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.”

Today, Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse announced they are introducing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, the most significant and broadly supported effort to protect Colorado’s public lands in a generation.

This public lands package combines several popular proposals into a single bill that will protect wild places across the state, including:

  • The Continental Divide and Camp Hale in the White River National Forest, the most-visited national forest in the U.S. New wilderness and special management areas, as well as the country’s first National Historic Landscape, will preserve the history, wildlife, clean water, and booming outdoor recreation economy in the area;
  • The iconic mountains in the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests of southwestern Colorado, by expanding popular wilderness areas and including lands that were left out of initial wilderness designations;
  • The Thompson Divide in the White River National Forest, by ensuring that no future oil, gas, or mining development occurs on its rugged, wild lands. This will protect historic ranching and agriculture, outdoor recreation opportunities, and the state’s largest intact aspen grove along Kebler Pass; and,
  • The Curecanti National Recreation Area, which will be formally established by Congress as a unit of the National Park system, includes an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities including boating, hiking, and fishing.

Together, this bill will protect approximately 400,000 acres of iconic Colorado public lands for future generations.

“Coloradans love our lands and this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse have put together— protecting some of Colorado’s most popular, iconic and historic public lands in a way that is widely supported by locals. We urge the entire Colorado delegation to listen to Coloradans and pass the CORE Act in this Congress.”

  • Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“The CORE Act continues a proud Colorado tradition of protecting our wild lands, clean water and outdoor recreation opportunities for future generations.  This legislation would protect some of the best that Colorado’s public lands have to offer, including pristine watersheds and key wildlife habitat along the Continental Divide, three popular fourteeners, and the rugged mountains and ranching heritage of the Thompson Divide. The CORE Act has something for everyone and all Coloradans stand to benefit. We are thankful for the leadership from Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse in writing the next chapter of Colorado’s proud history of supporting wilderness and public lands.”

  • Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director, The Wilderness Society

“We are grateful for Senator Bennet’s ongoing work to protect public lands in Colorado, and that Representative Neguse is championing these important issues as well. Both of them understand how important these lands are to residents of Colorado and our way of life — as well as people throughout the country who utilize and cherish these public lands.”

  • Will Roush, Executive Director, Wilderness Workshop

“The Colorado Mountain Club is pleased to see the CORE Act protect some of the most iconic landscapes in our state. This legislation protects an array of recreation opportunities —  backcountry skiing in the Ten Mile Range, climbing and mountaineering in the San Juans, mountain biking in Summit County, and hiking and camping along the Gunnison River –- and these designations will ensure that Colorado’s unique outdoor experiences are preserved for future generations.”

  • Julie Mach, Conservation Director, Colorado Mountain Club

“Over the past 10 years, a wide diversity of constituents has hammered out compromise agreements to ensure the future of treasured iconic Colorado landscapes in the San Juan Mountains.  We and other local proponents are tremendously appreciative that Senator Bennet has responded to the call from recreationists, businesses, landowners and local elected officials in Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel counties by sponsoring Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.”

  • Jimbo Buickerood, Lands and Forest Protection Program Manager, San Juan Citizens Alliance

“Considering how long and hard so many people have worked on protections for the San Juan Mountains and the expansion of the Sneffels Wilderness Area itself, it’s rewarding to see Senator Bennet honoring local community’s wishes in introducing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.  This reflects the consensus reached by citizens, stakeholders, and local elected officials.”

  • Jim Stephenson, Public Lands Chair, Ridgway-Ouray Community Council

“We thank Senator Bennet for his strong leadership in introducing the CORE Act in Congress.  In our area, the lands included for permanent protection include all those in the previously introduced San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill.  In the decade since the bill was first introduced, its boundaries and delineations have been refined to ensure that existing uses are still allowed, while critical areas are protected.”

  • Lexi Tuddenham, Executive Director, Sheep Mountain Alliance

“Colorado hunters, anglers and recreationists have long understood the need to proactively conserve those intact tracts of wildlife habitat and fisheries that sustain our longstanding outdoor traditions.  We appreciate Senator Bennet’s continued leadership to advance legislation in Colorado’s central and southern mountains that would help maintain the opportunities to experience the unique sense of solitude and challenge that our wild public lands and waters provide.  We standby ready to help move this legislation forward.”

