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 My task was to map out an overgrown, and outdated section of irrigation ditch, that used to be supplied by the Head and Cortay head gate.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.