Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Coldharbour Irrigation Mapping

Last week I went out to Coldharbour to collect necessary data, that would be utilized in part of the land management plan and future funding resources. My task was to map out an overgrown, and outdated section of irrigation ditch, that used to be supplied by the Head and Cortay head gate. This data needed to be collected mainly to give Briant accurate information that could be used to outline necessary funding in terms of receiving grant funding, and to give an accurate representation of future maintenance costs. After driving out to Coldharbour, I obtained an old and very clearly leaky pair of waders from the garage. My approach was to start with a rough satellite image I had printed off, and start a transect I had pre-planned in order to locate the first section of overgrown irrigation ditch.
The day was heating up quick, and with no wind and temperatures approaching the mid 60's, there couldn't have been a nicer November day to search for a century old irrigation ditch. The first step into the Tomichi creek reminded me of the age and abuse these old waders had taken over the years, a stream of icy water started to seem into the boots, making me move with a bit more haste. After locating the old railroad grade and orienting myself, I began my transect straight into the willows in order to find the old flood irrigation supply. I managed to find a section of irrigation that appeared to be extremely old, a section the willows had their way with for some time. After marking down the UTM's I continued to bushwhack in a direction that I believed to be the source, as there are no straight lines in nature.
As I gave one last push through a thicket of willow, I found myself nearly falling off the stream bank of the Tomichi. I had gone too far, so headed back down stream to locate the head and cortay diversion, hopefully that would lead me to the flume and head gate, where I could get a more accurate depiction of the original channel. After locating the diversion, filled with old tires, I began to bushwhack once again, and finally located a heavily over grown head gate, and remaining irrigation ditch. After running what I thought the length of the ditch was with a GPS, I now had to translate my field data to a usable interpretable map, via ArcGIS, looking forward to the struggle...

Left: Tomichi Creek, looking North West. Right: Current state of the irrigation infrastructre.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Environmental Policy Post 2016 Elections

This past week has been one of concern for many - particularly in the climate and public lands policy arena. It is hard to know where to go in the fight against climate change when the new leader of our country believes it is a hoax. The science is clear and the world’s climate is warming. This is not a time for fewer environmental regulations or a focus on fossil fuel development that contributes greenhouse gas emissions, making the target of keeping global temperatures from warming to 3.6˚F a challenge.

Although the presidential election has left many with concerns there were several encouraging newly and re-elected officials to local, state and federal positions. There were 5 women in different states that made history by being elected to public office. These inspiring women all support measures such as women’s rights and have a focus on supporting communities who have historically been marginalized.

Across western states, we saw positive election results with candidates who support climate and public lands protections. For Colorado we saw eleven out of fourteen Conservation Colorado endorsed State Senate wins, and 36 out of 38 endorsed State House of Representative wins. These folks have been endorsed by Conservation Colorado because they have shown significant dedication to environmental conservation and support of public lands.  For my neck of the woods, Gunnison House District 59 is now represented by  Rep. Barbara McLachlan. She is a huge proponent of clean energy development and supporter of public lands. Moving forward many battles can be fought at the local level, and will need to be. With these elected officials in office we in Colorado have an obligation to stand with them to keep fighting for our climate.

Catherine Cortez-Masto, mentioned above in the 5 women who made history, was elected to U.S. Senate for the state of Nevada and has been endorsed as a climate champion by The Sierra Club. The state of Washington also elected four Sierra Club endorsed U.S. House of Representative candidates and endorsed U.S. Senator Patty Murray. These government officials across the West and the nation need support as they lead our country toward regulations that protect and restore our climate.

Of utmost importance, we must urge the new administration  to not pull out of the Paris Climate agreement, and to continue taking steps to meet international and national climate goals. We must continue the progress toward renewable energies. In fact, the BLM just finalized a rule that would increase the ease of development of wind and solar on public lands. This sector of our economy is growing and this continues to  be a bipartisan issue that is good for all Americans and environments.

Climate change is upon us. As the Mountain Pact continues work in this new political era, the goal remains the same -- to build alliances and empower mountain communities to build resilience in the face of economic and environmental stresses through federal climate and conservation policy. The organization will continue to keep a close eye on issues of   climate adaptation and mitigation;  disaster funding for increased extreme weather events; and  ensuring public lands stay in public hands to name a few.

