Saving Our Winters, Rivers and Forests

    by Sara Shaw

    If you ski here, you know what we cherish most in Winter. If you fish here or enjoy our waterways, you’ll appreciate the natural Summer assets of our Gold Medal rivers. But what if we lost those precious things, if the rivers started flowing slower and shallower, the snow pack grew thinner and the ski season got shorter? We need to ask these questions of tomorrow, but start taking action today!

    “Climate is clear and present danger, stabilizing it is an endeavor worth pursuing as it will impact all things Basalt,” Says Basalt Town Councilman, Auden Schendler. “We are threatened by warmer temps that damage fisheries, harm agriculture, destroy forests, create risk of fires and cause water shortages – all these things will impact our economy.”

    Basalt is stepping up to these issues and taking action now to preserve our natural assets we all consider our playground. Eagle County Commissioner, Kathy Chandler-Henry, approved a Climate Action Plan that she agrees should matter to all residents of the County. Climate change implications impose serious effects that we cannot undo. Aspen Skiing Company has already been implementing the measures of the plan for years – and Basalt has jumped onboard and is following suit.

    Basalt Town Council agreed the Climate Action Plan was so well done, and since it was not likely there would be any Plan being proposed at the National level anytime soon –adopted the County plan in March 2017.

    The plan calls for the reduction of county-wide greenhouse-gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025, from 2014’s baseline, and by 80 percent by 2050.

    It’s a research-backed fact that mountain communities are at risk - the central mountains of Colorado already have 23 fewer days with freezing temperatures than prior to the 1980s, and it’s predicted that by 2060, we’ll have 30 more days above freezing temps.

    Basalt knows they are at the mercy of these statistics if they don’t act now. The Climate Action Plan includes awareness and action in areas such as education, commercial buildings, residential buildings, transportation, energy supply and the landfill.

    Basalt will benefit by expanding its work towards efficiency, not only because it saves money, “but it also builds credibility when the town undertakes lobbying efforts and advocacy.” Adds Schendler, and Basalt simply needs that credibility because it has a lot of lobbying to do.

    Basalt commits to consider allocating $100,000 annually on energy efficiency audits and retrofits to town buildings, streetlights and on other energy users.

    “The Town’s thesis with the $100,000 annual investment is that we don’t have a lot of money, so let’s spend it on action, not reporting, not planning, not bureaucracy. That action can come in the form of efficient pumps and motors, lights and buildings, and also in pushing the state towards more progressive policies.” Comments Schendler on Basalt’s action plan.

    Basalt needs to lean on their vendors to help in their actions. “To get to 100 percent clean energy by 2030, Basalt needs to ask that Holy Cross Energy, Basalt’s electricity provider, also adopt that goal.” Schendler points out.

    Basalt will also engage in issues over capping methane emissions from oil and gas extraction from U.S. Bureau of Land Management property leases, and will enforce and develop a plan for energy-related policy and code.

    Basalt can also replicate what Aspen Skiing Company has already led with that has proven a large return. Not only is Auden Schendler a Basalt Councilman, he’s also Vice President of Sustainability for Aspen Skiing Company, and a member of the special committee that suggested the town’s additions to the County Climate Action Plan. “We already have large payback opportunities stacking up on us,” says Schendler, “these include the obvious – like streetlight retrofits, and the more complex, like pumps at the pool. But the upshot is that we’re going to make an effort to move now. You can think of this as just very prudent, very smart use of town funds, which are taxpayer funds. We’ll invest this money in ways that improve the town infrastructure, save energy and thus protect the climate, and also pay the taxpayer a big return on its investment.”

    Another short-term goal is a much needed demonstration solar project the town can point to. “It’s not in the works yet because it requires a lot of financing for a publicly owned array, particularly with regard to tax benefits. But we could start with more town buildings installing smaller arrays on their roofs. Unfortunately, some buildings are in need of rebuilds before they have solar installed. They need to be more sound and energy efficient, then put the cherry on top with solar at a later date.” Schendler explains.

    And of course, it takes a Village, so Basalt will engage the community through outreach and education.

    Some things the Community can do right at home to contribute to this philosophy and Action Plan are simple things like eating less red meat, taking public transportation, shorter showers, buy an energy efficient car. Reduce your energy consumption at home by installing solar panels, change your light bulbs to LED, use energy smart appliances, tune up or upgrade your furnace, have your home audited for energy efficiency, it’s free and you could even qualify for a rebate. A good tip is to go to the Protect Our Winters website, protectourwinters.org, and do everything on the Climate Activist Roadmap. It prioritizes with low-cost activism over personal action, but sometimes when you see the stuff right in your face at home, your apt to act there first – and that’s a huge step.

    The Roaring Fork Transit Authority’s public transportation has been a tremendous asset in the Valley, “and future additions like connecting Willits and Old Town with a shuttle may save on emissions, dollars, parking burdens, and even minimize driving while intoxicated.” Schendler offers.

    There are huge examples of businesses in the Valley that are going to great efforts on endeavors for a cleaner future. Local compost companies, such as Aspen’s EverGreen ZeroWaste will pick up your organic waste and compost it, and Pitkin County’s composting operations at their landfill equate to a real climate benefit by preventing methane emissions at the landfill.

    All these small contributions that contribute to policy will set the tone for Basalt’s Climate Action Plan efforts. So, while Basalt is taking huge strides for the better of all, look to yourself on how little adjustments and habits at home can contribute to saving our winters, rivers, and forests.

    See the entire plan at walkingmountains.org, under Sustainability / Action Plan