  • Tim Brass, State Policy and Field Operations Director, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Resources
Video B-roll for Broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikDq0XHzsWI&feature=youtu.be
Images for Reproduction: https://www.wilderness.org/articles/media-resources/media-resources-colorado-outdoor-recreation-economy-core-act

Written by Audrey Wheeler

We are living during a pivotal moment for the protection of Colorado’s environment. With the opening of Colorado’s legislature and Governor Jared Polis being sworn in, we will enter the legislative session following a new era of leaders who were elected on their promises to protect our air, land, water, and people.

According to a survey of Colorado voters taken just after November’s elections, the environment was a major factor for voters’ choices. When asked which policy issue was “most important” in their vote for governor, 42 percent of independents chose “energy and the environment” as one of their top two options – the most of any issue tested. In other words, it wasn’t the economy, healthcare, education, immigration, or taxes that rose to the top for Colorado voters — it was energy and environment.

Coloradans voted for pro-conservation champions to lead our state government, so now we have the opportunity to pass bold policies that will protect our future! This year holds a lot of promise for taking steps to protect our air, land, water, and people. With Governor Jared Polis at the helm — who won his race on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy — we are gearing up for strong leadership from Colorado.

In 2019, we aim to make Colorado a leader on climate action, prioritize the health and safety of communities over oil and gas, and protect our lands and waters.

Our biggest efforts for climate action will be:


  • Taking bold action to protect our climate. A recent report from the United Nations found we have 12 years to act to prevent disastrous climate change. Colorado can lead the nation toward a clean energy economy. Xcel Energy’s recent commitment to a carbon-free energy grid by 2050 is a great start, and we can do more for our climate. As our executive director, Kelly Nordini, said in a recent news story: “Carbon’s a pollutant. We need to set a limit on that pollution and say as a state how we’re going to limit that carbon pollution.”
  • Making sure health, safety, and the environment are put first when it comes to oil and gas development. The oil and gas industry has had far too much influence over political and regulatory processes in Colorado. We need to put the health and safety of our communities first and have the best safeguards in the West.
  • Protecting the public lands, rivers, and streams that make Colorado a great place to live. As our population grows, we need to make sure our public lands are preserved, our rivers keep flowing, and our wild places are accessible for everyone to enjoy.

Learn more about these goals and how we plan to reach them at Colorado Conservation Future.

With these policies, we can take our future into our own hands. We can move forward on Colorado climate action, making our state a leader for the nation on clean air and climate change, as well as with safeguards that put people ahead of oil and gas industry profits. Let’s work together to seize this opportunity to protect the state we all love.

The time to shape our future is now.

DENVER — Today, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted unanimously to adopt the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Program standards for cars and trucks. Vehicle emissions are among  the largest contributors to carbon pollution in Colorado and contribute to the smog and air toxins that threaten public health. The new LEV standards will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from cars that threaten our health and economy, help Coloradans breathe easier, and help families save money at the pump.

Ahead of today’s vote, more than 7,600 Coloradans called on the AQCC to adopt state emission standards for gas-powered vehicles. Colorado now joins thirteen states and the District of Columbia in adopting the LEV standards.

In 2012, the federal government adopted a national standard that mirrors the LEV Program, with the support of car manufacturers and federal regulators. The Trump Administration, however, is working to roll back those standards.

In response to extensive support at public meetings, the AQCC has also started a stakeholder process to consider adoption of a Zero Emission Vehicle Program. The ZEV Program would set benchmarks for car manufacturers to introduce more electric vehicles into the Colorado market, resulting in even greater emissions reductions from the transportation sector.

Organizations supporting the LEV standards have released the following statements:

Emily Gedeon, Colorado Sierra Club’s Conservation Program Director:

“In the face of rollbacks to clean car standards by the Trump Administration, Coloradans spoke out for cleaner air, and the AQCC listened. Not only will the new standards protect us from excessive, toxic car and truck pollution, but they will save Coloradans money because their new cars and trucks will travel further with each gallon of gas. We look forward to continuing to engage Coloradans to speak out to the AQCC to get cleaner cars on the road in Colorado.”

