FOLBR - Friends Of the Lower Blue River

Sustainable Hiker - Beyond the Trail Series

By Tom Koehler


Supporting the American Public Lands and Waters Climate Solutions Act

This past Saturday marked the 27th National Public Lands Day. It is a special day that recognizes our shared societal bond that we all can enjoy the beauty, solitude and health-giving attributes of our parks and forests.   
 
Those human and economic benefits are under attack as we battle climate change. The Wilderness Society found that the green-house gas emissions from the production and combustion of fossil fuels, produced on our public lands due to federal leasing programs, are equivalent to over 20% of total U.S. GHG emissions.
 
Our land and water assets need to be a strong ally in our fight for our health. They filter pollutants and capture carbon. As our forests emit enormous carbon through wildfires, managing our land to help mitigate this threat is essential. 
 
In December of 2019, a bill named the “American Public Lands and Waters Climate Solutions Act” was introduced.  It aims to make federal public lands a net-zero source of emissions by 2040. That is ambitious but highly encouraging.
 
This is the forward thinking legislation that I encourage all of us to support.
 
Tom Koehler
Sustainable Hiker 

Threats to Our Water and Way of Life

By Tom Koehler

Wildfires continue to scorch significant swaths of land, most significantly in California but also in Colorado. These forests are necessary to combat climate change through carbon capture. Yet the warming trend exacerbates the severity of these wildfires. These fires release immense amounts of carbon. The fires also cost us trees and vegetation that fight pollution and capture carbon.  Though some believe it is a net neutral evolution as nature takes its course. 
 
Some forest ecologists and atmospheric scientists generally view wildfire as being carbon neutral. As fires burn, chewing through structures and vegetation, they spit out vast amounts of carbon and other compounds in their smoke. "But then over time, we expect a lot of that carbon dioxide will be drawn back down by plants growing again," says Rebecca Buchholz, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, based in Boulder. She says, "For fires, it's all about balance."

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An Especially Important Zone

By Tom Koehler

An incredibly unique area of our eco-system provides tremendous outsized positive impact. A riparian zone is land along waterways including floodplains and stream banks such, as those along the Lower Blue River. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), riparian zones comprise only 1% of land in the western US but are among our most productive and valuable natural resources.

This dynamic area filters pollutants and helps control erosion so unwanted sediment is not sent downstream. Our drinking water supply is naturally aided by this wonder of nature. Riparian zones possess distinct soil and vegetation characteristics from upland zones. Ground water is nearer the surface and promotes robust vegetation and is typically nutrient rich.

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Climate Change is a Major Risk

By Tom Koehler

In last month’s article, I highlighted how serious the problem is with our water resources here in the Lower Blue and all down the Colorado River. This river that serves up to 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles has seen its flow dwindle 20% from last century. Most is attributable to climate change according to US Geological Survey scientists Chris Milly and Krista A. Dunne. They estimate the River supports approximately $1 Trillion of economic activity annually.

Flows start high in the Rockies in forested watersheds that we hold dear for their beauty and recreation. These watersheds filter pollutants out of the air and water and possess amazing carbon capture properties through soil and vegetation, including trees. But our forests that provide all this are at risk

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Reliable Insight on our eco issues of the day

By Tom Koehler

Water provides health, life, and economy and yet as vital as this precious resource is, we are staring at a serious supply demand deficit in the coming years in the Colorado River Basin. This has prompted officials through a multi-basin collaborative approach to come up with the Colorado Water Plan in 2015 and with renewed attention, it is time to become educated and involved.

The increase in population and climate change has the Colorado Basin in a precarious position as it will be asked to deliver more as it has less as time goes on. We recreate, reside, and use the water directly and indirectly here in the Lower Blue River Valley. This magnificent river corridor is home to abundant wildlife, avian and aquatic species as well as robust agriculture and ranching. It runs elegantly from the Dillon Reservoir to the Colorado River Headwaters in Kremmling, CO. We are a vital link.

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