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City of Boulder Department of Climate Inititatives

Learn about the Summer 2020 Ecosystems Projects

In recognition of all the benefits ecosystems provide, the city is launching a new set of opportunities for public participation as a part of CMAP (Climate Mobilization Action Plan). As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that these opportunities also help make our community more equitable and resilient. The city is identifying actions that support our land, have a positive impact on our climate and address the vulnerabilities of those for whom climate change poses the highest risk.

The city cannot tackle these challenges alone. Collaborating locally and internationally, the city has helped develop a number of initiatives that are pioneering new approaches to ecosystem-based carbon management, many of which create new opportunities for community action.


Community Carbon Farming 

be an observational carbon farmer picture with people gardening  ​

The city partnered with Eco-Cycle last year to launch the Community Carbon Farming program and is now opening up new opportunities to participate. This initiative enables anyone with a small yard to join in an internationally coordinated research initiative to increase soil carbon sequestration.

Five different soil treatments were applied in yards across Boulder County to explore how to most effectively draw carbon out of the atmosphere into living soil. This project also looks at how soil treatments can simultaneously improve the nutrient density of foods being grown on them. This three year study is ongoing, but there are already exciting trends coming out of the work

This work has impacts outside of our community. Boulder’s data is aggregated in an international open source database, enabling networks of scientists and coders to connect growing practices with carbon drawdown potential and nutrient density of crops. Other cities and partners are following Boulder’s lead, implementing similar programs and collecting data, which we hope will contribute to a greater understanding of how ecosystems play a role in climate resilience and mitigation.

The program will continue with the original participants, but we are also opening up the observational resident scientist opportunity to another 250 participants!

 Participants will be invited to attend an introductory webinar on soils and climate, receive a video series on soil health and sequestration, and be provided instruction on how to use the open science platform to collect data in their own yards. Eco-Cycle will also be making videos public for those who just want to learn more about carbon sequestration, soil health and their effect on ecosystems.

Visit Eco-Cycle’s Carbon Farmer webpage to sign up .


Small Gardens Big Change photo of a yellow butterfly and purple flowers

The Small Gardens Big Change Initiative is an effort to help pollinators while also addressing the isolation that many older community members are experiencing during COVID-19.

The health and resilience of local landscapes depends on the vital services provided by hundreds of native pollinator species. Boulder County has over 550 species of native bees alone. Many pollinators, as well as other beneficial insects, are in serious decline due to habitat loss, toxic herbicides and pesticides, and climate change. Establishing safe habitat is critical to recovering and sustaining these life supporting members of our community.

To protect and restore our pollinators, there needs to be hundreds of thousands of native plants in connected corridors running throughout Boulder. The scale and cost of this project is too big for the city to take on alone. In a unique and creative response, the Butterfly Pavilion, the City of Boulder, the Colorado State University Extension, and Boulder Housing Partners have joined to create pollinator plant grow kits that are being distributed to homebound older adults.

These older adults are given one-on-one and group digital support to turn their patios, backyards and even living rooms into nurseries that will grow out thousands of plant seedlings. These plants will be collected in the fall and planted in pollinator protection hubs. As this pilot is expanded, pollinator corridors will be created across the city. This project will help increase the resilience of the life-supporting landscapes we love and depend on, as well as support our community with increased social connectivity.

The city is recruiting individuals with gardening or horticultural experience to serve as partners/grow buddies for older adults participating in this project. You do not need to be a master gardener to help-- horticulturists from Colorado State University and the Butterfly Pavilion will provide guidance throughout the process. Partners will make weekly virtual contact with the older adult participants and assist them with ongoing communication and engagement.

The pilot phase of this program will run through Sept. 30 and funding is currently being raised to expand the program over the winter to install thousands more plants in the spring.  

Learn more about the program on the Small Gardens, Big Changes webpage . 

Read the Community Ecosystems Report

A broad cross-departmental team put together the 2019 Community Ecosystems Report pdf based on the ecosystem focus of work last year.

2018 Ecosystems Summit

On Nov. 16, 2018 hundreds of local residents, scientists, public officials, and staff from non-profit organizations convened for a day-long conference to explore both the emerging challenges for ecosystems and exciting and hopeful efforts our community has initiated to respond. The collaborative summit resulted in a wealth of solutions as well as a larger network of people to put those ideas into action.

View a recording of the entire Ecosystems Summit!


Thanks to #EcosystemsSummit2018 partners:

Boulder CountyWild FoundationCU Boulder SEECY On EarthEarth Coast

2018 was the Climate Commitment "Year of Ecosystems"

Ecosystems badge image But first, what are ecosystems? They are a community of living beings and systems that are responsible for our clean air, fresh water, food, protection from extreme weather and many other life support “services.” Ecosystems also take CO2 back out of the atmosphere and stabilize climate. And they need our help.

In 2018, the city highlighted the significant role ecosystems can play in addressing and responding to climate change. Based on work done in this foundational year, ecosystems work will continue now and into the future. City staff continue to seek new ways to collaborate with each other and the community on ecosystems projects. Here are a few examples:

The city is also committed to connecting the community with ways to take action on ecosystems. Through our partner site, Boulder.Earth, you can:

Boulder’s Climate Commitment focuses on three types: Urban, Wildland and Agricultural.

