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Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Aspen Public Radio Environment Contributor

Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is Aspen Public Radio's Environment Contributor. Elizabeth has been an important part of Aspen Public Radio for years as our Environment Reporter. She now works for Aspen Journalism as an Editor and you will hear her reports and analysis on Aspen Public Radio through our partnership with Aspen Journalism.

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Pitkin County Emergency Manager Valerie MacDonald has been fully immersed in the area’s response to COVID-19 for two months, but recent warm, dry and windy days have also caught her attention. 

“We’re entering the, historically, most hazardous time of the year, with wildfires, flooding and debris flows,” she said. “We have to be prepared for that as well.” 

John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS


Colorado’s last wild wolves were killed in the 1930s, but this winter, wildlife officials confirmed that a wolf pack has moved in to Northwest Colorado. The news comes several months before Colorado voters decide whether they’ll support a bill to reintroduce gray wolves to the state. Recent reporting from Aspen Journalism looks into what the return of wolves could mean for the Roaring Fork valley. Morning Editon host and reporter Molly Dove sat down with Aspen Journalism Environment Editor Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.  

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Journalism



The charred landscapes that wildfires leave behind are susceptible to erosion, flooding and debris flows, like the mudslides that blocked roads in Basalt the summer following the Lake Christine Fire. 


Liz Schnackenberg, a hydrologist with the US Forest Service who analyzed the Lake Christine burn area, is in the Roaring Fork River valley this week for the Naturalist Nights speaker series, discussing how wildfires change watershed conditions.


Nancie Battaglia


Bill McKibben first wrote about the changing climate more than 30 years ago, and he continues to document global warming and speak out against the largest culprits. Most recently, he was arrested while protesting Chase Bank’s ties to the fossil-fuel industry.

McKibben will be in Aspen this weekend, learning to downhill ski and speaking as part of Aspen Skiing Company’s occasional speaker series Aspen U.

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Journalism

When a mountain lion has been treed by hunting dogs, the animal looks distinctly catlike: powerful, annoyed and, yes, bored. 

Whit Whitaker and other winter sportsmen have hunted mountain lions in the Roaring Fork River valley for decades, but until this week, a small triangle of land above Aspen has been off-limits. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The Gunnison sage-grouse, a smaller cousin of the greater sage-grouse, is a unique, regal-looking bird found in southwestern Colorado.  In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed it as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act. This past fall, the federal government released its recovery plan for the species, and Tuesday is the final day for public comment.


Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Journalism

Just as new research shows that aspen forests are a fountain of biodiversity, Aspen’s namesake trees in the Roaring Fork River watershed are battling warming temperatures, drier conditions, climate disruption, and unchecked herds of deer and elk. Although local aspen forests are currently still healthy, they face serious challenges.


Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Public Radio

Tuesday, Pitkin County Commissioners will hear an update on commercial paddleboarding and boating businesses that operate at North Star Nature Preserve, a popular open space property east of Aspen along the Roaring Fork River. This comes as Open Space and Trails staff work to balance recreation with protecting the sensitive nature preserve in an update to the area’s management plan.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism


As awareness of the potential effects of climate change grows, so does anxiety and grief about the seriousness of the crisis. As a result, a new climate-anxiety support group is forming in Aspen. 

Courtesy of CPW


One of Colorado’s biggest wildlife attractions is not native to the state. Moose were brought to northern Colorado in the late 1970s, and in the past several years, more and more of the large mammals are showing up in the Aspen area, sometimes right in town. 

So now, wildlife officials are working to understand just how many moose are in the state — and how to manage them.  

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Journalism


The Lake Christine wildfire last summer not only destroyed three homes and torched thousands of acres of forest, it also came dangerously close to taking down poles holding the full loop of power lines in Basalt.  After this close call, Holy Cross Energy partnered with Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to find ways to keep the lights on if there’s another disaster. 

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Journalism


The 2019 legislative session in Colorado included a major focus on climate policy, and Gov. Jared Polis has a plan to move the state’s electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. 

Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, is in Aspen on Wednesday to discuss that plan and how states can address climate change.


Pitkin County is looking for input on how to manage the popular Penny Hot Springs, which sits on open space property north of Redstone in the Crystal River Valley. The hot springs and the parking area on Highway 133 have grown increasingly busy, and officials with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails are working on a new management plan for the area.

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio


The Colorado Water Conservation Board, which oversees water use across the state, has given the City of Aspen $186,356 to look into an alternative way to use water rights.

Aspen water officials are looking for partners on a system that would allow the city to temporarily use someone else’s agricultural water right. 

Piktin County


Officials are looking for solutions to packed parking lots at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport.

