Senator Will Fight for Western Priorities to Be Included in a National Climate Strategy
Washington D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced a framework of Western climate resilience priorities carefully crafted by leaders in Colorado with a connection to the Colorado River––from the agriculture, water, local government, tribal government, education, environment, and business communities.
Bennet initially convened this group, known as the Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable, in November 2020 to develop a collaborative, consensus-driven set of priorities for Western climate resilience. Yesterday, members of the roundtable presented their final framework to Bennet, who plans to use it to drive his policy work in the U.S. Senate and as he works with the Biden Administration on its national climate strategy.
“The terrific work this group has done to reimagine climate policy is already informing my team’s work. I plan to share their framework with my colleagues in the Senate and the Biden Administration to help them understand why climate resilience is so important to Colorado and the rest of the Mountain West,” said Bennet. “I will do my part to ensure these priorities are part of every discussion going forward about climate and the country’s economy. I think this framework will be an important tool to demonstrate to the country that climate change isn’t a future condition in the West––it’s here now. And the survival of our economy and our way of life depends on tackling this challenge.”
“There is no debate that Climate change presents real and unacceptable risks to our water security and our way of life in the West. If Coloradans from all walks of life can come together to agree on durable solutions that address the challenge, then our leaders in Washington should have no problem doing the same,” said Andy Mueller, Chair, Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable. “We truly appreciate Senator Bennet convening this group of Coloradans with diverse perspectives to develop a consensus around these durable policies to help our communities become more resilient in the face of climate change.”
The Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable framework emphasizes three primary priorities for Western climate resilience:
- Our resilience is dependent on strong local economies in the West. Our climate resilience strategy must include tools for local economies in the West to adapt to changing climate and economic conditions and build long-term prosperity in a future powered by a clean economy.
- Supporting healthy soils, forests, rangeland, rivers, and watersheds will make our communities more resilient and help maximize the climate mitigation potential of western landscapes.
- Our climate resilience is dependent on a thorough and science-based understanding of actions needed to sustainably adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Actions Bennet is already taking based on the Western Climate Resilience Roundtable’s work:
- Last week, Bennet urged the Biden Administration to prioritize locally-driven economic development solutions for communities transitioning away from fossil fuels.
- In the coming weeks, Bennet will reintroduce his legislation to invest $60 billion in forest and watershed restoration across the West.
Members of the Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable include:
Chair: Andy Mueller, General Manager, Colorado River District
Steve Anderson, Farmer, Olathe, Manager of Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association
Steve Beckley, Owner of Glenwood Canyon Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hotsprings
Leland Begay, Associate General Counsel, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
Paul Bruchez, Rancher, Grand County
Sonja Chavez, General Manager, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
Tony Cheng, Director, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, CSU
Tracy Gallegos, Director, Colorado Migrant Education Program
Russ George, Director, Colorado Inter-Basin Compact Committee
Jon Goldin Dubois, President, Western Resource Advocates
Bryan Hannegan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Holy Cross Energy
Jonathan Houck, Gunnison County Commissioner
Merrit Linke, Grand County Commissioner
Jim Lochhead, CEO, Denver Water
Becky Mitchell, Director, Colorado Water Conservation Board
Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado
Kathy Rall, Water Resources Division Head, Southern Ute Indian Tribe
Sarah Shrader, Owner and Co-Founder, Bonsai Design
Bruce Talbott, Orchard/Vineyard Manager, Talbott’s Mountain Gold
Download the Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable’s framework HERE.
“The drought and fire events of last summer made our circumstances of a changing world very apparent. It is time for action and partnership to build a sustainable future in the West,” said Paul Bruchez, a 5th generation rancher in Grand County.
“The Upper Gunnison District appreciates Senator Bennet’s leadership in starting this important conversation about western climate resilience, said Sonja Chavez, General Manager, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. “Being a rural, high mountain, Western headwaters community, we are highly susceptible to the impacts of a changing climate. We need long-term coordinated actions and investment across all our communities and governmental agencies to support healthy economies, communities, forests, and watersheds.”
