Written by Luke Schafer, West Slope Advocacy Director

A little over 10 years ago, I was a newly minted college graduate, completely unsure of what I wanted to do with my life other than knowing that I wanted to live in a place where wild things still existed.  I somehow scored an interview with the Colorado Wilderness Network for a job in Craig.  I scoured the then still seemingly primitive internet to figure out some sort of background information so I could disguise my ignorance.

One thing kept popping up again and again, Roan Plateau.  The same verbiage of deep woods laced with streams and critter filled meadows abounded. The descriptions and pictures were amazing, truly a place for the wild things I was seeking. Streams teeming with native trout; waterfalls cascading over cliffs; lush hanging gardens soaking in the spray; aspen glades echoing the bugle of bull elk–all of these scenes accurately depict the Roan Plateau.  I, of course, tried to work Roan Plateau into every available opportunity into my interview, which wasn’t terribly applicable since the job was to work on Vermillion Basin and other areas in far Northwest Colorado.  A few weeks later I was packing up and moving west, eager to protect places like the Roan.

Despite being completely different ecosystems and Vermillion suffering a serious attention deficiency in comparison to Roan, the places are close relatives.  They are both lines in the sand that the Colorado and national conservation communities made: they are places that were too wild to drill and places where we will fight until they are permanently protected. In large part, the protections gained so far for Vermillion were possible because of the Roan Plateau.

The efforts around the Roan Plateau have been a game changer in so many ways.  While the Colorado conservation community had united against Two Forks Dam in the foothills near Denver, it hadn’t really ever made a collective stand on a public land issue and let alone a public land issue on the rural West Slope. The Roan was the rallying point for Prius-driving environmentalists from Boulder and tobacco-chewing sportsman from Meeker and everyone in between. It wasn’t simply a NIMBY reaction, it was a collective recognition that we need places like Roan Plateau to exist for our own sake.

Along the way, people from coast to coast began to learn about the island in the sea of development, about the abundant wildlife, rare plants and scenery under siege on the Roan Plateau. All these disparate groups were working together to elevate the issue on a national stage with an ideal held in common—protect the top of the plateau.

Recently, a deal which cancels nearly all of the oil and gas leases on the top of the Plateau was announced. It’s more than just a victory for the actual plateau. It was a reaffirmation in both standing your ground as well as reaching out to work with others.  Over the years the influence of this collective approach has been felt in places like Vermillion Basin, Hoback Junction, WY, the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana and hopefully, soon with the Greater sage grouse all across the West.

So while we celebrate this step in realizing protections for Roan and the promotion of responsible development, I and plenty more of my colleagues at Conservation Colorado and elsewhere will carry on what I think is the Roan’s real legacy, uniting the disparate interests that give a damn and continue to fight for Colorado’s future.

Your West Slope Advocacy Director,

Luke

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.

Written by Sarah White

What’s the fuss about a funny little bird that boogies? Why do they matter? Why should we save sage grouse?

Greater sage grouse are found only in North America and much like their smaller, even more imperiled cousin the Gunnison sage-grouse, they are on a path to extinction.  In 2010, they became candidates for protection as an endangered species. It’s not always easy to see why one admittedly odd bird warrants our attention. Turns out saving sage grouse benefits more than the bird. Here are the Top 6 Reasons to save sage grouse:

1. Restores Balance to the Land

Sage grouse are suffering because things are out of balance. We need better land management to restore the balance between wildlife habitat and oil and gas drilling.

2. Brings People Together

We have a common problem: a landscape and a species dependent on it are at risk. Just like the sage grouse, we are dependent on this same ecosystem for recreation, ranching, oil and gas development, etc. This requires people from all walks of life to work together to create effective and enforceable plans that protect the best remaining habitat – plans based on science, not politics.

3. Protects Ranching

Ranch lands and wildlife habitat are often one and the same. Pronghorn and sage grouse share the land with cows. Sage grouse conservation is providing ranchers with new incentives, grazing techniques and funding opportunities that can enhance their operations while also restoring habitat and putting sage grouse on the path to recovery.

