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Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet Set to Fight for Western Priorities to Be Included in a National Climate Strategy

Friday Feb. 5,  Sen. Bennet announced a framework of Western climate resilience priorities carefully crafted by leaders in Colorado with a connection to the Colorado River––from the agriculture, water, local government, tribal government, education, environment, and business communities.

Bennet initially convened this group, known as the Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable, in November 2020 to develop a collaborative, consensus-driven set of priorities for Western climate resilience. On Friday, the 19-member roundtable representing agriculture, water resources, forestry restoration initiatives, energy cooperatives, western county and tribal leadership, presented their final framework to Bennet, who plans to use it to drive his policy work in the U.S. Senate and as he works with the Biden Administration on its national climate strategy.

“The terrific work this group has done to reimagine climate policy is already informing my team’s work. I plan to share their framework with my colleagues in the Senate and the Biden Administration to help them understand why climate resilience is so important to Colorado and the rest of the Mountain West,” said Bennet. “I will do my part to ensure these priorities are part of every discussion going forward about climate and the country’s economy. I think this framework will be an important tool to demonstrate to the country that climate change isn’t a future condition in the West––it’s here now. And the survival of our economy and our way of life depends on tackling this challenge.”

“Building resilience in the face of climate change is about protecting our way of life in Colorado, our rivers, forests, farms and ranches, our homes, and our communities,” said Jon Goldin Dubois, President, Western Resource Advocates.

Courtesy photo

“There is no debate that climate change presents real and unacceptable risks to our water security and our way of life in the West,” said Andy Mueller, Chair, Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable.

“If Coloradans from all walks of life can come together to agree on durable solutions that address the challenge, then our leaders in Washington should have no problem doing the same,” Mueller continued.

“We truly appreciate Senator Bennet convening this group of Coloradans with diverse perspectives to develop a consensus around these durable policies to help our communities become more resilient in the face of climate change.”

The Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable framework emphasizes three primary priorities for Western climate resilience:

  • Resilience is dependent on strong local economies in the West. Our climate resilience strategy must include tools for local economies in the West to adapt to changing climate and economic conditions and build long-term prosperity in a future powered by a clean economy.
  • Support for efforts that ensure healthy soils, forests, rangeland, rivers, and watersheds will make our communities more resilient and help maximize the climate mitigation potential of western landscapes.
  • Our climate resilience is dependent on a thorough and science-based understanding of actions needed to sustainably adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Actions Bennet is already taking based on the Western Climate Resilience Roundtable’s work: 

  • Last week, Bennet urged the Biden Administration to prioritize locally-driven economic development solutions for communities transitioning away from fossil fuels.
  • In the coming weeks, Bennet will reintroduce his legislation to invest $60 billion in forest and watershed restoration across the West.

“Producing new scientific understandings about how climate change will impact our natural resources and communities is critical, but is only half the story,” said CSU Colorado Forest Restoration Institute Director Tony Cheng. “Involving leaders and stakeholders across sectors in co-producing and applying relevant science is essential to crafting workable solutions on the ground.”

“We as a group recognized we were in an urgent circumstance, that we needed to do something now,” said Russ George, Director, Colorado Inter-Basin Compact Committee. “This effort is the right approach because it starts at home with the local people who will be affected by the work.”

“We really had to look at the big picture here, and I think we’ve done that. The priorities here affect everything—forest health, watersheds, agriculture, and climate,” said Merrit Linke, Grand County Commissioner, representing a mountain area devastated this past year by wildfire. “We need an updated, science-based approach to managing our forests. Our approach over the last several decades hasn’t worked; the fires we had in Grand County last fall showed us that.”

“Recent wildfires and drought remind us that climate change is already here and hurting Coloradans, said Conservation Colorado Executive Director Kelly Nordini. “If we’re going to avoid its worst impacts and leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren, we need to lead through bold climate action rooted in environmental justice that meets our climate goals, protects public health, and creates clean energy jobs.”

Download the Bennet Western Climate Resilience Roundtable’s framework HERE.