Today, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm David Bernhardt as Secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt will replace former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who resigned in disgrace last December under a cloud of ethics violations.

Kelly Nordini, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, released the following statement in response:

“Being a Colorado native does not give David Bernhardt special qualifications for running the Department of the Interior, and shame on Senator Gardner for letting the fox guard the henhouse simply because he’s from the same neighborhood. Senator Cory Gardner made a huge mistake with his vote today, given Bernhardt’s troubling record and spiraling conflicts of interest. Westerners love their public lands and the environment and Bernhardt cannot be entrusted to protect them on our behalf.

“Senator Gardner likes to talk about protecting public lands for future generations, but today’s vote to confirm a former oil lobbyist puts the public lands we love at risk. This is yet another instance of Senator Gardner telling Coloradans one thing and then doing the opposite.”

Whether you think about it every day or once in a blue moon, mining significantly impacted Colorado’s past — and continues to influence the present and our future.

Mining operations helped build Colorado’s economy — and many of our towns’ names reflects this relationship: consider Leadville, Silver Cliff, Telluride, Eldora, or Goldfield. While it’s important to celebrate our shared history, it’s vital to recognize that the environment surrounding these communities still bear the scars demonstrating its ungilded past.

Consider the decaying and decrepit structures, dangerous tailing piles, and toxic pollution that impact our waterways. Though the mining fueled the state’s economy, it came at significant costs that still affect Colorado communities and our environment. It’s time we stop living in the past and implement legislation that reforms how the state approaches modern mining activities. Luckily, our legislators are one step ahead of us.

On its way to Governor Polis’ desk, HB 19-1113 — Protect Waters From Adverse Mining Impacts aims to address the lingering problems descended from mining operations and pollution. HB 19-1113’s directive is clear: to protect the health and safety of Coloradans by making sure that water quality impacts are accounted for and long-term impacts are avoided in the mining process.

Senator Kerry Donovan

For senate sponsor Kerry Donovan, preserving the health of our rivers is a central aspect of how we must address Colorado’s ongoing mining operations to preserve the natural resources “that all Coloradans depend on – like water.”

We all remember the Gold King Mine spill in 2015. An estimated 3 million gallons of toxic sludge poured into the Animas River, turning its water into an unseemly orange, and contaminating water sources across the West. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated situation: Colorado has more than 23,000 inactive or abandoned mine sites leaching toxins and polluting more than 1,800 river miles. “Water quality statewide is suffering from pollution,” reflected Rep. Barbara McLachlan, one of the House sponsors of HB-1113, four years after the Gold King Mine spill.

In many cases, the companies who made their riches from mining our state’s minerals are no longer around to pay the clean up costs. Take the Summitville Mine in the San Luis Valley. Taxpayers ended up footing a bill worth over $21 million to cover the bankrupt company’s costs.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either. There are over two dozen mines that need similar treatments — and require similar clean up costs — in Colorado.

Representative Dylan Roberts

For Representative Dylan Roberts, another sponsor of the bill, the next step to clean up our rivers is clear: to implement better practices to make sure the long-term impacts from mining are not impacting our water quality.

Once signed into law, HB-1113 will change three aspects of the current process:

  1. The industry can no longer rely on self-bonding: Self-bonding, a practice that allows a mine operator to offer financial proof of resources to cover clean up costs instead of providing the resources upfront, most often forces taxpayers to pay out when companies encounter financial strife or bankruptcy. Currently, Colorado is one of only seven states that allow this practice, signalling to Coloradans members that it’s time to change the way the mining industry operates.
  2. Taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill to clean up operators’ messes: The current law only requires land remediation, not water, to be factored into the size of the bond. Thanks to this bill, operators will be held accountable and required to provide financial evidence they can afford clean up costs and not pass along to taxpayers.
  3. Mining operators can’t rely on perpetual pollution as their Plan A: Industry operators must set a “reasonable” end date for their clean up efforts. Though the law will not require operators to set a specific date, they must estimate a time frame to complete clean up efforts — helping to avoid perpetually polluting mines like Summitville.

