Op-Ed: Colorado May Seem Far From Oceans, but It's Close to a Crisis

Protest against plastics in February 2020 at the Colorado Capitol.
Protest against plastics in February 2020 at the Colorado Capitol. Colorado Ocean Coalition
Growing up in Colorado, I’ve learned to appreciate its diversity of nature — from the breathtakingly beautiful Piney Lake to the vast expanse of the Sand Dunes. Hiking and camping in our mountains and fishing in our lakes and rivers has a way of connecting you to the nature around you.

My love of nature extends to the ocean as well, though at first it can be difficult to imagine the impact Colorado has on places hundreds of miles away. However, the water from our rivers and snowmelt makes its way to eighteen different states and eventually the ocean. If we do not start protecting our land and rivers, not only will it affect Coloradans, but also millions of others in surrounding states as well as the world’s environment.

Currently, legislators have put forward an important national resolution, the Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature, that calls on the federal government to establish a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the ocean of the United States by 2030.

The Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature was created based on scientific recommendations that address the current extinction, climate and biodiversity crisis. Nature, like our climate, is at a tipping point. Our ecosystems rest in a delicate balance that has, and continues to be, severely disrupted by human encroachment. The documented loss of public lands, water and wildlife is staggering. To put this in perspective, consider the following:

A football field’s worth of natural lands disappears to development in the United States every thirty seconds.

Three-fourths of the planet’s lands and two-thirds of its marine environments have been “severely altered” by human activity.

Half of all freshwater and saltwater wetlands in the contiguous 48 states have been lost, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Colorado’s wetlands, though they make up less than 2 percent of the state, are vital. They filter pollutants in storm runoff, are carbon sinks (they absorb more carbon than they release, lowering the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere), prevent flooding during snowmelt and summer monsoons, and are wildlife hotspots.

To confront the rapid loss of America’s natural places and wildlife, the U.S. needs to accelerate protection and restoration efforts at all levels of government across the country. Currently, only 12 percent of U.S. lands and 26 percent of U.S. oceans (almost exclusively in the western Pacific and northwestern Hawaiian Islands) are protected.

Here in Colorado, only 10 percent of land is currently protected. This includes 42 state parks, 8 national wildlife refuges and 4 national parks. While open space is abundant here, protection of the land itself is eroding as the government removes restrictions on development and exploitation. This issue is not unique to Colorado, though, as beautiful and vital natural areas all across the country are not being given necessary protections.

As an ocean and nature lover, and an intern with the Inland Ocean Coalition, a nonprofit based in Colorado focused on building a land-to-sea connection through education, action and advocacy, I am asking for the support of my fellow Coloradans to help the Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature gain the support it needs in Congress.

Ways to do so include reaching out to legislative leaders to ask for support, sharing news about the resolution on social media, engaging your friends and family in conversations around the environment, writing and submitting articles or letters like this one, and staying updated through the Inland Ocean Coalition’s monthly newsletter.

Protecting our natural lands and oceans is vital to our survival. The time to begin addressing the threats to our lands and oceans is now. The Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature is an important step toward ensuring the protection of our environment and the outdoor activities we all love.

Ingrid Martinson is a Colorado native and recent high school graduate. She is a strong advocate for the conservation and protection of the environment, from testifying before the Colorado Legislature to volunteering with local organizations. She is pursuing a Marine Science degree on the northern coast of California.

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