4. Benefits other Wildlife

Sage grouse are an important part of the web of life in the West. When we protect habitat for sage grouse, we protect habitat for hundreds of other animals including elk, deer, and antelope, creating a cascade effect for conservation.

5. Supports a Vibrant, Diverse Economy

Once sage grouse provided a source of protein for families and while hunting does happen in some areas, more and more grouse are proving a reason for tourists to visit western communities. In 2013, over 100 people visited Craig, Colorado paying to stay in hotels, consuming 200-300 meals and spending money on fuel and supplies as a result of Conservation Colorado’s grouse tours.

6. Provides a Guarantee for Future Generations

By protecting sage grouse now when the species is still healthy enough to recover, then we ensure that these amazing birds and the wild landscapes upon which they depend, are here for future generations to value and enjoy.

We have a responsibility to leave the world a better place for future generations and that means being good stewards of the land and protecting habitat for all wildlife.

Folks at BLM have been working hard to create a plan to save sage grouse and they need your encouragement to ensure the plan includes the most proactive measures and best science.

 

Do you recall when you were little and were asked “what would you like to be when you grow-up?” At age 3 my answer was that I wanted to grow-up to be a “black stallion.” My love of horses went so deep as for me to desire to be as strong, beautiful & free-spirited as are the wild horses that roam far northwest Colorado.

Pat Mantle was my hero for the simple fact that he owned, what seemed then to be, the most horses in the whole world. As an adult I learned that the Mantles settled in the area now known as Dinosaur National Monument. The Mantle ranch in Hell’s Canyon along the Yampa River was the headquarters for their horse and cattle operation. Horse-whispers before the term was coined, the Mantles would round-up the wild mustangs that still thrive in the region and tame them to the saddle for sale back East or for use in the family’s Sombrero Stables dude and trail horse operation.

The Mantle ranch remains the only private inholding within the over 200,000 acres of Dinosaur National Monument. Their story is recounted by Queeda Mantle Walker in her books, “The Mantle Ranch” & “Last Ranch in Hells Canyon.” The Monument is usually better known for the 80 acre dinosaur quarry in Utah. Those 80 acres were expanded 75 years ago, protecting landscapes far beyond the bones and including lands that surround the historic Mantle ranch. The expansion created friction between the Mantle family and the National Park Service, but it also preserved a culturally and environmentally important part of our State.

You can see the canyons and rivers and historic ranches of Dinosaur National Monument by joining us on one of our Beyond the Bones Tours.The next tour is as on August 25th. The tour is free, but we do require registration to assist in logistics. Please register by this Friday August 23rd.

The drive on August 25th will take us out on the Harper’s Corner Road, down to Echo Park along the river and then out across the Yampa Bench Road where we will have the chance to see the Mantle ranch at Hell’s Canyon.

For me this place is as close to sacred ground as it gets. The place where my family played and where my personal western heroes scrapped-out a living by taming the abundant wild horses. I will be joined by a handful of local characters who are as eager to share their stories as I am to share more of mine.  We hope you’ll join us Beyond the Bones!

Your Field Organizer,

Sasha Nelson

Check out these links for more information: 

Written by Sarah White

Colorado is known for its diverse and unique landscapes and Coloradans take pride in the fact that we have so many wild, beautiful places to play and explore. Conservation Colorado staff has seen a great deal of the state, so we like to think we have a pretty good idea on where to go to see the best of what Colorado wilderness has to offer.

In honor of  Great Outdoors America Week and our Celebration of Wilderness event with Congresswoman DeGette earlier this week, we asked our staff to share some of their favorite places to get outdoors. We encourage you to see these sites firsthand and find out why we hold them so near and dear to our hearts:

Scott Braden, our new Wilderness Advocate, has plenty of suggestions on amazing places to see in Colorado.  One of his favorite getaways is  Yampa River Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument in the Northwest corner of the state. The Yampa is close to Scott’s heart because it is the last wild and undammed river in the Colorado River system.  In Dinosaur National Monument the Yampa plunges into an unexpected serpentine canyon of sandstone, flowing swiftly towards its confluence with the Green River in Echo Park.

