Beth Markham, Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, Town of Vail.
In this blog series, I’m speaking with sustainability officials in local governments around the country to learn about how they’re tackling socio-environmental issues within the public sector. This week, I interviewed Beth Markham, the Environmental Sustainability Coordinator for the Town of Vail. Markham’s deep love for the natural world led her to Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, where she spent 11 years developing and teaching environmental education programs for students. Later, she worked for the Cycle Effect, a nonprofit that builds leadership skills and self-esteem in young women through mountain biking. In 2019, Markham took on the challenge of driving environmental stewardship through policies and partnerships at the municipal level.
Q: What are the most critical climate-related challenges facing Vail right now?
Climate systems are so interconnected, but if I had to choose one thing, I would say that the biggest issue is water. We’re already seeing the impact of climate change on our snowpack in winter and river flow in summer. Droughts are increasing the frequency and severity of our wildfires, and last summer we had the worst wildfire season in Colorado history. Vail has a tourism-based economy, so what happens when tourists can’t ski because of a lack of snow? What happens when wildfire smoke causes unhealthy air quality? It’s clear that our seasons are changing, and our precipitation is changing, especially in the form of snow. Many people live here because they love to ski, so if we want to continue our way of life here then we need to make some big changes.