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Greg Owens / National Park Service

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison just became Colorado’s first International Dark Sky certified National Park, and the ninth in the nation. The Western Slope park was recognized for its exceptional night sky views, as well as its efforts to preserve those views and educate people about the value of a dark night sky.
 

Ranger Nick Myers leads the astronomy program at the park. He says they’ve worked to reduce bright lights that can drown out the stars.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The 143rd Colorado State Fair closed on Monday with strong attendance, but the discussion continues on whether to move the fair out of Pueblo. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.

More than a half million people attended the 11-day event this year, surpassing 2014.

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Colorado has largely been spared from this summer's political wrangling ahead of the 2016 presidential race. But as Republicans nationally are working to narrow the presidential field, the GOP in Colorado wants to widen its field of candidates to run against incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet next year.

"The numbers tell us Senator Bennet is vulnerable," said Republican state party Chairman Steve House. "It would be great to hold onto the U.S. Senate. Republicans have to defend a number of seats more than the Democrats."

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The Colorado State Fair is in full swing in Pueblo. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to check out the annual celebration of the state's agriculture and more. They'll have plenty to do from spinning on rides at the carnival to eating festival foods to watching young Coloradans show off their livestock and other 4H projects.  KRCC's Shanna Lewis captured some of the sights and sounds from the fair, starting in the swine barn.
 

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The number of Coloradans who don't have health insurance has dropped by about half since President Barack Obama's signature health care law went into effect. The state's uninsured rate fell from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 6.7 percent in 2015. Not only does the Colorado Access Health Survey say that the uninsured are at a record low, it also finds that more people have enrolled in Medicaid.
 

Andrea Chalfin

The Colorado State Fair is full swing in Pueblo this week, and early numbers show a possible increase in turnout over last year.

The Fair saw an average of 45,000 people a day over opening weekend, a 2% increase in attendance says Chris Wiseman, Colorado State Fair General Manager.  Wiseman says he's optimistic about the coming weekend, but adds anything could happen.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Judge Richard Gabriel will soon be sworn in as Colorado's next State Supreme Court Justice. He currently serves on the Colorado Court of Appeals. He received his undergrad degree at Yale University and went to the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. He talked to statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland about his view of politics in the judicial process, why he became a lawyer, and some of his significant cases. 

Highlights from the Interview:

On Criticisms that Judges and Decisions are Too Political

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Students are heading back to school, but the road to graduation for this year's incoming crop of seniors varies by high school. The reason? Unlike other states, Colorado does not have a set requirement for what it takes to receive a diploma.

Creating a standard is an ongoing debate and one that state lawmakers tried to answer in 2007 and 2008 when they approved legislation requiring a minimum statewide requirement.
 

A program to provide long acting reversible contraceptives to low-income women has been funded for another year. About a dozen health and community foundations have stepped up to provide the funds, something the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had been working overtime to try and secure.

The La Plata County Sheriff's Office is releasing more information in the case of Dylan Redwine, the Monument 13-year-old who disappeared in southwestern Colorado in 2012.  His remains were found less than a year later.

Earlier this summer, the sheriff's office said they had a person of interest.  Investigators are now naming that person as Mark Redwine, Dylan's father.  The county coroner has also amended Dylan's death certificate to reflect "homicide" as the cause of death, as opposed to "undetermined."

Colorado Springs City Council gave preliminary approval to place two measures on November's ballot that would benefit roads and parks. 
 

Mayor John Suthers formally presented his proposals at Tuesday's council meeting, one of which will ask residents for a .62% sales tax increase for road repairs.  It would sunset in five years and generate around $50 million each year.

Critics say that money can be found in the existing budget, but Suthers says that's just not realistic.

UPDATE:  Without a consensus from the jury between life in prison and the death penalty, James Holmes receives the sentence of life in prison without the  possibility of parole.  

Original Post:

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.
 

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

A six million dollar project to spiff up the state capitol is almost done. A two-year renovation of the building's signature gold dome is complete and now workers are restoring the inside of both the House and Senate chambers.

Colorado's capitol opened in 1894 and has gone through a few renovations since then. The latest iteration restores the chambers to how they looked at the turn of the century. As you peek in the chambers, you see scaffolding everywhere and behind it, the walls are covered with vibrant color panels and ornate stenciling.

Bente Birkeland

Dan Haley is the new executive director of the state's largest oil and gas industry trade group, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. He began the position on June 1st. His background is in media and journalism. He spent 20 years as a journalist and editor, serving as the editorial page editor at the Denver Post. He then joined the private sector as a media consultant.
 

Interview Highlights with Dan Haley:

On How his Media Background will help him lead the industry in Colorado.

More campsites, restrooms, and parking areas could come to the Shelf Road Climbing Area near Canon City under a new proposal.
 

The Bureau of Land Management estimates the area sees 42,000 more visitors yearly than when the two campgrounds were originally constructed in the mid-90's.

The BLM's Kalem Lenard says they've been receiving complaints about not enough facilities. He also says lack of parking space is becoming an issue.

The city of Colorado Springs is continuing steps in smoothing over a contentious stormwater issue with its southern neighbor.  City Council yesterday passed a resolution allowing Mayor John Suthers to put $150,000 toward funding a restoration master plan for the Monument Creek Watershed.  Monument Creek flows into Fountain Creek.  High flows there have been causing problems for Pueblo downstream.

Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki says he's been working with Mayor Suthers to address the chronic issue, adding that he's satisfied with the efforts thus far.

