Environment

Newscast for Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 5:32 PM:

Newscast for Monday, August 24, 2015, 5:32 PM:
 

Newscast for Monday, 8/17/15, 5:32 PM:

  • Some business groups in Colorado are raising concerns over an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to update air quality standards, which includes lowering the threshold for ground level ozone.
     
  • Colorado native Taylor Phinney has won the opening stage of the USA Pro Challenge.

Newscast for Friday, 8/14/15, 5:32 PM:

  • Officials in Colorado have reopened the Animas River to boating.
     
  • A lieutenant colonel at Fort Carson faces a court-martial on charges of viewing child pornography on a government computer while in Afghanistan.
     
  • A recent report from Colorado State University says if Great Plains farmers adopt more conservation practices, their carbon emissions could be drastically reduced.

Newscast for Thursday, August 8, 2015, 5:32 PM:

  • Authorities are warning that cleaning out irrigation ditches along the Animas River in southwest Colorado is temporarily discoloring the water again one week after the Environmental Protection Agency caused 3 million gallons of hazardous mine waste to spill into the river.  And, ranchers in the area are starting to see the effects of a week without irrigation water.
     
  • A Colorado Springs woman was arrested Wednesday for knowingly feeding and luring bears onto a residence in the northwest part of town.
     

Newscast for Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 5:32 PM:

 

Newscast for Monday, August 8, 2015, 5:32 PM:

The Environmental Protection Agency knew that a mine in Southwest Colorado contained a large pool of hazardous water, and was working to slowly remove that water when workers for the agency triggered a release Wednesday. The orange-hued plume is making its way down the Animas River and into the San Juan.
 

Newscast for Thursday, 8/6/15, 5:32 PM

  • Jurors are now in deliberation in the sentencing phase of convicted Colorado theater shooter James Holmes. Prosecuting and defense attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments today.  Holmes could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole for killing 12 people and attempting to kill 70 others.
     
  • A huge spill of hazardous mine waste has contaminated the Animas River, which runs through Durango. 
     

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service has announced a new plan to protect the greater sage grouse from extinction, while hoping to prevent the bird from being added to the endangered species list.

The sage grouse population has dropped from 16 million birds to less than half a million, mainly due to lost sagebrush habitat. The bird's range spans 11 western states including Colorado.

"As land managers of two-thirds of greater sage grouse habitat, we have a responsibility to take action that ensures a bright future for wildlife and a thriving western economy," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the announcement in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

It’s May in Rocky Mountain National Park, but on a mountainside 10,829 feet above sea level, snow is falling. It’s pelting Jim Cheatham, a biologist with the National Park Service. Shrugging off the cold, Cheatham seizes a teachable moment. This snow, he said, holds more than just water.

“Chances are it’s carrying the excess nitrogen we’re talking about,” mused Cheatham.

For the past eight years, the biologist has spent most of his time thinking about how nitrogen pollution is changing the park’s forests, wildflowers, and alpine lakes. He’s also been looking for a way to stop it.

CC, UCCS Collaborate on Ft. Carson research

Feb 13, 2015

Professors at Colorado College and UCCS have been collaborating since 2007 on research at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. The result: An article titled “Militarized spaces and open range: Piñon Canyon and (counter)cartographies of rural resistance,” which examines how rural communities in Colorado have confronted military expansion. The article was recently published in the journal Environment & Planning D: Society and Space. Here’s more on their research:

The Army is looking to increase training activities at its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. As part of the process, officials are required to conduct environmental impact studies and open the reports to public comments.

Today, Monday December 15, is the last day to submit public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed increase in training.

You can view the DEIS here [.pdf].

The former Colorado Smelter site in south Pueblo is now designated a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency. As KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports, this means the federal agency will investigate and clean up toxic waste in the area.

In 2010 state health department tests found elevated levels of lead and arsenic in properties surrounding the smelter - which closed more than 100 years ago.