Voices of Support


Tom McNamara

HB-1113 protects more than just our waters: it protects every living thing that relies on healthy rivers, including Colorado’s natural ecosystem and wildlife species. Testifying about the importance of the mining bill, avid sportsmen and Conservation Colorado member Tom McNamara spoke of how clean water supports the ecosystems that Colorado wildlife and citizens rely on:

“This legislation puts forward common sense reforms that protect the taxpayers AND our ecosystems, while not affecting current producers and allowing future mines to operate. HB1113 will preserve Colorado’s mining legacy, while working to better safeguard and support today’s outdoor recreation economy.”

Mark Waltermire

For Mark Waltermire, the owner and operator of Thistle Whistle Farm in Hotchkiss and board member of the Valley Organic Growers Association, HB-1113 is “a good step forward” to ensuring that farmers have the access they need to clean water, which is essential to the success of Colorado’s farms and businesses. The bill will help “take the financial burden of clean up off of our collective shoulders and puts it on those responsible” — the mining companies.

Bennett Boeschenstein

Bennett Boeschenstein, the mayor pro-tem of Grand Junction and city council member, recognizes the importance of water quality on Coloradans’ drinking water and local industries like agriculture, outdoor recreation and tourism. “Our farmers ranchers recreation and tourism industry and our citizens depend on having healthy rivers and streams,” he recently testified.

After years of testimonies, hearings, and meetings, a bill that protects our rivers from the adverse effects of mining is finally becoming law. This bill wouldn’t have passed without bipartisan compromise and grassroots support — a lot of which came from YOU, our members!

With your help, we can continue to grow our movement and make Colorado’s future one that we’re proud to leave as our legacy. Donate today to support our waters, our air, our environment, and our Colorado!

DENVER — Today, the Colorado legislature voted on final passage of SB 19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations. It now heads to Governor Jared Polis, who is expected to sign the measure.

Conservation groups responded to the bill’s passage with the following statements:

“Coloradans can breathe easier today knowing that our state is finally on track to put the health and safety of workers and residents, and our environment ahead of oil and gas industry profits. Thank you to our leaders who heeded voters’ clear message and delivered these overdue reforms.”

— Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“Rural Western Coloradans throughout our region applaud the passage of SB 181 and a critical step forward to protect our people and our environment while letting the industry continue to do business in our state. We thank the legislators who worked so hard to ensure communities living with oil and gas development have more a voice on decisions that directly affect their health and well-being.”

— Emily Hornback, Director, Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action

“SB181 is an important foundational step for impacted Coloradans. It is time that communities have a voice when it comes to massive industrial projects being forced into their neighborhoods and near their schools. Thank you to our legislators who stood up for Colorado’s impacted communities today.”

— Sara Loflin, Executive Director, League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

“These are the protections Coloradans are clamoring for. They’re vital for our health and safety and are needed nationwide. Governor Polis should sign this bill as soon as it hits his desk.”

— Sam Gilchrist, Western Campaigns Director, Natural Resources Defense Council

“Grand Valley Citizens Alliance members past and present have been working on health and safety issues in Garfield County’s gas patch for over 20 years. We want to thank both House and Senate legislators who made our vision reality – that people will finally have an equal voice about oil and gas development in their neighborhoods.”

— Leslie Robinson, Chair, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance

“Coloradans will finally have a voice when it comes to oil and gas development in our state. We thank our elected officials for listening to the urgent calls from Coloradans who are ready for change. The policy changes in Senate Bill 181 will help to make our communities healthier and safer.”

— Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

 

Industry groups spent heavily on misleading advertising against SB 19-181. Analysis conducted by Westword’s Chase Woodruff as the bill moved from the Senate to the House showed that “the fossil-fuel industry [outspent] proponents of SB 181 by more than a 15-to-1 margin.” That spending included included TV advertising that was labeled “misleading” by the Colorado Sun and, at various points, “full of overstatements” and not “not accurate at all” by 9 News’ Kyle Clark.

Once signed, SB 19-181 will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health safety and the environment over industry profits and create a commission with paid, full time experts;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Greatly reduce harmful air pollution including methane, a potent greenhouse gas;
  • Better protects property owners from forced pooling; and,
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rule making around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits.

