Matty Valdez

Proud to be an American. Proud to be a Coloradan. Proud to be a Valdez.

Alaska’s Bristol Bay Faces Another Challenge From The Proposed Pebble Mine

Earlier this week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published their highly anticipated Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is the first step to potentially bringing the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay one step closer to fruition.

Opponents of the DEIS point to the fact that 3,000-plus pages of documents are included in it, yet the USACoE is fast-tracking the document with only a 90-day public comment review period. Alaska’s branch of Trout Unlimited is stating that a project of this size and magnitude should have at least a 270-day public review period to properly analyze all of risks involved.

The current application, proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals, would make this the largest gold and copper mine in North America. It also would require the world’s largest earthen dam to be built, which opponents state will put the natural ecosystem at un-necessary risk. As it currently stands, Bristol Bay is home to the world’s largest wild Sockeye and King Salmon population.

Colorado’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan: 2019-2023

Colorado Parks & Wildlife, in conjunction with the Colorado Outdoor Partnership, have finalized a 5-year plan which has the goal of continuing to develop Colorado’s outdoor recreational industry, introducing more Coloradans to the outdoors, and also maintaining environmental and cultural conservation.

The 5-year plan lays out four priorities which will help it achieve it’s goal.

  • Maintain and enhance sustainable access and opportunity for all Coloradans to enjoy the outdoors
  • Create a stewardship of care amongst Coloradans and visitors for our outdoors
  • Conservation of land, water, and wildlife for future generations
  • Create sustainable funding for Colorado’s outdoor future

This 5-year plan is fantastic news on all fronts. From a financial perspective, Colorado’s outdoor industry is responsible for 511,000 jobs in the state, $37 billion in consumer spending, and $21 billion in wages paid to Coloradans. So it’s absolutely imperative that we maintain our outdoor industry.

The plan also lays out environmental conservational steps which will help sustain the state’s natural beauty in the face of population growth and other environmental threats.

As departing Gov. John Hickenlooper recently stated, “Outdoor recreation opportunities contribute to increased quality of life, economic prosperity, and the health of Colorado communities and residents.” Regardless of where you fall on Hickenlooper’s other policies, he’s spot-on on this one. Colorado’s future is tied hand-in-hand to its outdoor/environmental policies.

As Coloradans, regardless of our political affiliation, we should support this measure. Protecting our outdoors, while planning for our future financial stability is the type of move that unites all of us together.

Give Your Input Into Colorado’s Big Game Hunting

Colorado Parks & Wildlife is asking the public’s input for developing their next 5-Year Big Game Season Structure for bear, pronghorn, deer, moose, and elk for the 2020-2024 hunting seasons.

Every five years, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) initiates a 5-Year Big Game Season Structure, which lays the foundation for the state’s big game hunting regulations.

The purpose of CPW’s five year plan is to lay the regulations for the allowable methods of hunting, the length of each season, which species are allowed, the amount of tags per species/per season, and other issues along those lines. The current five year plan expires at the end of 2019, which is why CPW is asking the the public’s input for the next five year plan.

Adam Wells, Pro-Staff Guide with The FlyFisher Guide Service, with the archery black bear take down.

If you’re a big game hunter in Colorado this is your opportunity to add input and make the changes you’d like to see. Grab the pronghorn by the horns and make your voice heard! Click here to take CPW’s survey for the 2020-2024, 5-Year Big Game Season Structure.

Ice Jam Flooding on The Roaring Fork River

I’ve been fly fishing here in Colorado for years and I’ve got to be honest– I’ve never given ice jam flooding a second thought. That’s on me. After watching the speed and intensity of the ice flooding on the Roaring Fork over the weekend, it’s something that should be on all of our radar’s moving forward.
courtesy of Roaring Fork Conservancy

Ice jams happen when warm temperatures cause a frozen river’s snow and ice to melt too rapidly, which then results in flash flooding down river.

If you’re going out fly fishing on any of Colorado’s rivers this winter, know your settings and be mindful of the environmental conditions around you. And I’m not saying that to be a fear-monger– admittedly, I’ve never put any thought into any type of winter flash flooding. But as we see here, fluctuating temperatures can cause weird things to happen.

The Colorado River Basin’s Great Crisis

The Colorado River Basin– which supplies water across 7 states and roughly 40 million residents– is in serious drought and in danger of running dry.

Red signifies extreme drought while dark red signifies exceptional drought.

From Colorado, and westward to California, the amount of water taken from the Colorado River is far outpacing the supply that Mother Nature is giving us. Many of us that ski during the winter, fish during run-off, or farm on the Western Slope have known that moisture levels haven’t been up to par recently. But a recent study by The Colorado River Research Group stated that the current and prolonged drought that the entire river basin is in shouldn’t even be considered a drought, because the word drought implies that the condition is temporary. Rather, their data shows that those of us that live in the multi-state Colorado River Basin are in a period of aridification. Which basically means that hotter and dryer conditions are here to stay. If you look at the most recent drought map published in late December 2018, by the US Drought Monitor, it doesn’t take a scientific eye to see that much of our state is hurting for more moisture.

