|Sunset atop Rabbit Ears Pass.|
Nevertheless, I think it's safe to say that--regardless of the cause--most folks are coming around to the idea that something funky's going on. Even Sarah Palin recognized climate change--recently uncovered memos between then-Gov. Palin and the late Sen. Ted Stevens discussed relocating coastal Alaskan villages in preparation for higher sea levels.
But today, I've become a bit more concerned about the climate-change phenomenon. I don't have any more hard data. I haven't uncovered some new climate model that predicts doom and gloom for everything from trout to grizzly bears.
I just went fishing.
|High-country brook trout.|
But here in Colorado--where the worst wildfire in the state's history rages out of control just over the Continental Divide--I'm seeing unsettling things. Today, I fished a gorgeous high-mountain meadow--a tiny trickle of a stream pushed its way through hip-high willows, meandered around bluffs and the disappeared into the lodgepoles on its way down the mountain.
Dead lodgepoles. Almost to the tree. As the sun set over the meadow, the rusty, orange hue off the beetle-killed trees was almost beautiful and completely sad. Pine beetles have had their way with Colorado's forests, and it's devastating to see.
I managed to catch a few spirited brookies from the little creek--I have no idea what its name is--with my tenkara rod, and when the sun dipped below the skeletal trees atop the ridge, I wandered back up the trail and back to the car. As I topped the pass and looked out over Steamboat Springs far below, I became more aware of the dead trees surrounding this amazing place. Everywhere I looked, I saw patches of barren lodgepoles--some gray and long dead, others brown and orange ... the more recent victims.
|Dead pine trees ... a Colorado crisis.|
Unfortunately, for the lodgepoles of the Rockies, we've likely passed a tipping point when it comes to climate change. They're not likely to recover. Years of fire suppression have likely contributed to this problem, but other signs indicate that we can't just point the finger at suspect forestry on our public lands, and explain the beetle kill that way.
When I stepped into the creek this evening, I was expecting the bone-chilling cold water that is synonymous with the high country. The water was cold. But, at well over 10,000 feet, it wasn't as cold as it should be. And that's a theme across the state. Winters, which used to be cold enough long enough to keep pine beetles in check, are now shorter and warmer.
And, again, anecdotally, I can tell a difference. It's the little things, like the general lack of an evening chill that used to accompany the setting sun here in Steamboat at 7,000 feet. Or June temperatures that tickle 90 in Colorado's northern high country--unheard of even 30 years ago.
There are steps we, as a nation, can take to combat climate change, but first we have to get past the politics of it. And, frankly, I don't care what's causing it. I just want to know what we can do to make its impact less dreadful ... today, and when my kids inherit what we've left behind.
For the lodgepoles of Colorado, it's too late.