Garrett Garner-Wells, Director of Environment Colorado:

“Throughout this process, Coloradans sent a clear message: the cars we drive shouldn’t hurt the people and places we love. We applaud the AQCC for listening to the thousands of voices from throughout our state who want cleaner air and climate action by voting to implement low emission vehicle standards.”

Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation Director:

“We shouldn’t have to choose between getting to where we need to go and polluting our air. Adopting a statewide emissions standard is the right decision because it will reduce tailpipe pollution. It also saves us at the pump as car companies take advantage of rapidly advancing fuel efficiency technology and produce cars that go further on a gallon of gas.”

Sophia Mayott-Guerrero, Conservation Colorado Energy and Transportation Advocate:

“Transportation is the biggest contributor to climate change in the U.S. With so many people moving to Colorado, we have more and more cars on the road, giving us dirtier air and accelerating climate change. Colorado took an important step to clean up tailpipe emissions, and now we need to get more electric vehicles on the road.”

Noah Long, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“While the Trump administration is undermining public health, Colorado is stepping in to protect it by ensuring our cars are the cleanest in the nation. This will mean lower spending at the pump for drivers and cleaner air for our families and our future. The next step is just as important: The state must also move to spur sales of more electric vehicles.”

Michelle Robinson, Director of the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“Colorado’s decision is the right choice for drivers, for the climate, and for the future of transportation. By adopting this clean car program, Colorado will ensure that drivers will save hundreds of millions of dollars at the pump in the years to come, money that will be re-invested in the local economy. This decision will also cut oil use in Colorado, reducing the pollution that causes climate change.   At a time when the federal government is rushing to dismantle clean car standards, in defiance of science and common sense, state leadership is more important than ever. With the addition of Colorado, a growing coalition of clean car states will continue to spur innovation in the auto industry and move us toward a cleaner future.”

Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund:

“Clean cars for Coloradans is a mile high home run that means healthier air, a safer climate and cost savings. The new state clean car [ vehicle emission ] standards will protect Coloradans’ health and the state’s natural beauty, and will save people’s hard-earned money. The Trump administration has been undermining our most important health and environmental protections, but states like Colorado are stepping up with win-win solutions that will benefit everyone.”

Other organizations and public agencies to publicly support the increased LEV standards include Environmental Entrepreneurs, Ceres, Colorado Moms Know Best, the City of Aspen, the City of Fort Collins, the City of Longmont, Boulder County Public Health, the City and County of Denver, Eagle County Public Health, Jefferson County Public Health, Pueblo County, and the City of Lakewood Sustainability Division.

Ballot measures

Written by Conservation Colorado staff

✅ Amendments Y and Z – YES Congressional and Legislative Redistricting

 Amendment 74 – NO Just Compensation for Reduction in Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation

 Proposition 109 – NO  Authorize Bonds for Transportation Projects

✅ Proposition 110 – YES Increase Sales Tax to Fund Transportation

✅ Proposition 112 – YES Setback Requirement for Oil and Gas Development

✅ Denver County: Measure 2A – YES Denver Parks and Open Space Sales Tax

Fair Maps Colorado


Official Ballot Envelope☑ YES on Amendment Y

☑ YES on Amendment Z

These measures create fair and competitive congressional and state legislative districts. They will set up a new process that empowers independent commissions to draw district lines and keeps elected officials and lobbyists from drawing electoral districts because voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around.

Colorado’s population growth means we will likely have an eighth congressional seat by 2022. That means now is the time to improve our system for drawing districts. Together, these measures will help achieve fair and equal representation for all citizens of Colorado. Amendments Y and Z will:

  • Create balanced independent commissions (4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 4 unaffiliated voters)
  • Set clear criteria for map-drawing and prohibitions on gerrymandering
  • Limit the roles of partisans and courts
  • Heighten open meetings, public records, and ethical rules
  • Secure fair and effective representation for all Colorado voters
  • Maximize competitive districts

Stop Amendment 74 and Save Our Neighborhoods


☒ NO on Amendment 74 – “Just Compensation for Reduction in Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation”

A backlit, gold lighting oil rigIf Amendment 74 passes, it will allow any corporation or property owner to sue local governments over any law they disagree with, opening the floodgates to frivolous and costly lawsuits. Taxpayers would have to foot the bill.

