As towns around the United States seek to adapt to rising temperatures and drought, several Summit County initiatives are already striving to reduce local environmental consequences.
According to Jess Hoover, climate action director for High Country Conservation Center, the two most important priorities right now are water conservation and climate action.
“If we don’t do anything, temperatures here will be more like Eagle County in the year 2100,” Hoover said. “That’s a lot hotter, which means I can mountain bike a lot sooner, which is terrific — but it also alters our runoff cycles, changes our recreation, and has a slew of other consequences.”
Hoover stated, that more than 50 days per year in Summit County will be over 80 degrees by the end of the century, and the number of days below freezing between November and April might be significantly reduced if climate change continues on its current path.
Hoover also noted that the centre is working on a video campaign to encourage the usage of electric vehicles in the county in order to reduce pollution. Local electric car drivers and their experiences with them will be featured in the series.
“Our initiatives are entirely focused on outreach and education to let people know that actual Summit County residents drive them and it’s perfectly OK,” Hoover said.
This is significant since, according to 2017 data, passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks account for the majority of transportation emissions. She stated that they expect to see greater federal funding, in addition to state support, to make electric vehicles more accessible to everyone.
According to Jordan Mead, resource specialist with the Summit County Open Space and Trails Department, current Swan River Restoration Project work will also contribute to addressing climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide onsite.
He stated that growing more trees, rather than just replacing existing forests, is what will aid offset rising levels of greenhouse gases. To permanently remove carbon by planting trees, forests should remain intact for thousands of years in order to have long-term carbon sequestration benefits.
The most recent phase of the Swan River project has been to complete Reach B, the last stretch of publicly owned open space in the Swan River Valley that has to be restored. The first phase is channel excavation, which involves removing dirt and attempting to return water that was primarily running beneath the surface to the stream.
The segment finished last year consisted of digging planting pockets for plants. Backfilling the pockets with extra topsoil and planting woody plants, shrubs, and trees will begin in earnest. One of the aims is to build a linked ecosystem in which aquatic creatures may easily migrate between these restored lengths, hence creating a microclimate on the site.
“We need to conserve our forested ecosystems, and we need to turn degraded nonforested areas back into forested ecosystems or merely vegetated ecosystems, which is what we’re doing here with the Swan River,” Mead added. “We’re not attempting to recreate a forest there. In this scenario, we’ll start with the basics. The grasses and bushes started to build some soil on this, but they’ll still have those net-additive carbon advantages because we’re changing something that was enormous mounds of dredging gravel with no vegetation growing on it into 50-plus acres of vegetated, riparian environment.”
Mead estimates that the Swan River restoration project will save around 54 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, or 5,400 tonnes over the next 100 years. He said, while it is a drop in the bucket compared to total emissions, it is nonetheless sequestering carbon in an environment that had previously done nothing.
“We definitely want to continue our work on Swan River segments C and D,” Mead added. “There are additional 40 acres of dredged mining area near Breckenridge that can be restored in a similar fashion using the same sorts of chemicals and carbon sequestration technologies.”
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