This work is more important now more than ever.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Coldharbour Institute: Stepping into the non-profit world

A few weeks into the semester I finally managed to secure an internship with Briant Wiles, who is the Director of Land Management for Coldharbour institute. Briant is currently only one of two employees at Coldharbour, and it is with much generosity that he was willing to give up some of his precious time to work with an ENVS student. So far working with Briant has led to some interesting insights into the unforeseen complications of the non-profit world, as well as working with a rather new start up that has numerous aspirations and organizational goals. Much of Coldharbour Institutes property has been placed under Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) wetland easement, and while this partnership allows for many riparian area restoration projects and improvements, it also complicates any projects or potential improvements on the property. "Coldharbour Institute promotes resilient living practices for a changing world through education, research, experimentation, partnerships, and the integration of environmental, social and economic solutions." The mission as stated above is quite broad and includes a number of projects, collaborations, and now has taken a more holistic approach to sustainable living in the Gunnison valley, including but not limited too: Renewable energy, sustainable building, localized agriculture, riparian area conservation and improvement, and education outreach. 

After working with Briant over the last few weeks, I have seen the complications that inherently come along with working with multiple organizations with multiple goals and regulations. Briant has been developing a land management plan which includes everything from managing the properties water rights, visitor management, to endangered or threaten species on or around the property. I have been working with him to develop language that will be used in future grant and funding applications for the property, detailing out a multitude of tasks and priorities that need to be undertaken. I have had the opportunity to undertake research into the world of water law and regulation, as well as collaborative non-profit work and regulations pertaining to the property. 

As I continue to work with Briant on Land management documents, I hope to further my experience in the non-profit world, as well as what processes go into funding a 501(c)(3). Understanding the stakeholders goals and aspirations for the property have always been intriguing, and I look forward to seeing what bright future is in store for Coldharbour Institute. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Mountain Pact: Introductions and Learnings

Internships are amazing ways to learn. When I applied for the internship with the Mountain Pact my knowledge of political advocacy was incredibly limited. I knew I wanted to learn more about being involved in environmental policy and so I decided to take a chance to learn in a hands-on way. I got the internship and the learning started immediately. At first I was just playing a bit of catch up; learning about what the Mountain Pact was all about. And now the real work has begun.

Mountain communities across the American West are experiencing detrimental effects of to our environment and economies as a result of climate change: increases in catastrophic wildfire, the spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and reduced snow pack are just a few of the impacts compromising our landscapes and, in turn, our tourism-based economies. Currently, mountain communities are unheard and unrepresented in the national climate dialogue. The Mountain Pact offers an innovative approach to mobilize mountain towns across the American West to call for federal action on climate change adaptation (preparing of climate change impacts) and mitigation (reducing GHG emissions).  

The start of my internship involves supporting efforts around a two year campaign for reforms to how the federal government funds wildfire suppression. This campaign works to draw the attention t of lawmakers to recognize the growing stress that federal land managers in the Interior Department and Department of Agriculture are under with the increase in frequency and severity of wildfires. Federal land agencies, such as the National Forest Service, are spending more and more of their  limited budgets every year on suppression costs to fight catastrophic wildfires.  This means that funds are being pulled from other essential programs crucial to ensuring adequate forest management .

So, the Mountain Pact  has been working with national coalitions to shape and inform a long-term and comprehensive wildfire funding fix.  Part of their efforts have been collecting signatures to a sign-on letter they authored that will be sent to Congressional leadership urging them to consider these costs in the fall budget negotiations.  Fourteen towns from eight states have signed on to the letter. I helped to identify the Congressional leadership of the participating towns so a copy of the letter could be sent to their corresponding House and Senate leadership.

Participating in this work, I learned about campaign strategy and the importance of timing. This letter will be sent out twice, once at the beginning of November because Congress will be in budget negotiations; but also, it will be sent again after the administration change occurs so that the new lawmakers will also be made aware of this issue.

Another component of the campaign is media outreach. I conducted research for the organization to see what the current media coverage of the topic is and recommend how the Mountain Pact can bring the Western mountain town perspective to the national conversation. They hope for an article to be published next month, so stayed tuned.

Coming up - since it is election season - there will be a lot of work focused on informing mountain towns about what the election results and other relevant   legislation means to Western mountain towns. So far, the learning has been great and I already feel more informed about the national climate conversation and how policy changes happen. I’m looking forward to more hands-on learning!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Working with the WCCC and Sage Grouse Habitat Restoration

        Hello, I worked at the BLM as an intern through the Western Colorado Conservation Core (WCCC) all summer. From May until the end of November. It was a long internship in which I learned a lot. One of the many things that I took from this internship, was the chance to learn how to lead a group that struggled with a lack of motivation, lack of respect toward others, lack of purpose in life/themselves, and an overall lack of interest in learning new things.

