This Farm Bill expires at the end of September. The bill is reauthorized every five years. It's quite comprehensive. It covers everything from commodities and conservation to nutrition, energy and forestry. That's a lot to manage within the Department of Agriculture. Negotiations on the myriad of issues continue. Historically, the capital outlay is not evenly distributed. The nutrition category with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as its main program, garnered approximately 76% of the farm bill budget or $325.8 billion from 2019-2023.
The Congressional Budget Office projects a similar baseline with an increase of about 5 percent to the nutrition piece of the puzzle. That will leave about 20% for everything else. American Rivers, a prominent national non-profit based in Washington DC, has some recommendations for a river friendly bill.
Promote river and land management best practices, paired with intentional and purposeful climate-smart goals. Increase authorized levels of funding for programs that improve river health, including water quality and quantity. These recommendations are consistent with the work of FOLBR and broadly supports the Lower Blue River Valley and the Colorado River Basin as a whole.
By: Joe Lewandowski--The Journal
I’ve been afforded the rare opportunity and honor to kneel beside Colorado’s state animal and its most iconic: the Rocky Mountain Bighorn. When I worked for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, I attended capture projects where skilled biologists examined Bighorns, weighed and measured them, and attached tracking collars to monitor their movements.
I placed my hands on their rough, thick coats and felt their solid frames. While the biologists did their work, I looked in awe at these animals. At the shoulder, most measured about 4 feet in height, their legs and bodies all thick muscle, tendon and bone. Their hooves calloused but pliable, providing the platforms needed for leaping among cliffs and climbing steep slopes.
Wild horses–majestic, free, galloping in the wind–are romanticized creatures of the American West. They are known for strength and beauty. But most people would be shocked to see the current state of wild horse herds in the U.S. Instead of running through a field of lush grass with a rushing river nearby, many wild horses spend their days foraging through dry, barren fields. They are faced with finding water in regions plagued by drought due to climate change. It is not uncommon to see malnourished wild horses with ribs and bones sticking out.
According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), wild horse populations are overrunning U.S. public lands, wiping out grazing resources for other species in a delicate ecosystem. Currently, there are more than 80,000 living on public rangelands. There are also cattle, sheep, deer, pronghorn, reptiles, birds, and sage grouse who rely on the rangeland ecosystem to survive. As wild horse populations grow, these species are also threatened. Left unchecked, the rangeland ecosystem could be damaged beyond repair.
This coming Saturday, June 3rd is National Trails Day, founded by the American Hiking Society. It means a lot to me as I have wandered many miles over the years here in Summit County and beyond. The trails have led me to many magnificent experiences.
Tent camping in quiet wilderness areas with a book is priceless. I’ve been on volunteer outings at the Summit Huts 11,000 feet above sea level. Those times allowed me the privilege of getting to know great people who share my love for the beauty of nature.
One of the core values of the American Hiking Society is hiking inspires sustainability. I can attest to the legitimacy of that tenet, because it has led me to take care of our natural world.
Locally, I participate in the County compost program. I believe this is one initiative with multiple benefits. My food scraps avoid the landfill. They would otherwise contribute to methane gas release. But instead, end up as top-quality compost for the land and soil.
Many Coloradans overlook the not-so-subtle differences between the state’s complex mix of coniferous forests. The various tree species, geographical aspects, and weather patterns throughout the state greatly influence how forest lands should be managed. More importantly, how they manage themselves.
Here, in the Blue River Valley, lodgepole pine, spruce and fir dominate the sub-alpine terrain. These forests are extremely dense and do not allow for easy passage by recreational hikers, hunters, and backcountry skiers. As a result, many mistake these forests for being overgrown or poorly managed.
Colorado’s lodgepole pine, spruce, and fir trees have a lifespan of 100 to 150 years. These trees reach a size that makes them highly susceptible to the mountain pine beetle. The beetles require a certain trunk diameter for insulation and food. They target and kill off large mature sections, causing the impassible pile-up of dead trees, familiar to so many of Summit County residents.
Right now, the question of who owns riverbeds in Colorado is under the microscope in Colorado’s Supreme Court.
Several years ago, Roger Hill repeatedly attempted to fish on a segment of the Arkansas River by standing on the riverbed that belongs to Mark Warsewa and Linda Joseph. After Mark and Linda attempted to forcefully remove Roger from their property, Roger sued Mark and Linda and claimed that title to the riverbed on their property belongs to the State of Colorado and is held in trust for public use under the public trust doctrine.
Under the public trust doctrine, the public is granted access to waterways for recreation, navigation, and subsistence. In Colorado, the public trust doctrine is limited to “navigable” rivers, yet, in 1912, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that there are no navigable rivers in Colorado.
From the Environmental Defense Fund
Scientists are detecting a stronger link between the planet's warming and its changing weather patterns.
