In Colorado mountain communities, our forests, rivers, mountains and valleys provide for a lifestyle and livelihood that is integral to residents and visitors. We know that our way of life is wholly dependent upon a clean and healthy environment. This reality has become a driving force in governmental planning, as the impacts from climate change prove ever more consequential.
This past June was the hottest on record in North America. It’s no secret that the wildfire season starts earlier and ends later, and fires burn hotter and longer than ever before. 2020 was Colorado’s worst fire year and more acres burned than any previous year. A recent article by Allen Best suggests a new era of megafires is here for Colorado.
The Town of Breckenridge is part of the comprehensive and ambitious Summit Community Climate Action Plan, an initiative spearheaded by our local environmental organization, the High Country Conservation Center. This plan works to move us all toward conservation of resources, maximization of clean energy and transportation technologies, and reduced pollution in ways that will build a strong economy.
But we can’t do it alone. Emissions know no boundaries, and we all must work together to fight the climate crisis.
That’s why, as Town of Breckenridge council members and climate-action advocates, we are encouraged that the state General Assembly and governor’s office have achieved important milestones in recent years to reduce Colorado’s greenhouse gas emissions and lay the groundwork for a resilient clean-energy economy.
With Colorado’s 2021 legislative session now in the books, nearly six months of hard work by our state legislators resulted, among other things, in some impressive strides toward increasing Colorado’s climate-change resiliency.
This summer, the governor has signed into law bills such as the comprehensive Transportation Funding package, a plastics ban, and House Bill 1266, which puts important benchmarks in place to reach the state’s emissions reductions Roadmap, just to name a few.
We also are grateful that House Bill 1208, the Natural Disaster Mitigation Enterprise Bill, has now been signed into law. This law now allows local governments to apply for grants to plan for, and mitigate, hazards, wisely helping to reduce threats to homes and communities before a fire starts. As times of drought increase, we now must be continually prepared for inevitable wildfires that threaten homes in the wildland-urban interface — especially since approximately half of Coloradans live in areas at risk to wildfires.
We also must be prepared for the heavy sediment from fires that threaten the health of our rivers and streams. The Town of Breckenridge protects more than 4,800 acres of open space, critical for wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, view corridors, and sequestering carbon in an effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. We appreciate the legislature and the governor supporting our efforts with this proactive enterprise program.
While Colorado has made great strides towards advancing climate goals thanks to state leadership and encouragement from Coloradans, we are not there yet: there is still much work to be done to implement these plans, adopt enforceable standards, and address all pollution-emitting sectors in ways that don’t disproportionately impact marginalized communities.
Kelly Owens and Carol Saade serve on the Breckenridge Town Council.