Written by Juan Gallegos

When I first learned about organizing and the potency of speaking truth to power, one person leaped to the forefront of my mind: Cesar Chavez.

This week, the famous labor organizer, Latinx leader, and environmental activist is on the mind of a lot of Coloradans. As we honor his legacy on Cesar Chavez Day on March 31, we must remember Chavez’s compassion for the workers he mobilized, his passion for the issues he addressed, and the emphasis he placed on intersectionality.

Cesar Chavez speaking at the Democratic Convention in New York City in 1976.

Chavez immersed himself in the communities he worked in and people he advocated for, living in the same housing and conditions as the farm laborers he was organizing. He suffered with them, working in the same contaminated environment and enduring the same health effects.

Inspiring broad and diverse communities can be difficult for any organizer, from California to Colorado. Big change comes from small, often incremental acts. The slow, complicated processes of advocacy and democracy can often be a deterrent to organizing communities, rather than a source of inspiration.

“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease,” said Chavez. Part of the problem, Chavez recognized, is that wealth and whiteness often equal power in the modern political system. “When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn” about environmental hazards, Chavez concluded.

Promotorxs at the park

Decades later, we still see this disparity between environmental justice and our communities of color, including the Latinx community. So, we’re working to do something about it.

The Protégete program began with one goal in mind: to build power in Colorado’s diverse communities so that everyone can participate and influence the political decision-making process. Often, the interests of Colorado’s Latinx folks and communities of color are superseded by well-financed campaigns and inherent prioritization of the wants of wealthier — and often, whiter — communities.

In its five years, Protégete has graduated over 200 people from the Promotorxs leadership development training. Promotorxs, also known as community navigators, train and learn about how the power of a shared identity can spur meaningful change in the government and environmental justice space. Promotorxs are also expected to complete a project that betters the environment and their community; this can range from park cleanups to data collection on air quality and health impacts.

The program also helps mobilize hundreds of Latinx folks at the Colorado State Capitol day during the annual Latinx Advocacy Day training, which Protégete co-sponsors every year. This year, almost 300 Latinx folks attended the event and had the chance to learn what it takes to organize around diverse issues and connect with lawmakers.

One thing that we can say is that we are working to make sure that our local governments “give a damn about smog, oil leaks, and the devastation of the environment.”

Protégete Director Juan with Dolores Huerta

It is my privilege to carry the torch in my new role as director of this wonderful program. Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, who together started the United Farm Workers Union, are two of my heroes. They taught me that we don’t live single issue lives. Issues like racism, a lack of education, and poor access to transportation reinforce one another — and disproportionately impact communities of color.

As our team strives to engage and empower marginalized folks in the environmental movement, we take guidance from the folks that came before us. Cesar Chavez was a great organizer, who — although he was not flawless — formed one of the most effective grassroots organizations in modern U.S. history.

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”

As we honor Cesar Chavez and his work, we must remember that his fight encompassed the right to work and live in a healthy environment with clean air and water. No one should have to choose between a dignified wage and a safe environment. For Chavez, and for me: our future is worth the fight.

Kate Stephenson works with small business owners and executives to increase market awareness and business profitability. Additionally, Kate focuses on Impact Investing – investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention of generating measurable social and environmental impact alongside financial return. In other words, Kate’s merges investment strategies with clients’ personal philosophies in order to establish a seamless integration between their values and their investments.

To learn more, about Kate visit her Merrill Lynch profile.

Kate is a member of the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance to show business support for public lands!

What do you like to do outside? How did you get introduced to outdoor recreation?
I love being in the mountains and close proximity to nature. Growing up, my dad was a geologist, and we spent family trips exploring the West I saw that Denver really allowed the best of both worlds – city life coupled with access to the wilderness and outdoor activities.

What do Colorado’s public lands mean to you, and why is it important to you to protect them?
Many of my roles and previous career were in the outdoor space. I saw the beauty of being able to interact with the outdoors through business, but I also saw a lot of waste and misuse. Public lands are the foundation of the economy here in Colorado. For the same reason that I moved here, I believe it is a catalyst for many individuals to relocate to Colorado. If these lands are misused or not conserved, the infrastructure that makes Colorado great and a desired place to live will dissipate.

