The West Slope Project
A collection of photographs of the Western Slope, headwaters to the Colorado River.
Recently the West Slope project has taken on new meaning and purpose. I am realizing that these images have become more than pretty pictures but a record of a natural world in crisis. I have noticed that these places are changing quickly before my eyes ad the research shows that change to these mountains due to climate change is happening fast. The summer of 2017 and 2018 were significantly hotter and drier than the summers preceding it. I started to noticed that the Aspen groves that I frequented weren’t as thick nor as alive as I remember from years past, the canopy was thinner as was the forest floor. At times the Aspen groves seemed to stand eerily quiet void of the familiar bird songs I was used to hearing.
I remember one stormy summer afternoon while photographing in a familiar stand of Aspens. I quickly grabbed my gear and ran for cover as a nearby tree came crashing down, splintering into pieces all around me as it collided with the ground. From a clearing I watched and listened as many Aspens came crashing down over the next hour. I later learned about Sudden Aspen Death A name given to the rapid decline due to high temperatures and drought conditions over the years and read countless research reports on the decline of forests across the Rocky Mountains and the world due to climate change.
Another summer afternoon while heading to up to a 9,000ft. trailhead. I noticed the thermometer in my truck reading 89 degrees at 3:00pm. Starting up the trail in the hot sun felt stifling. We had many days like that last summer. It was the first summer I can recall without any length of monsoonal rain. Which traditionally happens from July to August in the Rocky Mountains like clockwork. Drought and heat aren’t the only things contributing to the rapid changes I am seeing in these mountains. The decline in air quality and headwater contamination are other big factors affecting our mountains today. Contributors to air quality decline and water contamination in the Rocky Mountains are from mining and mineral extraction and population increase.
The West Slope of Colorado is a diverse place, with an elevation ranging from 4,000 ft. to over 13,000 ft. The area stretches from the Green River to the North and the San Juan River to the South. The high peaks of the Continental Divide create the Colorado River watershed. The creeks and tributaries of the West Slope are a vital water source and the impacts on the land from climate change and population growth and mining are happening before our eyes.
I am a photographer not a scientist. I by no means am an expert on this topic. I am in the process of learning myself. As a photographer and individual who loves these mountains. I feel it is my duty to document what I see and share it with others. Not as a way to cast blame but simply to address the natural changes I see as they happen around me.
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Landscape, nature, environment, climate change, population growth, forest decline, wildfires, water rights, water wars, extractive mining, water, drinking water, air quality, people, social-natural disconnection, territory, ownership, man’s mark, rebirth, farming, sustainability, local environmentalism, land stewardship.