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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Up Bear Creek 13dec26013



On a quest for a new kind of conservation tool



FLORIDA … Leaving Norwood last week to fly to Ft. Lauderdale, wouldn’t you figure I’d hit the second snowstorm of the season? Not that I was unhappy. Goodness knows we needed the snow. But it was white knuckles all the way to Montrose for my 6:20 a.m. flight, nobody else on the road, the wind whipping a blizzard up on Dallas Divide … I’d been planning this conference for six months – had reservations and flights all lined up. But wasn’t sure I’d get to go until the last minute … It was the largest national convocation on a project I’ve been working on for several years now – Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). Hosted by the University of Florida together with ACES -- ACommunity on Ecosystem Services, Ecosystem Markets and Ecosystem ServicesPartnership, the conference actually brought together government agencies, environmental groups, scientists, foundations and private businesses to provide an integrated and expanded dialogue in the ecosystem services community, including the role of ecosystem service payments and markets for maintaining resilient communities … A paper I’d prepared with the help of Dr. Joshua Goldstein of Colorado State University (where I received a Center for Collaborative Conservation fellowship in 2010), his graduate assistant Shayna Brause and Botanist Peggy Lyon of Ridgway had been accepted for the public policy segment of what were eight concurrent sessions. With the help of County Open Space and Recreation Director Linda Luther and several advisors from the County Open Space Commission (notably Jim Boyd of Norwood), San Miguel County had managed to complete the first PES project on private land in Colorado. Six ranchers and landowners had been paid to allow a survey for rare plants to be conducted on private ground, and two sites had yielded newly discovered populations of very rare Colorado endemics … It was a pilot study. Perhaps not earth-shattering in its immediate effects, although the information of new colonies of a rare plant was a clear expansion of current scientific knowledge, but it was definitely a confirmation or proof-of-concept of the PES idea … For years, ranchers and large landowners have been providing some critical environmental services – clean water, habitat for rare species, and carbon sequestration (to name only a few) – but have not received any compensation from society in return. In fact, governments (including local governments) have responded to this good work by heaping new regulations on these same folks to “protect” resources, without rewarding them for what they’ve been doing right. PES is the start of an attempt to right that wrong … If we could quantify the worth of what ranchers and large landowners do on their private land – give it a fair market value, they maybe we could begin transferring some of the wealth of those who benefit from those services (society at large, industry, etc.) to those who are providing those services … It’s part of an overall strategy of true-cost accounting – to measure the cost of products and services in our lives from cradle to grave. And the upshot of this would be better environmental protection for the natural world and fair compensation and recognition for folks who are helping provide those services to us … Dr. Goldstein envisions a “farm of the future” that would not only produce food and fiber, but would be paid in some kind of market system for the ecosystem services they provide – adding a secondary source of income and making farms and ranches more sustainable into the future … Of course, having succeeded with a pilot project, I want to take on an even larger PES project in San Miguel County – to see if we could reduce Telluride’s industrial tourism carbon footprint by off-setting some of that climate changing carbon with carbon sequestration on range lands in the West End. Courtney White of the QuiviraCoalition calls it the “Carbon Ranch” concept … Which is why I find myself in Florida tonight, preparing to hear talks and learn what’s being done with ecosystem services and markets around the country – and listening to the Atlantic surf lapping at a white sand beach outside my hotel room.

Mary's unfinished painting, Wilson Mesa

HOSPICE YES … It was an amazing experience working with Alpine Hospice to care for Mary Friedberg as she slipped into the mystery. Letting a loved one stay at home, rather than in a hospital, as they make that passage into the bardo, is a beautiful experience. Not easy. In fact, quite difficult, exhaustive and sad. But also transformative … We’re certainly lucky, in San Miguel County, to have Alpine Hospice available to help family and friends provide that level of care for our terminally ill loved ones. I found all the folks from Alpine particularly empathetic and dedicated. But I’d be remiss not to single out Nurse Tammy Clifton who was such an incredible angel – competent, compassionate, and (like Mary herself) unbelievably kind … And for me, on a personal level, it was also inspiring to share the caretaking experience with Norwood family friend Marty Schmalz-Hollinbeck, who made it possible to give Mary the round-the-clock care she needed at the end … Not only is it a beautiful place we live in, but we are blessed with some extraordinary fellow-travelers in these mountains.

THE TALKING GOURD

Chickadee Moon

new moon hangs in the sky
near the big fat shiny glow of Jupiter
beaming love,
dissolving into the tide of light

french knots
at the tiny twig ends of the elm
glow with the fire of the rising sun
then turn iridescent green

jewels glimmer on barren branches of
the plum tree -- a gift from last nights rain
here and there frilly white ruffles of blossoms
grace her ancient arms

big rolling mist off to the south
swallows the mesa
to the north – Castle Peak, blue skies
drifting clouds

sparrows and grosbeaks share the feeder
and in the plum
a chickadee
telling nothing but the truth


-Cathy Caspar
Arvada

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