FOLBR - Friends Of the Lower Blue River

Sustainable Hiker - Beyond the Trail Series

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Updated Comprehensive Climate Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Colorado 50% by 2030

Governor Jared Polis has released the second version of the state's climate action plan to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in half by 2030, and make progress toward net-zero GHG pollution in Colorado by 2050. First released in 2021, the original Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap (‘Roadmap’) laid out a set of near-term commitments to reduce emissions across economic sectors. Having completed more than 95% of the near-term actions from the original Roadmap, "Roadmap 2.0" updates Colorado’s emissions forecast and lays out a new set of bold actions to save Coloradans money and continue making progress toward a clean energy future.

According to Governor Polis, “Colorado has been a national model in bold climate action that improves air quality and protects our precious resources and open spaces. This updated, comprehensive Roadmap continues pushing our state forward in ways that will save Coloradans money, protect our air and water, and ensure a more sustainable future for Colorado.”

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Think Globally…Act Locally

The slogan “THINK GLOBALLY ACT LOCALLY” is pretty catchy. When it
comes to climate change (or as some say “climate disruption”) I ask myself, what can I do locally as a Summit County resident, and will my actions have any impact?

The answer is yes. We can all have an impact and here are just a few ways:

Less car idling: I have paid more attention to the number of cars in our complex left idling for several minutes. With fuel injection now in most, if not all new cars, idling isn’t necessary. The exhaust from internal combustion engines contains pollutants that negatively impact then air we breathe. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, personal vehicles in the US generate around 30 million tons of CO2 every year just by idling. Approximately 20 billion dollars is spent every year for gas and diesel fuel in vehicles that are idling and not moving. In Colorado, statewide regulations pertain to larger commercial vehicles and prohibit idling more than five minutes. So, if you think you might be idling for longer than 30 seconds, turning off your engine. It is a better choice.

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The Financial Impact of Climate Change

Climate Change is real and so are the risks that range from food security, drought, supply chain issues etc. Are these risks borne by municipalities and businesses appropriately recognized and priced into the marketplace for financial instruments?

In a broad sense climate change represents a systemic risk as it is so interwoven into many global systems, including financial. Many experts believe these risks are pervasive enough to disrupt the entire financial system.

Standard and Poor Global Credit shows if global warming does not stay well below 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, up to 4.4% of the world's GDP could be lost annually. If adaptation isn't adopted, this will disproportionally affect developing economies. We find lower-income countries are 4.4 times more exposed to climate risks than wealthy countries.

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The Farm Bill

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.

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Wild Bighorns in Peril in the Colorado Rocky Mountain West

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.

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Managing Wild Horses and Burros on Public Lands

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.

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The Trails to Sustainability

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.

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Colorado’s Diverse Coniferous Forests

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.

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Colorado’s Riverbeds – Private or Public?

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.

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Explaining Our Extreme Weather Patterns

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.

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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, 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.

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Conservation Finance...A Bold New Frontier

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.

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The Price of Carbon

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.

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Public and Private Natural Resources

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.”

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The Inflation Reduction Act

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.

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