#Drought news: #Colorado D0 area = ~49.55%, D1 = ~6.68%

Colorado Drought Monitor September 10, 2019.

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Chris Bianchi):

Approximately half of Colorado is now considered to be abnormally dry by the United States Drought Monitor, based on Thursday’s update. Nearly 7% of the state is officially in a drought…

Not surprisingly, the part of Colorado that is officially considered to be in a drought is the southwest corner (the tan shading in the map above). An extremely dry monsoon season is largely to blame for the drought in southwest Colorado and throughout much of the desert Southwest. Southern and western Colorado receive much of their summer precipitation from the monsoon…

While Denver experienced a roughly average summer’s worth of rainfall, August finished considerably drier than average. That said, the Front Range’s immediate drought concerns are fairly insignificant, for now.

From the Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

While Colorado enjoyed an unprecedented eight weeks completely free from drought and abnormally dry conditions, hot and dry late summer weather is quickly reversing the drought map as changes that began in August continue.

Abnormally dry areas expanded in northwest Colorado last week and grew further into west central counties in the latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center. Southeast Colorado also saw an increase in abnormally dry conditions, particularly for Las Animas and Otero counties, along with smaller portions of Bent and Crowley counties…

All of Montezuma, La Plata, San Juan and Dolores counties are in moderate drought. Western Archuleta and Hinsdale, southern Ouray and Montrose counties, and eastern San Miguel County were also touched by the expansion of moderate conditions.

Severe drought remains just outside Colorado’s southwest border in New Mexico.

Governor Polis Announces New State Park

Fishers Peak. By Michelle Goodall from Trinidad, USA – Fishers peakUploaded by xnatedawgx, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14915627

Here’s the release from Governor Polis’ office:

Today, Governor Jared Polis announced that Colorado will work to establish additional Colorado State Parks. The first State Park under consideration includes the iconic 9,633-foot Fishers Peak, which is the highest peak in the United States east of Interstate 25. A diverse partnership, including the City of Trinidad, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Great Outdoors Colorado, is coordinating to develop the new State Park.

“Opening this treasured and iconic area to the public as a new State Park not only provides a new recreational opportunity for hiking, camping, and fun, but also helps grow our economy in southern Colorado, supports our thriving outdoor recreation industry, and ensures the land and wildlife habitat will be protected for generations to come,” said Governor Polis. “This announcement has something for everyone in our State to be excited about. Colorado has so much to offer, and as Governor I am focused on ensuring we improve access to our great outdoors and create real opportunities for job growth in rural Colorado.”

“Thank you to The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Mayor Rico, the City of Trinidad, Las Animas County commissioners, community members, legislators, stakeholders, and everyone who is working to make this potential State Park a reality,” Gov Polis added.

“What an exciting day for the Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the people of Trinidad, and all Coloradans. It’s not every day we are able to collaborate in such a way to expand our State Park system. This incredible property, highlighted by the iconic Fishers Peak, will be a gift come true for Coloradans who love hiking, hunting, wildlife watching or just being in Colorado’s great outdoors,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Thanks to the Governor and all the partners who have been critical in working to make this partnership a reality. We look forward to opening up Fishers Peak for Coloradans to enjoy for generations to come.”

“Coloradans are fortunate that the City of Trinidad, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land and so many others recognized the Crazy French Ranch property for the jewel that is,” said Lottery Director Tom Seaver.

“This soon-to-be state park is the result of six years of effort from these partners working together. We could not be prouder that more than $14 million in Lottery proceeds went to fund the project,” said Lu Cordova Executive Director of the Department of Revenue.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife is very excited to be a part of this partnership working toward an incredible investment in the State Park system,” said Dan Prenzlow, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “As Colorado’s primary State agency focused on protecting and caring for our most valued and valuable resources, a property like this would allow us to further balance conservation of our wildlife and habitat with recreational needs, both synonymous with our State. These resources form the very fabric of our State and define who we are.”

“This project is a dream come true for the citizens of Trinidad and surrounding area residents,” said Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico. “We are excited to be the home of Colorado’s next State Park and are thrilled for what this will mean for our local economy and the residents of our community who want to see this landscape protected while also being able to experience its wonder.”