When a similar measure passed in Oregon, there were nearly $20 billion in claims in just the first three years. These costly claims threatened funding for local schools, roads, and public safety. Oregonians ultimately repealed the law. Now Coloradans are facing a choice to repeat Oregon’s costly mistake or reject this risky amendment that will mainly benefit the wealthy developers and oil companies who wrote it. Amendment 74 is supported by out-of-state corporate interests who want to change the character of Colorado neighborhoods and our rural landscapes by giving developers loopholes to build anything they like, anywhere they like.

Although 74 claims to help property owners, property rights are already protected in the constitution. While 74 might sound good, it is really risky to amend the constitution with such a flawed measure. Once it’s in the constitution, the unintended consequences are permanent and can’t be undone.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT AMENDMENT 74

A Dead End for Colorado


Two lanes of congested traffic☒ NO on Proposition 109 – “Authorize Bonds for Transportation Projects”

Proposition 109 would dedicate existing state funds to projects that address road and bridge expansion, construction, maintenance, and repairs. These funds are not to be used for roads managed by local governments—88 percent of all roads—or public transportation. But Prop.109 takes $3.5 billion away from schools, public safety, and other vital services by forcing the state to reallocate existing resources and exclusively fund highway projects. We need a transportation system that invests in solutions, not one that will bankrupt our government and leave our roads in disrepair.

Let’s go Colorado


Four lanes of congested freeway traffic☑ YES on Proposition 110 – “Sales Tax Increase for Transportation Funding”

It’s been decades since we last changed how Colorado funds transportation. Our streets and transportation systems need improvement, and it’s time to stop the “band-aid” approach. Proposition 110 is the statewide solution we need. It fixes our roads; ensures local governments have the resources to meet demands; promotes options like walking, biking, and transit that reduce congestion; and ensures that we protect the environment by investing in solutions that move people, not just cars.

We need a new funding source to fix our roads. A sales tax asks everyone to chip in, including the 80 million out-of-state tourists who use our infrastructure every year. This proposition will increase the state’s sales tax by 0.62%, a little more than half a cent on a dollar purchase, to fund transportation projects across the state.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT LET’S GO COLORADO

Protect Colorado Neighborhoods


An oil rig near residential area☑ YES on Proposition 112 – Setback Requirement for Oil and Gas Development

Prop. 112 requires new oil and gas development projects to be located at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other areas designated as vulnerable. Conservation Colorado has long worked to ensure a responsible, transparent, and accountable oil and gas industry, which has included efforts to increase the distance between oil and gas development and the places where we live and where our children play. Yet, the industry has blocked even the most modest efforts to address the growing conflicts between its operations and our communities, such as keeping drilling and fracking away from schools. Ultimately we must prioritize the health and safety of our communities above all else.

Read more at Colorado Rising.

Healthy Parks and Rivers for Everyone


A kid in a green jacket catches bubbles☑ YES on referred measure 2A in Denver

This measure will increase the city’s sales tax by 0.25% (about $3 per month) in order to create a dedicated funding source to address the city’s $127 million park maintenance backlog and help add new parks, rivers, trails, and open space. Denver is growing quickly, but its investment in parks and trails is not keeping pace with growth. One of six of our parks is in poor condition and in need of repairs. Worse, our park system is inequitable, as wealthier neighborhoods can make private donations to address their park needs while low-income neighborhoods are left behind.

The Denver City Council referred this measure to the ballot, and which will raise over $45 million in its first year alone to help make the dream of “a park in every neighborhood” a reality for ALL Denver residents.

Learn more at Yes for Denver Parks.

Voting is one of the most important things you can do to protect our environment and what you love about our state. Help us spread the word about Colorado ballot measures and how they impact the environment.

Today, the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance released a letter signed by more than 100 Colorado businesses in support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), one of the nation’s premier conservation programs. The open letter encourages Colorado decision makers to support full and permanent reauthorization of LWCF as an investment in our state’s outdoor recreation economy.