Tell us about a specific place or time when an outdoor experience had an impact on your professional life or personal outlook.
When I first moved to Colorado, I worked and lived in Breckenridge for a season. I had the opportunity to be outside daily as part of my job. It changed my outlook on how the outdoors influenced my career choices.

Why is now an important time to speak up as a member of the business community?
It’s a matter of being authentic. I have been in roles prior — specifically marketing — where I was working for or towards something that I did not value at the end of the day. I want my work and life to have an impact on the things that I find of value and I believe that brings authenticity. I think every and any time is an important moment to share one’s voice. Right now there is a lot of voices and opinions being broadcast and sometimes the loudest one wins.

How does showing leadership on the values you care about support the success of your business and brand? What call to action would you give to others in the business community?
I wanted to put my actions where my thoughts and beliefs are. People can get behind authenticity. Now is the time to get involved. Your voice can make a difference. Join the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance, make phone calls, attend hearings. In short, be activists and make your voice heard. Our legislators are accessible, and for the next 5 months, they’ll be making policy decisions that affect Coloradans and Colorado businesses in crucial ways.

What exciting updates for 2017 would you like to share from the world of Merrill Lynch?
Under the new administration and Congress, we’re likely to see numerous attacks on our public lands over the coming four years. Those attacks at the national level will likely encourage similar activity at the state level. But Coloradans have repeatedly expressed their overwhelming support for public lands and conservation values. A COBA poll demonstrated that the vast majority of Colorado’s business community believes public lands are an asset to the state’s economy.

DENVER— Today, SB 19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations, passed the Colorado State Senate on a 19-15 vote.

The bill will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health safety and the environment over industry profits;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Addresses the growing climate, air, water, and wildlife impacts of oil and gas development across the state including increasing regulations for methane, a dangerous air pollutant that is a significant contributor to climate change;
  • Better protect property owners from forced pooling; and,
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rule making around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits.

 

Conservation and community groups responded to the bill’s Senate passage with the following statements.

“Thank you to the Colorado State Senate for acting decisively to prioritize Colorado’s air, water, and residents over oil and gas industry profits. This bill is nearly a decade in the making. We urge the House to act swiftly, pass these common-sense reforms, and send them to Governor Polis to sign so we can put Coloradans’ health and safety first.”

— Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

 

“This is a transformational step forward for a common sense, balanced approach to fracking in Colorado. We applaud leaders in the state Senate, and local officials across Colorado, for their bravery in the face of corporate special interests.”

— Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

 

“We are thankful to the state Senate for their leadership and for taking the time to bill thoughtful legislation that truly puts the health and safety of Colorado communities first. It is past time that we make health and safety the priority of the state when if comes to Big Oil and neighborhood drilling.”

—  Sara Loflin, Executive Director, League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

 

“The state Senate is showing real national leadership, showing other states how to protect communities from the public health and safety impacts of oil and gas extraction. The House should follow suit quickly.”

—  Sam Gilchrist, Western Campaigns Director, NRDC

 

“Western Coloradans cheer the passage of SB 181 out of the state Senate as a long overdue step to protect the public health and safety of residents living with the impacts of oil and gas.”

—  Emily Hornback, Director, Western Colorado Alliance

For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 28, 2019

Contact:

  • Garrett Garner-Wells, Communications Director, Conservation Colorado, 303-605-3483
  • Emily Gedeon, Conservation Program Director, Sierra Club, 720-308-6055

DENVER — Today, Governor Jared Polis, House Speaker KC Becker, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg announced a bill to ensure health, safety and the environment come first in our oil and gas regulatory system.

The bill will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health safety and the environment over industry profits;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Better protect property owners from forced pooling; and,
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rulemaking around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits.

Over the last decade, Colorado’s oil and gas industry has stood in the way of numerous reforms. They blocked efforts to protect health and safety and spent millions on politics and public relations. At the same time, the industry has cut corners on public health and safety, brazenly sited industrial oil and gas operations in residential neighborhoods, and ignored their obligation to develop and maintain a social license to operate. These actions have resulted in a backlog of overdue reforms that this bill seeks to correct.