       Around the beginning of August, I and two fellow workers lead a work crew from the WCCC for two weeks. We worked on closing and revegetating roads around the Signal Peak Area north of Highway 50. The purpose of this project was to lessen the impact that many of these excess roads have because they are fragmenting productive Gunnison Sage Grouse Habitat.
       Throughout my life, I’ve had the chance to be involved in many opportunities that have challenged my leadership abilities. Working with this WCCC crew from Grand Junction really tested those abilities. More than half of the 12 person crew were juvenile delinquents who have been walking in the wrong footsteps for many years. A couple others were adults whom had just been released from being incarcerated. Most of these people were there because they couldn’t be hired anywhere else.
       The work we did was not easy either. We swung picks for the majority part of the day, and the worst part was that they were barely making any money. There was no motive for them to work hard. Which made our job as the ones in charge of this restoration project, much harder. Without motive or the interest to learn, we made it a priority to let them know why we were doing the work we were doing. We needed them to know why it was important, and that they were making a difference. In the end, I think that teaching them about being a good environmental steward, is what motivated them to work harder. They began to take in their surroundings and started caring about the impact that we have had on the lands around us. Working with us gave them a sense of purpose, and they were focused mostly on that, rather than the miniscule amount of money they were making. I hope that we actually had a lasting impact on at least one of the people we worked with because then, he or she will share his knowledge with his friends and family, thus furthering education regarding our home/environment.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

SRO Internship: Final Thoughts

My time working for SRO has now officially come to an end. During my time at SRO I was introduced to a number of different procedures that both opened my mind as well as tested me mentally as a person. One of the greatest experiences that occurred over my three month internship happened during the first few weeks when John and I had to set up an experiment for the USDA. During this I was shown exactly how large scale experiments are both set up and conducted outside of the guidance of academia that i was used too. Unfortunately the results of this experiment were unable to be used due to unforeseen procedural mistakes. Although the results were no good, it was quite an experience being able to be a part of an experiment of this magnitude. 
Throughout the summer I was able to discover the process which was used to create the electrobiocide. This was an especially important part of my internship considering that most of what I was being taught was all patented technology. At first the chemistry that was involved in this process was overwhelming but after "cooking" numerous times and asking John questions nearly the entire time, I finally go the hang of it. Other than going along with John and conducting experiments or "cooking" up elctrobiocide my summer also consisted of work outside of the SRO headquarters. John new that my interest was in sustainability and when I was given the chance to help out on his nearly off-grid homestead, I jumped at the opportunity. It was here that I maintained his garden located mostly inside of a 34 foot high geodesic greenhouse. Located within the greenhouse was also a full aqua-ponics system, that before this opportunity I never really understood exactly how these types of systems worked. Along with maintaining the garden I was able to take care of the over thirty chickens located on his property and one ill tempered rooster. Working on this property was definitely the highlight of the internship and was a welcomed break from the chemistry intensive SRO work. Other projects that I was involved in were the building of numerous greenhouses, used to hold both some of Johns excess produce as well as lettuce that is currently being used in an experiment to see whether or not the electrobiocide has any ill effects on the plants. Unfortunately the results of this experiment wont be completed for another month. The process of designing and building my own greenhouse's was a very rewarding experience and taught me a lot about what types of designs work and what types don't. 
Over the course of the last three months SRO has taught me so much about the world of patented technology and all that goes along with trying to get the product out onto the market. I was originally interested in the technology because I was told it is a completely green disinfectant that is effective as  current household cleaners but harmless enough to drink. When I first herd this there is no wonder why I was interested but I'm not sure how much of it I actually believed. Now that I have worked for SRO for the past few months I know that all of these seemingly exaggerated claims are all true. I have actually drank the product myself with no ill effects. I am so thankful to John and the SRO crew for bringing me in a showing me how their technology works as well as allowing me to help out on projects outside of the office. Allowing me the freedom to create my own projects was extremely helpful and allowed me to work on my own schedule while still learning everything that I could about both SRO and the electrobiocide technology. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and will surely help me in attaining my future goals. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Manufacturing Biocide at SRO

It was a pretty easy week in the SRO office with the finishing up of some minor projects including the building of greenhouses as well as brewing a batch of the electro-biocide. The two main greenhouses have been filled with lettuce plants where one will act as the control group in the experiment while the other will be used to test the effect that the biocide has on the plant growth. The biocide will be applied to the test group via misting throughout the day. The experiment will not be completed until after my internship is over but I will be informed of the results when John completes the experiment. Overall it was very informative on how to properly set up a experiment of this scale out side of an academic environment. I will continue to apply the biocide and to the test group for the next few weeks while also noting the growth rates of both groups.
As far as the process of brewing the electro-biocide goes the chemistry involved is pretty intense as well as patented. While completing the brew I was given the low down on exactly what was happening on each step of the way, which was very interesting and informative. I found it especially interesting how chemically simple the completed fluid was considering the rather lengthy manufacturing process. The final elctro-biocide fluid is only 200 parts per million stabilized ClO2 in a highly energized fluid. Over the next couple of weeks I will continue to help out with the experiment while also continuing to brew the fluid. I am excited to learn more about the actual processes that occur when the fluid is applied in order to sterilize surfaces, which I will be looking into further on in the week.