Climate change, population growth, and mismanaged water supplies have led to this dire situation. From the year 2000 to 2014, the Colorado River experienced drought conditions that scientists say is unrivaled in the past 1,250 years. Couple that with population growth– which requires more drinking water to be drawn from the river for cities and more water used for agricultural production– and you’ll find a situation where the river and it’s reservoirs are disappearing. Lake Powell, located in southern Utah, is currently sitting at 48% capacity while Lake Mead, just outside of Las Vegas, NV, is at a dangerously low 38% of capacity. Here’s another scary number from a NASA led study, dating from 2004 to 2013, concluded that the river basin lost 17.3 trillion gallons of water! Compounding the issue even further, 75% of that lost water in the river basin is actually from ground water aquifers. That’s especially bad because ground water is irreplaceable– once it’s used it’s gone.

The new normal in Colorado River Basin reservoirs

The good news is that this problem is not going unrecognized. 6 of the 7 river basin states have agreed to sign drought contingency plans (DCPs), which would limit each state’s water consumption in the hopes of re-filling reservoirs before they reach critically low levels. Arizona is the only state which has yet to come to an agreement ratifying their DCP.

Regardless of if, or when, the 7 Colorado River Basin states implement a drought contingency plan, it’s not a long-term solution. It’s exactly what it says it is– a contingency plan. Contingencies are last case scenarios to avoid disaster.

We as Coloradans, and as a society, need to realize that this aridification that is strangling the American West is the new normal. Key studies show that the world is hotter and dryer which makes water storage and management more important than ever before. Our water planning and storage cannot be managed based on the assumption that precipitation is going to solve our problem.

We must conserve and reuse our water, carry out more efficient agricultural practices, and replace the hydroelectric energy created by Lakes Mead and Powell with other clean energies. Our quality of life and possible existence depend on immediate action.

Spread the word. Make personal changes. Call your local political leaders. This issue is too important to be ignored.

Colorado First Day Hikes

I have a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions I should tackle but one of them at the very top of the list is to not feel like complete death on New Year’s day. Cause nothing brings in the new year better than nursing a massive hangover, right?

Colorado Parks & Wildlife is here to help! Over 30 state parks will be offering free organized hikes on New Year’s day. Most of the parks will have raffles for various prizes as well.

The organized hikes are free but participants must have a park pass. Daily passes are $8.00 per vehicle while the annual pass is $80.00.

What sounds better: waking up on New Year’s day to a pounding headache, a lighter wallet, and possibly a few regrets from the night before or enjoying the beautiful panoramic view atop Carpenter Peak in Roxborough Park? Yeah, first day hike it is!

A complete list of participating parks can be found here.

Colorado’s Current Snow Pack Levels

Let’s start by saying this; snow is important! Nothing is better than shredding 80″ of fresh pow pow, but the snow we need is for far more important reasons than a good day on the mountain.

The snow that is accumulated over winter will in turn melt into our rivers and will irrigate our farms, become drinking water, and help keep our rivers healthy. It can’t be stated enough how important our winter snow pack is to all of us.

As of this writing, 5 of the state’s 8 river basins are above 100% of average. That is good. But not nearly good enough to help bump us out of the statewide drought we find ourselves in. The three river basin’s in the southwestern part of the state are hurting for more moisture.

Us mere mortals can’t change the forecast for more snow but we can stay up to date on the snow pack levels and conserve this precious resource as we wait for more snow to come.

Fly Fishing The Dream Stream

The Dream Stream offers the opportunity to land a brown trout of a lifetime

The small stretch of South Platte connecting Spinney and 11 Mile reservoirs can be the place where your dreams come true. Cutties and ‘bows push the tape measure to 25 inches and above during February through April. Brown trout weighing in at 8 pounds and above make the rounds on social media from September through November. The river has an abundance of scuds, midges, baetis, and caddis. The trout here are as big and strong as ox. Yes, this really is a dream of a stream.

But with all that said, each parking lot can look like a Costco on a Saturday morning. Friendliness and civility can be replaced by combat fishing. High-holing and low-holing your fellow angler can be more the norm rather than the exception. Yes, this really can be a nightmare of a stream.

There are those that love the Dream Stream and those that loathe it.

Regardless of your personal feelings on fishing the Dream Stream, the only thing that matters is that it’s fished in an ethical manner. Large cutthroat and rainbow trout from 11 Mile Reservoir move into the river for their annual spawning process anywhere from February through April. Brown trout from 11 Mile do the same during late September and lasting until early November.