Conservation groups responded to the bill’s release with the following statements.

“Coloradans have a right to expect that their health and our clean air and water come first — this is Colorado after all. But our current laws governing the oil and gas industry have not kept pace with industrial processes that are ever closer to our neighborhoods, leaving them to bear the consequences. We must reform Colorado’s broken oil and gas system so that our health, safety and environment are not a question but a top priority for state regulators.”

  • Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“The lack of modern, common sense protections from fracking for oil and gas in Colorado has endangered the health of our children, and put our first responders in harm’s way. It’s time for change. It’s time for Colorado’s leaders to put the health and safety of Coloradans before the profits of oil and gas companies.”

  • Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

“As a resident of Battlement Mesa, I have come to understand that the COGCC usually behaves as a partner with the oil and gas industry rather than an advocate for protecting the health and safety of Colorado citizens. Their mission to ‘foster’ oil and gas development leaves citizens at serious risks with little or no recourse when major industrial operations move into our communities. NOW is certainly the time for change at the COGCC!”

  • Dave Devanney, member, Western Colorado Alliance

“It is time for leadership, and it is time for meaningful action to put health and safety first when it comes oil and gas. Big oil has become increasingly brazen over the last few years in running roughshod over Colorado communities – forcing massive industrial operations in the midst of homes and schools and forcibly taking the minerals of tens of thousands of private Coloradans. It is time that our legislature act, and put the health, safety, and property rights of our communities first.

  • Sara Loflin, Executive Director, League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

Written by Audrey Wheeler

Here in Colorado, the oil and gas industry has had too much influence for too long while our communities and environment suffer.

Over the last decade, communities across the state have found themselves with no power to stand up to the industry when drilling comes to their neighborhoods. The very agency that is supposed to regulate the industry also has a dual mission to “foster” industry growth. And hundreds of oil and other toxic spills related to drilling occur in Colorado every year.

At the same time, the oil and gas industry has cut corners when it comes to Coloradans’ health and safety. They’ve built industrial operations in residential neighborhoods, ignoring community complaints even during the most egregious examples, such as in Battlement Mesa, with a pad 350 feet from homes. Companies have spent tens of millions on public campaigns and elections. As a result, nearly every commonsense policy to keep the industry in check has failed.

But with new leadership in the governor’s office and the state legislature, we have the chance to make a change.

A bill announced today by Governor Polis, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, and House Speaker KC Becker would protect public health and safety, give more power to local governments, and enact new protections for our environment. We’re overdue for reforms like this to our state laws.

Here are 10 reasons why these reforms are urgent for Colorado:

Oil and gas operations pose a threat to our health and safety.


  1. Our state has had at least 116 fires and explosions at oil and gas operations from 2006 to 2015.
  2. After the deadly explosion in Firestone that killed two people, former employees of Anadarko accused the company of sacrificing safety to boost profits. In court documents, they claimed company culture was cavalier with regard to public safety and oversight.
  3. Coloradans who live close to oil and gas operations face health risks including cancer, birth defects, and asthma.

Colorado’s current oil and gas regulations are too weak to protect our communities, workers, and environment.


  1. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has a nearly uninterrupted, 68-year history of failing to deny permits for oil and gas companies to drill—regardless of the risks that wells pose to health, safety, and the environment.
  2. Fifty-one oil and gas workers were killed on the job in Colorado between 2003 and 2014. Several more have been killed since then.

The industry has blocked commonsense reforms time and time again.


  1. Oil and gas companies have a successful history of defeating regulations: only four of twenty-five bills that would have protected health and safety were passed by the state legislature since 2013.
  2. In 2018 alone, the oil and gas industry opposed six bills aimed at increasing protections for communities and the environment, including those to put oil and gas rigs further away from school playgrounds, improve accident reporting, and facilitate mapping of underground pipelines that run near homes—a direct response to the tragedy in Firestone.

And they spend millions to influence the public and legislators at every step of the political process.


