When will Black history become part of American history? — Writers on the Range

From Writers on the Range (Wayne Hare):

It’s February — the month we celebrate the achievements and history of Black Americans. You can be sure we’ll hear about the brave souls that risked or even gave their lives to achieve rights guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence.

We’ll hear about great Black jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and about barrier-breaking athletes like Jackie Robinson. Most have become household names. There will be quotes galore from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But there are forgotten and fascinating people we also ought to learn about, such as Bass Reeves, one of the first U.S. marshals appointed to the Indian Territories. He served for 32 years in that capacity, making over 3,000 felony arrests and killing 14 men in the process.

Upon his death in 1910, he received a backhanded tribute in the Muskogee Phoenix: “And it is lamentable that we as white people must go to this poor, simple old negro to learn a lesson in courage, honesty and faithfulness to official duty.”

Another person to learn about is Matthew Henson, a courageous Black American who dragged an ailing Robert Peary across the finish line on a sled, making Henson technically the first human ever to reach the North Pole. Yet it was Peary who was lauded and promoted to rear admiral, while Henson was given an honorary burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Then there’s Mary Eliza Mahoney, who, in 1879, became the first Black American to earn a professional nursing license. Unable to get a job in public nursing because of discrimination, she worked as a private nurse, and in 1908, co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.

Although Black History Month celebrates the most well-known Black Americans, society has forgotten key Black historical figures like explorer Matthew Henderson.
(Photo Credit: Unknown author, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

You will find Black people threaded throughout our complex history, and that is what bothers me about Black History Month: Why does America need a special month to acknowledge that Black Americans are truly a part of our story? Why, in many colleges and high schools, might Black history be taught as its own course, yet when it comes to courses in “American history,” Black involvement is mostly confined to the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement? Don’t we belong here?

Maybe Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was just confused recently when, after Senate Democrats failed to pass a voting rights act, he said, “African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.” McConnell said he made an inadvertent mistake.

I look forward to a time that we celebrate Black Americans’ full inclusion in the American Dream of democracy and nation building, even if that history includes painful episodes that make us cringe today.

We have had a long fight for rights that we still do not enjoy, like full, unrestricted voting privileges. The recent move of some states to decrease access to the polls seems a throwback to the Jim Crow wave of discrimination that followed the Civil War.

If it’s been 157 years after the end of the Civil War, Hare asks, why are we still having this discussion about where Blacks fit in America?
(Photo Credit: Mike Von via Unsplash)

If I seem grouchy, I plead guilty. But what I reckon when I read about the past is that it’s been 157 years since the end of the war that freed Black slaves, 68 years after Brown vs. Board of Education mandated equal education for Blacks, 58 years after the Civil Rights Act assured all people equal rights under the law, and 57 years after Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which assured everyone the right to vote. Yet here we are, still on the margins of acceptance.

I want us to acknowledge that Black Americans are a part of the American story, along with its villains and heroes, its quirky individuals, and its ordinary and often conflicted citizens. Black Americans should be woven into the narrative because, in fact, Black Americans helped shape the American story, fighting in world wars, pressing for basic rights and working every job they could get in the face of discrimination.

When that’s finally accepted, we can let February find something else to tell stories about.

Wayne Hare is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org. He is a retired backcountry ranger, current wildland fire manager, journalist, and founding director of the http://civilconversationsproject.org.

Plan to send San Luis Valley water to Douglas County hits opposition — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette #RioGrande

Potential Water Delivery Routes. Since this water will be exported from the San Luis Valley, the water will be fully reusable. In addition to being a renewable water supply, this is an important component of the RWR water supply and delivery plan. Reuse allows first-use water to be used to extinction, which means that this water, after first use, can be reused multiple times. Graphic credit: Renewable Water Resources

From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The project by Renewable Water Resources, a water developer, proposes to tap 25 new groundwater wells in a “confined” aquifer in the valley. That would bring 22,000 acre feet of water to the South Platte River and eventually to a yet-to-be unidentified water provider in Douglas County.

The Renewable Water Resources proposal, which has been underway since 2017, claims a billion acre-feet of water exists in the larger of two San Luis Valley aquifers, a figure disputed by San Luis Valley water experts…

San Luis Valley Groundwater

Renewable Water Resources’ project wants to tap the confined aquifer, which is larger both by geographic footprint and by water volume. The company argued the project is needed to ensure water reliability for Douglas County, and maintained that the plan is sustainable — both for residents of the county and the valley.

Under the proposal, the wells would be situated on land either owned or controlled by RWR, which currently owns approximately 9,800 acres and has options to acquire approximately 8,000 additional acres.

The 22,000 acre-feet of water represents 2.5% of the aquifer’s annual recharge, defined as water pumped back into the aquifer through precipitation, and a volume that RWR claims would not affect diminish the base.

The proposal noted that Colorado’s water law mandates that, in order to develop water, it must be “retired at the same rate,” a doctrine informally known as the “one-for-one” law in the water community. That means every drop of water removed must be replaced by the same amount.

As it turns out, Division 3 Water Court in in Alamosa, where RWR plans to submit its proposal, is the only water court that uses that law…

Under the plan, Douglas County would kick in $20 million from American Rescue Plan federal money, which is already raising questions about whether that’s a legitimate use of the federal relief funds, and whether years of legal battles would run out the clock for using those dollars, which, under federal guidelines, must be spent by December 2024…

Bruce Lytle of Lytle Water Resources, who is working with RWR, told commissioners the aquifer has the water needed for the project. That’s in stark contrast to what they heard from State Deputy Engineer Mike Sullivan, who told the commissioners the aquifer’s water is over-appropriated, meaning there’s nothing left for Douglas County…

Colorado Politics asked most of the 47 water districts, including the dozen largest ones, whether they intend to participate in the project, either as the end user, or, in the case of Denver, allow the reservoirs the county manages to hold that water.

