by Steve Johnson and Tom Slabe
According to Costanza, et al. (Nature, May 1997), wetlands, inclusive of riparian areas and floodplains, in 1997 U.S. dollars, provide a total value of $14,785 per hectare in natural capital and ecosystem services. By comparison, the 1997 estimate for forested land is $969 per hectare. In the semi-arid West, the relative value of riparian habitats likely exceeds the Costanza et al. estimates. Considering that riparian and wetland habitats in Colorado comprise less that 2% of the total land area while providing essential habitat to more that 75% of species, it is no surprise that we are all urgently working to protect, restore, and sustain them.
This year’s joint conference — Sustaining Colorado Watersheds: Science and Restoration through Collaboration — represents much more than a networking opportunity and information gathering event. It is also an exhibition around the concept of sustainability. But, what is sustainability? Leaders in the sustainability field admit it means different things to different people. According to The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987 [known as the Bruntland Report]), two components of sustainability are: “Today’s needs should not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs” and “in all our actions, we must consider the impact on future generations.” Daniel Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania, asserts that the only real definition of “sustainable,” simply put, is “manage the capital (saved assets), live off the interest….”. Worldwide, riparian habitats, i.e., “the capital,” are at major risk of impairment or even elimination. It is admirable that the Colorado Watershed Assembly (CWA), the Central Rockies Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (CeRSER), the Colorado Watershed Network (CWN), and CRA are joining forces with a common vision towards permanently reducing or, better yet, eliminating that risk. We encourage all to attend if you can.
On a final note, each quarter since the summer of 2003, Jay Thompson and Bill Goosmann have rolled out content-rich issues of “the green line”. Their tireless efforts as volunteer coeditors have consistently led to issue upon issue of high quality information for the Colorado Riparian Association readership. Jay and Bill are now esteemed former coeditors following this summer’s issue. Steve Johnson and Tom Slabe are taking over the reins as co-editors to continue their legacy, beginning with this issue. While neither of us have formal newsletter experience, we do have a combined background in the natural resources, natural history, ecosystem restoration, and watershed management fields and we are dedicated to the restoration and preservation of riparian ecosystems in Colorado and beyond. It will be quite a challenge to maintain the high standards that Jay and Bill maintained. Fortunately for us, a precedent has been established, and as your new coeditors, we wish to present a richness of format and content we feel you deserve as champions of riparian and wetland habitat restoration and preservation in Colorado. We are extremely interested in your opinions regarding your publication, “the green line”, so your input is wholeheartedly encouraged. Please contact either of us with your ideas, suggestions, criticisms, or any other contributions.