of the required inspection schedule, the oil and gas companies have seen improved on-site safety and training for their employees.

2. There is need for more stringent federal regulations

Colorado can’t do it alone. No matter how strong Colorado’s air rules are, we’ll need our neighboring states to match our proactive approach in order to protect our air. As Dr. Tanya Heikkila, Professor at the CU School of Public Affairs, explained:

“We need to find better ways of engaging in productive dialogue and productive policy making [around climate change and methane], and I think Colorado has shown some leadership on this issue – we need to share our lessons beyond our state boundaries.”

Currently, both the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency are working to cut methane waste and pollution. The BLM has a “no waste” mandate and is responsible for ensuring a fair return to taxpayers when publicly-owned oil and natural gas minerals are developed. The EPA can address methane pollution on state and private lands, which will ensure we don’t leave any loopholes where development takes place.

As Dan Grossman, National Director of State Programs for Oil and Gas at the Environmental Defense Fund described:

“Our Colorado regulations are strong and are working well, but we need to continue to improve them.  What I see is a continuing circle of improvement in state and federal regulations so that we can get entire the oil and gas sector under a very cost effective regime that will reduce methane and VOCs across the country.”

3. New technologies can help solve our problems

While hydraulic fracturing is a relatively new system, its widespread use has triggered a response from the industry for methane mitigation and new technologies to reduce pollution.

According to Jim Armstrong, President of Apogee Scientific, “We need have systems that can go out there and economically find larger ‘super emitters’ that may be one hundred times larger than the smaller leaks. We need uniform regulations.” Mr. Armstrong’s company, Apogee, specializes in a new mobile infrared technology that can detect emissions from up to 100 feet away.

And Patrick Von Bargen, Executive Director of the Center for Methane Emissions, discussed a new program through the Department of Energy which has funded research and development on monitoring systems. Their target is to reduce the cost of monitoring leaks by a factor of ten, which will be cost effective and available commercially in two to three years. These new technologies can provide breakthroughs with an enormous reduction of cost.

Colorado’s forward-thinking work on our state rules has provided a model for the nation, and we have proven that methane rules can coexist with responsible energy development. But there is more work to be done, and we need to fight to make it happen.

Written by Sarah White

2014 has been a successful year for Conservation Colorado. From working with our elected officials to pass critical environmental legislation, to knocking doors to get out the vote, and organizing on college campuses, in Latino communities, and in cities all across the state, we’ve accomplished big things for Colorado.

It would be pretty hard to point out all of the things that we’re proud of, but we wanted to highlight the BIG ones. Here are our top 10 accomplishments of 2014.

10. We won a decade long battle

The ten year long battle to protect the Roan Plateau is finally over. The conservation community finally won the fight to keep the 54,000 acre Roan Plateau from becoming an industrial zone.

9. We had a year long party!

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and boy, did we celebrate. We held events across the state from July to November to raise awareness about the 3.6 million acres of Colorado’s most sublime wildlands that are set aside as wilderness areas.

8. We held industry accountable

In April we were thrilled to help pass legislation that will finally clean up groundwater contamination in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Canon City. After 30 years of pollution and indifference from Cotter Corporation, Coloradans living in its shadow were finally granted the right to clean water and use of their own water wells.

7. Introducing….Protégete!

This year, Conservation Colorado launched Protégete: Our Air, Our Health. It is an important and timely effort to engage the Latino community around the issues of clean air and climate change.

6. The EPA came to town & we responded with a day of action

This year we took a huge step toward addressing the challenge of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed national safeguards that aim to cut carbon pollution, One of just four hearings across the country was held right here in Colorado! Our coalition rallied over 250 Coloradans to testify at the hearings and came out on top — an overwhelming majority of the testimonies showed support of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

5. 42 wins for conservation

It wasn’t easy, but after one of the toughest election seasons yet, the conservation community helped elect 42 pro-conservation candidates to the Colorado state legislature. With the help of our staff and volunteers, we knocked doors, made phone calls, created mail pieces, landed on people’s Facebook newsfeeds, and crafted radio ads to promote our conservation champions and help them to victory.

4. Colorado made history (in a good way)

Colorado sent a strong message to the nation in February – that every person deserves to breathe clean air. With your support, and after a year-long ground campaign, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission passed groundbreaking, first in the nation rules that directly regulate methane pollution from oil and gas facilities.

3. Huge steps for water

Up until now, we have been the only state in the west without a State Water Plan (yikes!). But that’s about to change. On December 10, the first draft of this groundbreaking plan was released — and it will be finalized in a year. This plan will address the “gap” between our available water supply and our demand and we have worked every step of the way to ensure that the Governor keeps his work and puts conservation first.

2. Hey, President Obama! This land needs protection

Conservation Colorado has worked with U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet for years to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument. This month, we brought this beautiful 22,000 acres of public lands around the Arkansas River to the forefront of President Obama’s attention and are optimistic that he will take the next step to finally protect Browns Canyon once and for all.

