Severe and extreme #drought expand in western #Colorado as hot, dry conditions continue — The Kiowa County Press

From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

Drought conditions continue to grow worse in Colorado, with severe and extreme drought expanding in the western part of the state, in part due to above-normal temperatures, according to the latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Extreme drought expanded further in Garfield County where the Pine Gulch and Grizzly Creek fires are burning. Those fires have consumed a combined total of 160,000 acres.

Extreme conditions also reached most of Eagle and Pitkin counties, along with northern Gunnison and northwest Summit counties.

Colorado Drought Monitor August 18, 2020.

Severe drought expanded elsewhere in the northwest, replacing moderate conditions for all or portions of Rio Blanco, Routt, Moffat, Jackson, Grand, Summit, Lake, Park, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Larimer, Jefferson, Douglas and Arapahoe counties.

Abnormally dry conditions were replaced with moderate drought in Park, Teller, El Paso, Douglas, Elbert and Arapahoe counties. In north central Colorado, a similar shift was noted for Jefferson, Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties, as well as much of the abnormally dry area in Weld County.

The monthly drought outlook for August from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center – released July 31 – predicted that abnormally dry areas would fall into drought. Only northeast Weld and eastern Kit Carson counties retained abnormally dry areas this week…

Monthly Drought Outlook for August 2020 via the Climate Predication Center.

Overall, one percent of Colorado is abnormally dry, down from six percent last week. Moderate drought dropped six percent to 25, while severe drought increased seven percent to 45. Extreme conditions grew three percent to 27. The total does not equal 100 percent due to rounding.

The failures of U.S. immigration policies — @HighCountryNews

Credit: Michelle Urra / High Country News

From The High Country News (Sarah Tory):

Three new books challenge the way we imagine the U.S.-Mexico border.

In 2018, I met a 29-year-old man I’ll call Alex (to protect his identity) at a soup kitchen for migrants in Nogales, Sonora, just across the U.S.-Mexico border from Nogales, Arizona. Most of the migrants were families with young children who came from Central America and the state of Guerrero, Mexico, fleeing poverty and violence fueled by a legacy of U.S.-backed military coups and corporate plundering. They had come to seek asylum in America.

Alex was different. His parents brought him to the U.S. from Honduras when he was 7, and he grew up in New York City undocumented. At 21, he got into a fight, and the police were called. Immigration and Customs Enforcement eventually deported Alex, separating him from his infant son. He spent the next eight years in Honduras. Now, knowing he had no chance of asylum and no legal way to return to the U.S., Alex planned to cross the border illegally. “I’m trying get back to my son,” he told me.

A month later, Alex called me. He was staying with a friend in Tennessee, after spending 12 days crossing a deadly stretch of the desert from outside Nogales, Sonora all the way to Phoenix, Arizona, walking more than 150 miles, mostly alone. He survived, he thought, because of his military training; Alex had served briefly in the U.S. military reserves.

Without knowing his story, it would be easy to categorize Alex as either a victim or a criminal. But he was neither. He was a boxing aficionado, a construction worker and above all, a father who desperately wanted to be reunited with his son. But like so many, he was caught in the web of U.S. immigration policies.

Three new nonfiction books examine the failures of those policies, from the flawed, outdated science that shaped them, to the current wall-building fiasco, and, finally, to what it might take to create a more effective, and just, immigration framework.

IN 1994, the Clinton administration implemented a new border enforcement strategy called “prevention through deterrence,” designed to force migrants away from Borderlands cities and toward far more remote and dangerous routes, like the one Alex took. Such policies have not stopped migration, but they have made it far more deadly.

In The Next Great Migration, Sonia Shah questions this strategy, challenging the view that migration is a “crisis.” As Shah reveals, the science tells a different story: Migration is central to human biology and history.

Draconian immigration policies, Shah argues, are a response to flawed public opinion, not a reflection of the facts. The perception of migrants as a global threat has become lodged in the public mind. Studies show that many Americans vastly overestimate the number of undocumented immigrants and are convinced they worsen crime. In fact, high rates of immigration (both legal and unauthorized) are associated with lower rates of both violent and property crimes.

“We’ve constructed a story about our past, our bodies, and the natural world in which migration is the anomaly,” Shah writes. But that story is an illusion. Shah explores how three centuries of outdated scientific ideas about the role of migrants, both in the natural world and in human societies, have shaped anti-immigrant viewpoints that persist today.