Trinidad is the first of nine communities announced as a beneficiary of a new state-run rural artist program.
 

The $50 million program called Space to Create, Colorado is an effort of Colorado Creative Industries and other foundations to provide affordable housing for artists.

CCI Director Margaret Hunt says areas with strong art communities are magnets for economic development. Hunt adds they're purposely selecting small towns.

A testing and manufacturing center for rocket propulsion is launching in Pueblo.
 

The project from Centennial-based United Launch Alliance is for a next generation rocket called the Vulcan. The company is looking to commercialize space access and help make it more cost-efficient.

The facility will create 34 new jobs in Pueblo that are expected to generate around $19 million yearly in revenue for the local economy. 

Pueblo Economic Development Corporation President Jack Rink says the impact could be even bigger.

Mike Peters, Executive Director of the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation

A near century-old refurbished Wurlitzer organ gets an unveiling this weekend.  
 

The historic instrument moved around Walsenburg through the years, but returned to its original home at the Fox Theatre in the 90’s. The Pikes Peak Area Theatre Organ Society refurbished the rare instrument in a project that took six years to complete.

Don Wick with the society says the theater organ in Walsenburg is rare because it has a piano component, and only a few of this type are left.

High winds have caused the closure of some recreational areas on National Forest land in Douglas County.

The Devils Head Fire Tower, campground, trailhead, and picnic area were closed after a blowdown occurred in the South Platte Ranger District of Pike National Forest.

The historic fire Tower is the only original Front Range lookout tower still in use today.

The damaged area covers around six acres of aspen, spruce, and Douglas-fir trees. Crews are assessing damages and working to remove fallen trees and dangerous snags from the area.

A burned American flag was discovered on a statue in front of Colorado Springs City Hall early Tuesday morning, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.  An investigation revealed the flag to be the one typically displayed in front of City Hall. 

Investigators with the department have checked surveillance cameras to no avail, says CSPD Public Information Officer Lieutenant Catherine Buckley.  Buckley says they currently have no suspects for what she says is a misdemeanor crime. 

Bob Wick, BLM California / BLM Flickr / Creative Commons

A last-minute change to an indoor venue due to stormy weather couldn't keep folks away from a dedication ceremony Saturday for Colorado's newest National Monument.  Supporters gathered in bleachers at the Buena Vista High School gym to hear from local, state, and federal officials as they celebrated the designation.
 

The nearly 22,000-acres of public land that stretches from Buena Vista to Salida in Chaffee County along the Arkansas River is well known for its recreation and wildlife. 

Urbanization of Agricultural Land

Jul 16, 2015
Maeve Conran

An additional 2.5 million people are expected to move to Colorado by 2040, the vast majority of them headed for the Front Range.   As part of Connecting the Drops, our state-wide water series, Maeve Conran looks at the impact on Colorado as its landscape changes from crops to houses.

The traffic on a stretch of I-25 north of Denver is the soundtrack to the changes that farmer Kent Peppler has seen happening in Weld County. 

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Mosquitoes in Pueblo have tested positive for West Nile Virus.

No human cases of West Nile Virus in Pueblo have been confirmed, but the Pueblo City-County Health Department says recent rainfall means more mosquitos.

Health officials urge residents to take precautions to avoid contracting the virus, including draining standing water, using insect repellent, and dressing in long sleeves and pants.

Symptoms typically show up within two weeks and may include fever, fatigue, and headache. Residents are urged to seek medical attention at any sign of the virus.

Brian Fuchs, National Drought Mitigation Center; David Simeral, Western Regional Climate Center / U.S. Drought Monitor

Dry conditions across Colorado have largely disappeared, according to the latest U. S. Drought Monitor. 

Only a small portion of the state remains listed under the "Abnormally Dry"  classification, compared with more than a quarter last week.  Those remaining dry locations are in the northwest and southwest portions of the state.  

No portion of Colorado currently faces drought conditions.

The U. S. Drought Monitor shows about 98% of the state clear of all classifications of drought and dry conditions, compared with 59% one year ago.

Andrea Chalfin

Some lawmakers are rumbling about possibly moving the Colorado State Fair from Pueblo. Colorado's Legislative Audit Committee took up the issue of State Fair finances Tuesday, noting that the annual event has lost money each year for more than a decade. 

The Fair receives state and local support, but some committee members questioned Pueblo's commitment, and suggested it might make the Fair more financially viable if it moved.

Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki says the city's contributions are on a rebound.

CDOT

A new bus service has launched that will help connect Front Range cities and locations along the I-70 corridor to Denver. Monday was its inaugural day of operation.
 

The new bus system from the Colorado Department of Transportation aims to provide an alternative and to help reduce traffic along interstates.

CDOT’s Bob Wilson says Bustang’s first day of service went well despite a few website and phone glitches, adding that CDOT expects the service will be popular.

Fort Carson is faring better than many as part of the Army's efforts to reduce overall troop numbers by 40,000.

The Mountain Post will lose about 365 soldiers, a fraction of the 16,000 once deemed possible

In a statement, Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers called this good news for the city, and says it's "an indication of the importance of Ft. Carson in the overall defense mission.  It also reflects positively on the case Colorado Springs has made on behalf of Ft. Carson."

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The Colorado Department of Agriculture is introducing a new tool that aims to help farmers and consumers with local pricing.

Shoppers and sellers at local markets can now find average prices for items sold at farmers markets and through farm-to-school programs on the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s website.

The new tool will aid producers in helping them decide how to price thei items, says Glenda Mostek, marketing specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, adding that it will also help buyers.

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