You can learn more about these areas below. Achieving our climate goals means improving the health and resilience of ecosystems through strategic land management and practices.

Ecosystems are much more than our natural environment.

They are communities of living organisms, such as humans, animals and plants, and the non-living materials they interact with, such as water, air and soil. As the unseen regulators of carbon emissions, ecosystems play a key role in our climate contribution and how we experience impacts such as drought, temperature extremes and pest infestation. To achieve our climate goals, we must improve the health and resilience of Boulder’s ecosystems through strategic land management and practices.  

Our climate goal:  Enhance the ability of urban, wildland and agricultural ecosystems to capture and stabilize carbon in the atmosphere and moderate climatic extremes.

Ecosystem action areas and goals




Goal: By 2050, Boulder’s urban landscape will be planted with trees and plants that can moderate climate extremes, reduce energy and water use, improve water quality, and enhance the beauty and livability of Boulder’s urban environment. More than 35 percent of the land area in the developed portions of Boulder will be shaded by trees.

Boulder has more than 650,000 trees—about 6.7 trees per person—yet most of these trees are located in open space and provide a limited buffer against temperature extremes in the areas where we live and work. Due to infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer beetle, Boulder is expected to lose up to 20 percent its urban tree canopy in the next five to 10 years. By increasing the number, diversity and placement of trees in Boulder’s urban centers, we will improve air and water quality, reduce building heating and cooling needs, and mitigate the visible loss of hundreds of thousands of ash trees in our community.  

2015-2020 City Urban Ecosystem Action Plan Priorities


• Review and revise parking lot shading guidelines and enforcement of increased canopy cover.
• Conduct a comprehensive urban forest inventory.
• Monitor the urban forest using both on-the-ground and remote sensing technologies to document how it is responding to climate change and establish ongoing monitoring protocol.
•Increase the diversity of urban tree species to improve overall urban forest resilience.
• Review and improve strategies for responding to pest and disease invasions.
• Review and refine park and natural space plans to minimize damage from the impacts of increased use and warmer conditions.
• Explore the establishment of a partner non-profit urban forest foundation to leverage additional financial and community support for the urban forest.





Goal: By 2050, Boulder’s surrounding lands will be managed to maintain a vibrant and diverse natural ecosystems while also being able to adapt to significantly different growing conditions and species compositions.

From forests and grasslands to alpine and desert, Boulder’s extensive wildland ecosystems play an important role in maintaining the livability and beauty of our community in the face of climate change. Boulder will continue to experience rising temperatures that will upset the delicate balance of our wildland ecosystems and likely result in increased fire and flood frequency, less snowpack, more drought, bigger spread of invasive species, and more. By improving the resilience and climate-stabilization abilities of our wildlands, we will support the continued vibrancy, diversity and benefit of Boulder’s natural ecosystems in the face of climate change.

2015-2020 City Wildland Ecosystem Action Plan Priorities


• Incorporating climate change into all levels of planning. In particular, invest in scenario planning, focusing on novel future conditions so that recommendations for land management reflect the best available and most current science and potential range of impacts.
• Manage landscapes to support ecosystem transitions.
• Identify multiple biological indicators of climate change sensitivity and response; specifically, identify high risk assets for monitoring or intervention. .
•Develop downscaled future climate layers and use them to predict the return interval of extreme events.




Goal: By 2050, agriculture on city lands will maximize the health and climate benefits of soil and associated ecosystems while producing more local foods.

The City of Boulder leases nearly 15,000 acres of agricultural lands, most of which is used for livestock grazing and part of which is focused on locally-marketed food products. Agriculture accounts for approximately nine percent of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide; however, agricultural practices can also be used to reduce emissions and capture carbon in soil, which helps to stabilize the climate and foster agricultural production and land health. By supporting Boulder farmers in using organic and other sustainable farming practices, we will reduce emissions from agriculture and increase the ability of agricultural lands to stabilize the climate.

2015-2020 City Agricultural Ecosystem Action Plan Priorities


  • Continue the development of Best Management Practices for Soil Sequestration--Soil sequestration of carbon is a new science and Best Management Practices for our local climate and soils are still being developed. The city is working on developing soil organic matter sampling procedures to set standards for acceptable conditions and work towards increasing soil organic matter and soil health on city-owned agricultural lands.
  • Implement soil protection actions—Work with agricultural lessees and university researchers to adopt soil conservation systems such as reduced tillage, cover cropping and longer crop rotations.
  • Identify suitable sites to run pilot projects for soil sequestration of carbon—Explore collaboration opportunities between the city and Boulder County, as well as private farms which are already using many soil carbon sequestration methods, to provide opportunities for testing various soil sequestration strategies.
  • Explore Opportunities to Incentivize “Carbon Farming”—Identify and assess opportunities to incentivize sequestration management through both local carbon offset funding or the development of external carbon market incentives such as the Carbon Trade Exchange
  • Initiate a public information campaign to encourage Soil Sequestration of Carbon by homeowners, farmers, and on public lands. Carbon can be sequestered in lawns, mulched flower beds, vegetable gardens, farm fields, rangelands and forest lands. Partnerships with public or private entities can amplify the campaign’s effectiveness.

Contact Us

Address Phone Email Director of Climate Initiatives

1101 Arapahoe Ave.

Boulder, CO 80302


[email protected]


Jonathan Koehn

[email protected]