LWCF uses federal revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to support the conservation of our public lands and waterways. It has protected natural areas, local parks, ballfields, and walkways in almost every county of the U.S. Colorado has received more than $260 million to support projects in the state, from Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Cross Mountain Ranch on the Yampa River to urban parks like Montbello Open Space Park.

The business signers include outdoor recreation and tourism businesses, as well as other emerging industries, from all across Colorado.

“We’ve built our brand around those who dare to study maps and approach adventure differently,” said Sarah and Thor Tingey of Alpacka Raft in Mancos. “Programs like LWCF support that by creating more opportunities for people to access rivers and streams and explore public lands and archaeological sites that may not have been previously protected. But even more, LWCF is and has been, a major catalyst in getting local, community-driven projects completed on time. This program is essential to each and every one of us in this country — whether we enjoy exploring desert canyons in pack rafts or riding our bikes along paved river trails.”

LWCF has been a successful program and has bipartisan support. But it will expire on September 30, 2018, unless Congress acts to reauthorize it.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has served to bridge strong partnerships between federal land managers, local and state governments, the private sector and non-profits,” said Ned Mayers of Western Anglers in Grand Junction. “This is a critical connection in efforts to sustain and grow our outdoor recreation economy and in setting the stage for how we do that for years to come. We need programs like LWCF to spur conservation projects and help our local economies and governments to complete community-driven projects.”

The full text of the letter and list of business supporters is below.

The Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance is a program of Conservation Colorado. It aims to bring together Colorado’s leading businesses who recognize the fundamental role that public lands and a healthy environment play in sustaining Colorado’s emerging outdoor recreation economy.

An Open Letter to Colorado’s Decision Makers:

Since the 1960s, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has fulfilled a bipartisan commitment to natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation programs, while using zero taxpayer dollars to do so. From protecting natural areas and open space to local parks, ball fields, and walkways, LWCF has played a pivotal role in spurring local and regional economies and community well-being. As Colorado business owners and community leaders, we recognize the distinct advantage that our quality of life provides our companies, such as attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce, and LWCF has played a critical role in bolstering the competitive advantage of locating a business in Colorado.

We ask that you advocate for and support permanently reauthorizing and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund before its expiration on September 30, 2018. LWCF is integral to meeting the needs of our communities, businesses and local chambers, improving access to the outdoors, conserving working landscapes, developing new urban parks, and protecting wildlife. An investment in LWCF is an investment in Colorado’s booming outdoor recreation economy, which supports nearly 230,000 direct jobs. Eliminating or placing restrictions on LWCF would directly undermine this economic asset, and place our outdoor recreation economy at risk.

All told, Colorado has been a major beneficiary of LWCF funding, receiving over $260 million to support projects across the state; projects that have multiplied across local economies around places like the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and the Cross Mountain Ranch along the Yampa River. In addition to benefiting our communities and local economies, LWCF is a key component in maintaining clean, safe and reliable drinking water, improving public land access, ensuring our children have places to play, and attracting entrepreneurs, retirees, and tourists – all of which positively impact our local economies, businesses and quality of life.

With less than 100 days until the Land and Water Conservation Fund expires, we urge you to work diligently towards permanently reauthorizing this program with full and dedicated funding. Doing so is in the best interest of the Colorado business community, our local and regional economies and our quality of life. You can take immediate action by co-sponsoring H.R. 502 or S. 569 & 896. Supporting this program is supporting the Colorado business community and the outdoor recreation economy.

In spite of widespread public support of the rule, the Trump administration today took steps to repeal the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Methane Waste Rule. This 2016 rule was created to cut methane waste from oil and gas operations on public lands by requiring producers to fix leaky infrastructure and create gas capture plans prior to development.

“Again and again, the American people have spoken up for these rules that keep our air clean, help our communities stay healthy, and save taxpayers money. But the Trump administration refuses to listen,” said Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado. “Colorado has led the way with strong state-based safeguards that will remain in place, but smog and pollution don’t stay within state borders. Coloradans will certainly feel the effects of this harmful and short-sighted rollback.”

Undoing the BLM Methane Waste Rule will lead to greater air pollution from oil and gas development as producers won’t have to fix leaks or keep gas from escaping into the air. The methane will cause the same amount of short-term climate damage as 8.3 million cars driven over ten years.