  1. Oil and gas companies invest heavily in defeating citizen efforts to improve our state laws or implementing those that help their bottom line. In 2018, they spent $37.3 million to defeat Proposition 112, a ballot initiative for larger setbacks for oil and gas development, and advance Amendment 74, an effort to guarantee company profits in the state constitution.
  1. The industry donates big money to elections, both traceable and dark money. In the 2018 election cycle, oil and gas interests gave close to $1 million to just one electoral committee, the Senate Majority Fund (known as the “campaign arm for Republican senators” in Colorado).
  2. Oil and gas interests paid at least $200,000 on lobbying to sway decision-makers at the Capitol in 2018.

This story isn’t about one irresponsible company, but about a well-funded campaign to maximize profits over public safety and stop at nothing to get there. It’s past time we adopted common-sense rules that make the industry a better actor in Colorado — and we need to seize that chance.

In response to Senate passage of S. 47, which would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), among other provisions, Conservation Colorado issued the following statement from Executive Director Kelly Nordini:

“Today’s vote is the first step in fixing a problem of Congress’ own making. It was tragically unnecessary for LWCF to expire in the first place and though Senator Cory Gardner supports LWCF, we saw no real leadership to make it happen. And, in a state where three-quarters of voters consider themselves outdoor recreation enthusiasts, Senator Gardner missed another major chance that his colleagues in Utah and New Mexico took advantage of: to conserve thousands of new acres of public lands. As the only Colorado Senator to never sponsor a wilderness bill, Senator Gardner should support the CORE Act immediately and work to ensure its passage.”

Written by Audrey Wheeler

Coloradans are more concerned than ever about climate change — and it’s not hard to see why.

According to the latest Conservation in the West poll, concern about climate change has gone up in every western state since 2016. Here in Colorado, 77 percent of voters say climate change is a serious problem — the highest in the region. And for the first time ever, majorities of voters across the West, including conservative bastions like Wyoming and Utah, are worried about climate change.

This shift is drastic. Where did it come from? Its roots may be found in the impacts of the climate crisis unfolding in our communities.

The more we see the effects of climate change happening around us, the more concerned people are about the urgency of the problem. In fact, a new poll found 74 percent of Americans say extreme weather in the past five years (such as hurricanes, droughts, floods and heat waves) has influenced their opinions about climate change.

Here in Colorado, those impacts have been real and, in some cases, drastic.

Colorado just had its second-driest summer on record. Three of the largest wildfires in state history happened over a span of just four months. More than 440,000 acres burned, destroying homes, impacting agriculture, choking our rivers with ash and sediment, and shutting people out of public lands.

The Yampa River was placed on a “call” for the first time ever. As a result, many people with water rights from the Yampa were shut off. The river shrunk to a trickle through Dinosaur National Monument. Popular fishing spots from the Crystal to the Colorado Rivers were closed due to low water and warm temperatures.

Colorado is not alone in facing these extreme weather disasters. The five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five years, with 2018 coming in as the fourth-hottest year. Dire predictions from scientists about our planet’s future are coming true, right before our eyes.

Together, these facts lead to a simple conclusion: the time has come for the West to lead on climate action.

Coloradans are ready to do something. A full 62 percent of Colorado voters say climate change is an extremely or very serious problem, up 23 points in just the last few years.

The People’s Climate March in Denver. Photo by Christian O’Rourke

We need our leaders to listen to Coloradans and act now, before the problem gets worse. While it is encouraging that more and more people care about our climate, we can’t wait for the next disaster to strike. Instead, we need action now to show the West — and the nation — how a single state can take the lead.

Colorado has led the way on climate action before. Back in 2004, we were the first state to pass a renewable energy standard by ballot measure. In the past year, we became the only interior state with Low-Emission Vehicle standards to make our cars and our air cleaner. Our biggest utility, Xcel Energy, was the first utility company in the nation to commit to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050.

Now, we can lead again. Colorado has the opportunity to show the country that it’s possible to act on climate. Moreover, we can prove that it’s possible in a state that produces fossil fuels. Let’s call on our decision makers to put our state on the map for more than beautiful vistas and craft beers — let’s be the state that starts the momentum to act on climate.