As responsible anglers, we must respect the spawning process of our trout. This will ensure a naturally reproducing eco-system and help maintain the overall health of the river. To do so, we should follow these four simple rules during the spawning months:

  1. Never fish to trout on Redds
  2. Never fish to trout that are in pairs anywhere near a Redd
  3. Limit your wading across the river
  4. Stay away from the river at nighttime

A Redd is a clean patch of river bottom where the female trout lays her eggs to be fertilized by the male trout. Fishing to trout on or near them, especially if they’re paired up, should be avoided like the plague. Walking across a Redd will destroy the eggs on it so it’s something for us to avoid at all costs. And as much pressure as these trout get it’s a good thing to stay away from night time fishing as well. Avoiding nighttime fishing will help because if trout are over-pressured it will negatively affect their body’s spawning behavior so giving them that nighttime break.

Love it or leave it. Fish it or don’t. The only thing that matters during these spawning months is that we anglers fish the Dream Stream in an ethical manner.



National Public Lands Day

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, is as the kids say, amazeballs

Tomorrow, Saturday 22nd, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Public Lands Day! Every national park in America will be fee-free tomorrow. That includes the 13 national parks we have here in Colorado.

Get out and enjoy the national parks that our beautiful state has to offer. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison has some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see, in any state. The Florissant Fossil Beds are a hidden gem in our backyard that most people have never heard of. The Great Sand Dunes are a gosh darn geological wonder! Seriously, how’d they get like that?

Dan McKenzie, of Follow Your Detour, helping rebuild trails in Acadia National Park

National Public Lands Day is also a great opportunity to volunteer at any of our amazing national parks. Dan and Lindsay McKenzie (these are two of the best people you’ll ever meet and I highly encourage that you start following their blog), of Follow Your Detour, wrote a great article about their experience of volunteering at Acadia National Park at the last NPLD. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re interested in volunteering yourself.

But volunteering or not, National Public Lands Day is a chance for all of us to get out and enjoy our land. The ability to visit these beautiful creations is one small, but important reason, why we’re the greatest country on earth.



Public Land Leasing in the American West

The fact of the matter is that we as American’s are a divided people right now. Left vs Right, Snowflake vs Fascist, Clintonista vs Trumpette. Labels too loosely thrown around from one side to another, but which underscore the fissure in our society. And now Western states, Colorado included, face another divisive issue; the leasing of public land for the development of oil and gas drilling.

Do current economic gains outweigh future loss of lands and environmental degradation?

The Department of the Interior will begin a 2.4 million acre auction of public lands in the American West over the next couple of months to oil and gas companies.

At the heart of the matter, we have to ask ourselves this very important question: do the economic gains of drilling, fracking, and refinement outweigh the loss of public land usage and the environmental consequences that come with it?

Proponents of leasing public land will point to American energy independence, job creation, and economic surpluses that will go to each individual state that leases their land. In Colorado alone, oil and gas revenue from publicly leased land produced $2.3 billion in 2017.

Opponents will argue that the loss of land that Theodore Roosevelt promised future generations is irreplaceable. They will also argue that many of the parcels of land up for auction are directly adjacent to precious national parks like *the Great Sand Dunes here in Colorado or the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. There were 619 reported oil and gas spills in 2017, up 17% from the previous year, in Colorado alone. That combined to spill 93,000 gallons of oil into our state’s environment.

This is where it becomes sticky. Where do your priorities lay? The economic gains Colorado could see will help develop our infrastructure, add a much needed boost to our schools, and of course, create many more jobs. But an important question us Coloradans need to ask ourselves, government agencies, and elected officials is this; is there evidence of our enormously important outdoor tourism/recreational economy taking a hit from land lost that used to be used for hiking, hunting, fishing, mountain biking and so on?

If there is one statement I can make with certainty it is this; we as humans are flawed. There will be errors and mistakes in the drilling/fracking process. It is not an if but rather a when. Can we live with ourselves knowing we were the generation that didn’t give this beautiful land of ours to our grandchildren?

This is an issue that needs dialogue and input. Engage your fellow Coloradan about this very important issue. But in doing so, try and be open-minded and open to other’s opinions. For make no mistake about it this issue of leasing public lands, one way or another, will affect our state and country for years to come. And remind yourself, we live in the greatest country on earth. We, The People, shape the direction of our future. Get involved. Please.

Colorado State Land Board

Colorado Bureau of Land Management 

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner

*Colorado’s Bureau of Land Management originally planned to auction the right’s on September 6th, 2018. The BLM decided to consult with the Navajo Nation, which owns land in the area, before deciding whether to sell drilling rights on 29 square miles of public land just east of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.