Becky Long, our Advocacy Director, prefers the lower Blue Valley in Silverthorne. It’s where her family ranch is and the area is absolutely amazing. The Gore Range, the Blue River, and the open ranchlands symbolize Colorado.

Petrika Peters, one of our Field Organizers in Grand Junction, loves the mountains on the western slope, but the San Juans have a special place carved out in her heart. It’s where she met her partner, fell in love, got married, and spent a special week with mountain goats as the sole visitor to her camp!

Sasha Nelson, another one of our Field Organizers in Craig, knows it’s difficult to narrow down the hundreds of amazing places on the millions of acres of Public Lands up in Northwest Colorado. One that stands out to her is Vermillion Basin, an area of around 100,000 acres, of “badlands” tucked away in far Northwest Colorado. Watching the clouds paint the vermilion bluffs is like seeing a watercolor in motion. What makes this place so magical is its mystery.

Beka Wilson, our Development Director, couldn’t pick just one. She suggests:

  • Gateway, Unaweep Canyon and The Monument.  It’s a great place to see the spectacular red rock, really fun bouldering and unbeatable stargazing!
  • Lost Creek Wilderness is close to the Front Range and is gorgeous!
  • Salida and Brown’s Canyon.  Salida has the best festivals and there is so much to do in around the Collegiate Peaks.
  • Mt Sneffels Wilderness by Telluride.  Best scenery in the state, hands down.

Ben Gregory, our tireless Finance and Operations Director, is all about the Pawnee Buttes for the big open sky and solitude.  Eastern Plains represent!

Our Denver field organizers have their favorite spots too, Becca Strelitz’s favorite place (which tends to change every time she discovers a new area of Colorado) is currently Crater Lakes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It is a relatively easy hike to the first of the lakes from the Moffat Tunnel and the encompass everything you’d imagine Colorado wilderness to entail.

What are your most cherished places to get outdoors in Colorado? We’d love to hear why you cherish our state’s wilderness. We love working to protect these amazing places and ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy them in the same way as we do today.

Written by Sarah White

Earth Day is upon us today and we’re excited! We focus a lot of our efforts on the long-term conservation of Colorado’s beautiful lands and clean air. But today we celebrate what we can do right now help our environment.

These steps are simple, but they add up to create a massive impact on climate change in our state every single day. Now, we know you have been told to do some of these things before, but Earth Day is a day to remind ourselves that these steps are more important now than ever before.

1. Let’s start with the obvious: reduce, reuse, recycle:

Did you know that there’s an island in the Pacific Ocean that is the size of Texas and is completely made up of trash? Although we have made great progress, far too much of our everyday lives ends up harming our air, land, and water. We can all do our part by reducing what we consume, try and reuse as much as possible, and recycle the rest.  Every little bit helps reduce the amount of new, harmful chemicals that are introduced into the environment, helps us use energy more efficiently, and minimizes the land our landfills need.

2. Help preserve our water supply by conserving your water:

April snow has made us hopeful for a good snowpack this year, but years of drought have depleted Colorado’s reservoirs to the point where it’s going to take many years of above-average snowfall to bring them back to normal. So, how can you help? From your sink to your lawn, conserve your water usage.

3. Walk, ride your bike, use our great transportation system:

We all know that climate change is the problem of our age but want can an individual do?  The car you drive and how you choose to get around can have a huge impact on your energy consumption. Better yet, get out and enjoy our great Colorado weather;  ride your bike, walk, or take public transportation to help you get where you need to go.

4. Go outside this Earth Day:

No, seriously, go outside. How will that help? We hope the more time you spend exploring our beautiful state, the more passionate you’ll become about preserving it for future generations. Check out some of the areas we are working to protect. But remember, take only pictures and leave only footprints.

5. Get involved with your elected officials:

Final self plug: we have made this step easy for you; Take an Action. Tell your local legislators why you are concerned and what they can do to get your support. Our vast landscapes, wildlife, rivers, and our tremendous outdoor opportunities help define our beautiful state. Any day a lawmaker hears from a constituent is a day that he or she must think a little longer about the impacts that his or her decisions have.  Check out our latest Actions and send your elected official a message that you care about protecting Colorado!