1. YOU

Conservation Colorado works hard to protect the land, air, and water of our beautiful state for YOU, our members. We are proud to have a growing membership of dedicated Coloradans who are willing to take action and support the work that will ensure clean air, healthy flowing waters, and protected lands for years to come. We do this work because we believe that it is your right to enjoy the outdoors as you see fit, without restrictions from out-of-state special interests and polluting industries. We do this work because of YOU.

We can’t do any of this without your support — please consider making a year end donation to Conservation Colorado.

Written by Petrika Peters

Have you heard? For the FIRST time in history the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed limits for unnecessary carbon pollution from power plants in the U.S. — and IT’S A BIG DEAL!

The EPA estimates that with the new safeguards in place, carbon pollution from power plants will be reduced 30% nationwide by 2030. What has us so jazzed at Conservation Colorado? We know how well-positioned Colorado is to lead on this rule by implementing exciting new measures.

In Grand Junction we celebrated this momentous event by gathering to get fired up by passionate speakers. Were you there? Tag yourself in our Facebook album.

We have a lot to celebrate, but this is only the beginning.

It’s hard to predict exactly what will happen in the coming decades in Grand Junction. We know it will get hotter — maybe not every year right here, but our temperatures are trending upward. I can’t imagine the Grand Valley any hotter in July, but think Phoenix because that is our future without action.

On top of that, longer frost-free seasons, less frequent cold air outbreaks, and more frequent heat waves accelerate crop ripening and maturity.  That acceleration reduces our yields of tree fruit and wine grapes, stresses our livestock, and further strains our agricultural water consumption. Those are scary things and they are happening now.

I love our peaches, cherries, and bounty of local produce — I want the next generation to experience and love these things as well. I know you do too. The good news? There are lots of things you can do RIGHT NOW to help combat climate change.

Here are my “Top 5 Must Do’s” this summer in the Grand Valley to fight climate change.

1) Sign the petition supporting EPA’s Carbon Pollution Safeguards. Did I mention this is a BIG DEAL!?

2) Turn up your thermostat a couple of degrees. I know it’s hot, but waiting one more degree before pumping the AC and swamp coolers can make a HUGE difference for our climate.

3) Eat one more vegetarian meal a week. Let’s face it: cows produce a lot of global-warming causing methane pollution. I’m not saying cut all beef out, but veggies are delicious and here in the Grand Valley we are lucky to have access to tons of local produce! Click here to see a list (compiled by our friends at Field to Fork CSA) of Grand Junction restaurants that serve local food. What are you waiting for?? Get out and enjoy the good food!

4) Bike to work! (or take public transport). June was bike-to-work month in Grand Junction. Now that you are in the habit, don’t stop! You can bike most of the year here — embrace it. It’s good for your health, soul, and the climate!

5.) GJ is hot, hot, hot! Take local action to combat climate change. From illuminating education presentations to comment writing, we’ve got it happening. Join Us!

Stay cool folks, it’s hot out there.

Your Field Organizer,

Petrika

Welcome to our new monthly feature by one of our West Slope Field Organizers, Petrika Peters. In this spot, she’ll feature local citizens’ groups that she is personally involved with, and that help Conservation Colorado’s grassroots efforts, in the Grand Junction area. Enjoy!

A newer, but nonetheless powerful and inspiring, group of concerned citizens in Mesa County is working to protect our air from harmful pollution. They dubbed themselves “Citizens for Clean Air” (CCA) and they are chock full of movers and shakers already making huge impacts for our Grand Valley air quality.

I have had the pleasure of working with this inspiring group for the past year and have seen first hand some of the amazing things they have accomplished in such a short time. Without CCA, Conservation Colorado would not have been able to accomplish much of what we have been pushing for, including landmark air quality rules that protect us from pollution or increased public awareness of the harms of oil and gas pollution.

These motivated citizens are working in innovative ways to make substantial positive change in our community; change that impacts all Coloradans, who, well, breathe. Anyone from the West Slope knows that nearly every winter in the Grand Valley, we are challenged by significant health consequences due to the cold air inversions that hold pollution in.

Protect our #COAir rally

Last year we experienced a record-breaking 11 days of national air quality standard violations due to high levels of particulates and other known pollutants such as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contained within the inversion. During this time, Mesa County issued “no-burn” announcements on 47 days, another record.

As a group, Citizens for Clean Air recognizes that our air problems are multi-faceted and require the “cleaning up” of many different pollutant sources. Vehicle emissions, agricultural burning, non-EPA certified wood-fired stoves, and industry emissions all contribute to our “brown cloud,” as well as a host of associated health and economic troubles. You see, bad air harms both our health and our quality of life – leading to increased school absences, sick days, medication use, and visits to doctors and emergency rooms; all of which have an economic and personal impact on our community.

Of late, CCA became increasingly concerned about the impact that oil and gas drilling has on our public health. Oil and gas operations spew horrible pollutants into our air.  The production, transportation, and processing life cycle of oil and gas is a major contributor to ground level ozone. Ozone causes a slew of health issues. Some of these include acute eye irritation, chest congestion, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

Air pollution is impacting our crops, the livelihood of farmers, and our tourist economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that, “ground-level ozone causes more damage to plants than all other air pollutants combined.” Ozone levels are already at a level that causes some loss of crop production. Colorado farmers are already enduring a severe drought; reduced harvests due to poor air quality only worsen their diminishing bottom line.

