Colorado’s majestic landscapes are the reason most people (including myself) flock to and never leave the Rocky Mountain State. For all its beauty, Colorado also experiences frequent natural disasters. Some of these are part of the system’s natural cycles, and others are caused by humans. Since moving here in 2007, I have experienced firsthand in Boulder County two fires, the Flagstaff Fire in 2012 and the Fourmile Fire in 2010, as well as the 500-year flood that occurred last fall. Other Coloradans have suffered from other destructive fires, including the High Park Fire and Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, and the Black Forest Fire in 2013. In the aftermath of these natural disasters, it is common to feel both the desire to help others and helpless at the same time.
In the spring of 2013, in the wake of many of the largest fires in Colorado history, I jumped at the opportunity to begin helping in some of the areas in Colorado affected by natural disaster. The Natural Resources and Environmental Section of the Boulder County Bar Association, of which I now serve as co-chair, had teamed up with the Colorado Bar Association and the American Bar Association several years before to organize tree plantings in areas affected by fires. Ann Rhodes, my co-chair, has been instrumental in these efforts.
For my first tree planting event, after months of outreach and communications with people in the community, over 35 attorneys and their family and friends volunteered. In small groups, we spent several hours preparing, planting, and watering 1,000 Ponderosa pine saplings in the Fourmile Canyon areas of Boulder County. During this time people conversed and enjoyed the beautiful May morning. We coordinated with Boulder County Open Space on the event.
In spring 2014, we ventured to Bellevue-Watson Fish Hatchery, outside of Fort Collins, with over 30 volunteers from Boulder, Larimer, and Denver County Bar Associations. The Hatchery, which is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, was affected by both the 2012 High Park fire and the September 2013 floods. We planted 200 saplings and older trees, and afterward, toured the Hatchery facilities where 300,000 fish are raised each year.
In our most recent effort, on October 11, 2014, 60 volunteers, including approximately 20 volunteers from the Boulder and Colorado Bar Associations, participated in restoring the Coal Creek Trail in Lafayette, Colorado which had been severely damaged by the flood of September 2013. The Boulder and Colorado Bars joined with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers in restoring stream-side habitat near the newly-rebuilt trail, including planting 250 native shrubs and trees, seeding and mulching over 14,000 square feet of stream bank, removing invasive species, and constructing more than 200 feet of protective fencing around the stream-side.
Each of these events has proven a success in numerous ways. The trees help reduce erosion and replace native populations that have been destroyed. Instead of feeling helpless, people actively help rebuild areas affected by natural disasters and feel empowered doing so. Volunteers also feel extremely connected to their community and to each other. Some volunteers bring their families, while others enjoy meeting new people both in and out of the legal field. Each tree planting has also offered the opportunity to learn about the natural landscapes of Colorado, from trees, shrubs, and invasive plants, to rainbow trout! Finally, every event provides volunteers with a wonderful way to spend the day in Colorado’s beautiful outdoors.
Personally, as an attorney practicing in the field of environmental and natural resources law, and in the heart of one of the most beautiful states in the country, I feel grateful to be able to participate in such meaningful events. They bring closer to home some of the issues we tackle in our practice. Feel free to join us on our next excursion. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about the next tree planting.
A newly planted cottonwood
Author and local water attorney, Andrea Kehrl
Our work site for for the day, badly damaged by 2013 Flood
Gabriella Stockmayer has been an associate with Dietze and Davis since January 2013. Her practice includes Energy Law, Water Law, and Civil Litigation.