Shah begins with the 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, charting the path from his failed quest for proof that different races were biologically distinct species, to contemporary white nationalist and anti-immigration crusader John Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist who warned about a coming “Latin onslaught” in a series of memos revealed in 1988.

Shah skillfully weaves the connections between science, policy and public opinion, demonstrating how, for instance, biologist Paul Ehrlich’s ideas about catastrophic population growth inspired environmentalist support for immigration restriction — though even Ehrlich later admitted that his 1968 book The Population Bomb had not been rooted in science at all. Rather, it was a “propaganda piece,” he said, aimed at mobilizing interest in environmental protection.

Shah takes readers to nearly every corner of the world: from human migration hotspots like the Darién Gap, at the Colombia-Panama border, to the San Miguel Mountains in Southern California, one of the last habitats for the endangered checkerspot butterfly, whose survival hinges on its ability to migrate. Though her scientific history is expansive and rigorous, at times she sidesteps research that undermines her argument, overlooking, for example, the damage invasive species can inflict on ecosystems.

Still, Shah helps illuminate why Alex and so many others are choosing to migrate. “The idea that there should be a single explanation for migration is rooted in a sedentarist notion,” Shah writes, referencing the geographer Richard Black. Both human and non-human species respond to devastating environmental changes by moving. When people are threatened by war, rising seas or persistent poverty, fleeing is a matter of survival. Likewise, for someone like Alex, a father facing a future without his son, the decision was only natural.

IF SHAH SHOWS how outdated beliefs explain current attitudes towards migration, journalist and author D.W. Gibson reveals how those attitudes are playing out at the U.S.-Mexico border today. After the Department of Homeland Security advertised for border wall prototypes in 2017, Gibson began visiting the construction site south of San Diego, where they were erected.

His book, 14 miles: Building the Border Wall, starts there, chronicling the locals whose lives are affected by the building of the wall. Among others, we meet a member of the Kumeyaay Tribe, whose traditional territory stretches from Southern California to northern Baja California, Border Patrol agents, a Haitian asylum seeker, a former human smuggler, and activists who leave jugs of water in the desert for migrants.

Unfortunately, few of the characters are fully developed, and at times, the interviews and extensive dialogue feel excessive. Gibson divulges little personal information, portraying himself as an out-of-place reporter who swigs bad coffee at a Denny’s restaurant and speaks mediocre Spanish. His strength lies in the way his interviews reveal the absurdities and contradictions of the border and the wall-building endeavor — its crass capitalism and phony politicking.

The most revealing character is the real estate baron and U.S. presidential hopeful Roque De La Fuente, one of several scammy businessmen clamoring to profit from the future wall. De La Fuente owns 2,000 acres of desert abutting the proposed wall expansion, and publicly hopes to sell his land to the federal government. Privately, however, he acknowledges that the wall “is a crazy stupid idea. We need more crossings.” Indirectly, De La Fuente supports Shah’s argument that human societies thrive on connection. What’s unnatural is trying to cut those connections off.

For Gibson, the border is less the frontier than its mirror, reflecting the vision of America people want to see. Such visions leave little room for “hyphenated Americans” — as a San Diego property owner refers to any people whose identities complicate his monolithic idea of America.

POETRY CAN “extend the document,” Susan Briante writes in Defacing the Monument, a book of documentary poetry. For Briante, the border’s failures emerge not only in cruel and inhumane policies like Operation Streamline, but also in how we tell the stories and record the history of those on the margins of our society.

Documentary poetry often resembles a scrapbook, mixing primary source material — photos, court records, letters and maps — with the poet’s own words, conveying her interpretation of the historical record and, crucially, what the documents leave out. “A frame of words can determine what one sees,” Briante writes.

Briante calls documentary poetry the “anti-journalism,” but I see it more as a meditation on the difficult moral and ethical questions facing anyone — whether journalist or poet — writing about the pain of others. “How can we amplify voices without turning other people’s stories into commodities, without re-affirming the faulty myth of ‘giving voice?’ ” Briante wonders.

Perhaps this is why those other voices are mostly absent from Defacing the Monument. But Briante is not writing here as a journalist; she is less concerned about the migrants’ stories than the way those stories are obscured or erased. Like Shah and Gibson, Briante asks us to reimagine the way we see the border and the lives it encompasses — to interrogate the false sense of normalcy that pervades our current immigration regime, and to “reframe and recontextualize every exception and every unexceptional atrocity.”