“Outdoor recreation is an economic engine and this new State Park will help boost the quality of life in Southern Colorado. Our region has so much to offer and this is great news for hikers, hunters and anyone who wants to enjoy our amazing outdoors and public lands,” said Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo.

“Southern Colorado has such beauty to offer, and I am glad to see that Fishers Peak will be designated as Colorado’s newest State Park,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. This designation will help grow our economy and allow Coloradans from all over to enjoy the many acres of cherished public lands, from the iconic 9,600-foot-high peak to forests, grasslands, and wetlands. I am excited to see Fishers Peak join Lake Pueblo as tourist destinations for all to enjoy.”

The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land currently own the Fishers Peak property and plan to transfer the property to public ownership in coordination with Trinidad, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The partners plan to develop the property to provide sustainable recreational access, protect wildlife habitat, and create a publicly-owned State Park that will serve as an economic engine for Trinidad and southern Colorado.

The 30-square-mile property connects Colorado’s eastern grasslands to the western mountains, and serves as a wildlife corridor. Providing habitat for large native species like elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain lion, and black bear, the property helps maintain important connections between their populations in the mountains and those in the prairies.

Today’s action serves as a starting point for planning the State Park, with the goal of providing a meaningful level of public access to the property by 2021. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to work with partners and local communities to finalize the transaction and establish the property as our next State Park.

Photos, B-roll of the site and Gov. Polis video announcement can be found here.

Read the executive order here.

From Colorado Public Radio (Sam Brasch):

On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis announced a new state park that should give Trinidad residents much easier access to their iconic peak. If all goes according to plan, the park may also help the city shake its image as a sleepy former coal-mining town to become the state’s newest outdoor mecca…

The park, which has yet to be officially named, will cover 30-square miles of volcanic cliffs, streams, grasslands and wetlands. Because the area is adjacent to other wildlife areas, it will result in 55.5 miles of contiguous preserved land, providing habitat for elk, mule deer and black bears.

Once complete, the area will be Colorado’s 42nd state park and its second-largest. Trails through the area will also create a much more direct connection between downtown Trinidad and Fishers Peak.

Plans for the park came together last December. That’s when the Trust for Public Lands and The Nature Conservancy in Colorado announced they had reached a deal to purchase the 30-square mile Crazy French Ranch…

The conservation groups provided the money needed to secure the $25.4 million sale. Great Outdoors Colorado, which is largely funded by the Colorado Lottery, put up another $7.5 million. Colorado Parks and Wildlife agreed to kick in another $7 million.

Jim Petterson, Colorado director for the Trust For Public Land, said the new park shows how the state, local governments and conservation groups can effectively work together to protect public lands…

The Trust for Public Land and the Nature Conservancy now plan to begin to transfer the property to public ownership. The goal is to develop a “meaningful level” of public access no later than January 1, 2021. Polis added he’d like to see basic improvements to the property by the fall of 2020.

@ColoradoClimate: Weekly #Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

@EPA finalizes repeal of #WOTUS rule

A wetland area along Homestake Creek. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Another Obama administration environmental rule is now history, as the Environmental Protection Agency on Thurday finalized its repeal of a 2015 rule expanding waterway and wetlands protections.

The 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule had support from environmentalists but faced criticism from agricultural and other interests…

Its action restores regulations that were in place prior to the 2015 rule, ending inconsistent regulations in different states as a result of various court actions on that rule. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a news release that the action Thursday “fulfills a key promise of President Trump” and sets the stage for a second EPA action, a new waters of the U.S definition “that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers nationwide.”

[…]

…the conservation group Western Resource Advocates said the EPA actions will significantly weaken protections for thousands of miles of waterways and millions of acres of wetlands across the West. It said the EPA’s efforts aim to remove protections for rivers and streams that flow intermittently after rain or snow, and its proposed new definition threatens Western water supplies.

It says the EPA estimates that in Colorado and Utah alone, more than 5 million people receive drinking water from public systems relying at least in part on intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams.

“This assault on the Clean Water Act makes it more important than ever for local lawmakers and water leaders to enact state-level policies that protect our rivers and our communities,” Robert Harris, a senior staff attorney for the group, said in a statement.