The EPA’s Chris Wardell says residents have a variety of concerns about the Superfund listing, ranging from costs to the effect on real estate values.  

Governor John Hickenlooper unveiled a draft of the state’s first ever water plan on Wednesday. The goal is to create a comprehensive water strategy to protect rural farm economies and bring more water to millions of people along the Front Range.The plan has been a decade in the making and supporters say it will help the state meet water demands as the population grows.
 

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

Explosions, drones, and full-brigade size exercises with armored vehicles are all a part of the Army’s proposed Enhanced Readiness plan for its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. The goal is to get troops trained on new gear.  It’s a controversial plan that some say opens the door to expansion, a notion that’s long been a thorn in the side of many nearby residents.

The training grounds span around 235,000 acres between Trinidad and LaJunta. It’s bound by the Purgatorie River on the east and the Comanche National Grasslands to the north. Recreationally, the area around the Maneuver Site is known for canyons, wildlife, ruins, and dinosaur tracks.

Nearly 100 people packed a small meeting hall at the training site for the only scheduled public forum. They came from as far away as Boulder and as close as the adjacent tiny community of Tyrone to hear about the proposal and its projected environmental impacts.

Technologies and tactics are constantly evolving, according to Dan Benford, Director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security at Fort Carson.  As such, Benford added, it’s important for soldiers to be able to train on equipment they’d use while deployed.

“When we put them in harm’s way,” said Benford, “they have to have that second nature reaction with their equipment.”

Fort Carson released a 430-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement [.pdf], or DEIS, that looks at proposed alternatives, including a continuation of existing operations, and an update to allow for Strykers - the new class of eight-wheeled armored vehicles. 

Then there’s the preferred plan, which the Army calls “Enhanced Readiness Training.”  This plan includes the Stryker vehicles, demolitions, and drones, among other components.

“We’ve got some other training that soldiers need to be able to do,” said Hal Alguire, the Director of Public Works for Fort Carson.  “So to use effectively the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, we want to do those things.”

Among the findings, the DEIS lists potentially significant impacts to geology and soils, including loss of plant cover and erosion.  It also lists moderate impacts to noise, and minor impacts to air quality and cultural resources.

The DEIS isn’t enough for Jean Aguerre.  “It doesn’t make any sense that there’s no cumulative impacts,” Aguerre said during the public comment period.  She also invoked the memory of the 1930s Dust Bowl and the sensitive nature of the native plants in the area. 

“We got a soil analysis in this current DEIS, with absolutely no root analysis,” Aguerre said.  “The key to the short-grass prairie, as everybody in this room knows, is keeping that root system intact.”

Like Aguerre, most of the comments were critical of the Army and its plans for the remote Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, ranging from wildlife and historical concerns, to simply requests for more time and meetings with easier access to provide public comment.

Trinidad Mayor Joe Reorda addressed the area ranchers who oppose the proposal.

“We support you,” he told the ranchers. “The city of Trinidad supports you.  But by God, we have to have somewhere to train.”

Many are concerned through, that allowing the higher intensity activity at the site would open the door to eventual expansion.  It’s a possibility that Garrison Commander Colonel Joel Hamilton downplayed in his opening remarks.

“For the record,” said Colonel Hamilton, “we are not about expansion of Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site.”

It’s also written into the DEIS that the proposal doesn’t require expansion.

That’s a point that Jim Herrell equates to having a coyote keep watch over a chicken house.  Herrell said at the meeting that continued expansion of the infrastructure at Pinon Canyon would lead to a Congressional authorization within seven years or less to acquire more land.

“And don’t you think there won’t be,” said Herrell.  “Then there will be a Congressman, probably from Texas, that will tack on an appropriations amendment to some crap to buy more land.  And everyone in this room in uniform will be gone.  And everyone in this room with a cowboy hat and boots that are pointed will be here, just a little older.”