Briante doesn’t offer concrete suggestions for how to fix our inhumane immigration system. Instead, she urges another kind of transformation. Instead of new walls, Briante suggests, the U.S. needs new narratives, and a more expansive idea of what its borders are for. That requires a more expansive idea of America itself, rooted in connection rather than fear.

“The future unfurls like the sky above the cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, a sky redacted by the bars of a wall. What will we write or imagine between those bars? What will we make from them?” Briante asks.

When Alex called me to say he had survived the crossing, he spoke of his journey — about the blisters on his feet, the hallucinations from the heat. He saw a puma, he said, and the remains of a human body. But he kept walking. He focused on his son, he said, “the only thing I think about.”

Sarah Tory is a correspondent for High Country News. She writes from Carbondale, Colorado. Follow @tory_sarah.

#ColoradoRiver District “State of the River” meeting video recordings now online #COriver #aridification

The Colorado River Water Conservation District spans 15 Western Slope counties. River District directors are asking voters this fall to raise the mill levy.

Click here to watch the video recordings:

Every year, the Colorado River District works with its partners to host educational meetings about water issues in each river basin in the 15-county district.

Learn more about the water we all rely on…Local experts present on how much water we expect to see in local rivers, ditches and reservoirs as well as up to date information about regional, statewide and local water issues.

Fountain Creek lawsuit parties ask for more time to reach a settlement

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

Attorneys who are trying to settle an environmental lawsuit against Colorado Springs for degrading Fountain Creek last week asked, once again, a judge to give them more time to reach an agreement. The judge balked.

“The Parties respectfully request . . . an additional 90 days,” the attorneys stated in a court filing to the judge overseeing the case in Denver at the U.S. District Court for Colorado.

Senior Judge John L. Kane met them part of the way, but warned that his patience was wearing thin…

Kane has approved six extensions since last year to keep the case on hold while all sides try to agreed on a plan, rather than continue to fight it out in court.

The most recent 90-day extension expired on Thursday.

In last week’s request for a new extensions until Nov. 18, the attorneys for all sides told Kane they “have worked diligently” to complete a settlement, known as a “Consent Decree,” in which Colorado Springs agrees to take specific actions. If the judge approves the terms of the settlement, it would become a court order.

The attorneys stated they have “accomplished as much as possible under challenging circumstances by telework, various means of remote communication, exchanging redline drafts of individual provisions and complete drafts” of a tentative proposed settlement, including three technical appendices. Those documents consist of more than 170 pages.

“In our last request for an extension, the Parties advised the Court that we had reached an agreement on almost all issues and had substantially completed a proposed (settlement agreement), the attorneys told Kane. “The Parties further advised the Court that there were a few remaining open issues that needed to be resolved.

“These final issues have taken longer than anticipated to be resolved and, therefore, a final proposed agreement was not ready to be presented to the appropriate approval authorities in the timeframe anticipated by the Parties when we requested our last extension” the attorneys stated. “The Parties have recently resolved these remaining issues and are finalizing the proposed (agreement) now.”

The attorneys said that during a 90-day extension, they “will finalize the proposed Consent Decree, as well as brief and present the proposed Decree to the appropriate approval authorities for their respective governments or governing boards in order to request their review and decision regarding approval of the proposed Consent Decree. “In answering the extension request, Kane wrote: “I am fully aware of the difficulties involved in reaching a conclusion to this case. Not only are all of us hampered by measures instituted to deal with the coronavirus epidemic, but in addition each of the parties to this case has additional responsibilities to their constituent governments and taxpayers amounting to fiduciary obligations…

“This is, however, the seventh request for ninety-day extensions to complete settlement agreements and file a proposed consent decree. This Court, too, has a public obligation to ensure the prompt, speedy and just resolution of cases presented to it,” the judge wrote. “As such, it is inappropriate for the Court to engage in excessive accommodation to this settlement process.

“I find we have reached that point, if indeed not exceeded it. Accordingly, rather than the requested ninety days, I will allow the parties an extension of the stay up to and through Oct. 30, 2020.

The latest seasonal outlooks (through November 30, 2020) are hot off the presses from the Climate Prediction Centers: Hot and dry in the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver #aridification