The answer was “no” from all but one potential end-user. Denver Water, which manages the reservoirs, also shot down the idea…

Greg Baker, a spokesman for Aurora water, answered similarly: RWR has not engaged in discussions with Aurora Water regarding storage or conveyance and does not plan to participate in the RWR acquisition…

That Dominion and Sterling Ranch could be the end users — both entities vigorously deny any interest in San Luis Valley water and maintain their supply is sufficient to meet needs — is bolstered by RWR’s proposal, which says the project “will maximize use of existing infrastructures, ultimately supporting the county’s goals of enhancing solutions along the I-85 corridor.”


Teal said it could be Sterling Ranch, Castle Rock or Parker Water. Regarding Castle Rock, Teal explained that the town provides water to customers outside of its boundaries, part of an I-85 partnership between Castle Rock and Dominion.

The Smethills, in a Jan. 24 letter to Colorado Politics, disputed the story, saying any depiction of Sterling Ranch as a recipient of water from the RWR project or that it is short on water is factually inaccurate…

Castle Rock Water spokeswoman Mary Jo Woodrick said in an email that “at this time, we do not intend to acquire water from RWR’s San Luis Valley project.”


The state engineer

Among RWR’s claims in its proposal is that State Engineer Kevin Rein “recently urged Denver Metro water providers, including those located in Douglas County, to seek renewable sources of water other than the Denver Aquifer.”

That comes as news to Rein. He told Colorado Politics there have been no new rulings that apply to what RWR describes.

“We are a regulatory agency but we have made no ruling relevant to what the report describes,” Rein said in an email.

The advice to limit the use of the Denver aquifer, he pointed out, came out in 1996, although a memo in 2020 provided guidance to the staff of the engineer’s office that is “a recitation” of the 1996 memo…

RWR has promised valley residents $50 million for economic development, which the company claims is far more than farmers and ranchers would ever get from agriculture. That “community fund” would assist local communities with schools, broadband or food banks, senior services or job training, the company said, adding a separate pool of money, about $68 million, would pay farmers and ranchers who agree to sell their water rights, known in agriculture circles as “buy and dry.”


RWR has promised valley residents $50 million for economic development, which the company claims is far more than farmers and ranchers would ever get from agriculture. That “community fund” would assist local communities with schools, broadband or food banks, senior services or job training, the company said, adding a separate pool of money, about $68 million, would pay farmers and ranchers who agree to sell their water rights, known in agriculture circles as “buy and dry.”


In addition, Weiser and Simpson wrote, the proposal will not comply with rules from the State Engineer or the state Supreme Court. The RWR proposal seeks to change the rules, which would undermine Colorado’s compliance with the Rio Grande compact, they said.

The US is losing some of its biggest freshwater reserves: Globally, around 2.2 billion people and 27 percent of all food crop production is located near drying-out freshwater basins — Popular Science

The Green and Colorado rivers cut through Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. A warming climate is adding to the drought-driven declines in snowmelt and spring runoff across the Colorado River Basin. (Source: LightHawk Conservation Flying/The Water Desk)

From Popular Science (Nikita Amir):

Less than 3 percent of Earth is covered in freshwater. And while that percentage has remained pretty constant, population growth has not. Only 1 percent of freshwater is accessible to the 7.7 billion people and counting.

As concerns over water scarcity grow, research published in Nature recently documents how freshwater availability has changed over the years, helping water specialists and managers pinpoint how this essential resource’s flows have been changing. Xander Huggins, a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria and Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, and his fellow researchers decided to explore what exactly these changes would mean for life here on Earth.

The team examined 1,024 basins across the world to understand how water availability couples with social processes to create vulnerability in communities. The main factor they studied were freshwater stress, which is the amount of H2O that naturally leaves the watershed or basin per year; the higher the stress, the less water there is available for ecosystems and for people’s demands, according to Huggins. Following this, he and his colleagues coupled the findings with data on how freshwater storage in underground aquifers and glaciers, for example, is changing.

Huggins learned that 42 percent of the 478 most stressed basins around the planet are also the ones disproportionately losing storage. These basins, including ones in the American South and Southwest, central Argentina, and throughout the Middle East, are the ones where people and living things are already under pressure. By his team’s calculations, around 2.2 billion people and 27 percent of all global food crop production is located near drying-out freshwater basins.

Identifying vulnerable water sources

After mapping the most high-risk areas, Huggins created a vulnerability analysis by combining the relationship between stress and storage with data on how prepared and economically sufficient a government might be to respond. He hopes that by creating a framework to understand vulnerability and identifying these “hotspot” basins, the water scarcity in these regions can be prioritized by policymakers.

Huggins notes that the metric is simplified enough to use it on a global scale. Out of the 168 “very high” and “high” vulnerability scoring areas, not all faced the same threats. The authors of the paper found that the most vulnerable basins predictably had the worst water resource management, and that basins that spanned countries were even worse off. According to the scale, nations like Algeria, India, and Kazakhstan were found to have high vulnerabilities according to the scale, as well as low levels of water management.

While the US scores highly in terms of social adaptiveness in Huggins’s study, it has multitude freshwater issues that go beyond stress and storage. Equitable access to freshwater sources looks different in communities across the states. According to Jill Ryan, the executive director of Freshwater Future, an advocacy group working on protecting drinking reservoirs in the Great Lakes region, two of the biggest issues are that of water contamination and cost. Illinois and Ohio are the states with the highest levels of lead in their pipes. Rising costs are also making water too expensive for a growing number of families––one of the reasons being new infrastructure to get rid of the lead pipes. This cost is now increasingly being pushed onto the consumers, Ryan says.