Substantial problems, but hope and action on environment

Boulder County residents have long viewed their community as an environmental leader on Open Space and an innovator on mass transit incentives and bike paths. They aren’t wrong. Yet, challenges persist and some problems are getting worse as the county joins the state in dealing with population growth and a rapidly changing climate.

Commuters in and out of Boulder County continue to hop into their cars to get to work. While the county managed to effectively prohibit fracking for oil and natural gas within its borders, emissions from surrounding areas — Weld County in particular — have not respected county boundaries. The one-two punch of auto and fracking emissions has kept air quality less than optimal and ozone levels high and rising.

Even amid gains on water conservation, the growing and thirsty Front Range population has led to a dispute between Denver Water and Boulder County on the expansion of Gross Reservoir.

The arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer poses a serious threat to an urban forest in which ash trees had served as a key species, and the growth of neonic pesticides has had a deleterious impact on pollinating insects. In addition, soil quality on Open Space agricultural land has suffered from overgrazing and an exploding population of prairie dogs.

The hopeful part? Boulder County and the state are responding. The city of Boulder is establishing baselines for pollinators, aquatic insects and soil quality with an eye to improvement, and working to keep tree cover constant. Statewide, Gov. Jared Polis has brought an aggressive approach to improving air quality, allowing more local control over oil and gas operations, enhancing transit and encouraging an increase in electric vehicles.


by Cindy Sutter