In addition to methane, oil and gas operations release dangerous air toxins, including benzene, a known carcinogen, and smog-forming pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks and worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema. The Trump Administration’s decision to undo this rule will cause more air pollution that will harm families, especially those living closest to oil and gas development.

Preventing methane waste saves taxpayers money. The BLM’s own analysis found that rolling back the rule will cost Americans more than $1 billion — $824 million of wasted natural gas and $259 million in lost public benefits — due to increased methane emissions.

This rule has been under attack since Trump took office, but every attempt to undo it has been met with immense public backlash. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted in the most recent public comment period in May, with 99.8 percent supporting the rule. The 2018 Conservation in the West Poll found that 74 percent of Coloradans support rules requiring oil and gas producers to prevent methane waste on public lands.

Written by Jenny Gaeng

I was twenty-six years old and standing – just barely – in New Mexico. My backpack was already digging into my shoulders. My feet, wrapped in shiny new trail runners, scratched nervously at the desert sand.

The hot air rippled like a curtain. Brown mountains rose in enormous triangles from the flat expanse; they could have been painted, like the backdrop of a play. Behind me stood a small barbed-wire fence: Mexico.

3,100 miles ahead shone a luminous bullseye: Canada.

There was a monument at the trailhead, a sturdy stone obelisk reading: Southernmost Point, Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The route was engraved on the side: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana. It took seconds to run my fingers from beginning to end; I figured it would take five or six months by foot.

The shuttle to the trailhead had gone, and I was all alone. I was afraid to start hiking, afraid that I was really here and had no one to blame but myself. The path forward was littered with cholla cacti and wiry ocatilla, their tips like red arrowheads pointing at the sky.

I tried to imagine what I could not see: the promise of rivers and peaks, of strength and redemption. I pointed my body north and began to walk.

The Continental Divide Trail was created in 1978 under the National Scenic Trails Act, joining other long-distance hikes such as the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. While those trails attract thousands of “thru-hikers” each year, the Continental Divide Trail only sees a few hundred. This is due in part to the challenges of the trail: remoteness, route-finding, weather, and everyone’s favorite fear, grizzly bears. The trail is also incomplete. Today, 20 percent of the trail is on roads, from bumpy dirt roads to actual highways, where hikers’ feet throb on the scorching pavement as cars whiz by. About a thousand miles in, I started sticking out my thumb.

Future hikers may not have to, thanks to the amazing work of land management agencies, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, and other partners working to complete the trail. This means fun work like mapping and trail-building, but land acquisition comes first.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was created in 1964 to repurpose taxes from offshore oil and gas drilling to fund something that virtually every American benefits from: public land. Money from LWCF is used to purchase private land and give it back to the people – and it’s not just trails and forests; every state in the country has used LWCF to pay for parks, bike paths, and more. In this case, purchasing those last remaining parcels along the Continental Divide is instrumental in completing the trail from Mexico to Canada.

But these days, there’s not much that we don’t have to fight for. On September 30, LWCF is set to expire, and it will take an act of Congress to keep it afloat. If Congress doesn’t vote to save it, we could lose our most precious resources to the backlog of defunded yet essential conservation efforts. The Continental Divide Trail could forever remain a trail of broken links along the nation’s spine.

Hiking near Knapsack Col, Wind River Range, Wyoming

September 22 was the first day of fall. It was already bone-cold in Montana, ten miles from the border in Glacier National Park.

I woke up to water dripping through the seams of my tentEverything was soaked: my clothes, my pad, my sleeping bag. I didn’t care. “Squirrel!” I yelled to my buddy, who had joined me for the last few days. “Wake up. Let’s get the heck to Canada!”

The trail had turned into a river of mud, two steps forward and big slides back. The rain made it worse. We followed a creek up, up, over a hill, gritting our teeth until finally-

Squirrel was ahead, and I heard him start to whoop. “Oh my god,” I whispered. I opened my throat to join in, but only air came out. I braced myself to feel – what was I supposed to feel?