In the face of this kind of distrust, Colonel Hamilton said it’s important to keep the dialogue going.  “It’s maintaining an open line of communication,” said Hamilton.  “We also heard the term ‘transparency’ thrown around this evening and we take it very seriously.”

Hamilton also mentioned the Southern Colorado Working Group, which is open to anyone. The group meets quarterly and works to coordinate military and community efforts throughout the region.  Hamilton says it helps to put a human face on the issues presented in the DEIS.

But for some, like Kennie Gyurman who lives in and has decades of history in the bordering community of Tyrone, there’s nothing the Army can say that will earn his trust.  Gyurman considers himself pro-military, but he says the Army knows what it wants.

“You just can’t believe them,” said Gyurman.  “But after you’ve dealt with them for a while, you kind of know what to expect. These meetings keep them from thinking they’ve got a way of doing what they want to do without any resistance.  This is resistance, even if it sometimes doesn’t help out a lot.”

Comments made at this recent meeting are being entered into the record, as are other comments provided through mail and online.  The last day to submit comments is December 15th.

Listen to the full public meeting here:
 

To make a comment on the DEIS, write to Fort Carson NEPA Program Manager, Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division, 1626 Evans Street Building 1219, Fort Carson, Colo. 80913-4362; or, send an email to usarmy.carson.imcom-central.list.dpw-ed-nepa@mail.mil

To inquire about the Southern Colorado Working Group, contact Fort Carson Community Relations at 719-526-1246.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Hundreds of people are expected to testify in Denver this week on proposed rules to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Denver hearing is one of several the Environmental Protection Agency is hosting across the country on the plans.
 

Sixty-nine year old Stanley Sturgill is from a small coalmining town in southeastern Kentucky. He flew to Denver for the day just to make his voice heard…

Parts of Southeast Colorado are experiencing a longer period of drought than the dry times that occurred during the Dust Bowl.

According to Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist, the past three years and eight months have been the driest stretch ever recorded for some parts of the state, including Rocky Ford, La Junta and Ordway.

"It was drier than the worst consecutive drought period of the 30s and of the 50s," said Doesken.

Climate change activists marching from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. are stopping in Colorado Springs Tuesday. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.

A core group of about 35 people is marching the entire way, with other supporters joining in for smaller distances. The goal is to inspire action and discussion about climate change.

Chris Ververis is coordinating activities in Colorado. He says the 8-month march helps spread the word and helps citizens feel as though they have a voice.

The Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed adding a site in Pueblo to the Superfund priorities list -the federal program aimed at cleaning up hazardous waste sites. 
 

Lee Farese

In this episode of “A Sense of Place,” producer Sarah Stockdale speaks with Doug Holdread, Steve Wooten and Grady Grissom, members of the Pinyon Canyon Opposition Coalition. In 2007, when Fort Carson proposed to expand a maneuvering site onto ranch-lands, land-owners came together with environmentalists and activists  to protect their lands. This episode explores how the coalition’s success, and why they continue to fight for their lifestyle and their land.

Marci Krivonen / Aspen Public Radio

In the future, forests near Aspen and across the state will likely look a bit different.  Already, mountain shrubs are replacing some Aspen stands and changing the complexion of the region.  Pitkin County is now tracking these shifts on open space properties.  Two Aspen-area non-profit organizations are helping. The new data is thanks to a pair of towers that’s tracking things like soil moisture and temperature. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.

Dust on the Rise in Colorado and the West

Jul 26, 2013

Living near the mountains, it’s easy to see changes in nature, especially in the snow. In recent years, dust from desert areas like Utah has coated some of the area’s snowpack. Scientists in Boulder say the amount of dust being blown into Colorado and throughout the West has increased over the last two decades. They measured calcium in rainfall to come up with their findings. Jason Neff is associate professor of geology at CU-Boulder and coauthor of a recent dust study. He told Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen the escalation of dust emissions is due to several factors.