“Producing new scientific understandings about how climate change will impact our natural resources and communities is critical, but is only half the story. Involving leaders and stakeholders across sectors in co-producing and applying relevant science is essential to crafting workable solutions on the ground,” said Tony Cheng, Director, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, CSU.
“Building resilience in the face of climate change is about protecting our way of life in Colorado, our rivers, forests, farms and ranches, our homes and our communities,” said Jon Goldin Dubois, President, Western Resource Advocates. “By bringing together this group of people from around the state, representing various interests and sectors of the economy, Senator Bennet has helped us come to consensus around principles for smart investments in clean energy, stewarding our natural resources and clean energy infrastructure that will ensure our livelihoods and a strong Colorado economy for the future.”
“We as a group recognized we were in an urgent circumstance, that we needed to do something now,” said Russ George, Director, Colorado Inter-Basin Compact Committee. “This effort is the right approach because it starts at home with the local people who will be affected by the work. This process proved that though we come from different backgrounds and have different sets of political beliefs, we can work on the most significant issues of the day and actually agree.
“Climate variability and change affects every aspect of life for the communities and members we serve in Western Colorado,” said Bryan Hannegan, President and CEO of Holy Cross Energy, one of the State’s 22 rural electric cooperatives. “Smart investments today in infrastructure, training and education can help our communities adapt and become more resilient to the changes we will face in the coming decades, in ways that will be just and equitable for all.”
“Climate change is a direct threat to the resources we count on to power our economy and our way of life in Colorado. We need durable and actionable plans to curb the devastating effects of climate change,” said Jonathan Houck, Gunnison County Commissioner. “When we take active steps to protect our soils, forest, mountains, rangelands, rivers and watersheds, we are not only protecting our future we are becoming thoughtful stewards of our natural environment. I applaud Senator Bennet for uniting state and regional leaders to develop Western climate resilience in a meaningful way. Gunnison County, a headwaters county, is eager to reign in climate change and lead on meaningful change along with Senator Bennet.”
“We really had to look at the big picture here, and I think we’ve done that. The priorities here affect everything—forest health, watersheds, agriculture, and climate,” said Merrit Linke, Grand County Commissioner. “We need an updated, science-based approach to managing our forests. Our approach over the last several decades hasn’t worked, the fires we had in Grand County last fall showed us that.”
“Climate change is one of our greatest 21st century water challenges, but the solutions aren’t limited to water. By taking a range of targeted actions that focus on jobs, rural communities, economics, infrastructure, technology, tribal partnerships, science, landscape protection, healthy watersheds and system resilience, we can be better prepared for the threats climate change poses to our way of life in the West. These priorities can guide legislation and policy to marshal the enormous support and resources necessary for the heavy work ahead of us,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO, Denver Water.
“Recent wildfires and drought remind us that climate change is already here and hurting Coloradans. If we’re going to avoid its worst impacts and leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren, we need to lead through bold climate action rooted in environmental justice that meets our climate goals, protects public health, and creates clean energy jobs,” said Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado.
“Water is essential for the federally recognized tribes in Colorado,” said Kathy Rall, Water Resources Division Head, Southern Ute Indian Tribe. “One of the most important parts of this framework is its emphasis on ensuring the delivery of clean water to the tribes and investing in updating water infrastructure necessary to support that delivery.”
“This effort is as much about building economic resilience as it is about climate resilience. We need the federal government to be a partner as we work to build a stronger future for our rural communities,” said Sarah Shrader, Owner and Co-Founder, Bonsai Design.
"Watersheds and aging water infrastructure have been taken for granted in the west and it is my hope that with this renewed focus and commitment to recovering and rebuilding them that we can maintain healthy communities here for the foreseeable future,” said Bruce Talbott, Orchard/Vineyard Manager, Talbott’s Mountain Gold.