Let’s face it–who wants to visit a valley known for its haze? In order to cultivate our quality of life and sustain our economy, Conservation Colorado and CCA recognize that we MUST fix our air quality problems.

That’s why CCA is a formal party to the recent Air Quality Control Commission’s (AQCC) rule-making to improve safeguards from oil and gas pollution. The new AQCC protections will have a real impact our local air quality. While oil and gas emissions are not the sole contributor to our brown cloud, there are over 1,000 wells in Mesa County and more on the horizon if the proposed FRAM Whitewater project goes through.

I continue to be inspired by the motivation and active participation of this group of committed citizens. As CCA strives to solve this multi-faceted problem, we know one thing for sure–the Grand Valley simply can’t handle any more air pollution from any source.

This year’s brown cloud settled over the valley in December and despite the constant reminder, inspiration is urgently needed to get local governments and residents to act to improve our air quality.

To learn more or join the efforts of CCA contact Karen Sjoberg at 970-628-4699 or mmagency1@mindspring.com

Your Field Organizer,

Petrika

Written by Sarah White

On January 1st, 2013, following a combined 60 year history of fighting for our spectacular environment, Colorado Environmental Coalition and Colorado Conservation Voters merged to create Conservation Colorado. Since then, we have hired 9 new staff members, opened a new field office in Durango, and engaged our 16,000 members to take 7,220 actions!

What else have we done? The list goes on, but we picked out 7 notable achievements that we couldn’t have reached without your support.

1) New Faces

We didn’t just hire anyone, we hired the best of the best to inject new energy to the endless tasks we take on to fight for Colorado’s future. Combining old and new has proven to be effective as we saw numerous bills we supported become law this year and took on new campaigns to protect Colorado’s land, air, water, and people. Plus, they certainly made Halloween fun:

2) That Good ‘Ole Rocky Mountain Air

Greenhouse-gas-causing methane harms Coloradans and adds to climate change. Don’t believe us? Just look at the stories we collected on Facebook of Coloradans living with oil and gas operations in their backyards. Basically, it’s a big – huge – deal that Colorado will be the first state to make oil and gas operators capture methane and other harmful pollutants. And, it’s all because of you.

3) Record-breaking events

Turns out our volunteers and members think we put on quite the party – so much so that we had record breaking attendance at almost all of our events this year. From our annual Rebel With A Cause Gala to our Save The Ales beer tasting event, Coloradans came out to support what they love: our state. In addition, we hosted the Beyond The Bones hiking series in Northwest Colorado, the ClimateFest concert in Denver, West Slope Harvest Celebration in Palisade, and the Save The Last Dance book tour all around Colorado.

4) Hey-O Durango!

We started out with offices in Denver, Grand Junction, and Craig, but soon realized that 3 wasn’t enough. So we did something crazy – we started an office in Durango! Our Southwest Organizer, Emily, was welcomed with open arms and plenty of things to start organizing around.

5) Local Grassroots Organizing Pairs Well With National Legislation

Wait a second, Colorado’s wildlife habitats and wilderness areas are being talked about on a national level? That doesn’t happen every year. Both the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act and Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act have widespread support from the communities, local businesses, and elected officials.  We couldn’t be more excited to see the progress these bills have made and to support the Colorado lawmakers who are working to protect them for future generations.

6) Water Planning

It’s one of those things that seems boring and wonky, but necessary. Yet, as Theresa showed us in her popular blog series, Drought Days, water is anything but. From our extreme summer drought to our extreme September floods, water proved more than ever just how vital it is to Colorado. This past year, we joined together with coalition partners to pass a reusable water bill and encouraged Governor Hickenlooper to clean up Colorado’s water – because water is anything but boring. Still don’t believe us? Just watch Colorado Rising, a short film featuring a family’s story about the High Park Fire of 2012:

7) 252 – woot woot!

252 may just be a number to you, but it’s a reason to celebrate for us. We fought hard during the legislative session for common sense safeguards against oil and gas pollution, but their multi-million dollar lobbying efforts pushed us back. However, we won big with Senate Bill 252, which increases access to wind and solar energy across ALL of Colorado. It became law this summer and Colorado will now get cleaner, sustainable energy…and jobs to go along with it.

We can’t put it all in one blog post, but simply put, we have had a good first year. We’re proud of this state and you should be too. But with our first birthday coming up on January 1st, we realize that there’s always more work to be done to protect the state that we love for future generations.

That’s where you come in – we have asked you to make calls, write emails, send in letters, and follow us on social media. And, you have done it all. We couldn’t achieve any successes without you and we definitely couldn’t have accomplished as much as we did without your passion for Colorado. When thinking about who you want to give to this Colorado Gives Day, invest in a sure thing, invest in us and other members and volunteers like you who have made it clear to rest of our state that Colorado’s conservation voice deserves to be heard.