Fly fishing

Mountain City Leaders Hear from Veteran Colorado River Photographer and Filmmaker to Close Sustainability Conference

Participants at the Climate Solutions Summit share their ideas and challenges in finding climate solutions in their mountain towns on Tuesday in Breckenridge.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

Mountain environmental and sustainability advocates from across the United States gathered in Breckenridge to hear photographer and filmmaker Pete McBride talk about his time on the Colorado River.

McBride closed Mountain Towns 2030, a conference focusing on sustainability in mountain cities. Breckenridge hosted the conference, which included panels and workshops for city leaders to learn from each other about how to reduce environmental impacts, September 20-22. Many of the towns depicted are located along or dependent on the Colorado River and its basin, where McBride spent years documenting drought conditions in the western United States, including traveling through Grand Canyon National Park and padding the entire river.

Photographer and filmmaker Pete McBride addresses a packed Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge on September 21, 2022.
Eliza Noe / Daily Summit News

“Eight years ago, $26 billion a year was what the Colorado River produced,” McBride said. “That is, t-shirt shops, fly fishing, permits, boating, rafting, picnics – everything. That would have put the Colorado River on the Forbes 150 list. I think it was up there with US Airways at the time, which is pretty amazing. We do not see our natural resources as economic engines. But this one is.

McBride, who is originally from Basalt, said educating not only visitors but also new community members about the importance of protecting the local environment could have huge impacts on mountain towns. He cited exhibits at airports that educate visitors about the history of the local community as soon as visitors land as an example that creates a connection with the local community.

“There’s been a huge transition in these mountain towns, and the whole world has moved here and made it their home,” McBride added. “A lot of them don’t like mountains or rivers or don’t pay attention to climate change like people who have lived here for a long time. I think communities, leaders and communities really need to start changing.

Basin states have already begun discussions about which states should reduce their use. According to recent reports from KUNC, states that use water from the Colorado River are struggling to agree on terms that will reduce their demand. Now the federal government is stepping in with a plan to use billions of dollars to encourage conservation. The United States Bureau of Reclamation has now announced that it will use part of its funding from the Cut Inflation Act for short-term water conservation.

“At some point – and it’s going to happen in the near future with the way we go with water – water will be the ultimate decision maker on whether you can come and live in (mountain communities) or not,” McBride said. “And I think we need to be more in touch with that and more energetic. I think all of the mountain communities – this group – should come together and say, ‘These are the main things we care about.’

Carly Castle, City Manager of Moab, Utah, said climate solutions should be solution-focused and collaborative among community groups. She added that focusing on one type of water user – like agriculture – should not be how communities focus on consumption.

“I’m hopeful about it. The solutions exist and we know what they are,” Castle said. “It’s all about implementation, so it’s not like we need special technologies to develop at the last minute. The answers are there. »