A bleary parking lot emerged from the fog: a pit toilet, two flags, and a few lonely cars. Squirrel was staring up at the sign and shielding his face from the rain.

“This is anticlimactic,” he said.

“No!” I cried. This was the punctuation mark at the end of a very long sentence. It had started five months and two days ago at the barbed-wire fence, or maybe earlier – the first time I scaled a mountain, or saw the Milky Way, or sat in the city listening to sirens howl and thinking, I wish I was far away.

Wherever it began, it snaked here over five million footsteps. Ten for the sirens, one hundred for an illness, one thousand for a broken heart – and all the rest for the people who told me I wouldn’t make it. The Continental Divide Trail was every oozing blister, every misstep that sent me face-first into the dirt. It was every time someone asked, Are you alone? and their tone said, You shouldn’t be here. It was every basin that drained my breath, all the mountains that washed over me and carried everything else away.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund isn’t just about land or water. It’s the currency of the human spirit, of challenge and healing. It keeps us alive and free.

“I knew the trail wouldn’t let us down easy,” Squirrel groaned.

My nose was numb from the rain. I scraped my teeth against the my peeling lower lip and looked out at the fog. I didn’t know how to get home or even where home would be. But I knew that I could keep moving, even if it took another five million steps to get there.

I said, “This is perfect.”

Read more from Jenny Gaeng, Field Organizer at Conservation Colorado, and her outdoor exploits at adventuresofcloud.com. Next week she will begin a traverse of the Sangre de Cristo range, a wild area currently under threat from oil and gas drilling. Her blogs will explore the Sangres’ history, geology, and the intersection of indigenous activism and environmentalism.

From the valleys of the West Slope, Colorado rivers are a cornerstone of our communities, economy, environment, and shared way of life. However, our state’s landlocked status means that the rivers’ water isn’t naturally accessible for a lot of Colorado communities; most often, we have to bring the water to us. Snowpack melts from mountain peaks and irrigates through tunnels and pipes to reach communities throughout the state. Water, as a seasonal and limited resource, is increasingly scarce as snowpack peaks earlier and warm temperatures arrive earlier.

Learn more about how water travels from mountain tops to our taps in our latest edition of “Conservation Chats.”

Despite the fact that Colorado is home to some of the best water recreation opportunities in the West, we’re facing a prolonged drought — and all the environmental issues associated with it.

Consequently, many Colorado rivers aren’t in great shape. The damaging effects of climate change and lingering impacts of overuse, poor management, and energy development continue to devastate our water supplies.

Summer after summer, our rivers seem to be shrinking. However, something about this summer is remarkably different. Currently, abnormally dry conditions are impacting approximately 4,023,000 Coloradans — about 80% of the state’s population.

Let’s look at a few of the rivers across the state to reflect on the past and what our new normal may look like.

Hold On: How Do We Measure Water?


We use the measurement of cubic feet per second (cfs) to measure water in motion. One cfs represents 7.5 gallons of water flowing by a particular point per second.

Imagine one unit of cfs as roughly the size of a basketball. So when we say a river has 449 cubic feet per second, imagine about 449 basketballs bouncing downstream every second!

Colorado River


Image Credit: Don Graham.

Glenwood Canyon:

Flows on July 23, 2018: 2190 cfs

Average flows on July 23 over the last 51 years: 4270 cfs

That’s over 2000 cfs less than the past average; that’s roughly 51 percent less than the average.

Also known as the “American Nile,” the Colorado River supplies more water for Coloradans than any other river in the state through pipelines from the West Slope to the Front Range. As one of the southwest’s most utilized bodies of water, the Colorado River is also one of the most vulnerable to increasing demand and the long-lasting impacts of climate change. Decreasing flows, increased evaporation resulting from higher temperatures, and dwindling snowpack levels continue to increase the gap between supply and demand.

Yampa River


The confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers

Deerlodge Park:

Flows on July 23, 2018: 98.1 cfs

Average flows on July 23 over the last 33 years: 914 cfs

That’s over 800 cfs less than the past average; that’s roughly 10 percent of the average amount of water.

