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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

Local high school students get a lesson on Colorado River, mega drought

Marci Krivonen

High school students from around the valley got a lesson on drought and water scarcity in the West Thursday. The organization Ecoflight brought in experts, and college students just returned from a flight over the Colorado River basin. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen has more.

The high school students packed a seminar room to hear about water law, environmentalism and how water impacts wildlife. Mark Harvey spoke first. He’s a rancher in Old Snowmass.

"We raise beef cattle," he says. "We’ve been doing it for about 50 years now. One of the reasons this ranch works is because we have irrigation.”

A few years ago his neighbors hired a lawyer. They wanted some of the water Harvey uses for his ranch. What ensued was a exhaustive lesson on water law.

"About every two weeks an envelope would show up from the law firm and I would just be scared to open it. It begs the question, how did we get here in the West with a scarcity of water, where we’re constantly battling over it.”

Harvey explains how water law in the West came to be. Speaker AudenSchendler follows up with how climate change will impact water resources. He’s the VP of Sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Company.

"This is all data on what’s going to happen to fisheries in the next 100 years if we don’t act. All trout and salmon habitat from Tennessee to New England would to be too warm to support native fishing - so no fishing."

Credit Marci Krivonen
Auden Schendler, VP of Sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Co., talks about how climate change will impact water resources.

He says the real threat of climate change is its impact on activities people take joy from.

The students were surprised when Schendler - who’s involved in the group Protect Our Winters - told a story about professional snowboarder Jamie Anderson. She was on Donald Trump’s television show Celebrity Apprentice.

"She of course, gets fired. And at the end of the show, Trump says, ‘Hey, if there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.’ She tells him he can write a check to Protect Our Winters. And right there, he writes a $5,000 check to Protect Our Winters. So, the great climate denier and presidential candidate is working on climate change."

The water presentations were prompted by a flight over four western states by a group of college students. The students - from colleges like CMC and the University of Denver - had a message for the high schoolers.

"You guys have to realize everything that happens in this Colorado watershed affects you. It affects the water and everyone else in it."

"I think it’s really cool that these college students get an opportunity to fly all over the west and look at the rivers.”

Mason Yellico is a senior at Glenwood Springs High School.

"It just really makes me appreciate the amount of water we have in our little valley."