Airport director John Kinney said there’s a shortage of about 120 spots at the Aspen airport, even after officials relocated rental cars and paved a dirt lot late last year. Officials say people who are not traveling are also using the airport’s long-term parking lot. 


Congressman Scott Tipton, whose district includes the Roaring Fork Valley, released a draft proposal Wednesday that would designate new wilderness in Colorado. It does not include protections for key areas on the Western Slope. 

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Development and climate change are top threats to wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and in the arid west, water supply is a consistent concern for all kinds of life. But ecologists see a simple, natural way for ecosystems to be more resilient: beavers. 

When local ecologist Delia Malone walks along the Crystal River in Carbondale, she sees something missing. This footpath runs through an area that used to flood during spring runoff, but with the combination of development and climate change, it doesn’t anymore. Malone said it’s also in part because there are no beavers on this stretch of river. 

Courtesy image


On Wednesday, Pitkin County Commissioners will discuss purchasing ten acres in the Crystal River Valley for $1.55 million.


The Wildin property includes about 900 feet of river frontage and two homes on the east side of the Crystal River on the southern end of Filoha Meadows. 

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio


The Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) released a set of guidelines Thursday that it is encouraging locals and tourists to use when sharing images of remote, backcountry locations on social media.


Instead of geotagging or sharing the exact location, ACRA wants people to use a generic tag that reads, “Tag Responsibly, Take the Aspen Pledge.” 

Courtesy of Mike Molloy

Scientists think the pika, a tiny alpine mammal, may provide clues to what climate change will mean in the Rocky Mountains.


Pikas, which are related to rabbits, are particularly sensitive to changes in temperature and snowpack. Researchers with the Front Range Pika Project began collecting data on pikas in the White River National Forest last year. They’re relying on citizen science volunteers to help conduct surveys in several locations across the forest, including Independence Pass. 

Courtesy of Bowman Leigh, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies


Project Drawdown is a research organization that identifies the one hundred most viable and impactful solutions to climate change. Founder Paul Hawken was in Aspen last weekend and sat down with reporter Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.   

Courtesy of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies


The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend with a lecture on solution to climate change.

In his 2017 book “Drawdown,” environmentalist Paul Hawken outlines a comprehensive plan to reverse climate change. He’ll discuss the policies and technologies needed to make that happen with ACES CEO Chris Lane tomorrow night. Lane said Hawken brings unparalleled expertise and optimism.


Courtesy of John Mele


Last month, the Aspen Fire Protection District launched a new program to assess dangers in the upper valley.  

Aspen firefighters are completing curbside assessments of every property in the wildland-urban interface, those places where human development is close to wild lands. Fire chief Rick Balentine says that’s about 90 percent of the Aspen Fire District. 

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio


Four boats carrying an invasive species of mussels were stopped before entering the water at Ruedi Reservoir.


Inspectors at the Ruedi boat ramp spotted quagga mussels on four boats that had previously been at Lake Powell, which has been infested with the destructive animals for several years. 

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio


The Roaring Fork River is expected to reach peak flow this week. It could mean flooding and dangerous conditions, but it also provides environmental benefits.


The large snowpack in high elevations is finally melting and filling local reservoirs and rivers. Storage space in Twin Lakes Reservoir will reach capacity by July 4, so water that is now being diverted there will instead flow down the Roaring Fork. 

Courtesy of Robert Hinch

Researchers are seeing red flags in the health of Colorado’s elk herds, and new research aims to understand the role that recreation plays in declining wildlife numbers. Reporter Elizabeth Stewart-Severy broke down the details of that research with Aspen Public Radio’s Zoe Rom. 


Courtesy of Will Cardamone


A United Nations report in May warned that a million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, worldwide. The biggest cause of that threat, it said, is the way humans have destroyed or modified the lands and oceans where these species live. Aspen Public Radio is collaborating with Aspen Journalism to produce a series of stories centered on local biodiversity and efforts to identify the Roaring Fork Valley’s best remaining wild lands for our wild creatures.


Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Public Radio News




A bill to protect 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado passed out of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources on Wednesday. 

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act would protect four areas in Colorado, including Thompson Divide and part of the Continental Divide. It was introduced in January by Congressman Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet.

Courtesy of Jessica Loya


Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop wants to see more diverse populations using public lands. The group is hosting Jessica Loya of GreenLatinos to speak about inclusivity and environmental justice at an event Wednesday night. 

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio


Officials in Basalt say recent efforts to improve safety at the shooting range near Lake Christine are helpful, but don’t go far enough.

Basalt town manager Ryan Mahoney drafted a letter on behalf of the town council that applauds Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) for removing brush to help prevent wildfires and arranging for safety officers.


But the council has a list of requests it says would make it easier for the town and gun range to coexist.