The Yampa River remains as the last major free-flowing tributary to the Colorado River, the backbone of the West’s water supply. As the Colorado River continues to get exhausted from increasing demand, the Yampa is emerging as a source to meet growing water demands. There have been a number of proposals over the years to dam and divert water from the Yampa to send it to thirsty cities east of the Continental Divide, which would be a disaster for one of the West’s last wild rivers.

Dolores River


Image credit: Gabe Kiritz

Near Bedrock, CO:

Flows on July 23, 2018: 6.04 cfs

Average flows on July 23 over the last 34 years: 93 cfs

That’s less than the past average; that’s roughly 6.5 percent of the average amount of water.

The Dolores River has faced numerous challenges over the years, including dams, high water demands, mining pollution, and climate change. This river is severely threatened, recently scoring a D- on our Colorado Rivers Report Card. However, recent local efforts to revitalize the water have helped build a drumbeat to reinvigorate one of the most unknown and underappreciated rivers in the state.

The steps we take now to protect and improve our rivers will determine the viability — and future — of Colorado’s water. More importantly, what we do now will determine if we have healthy rivers and enough drinking water in the future.

Written by Emilie Frojen

If you want to support Colorado’s environment and way of life, the most important thing you can do is vote for Congressman Jared Polis for governor.

We are proud to endorse Jared Polis in Colorado’s election for governor. He is one of the strongest voices for conservation in the state and the nation, and he will work hard to protect what we all love about Colorado: clear blue skies, rushing rivers, wild places, and diverse communities. Here are the top six reasons we are proud to support him in the race for Colorado’s next governor:

1) Jared Polis is a fearless champion for the environment in Congress.

Jared Polis doesn’t just talk the talk, as seen in the fact that he has a 100 percent conservation voting record from the League of Conservation Voters. He’s sponsored and cosponsored many bills to protect the environment, and time and time again has proven that he will follow through for our environment and communities.

2) He’s outspoken against the dangerous Trump agenda.

The Trump administration is doing tremendous damage to our environment and Colorado way of life, from rolling back air pollution protections from oil and gas wells to unraveling the progress we made in addressing climate change. He also protested against Trump’s review of our national parks and monuments, the proposed national park fee increase, and the shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. His opponent, Walker Stapleton, is a huge Trump supporter and has opposed Colorado taking the lead on the environment in the face of attacks from Washington, D.C.

3) He knows we need to act on climate.

The drought and fires across Colorado this summer show that Colorado unequivocally needs to be a leader in climate solutions and economic growth. Jared Polis agrees and has bold plans to get Colorado’s grid to 100 percent renewables while saving ratepayers money on their utility bills and creating clean energy jobs right here at home.

4) He works to protect our public lands and outdoor recreation economy.

Jared Polis is the lead sponsor of the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act and lists it as one of his top priorities as a Congressman. This bill has been a large part of Conservation Colorado’s work over the past ten years and will continue to be until these wild places are protected. He is also a strong supporter of our outdoor recreation economy and the businesses and jobs it creates.

5) He fights for clean air, clean transportation, and healthy communities.

Jared Polis knows first hand what it’s like to have oil and gas wells too close to your home, friends, and family, and he has prioritized the health and safety of Coloradans above industry profits. He has also supported cleaning up air pollution from vehicles. Specifically, he stands for more, and better, bike lanes as wells as stronger electric vehicle incentives and opportunities. He plans to introduce new policies that will support the adoption of electric vehicles that will reduce pollution in our state.

6) Jared Polis fights for issues that matter to our communities.

He has been an outspoken supporter of the DACA program and was honored at the Latino Eco Festival in 2017. Jared Polis believes that Colorado needs to lead the way in building diversity in our economy that creates jobs and increases wages but also reduces the racial wealth gap.

 

We are confident in Congressman Polis’s passion and determination to make Colorado a better, greener state, but we need your help to win this next election. Polis will face Republican Walker Stapleton in the general election in November. Stapleton has undermined the benefits of renewable energy for consumers, opposes efforts to clean up air pollution from transportation, and openly pleaded with the oil and gas industry to spend more money on his campaign.

Conservation Colorado had a 90 percent win rate of candidates endorsed in 2016, and we need your help to make that 100 percent this November. Support our election work here to help make Jared Polis Colorado’s next governor.