Though it can be hard to pinpoint whether climate change intensified a particular weather event, the trajectory is clear — hotter heat waves, drier droughts, bigger storm surges and greater snowfall.
The dangerous effects of heat waves, including death, occur as a result of both temperature and humidity — especially if those conditions persist for more than two days.
With temperature records being smashed month after month, year after year, it's likely that human-caused global warming is making extreme heat events more frequent.
China produces approximately 70 percent of the world's output of this textile. France is the next largest producer of this crop followed by Austria, Chile, and the United Kingdom. In all, over 30 countries around the world produce industrial hemp.
The USDA estimates that U.S. 2021 hemp production totaled $824 million. This includes hemp for all utilizations. According to textileexchange.org, hemp is a bast fiber. That means the fiber-producing part of the plant is made up of strands that run its length and surround the woody core of the stem. It has a deep root system which helps to reduce soil loss and is useful in many different crop rotations.
This dynamic emerging industry is where finance and nature meet. The purpose of Conservation Finance is to preserve nature and its intrinsic ecological attributes and eco-system services. The goal is to raise and manage capital to support land, water, and resource conservation.
A healthy intact eco-system provides clean and reliable water, clean air, robust biodiversity for aquatic, avian and terrestrial species. Eco-friendly projects also provide carbon capture, an additional benefit and a public good, that is under appreciated.
Valuable landscape resources left to traditional developers could be heavily degraded. While this can serve a profit purpose in the short term, the long-term environmental assets are less capable of delivering water, clean air and healthy vegetation for wildlife and for carbon capture.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is emitted around the globe. Efforts to stem CO2 have been contentious and significantly unsuccessful.
A report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), dated June 2022, illustrates this point. 2020’s 4.6% drop in global greenhouse gas emissions was a pause in an otherwise powerful upward trend. This drop was due to lockdowns during the pandemic.
We saw an increase across all sectors in 2021, to levels higher than pre-pandemic. There are many potential solutions. Placing a price on carbon is one, but no formal global market exists; and no definitive legislative mandate is certain.
I think of forests and natural wonders mainly in terms of public land. Here in Summit County, CO the amount of forested public land managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) is approximately 80%. That is higher than the overall percentage across Colorado.
According to the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) “Approximately 65% of Colorado’s forests are in federal ownership; the primary land manager is the U.S. Forest Service with 47 percent or 11.3 million acres. Nearly three-quarters of the state’s high-elevation species such as spruce-fir, lodgepole pine and aspen are located on USFS lands. The Bureau of Land Management oversees an additional 17 percent or 4.2 million acres, primarily in the state’s lower elevation piñon-juniper and oak shrubland forests. The National Park Service has responsibility for 380,925 acres or 2 percent of Colorado’s forests; most of these lands are within the borders of Rocky Mountain National Park.”
The last few weeks presented a few surprises on Capitol Hill. Within the last month and a half many believed that a deal was in the works for the Build Back Better Act with negotiations within the Democratic party being vigorously pursued. Seemingly, at the last hour, all was lost despite those apparent laborious negotiations with disappointment expressed by many who worked to advance this for many reasons including work on the environment and combating climate change.
Then in a surprise to many not privy to inside discussions, the Inflation Reduction Act was created. It remains to be seen if it will truly reduce inflation in part because there are many components of calculated inflation that in some ways are beyond the control of legislative action.
It does reinvigorate enthusiasm and action on the climate front at a cost. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget website, it calculates a cost for the energy and climate piece at roughly $386 billion. Tax credits for clean electricity, clean manufacturing, and clean fuel are main beneficiaries. These climate investments will be paid for with revenue from a 15% minimum corporate income tax.
On July 27th, the North American Grasslands Conservation Act was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D) Oregon and co-sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D) Colorado and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota. This bill dedicates $312 million to restoration efforts.
The findings in Section #2 of the summary substantiate the need for this bill. “Grasslands, including sagebrush shrub-steppe systems, are some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. These ecosystems are working lands that are critical for rural economies, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat but are at risk from fragmentation, invasive species, catastrophic wildfire, and degradation. As these ecosystems decline, the country has lost more and more grassland ecosystem wildlife, particularly grassland and sagebrush birds.”
This act includes four major initiatives:
Saturday June 4th marks the 30th National Trails Day, originally founded by the American Hiking Society. It is a day that means a lot to me. My time in Summit County began volunteering with stewardship groups for day and overnight trips repairing trails that provide us so much connectivity to nature.
The trails I roam continue to provide me with the path toward greater awareness of our eco-system with all its beauty and power. A few of the trails meander by the magnificent cabins in the Summit Huts system. Volunteering at over 11-thousand feet above sea level provides even more time for appreciation and exploration of the unique natural assets here in the region.
I began to wonder, what is really beyond the trail where most of us spend our time in our outdoor pursuits? It turns out there is a wonderous system out there. This forested watershed is both the Dillon Ranger District and the Blue River Watershed.