AI and machine learning are improving weather forecasts, but they won’t replace human experts — The Conversation

Meteorologist Todd Dankers monitors weather patterns in Boulder, Colorado, Oct. 24, 2018.
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Russ Schumacher, Colorado State University and Aaron Hill, Colorado State University

A century ago, English mathematician Lewis Fry Richardson proposed a startling idea for that time: constructing a systematic process based on math for predicting the weather. In his 1922 book, “Weather Prediction By Numerical Process,” Richardson tried to write an equation that he could use to solve the dynamics of the atmosphere based on hand calculations.

It didn’t work because not enough was known about the science of the atmosphere at that time. “Perhaps some day in the dim future it will be possible to advance the computations faster than the weather advances and at a cost less than the saving to mankind due to the information gained. But that is a dream,” Richardson concluded.

A century later, modern weather forecasts are based on the kind of complex computations that Richardson imagined – and they’ve become more accurate than anything he envisioned. Especially in recent decades, steady progress in research, data and computing has enabled a “quiet revolution of numerical weather prediction.”

For example, a forecast of heavy rainfall two days in advance is now as good as a same-day forecast was in the mid-1990s. Errors in the predicted tracks of hurricanes have been cut in half in the last 30 years.

There still are major challenges. Thunderstorms that produce tornadoes, large hail or heavy rain remain difficult to predict. And then there’s chaos, often described as the “butterfly effect” – the fact that small changes in complex processes make weather less predictable. Chaos limits our ability to make precise forecasts beyond about 10 days.

As in many other scientific fields, the proliferation of tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning holds great promise for weather prediction. We have seen some of what’s possible in our research on applying machine learning to forecasts of high-impact weather. But we also believe that while these tools open up new possibilities for better forecasts, many parts of the job are handled more skillfully by experienced people.

Australian meteorologist Dean Narramore explains why it’s hard to forecast large thunderstorms.

Predictions based on storm history

Today, weather forecasters’ primary tools are numerical weather prediction models. These models use observations of the current state of the atmosphere from sources such as weather stations, weather balloons and satellites, and solve equations that govern the motion of air.

These models are outstanding at predicting most weather systems, but the smaller a weather event is, the more difficult it is to predict. As an example, think of a thunderstorm that dumps heavy rain on one side of town and nothing on the other side. Furthermore, experienced forecasters are remarkably good at synthesizing the huge amounts of weather information they have to consider each day, but their memories and bandwidth are not infinite.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can help with some of these challenges. Forecasters are using these tools in several ways now, including making predictions of high-impact weather that the models can’t provide.

In a project that started in 2017 and was reported in a 2021 paper, we focused on heavy rainfall. Of course, part of the problem is defining “heavy”: Two inches of rain in New Orleans may mean something very different than in Phoenix. We accounted for this by using observations of unusually large rain accumulations for each location across the country, along with a history of forecasts from a numerical weather prediction model.

We plugged that information into a machine learning method known as “random forests,” which uses many decision trees to split a mass of data and predict the likelihood of different outcomes. The result is a tool that forecasts the probability that rains heavy enough to generate flash flooding will occur.

We have since applied similar methods to forecasting of tornadoes, large hail and severe thunderstorm winds. Other research groups are developing similar tools. National Weather Service forecasters are using some of these tools to better assess the likelihood of hazardous weather on a given day.

Two maps showing a machine learning forecast and actual flooding in the mid-Atlantic states after Hurricane Ida in 2021.
An excessive rainfall forecast from the Colorado State University-Machine Learning Probabilities system for the extreme rainfall associated with the remnants of Hurricane Ida in the mid-Atlantic states in September 2021. The left panel shows the forecast probability of excessive rainfall, available on the morning of Aug. 31, more than 24 hours ahead of the event. The right panel shows the resulting observations of excessive rainfall. The machine learning program correctly highlighted the corridor where widespread heavy rain and flooding would occur.
Russ Schumacher and Aaron Hill, CC BY-ND

Researchers also are embedding machine learning within numerical weather prediction models to speed up tasks that can be intensive to compute, such as predicting how water vapor gets converted to rain, snow or hail.

It’s possible that machine learning models could eventually replace traditional numerical weather prediction models altogether. Instead of solving a set of complex physical equations as the models do, these systems instead would process thousands of past weather maps to learn how weather systems tend to behave. Then, using current weather data, they would make weather predictions based on what they’ve learned from the past.

Some studies have shown that machine learning-based forecast systems can predict general weather patterns as well as numerical weather prediction models while using only a fraction of the computing power the models require. These new tools don’t yet forecast the details of local weather that people care about, but with many researchers carefully testing them and inventing new methods, there is promise for the future.

Maps of an evolving machine learning forecast for an outbreak of severe weather in the US Midwest in December 2021.
A forecast from the Colorado State University-Machine Learning Probabilities system for the severe weather outbreak on Dec. 15, 2021, in the U.S. Midwest. The panels illustrate the progression of the forecast from eight days in advance (lower right) to three days in advance (upper left), along with reports of severe weather (tornadoes in red, hail in green, damaging wind in blue).
Russ Schumacher and Aaron Hill, CC BY-ND

The role of human expertise

There are also reasons for caution. Unlike numerical weather prediction models, forecast systems that use machine learning are not constrained by the physical laws that govern the atmosphere. So it’s possible that they could produce unrealistic results – for example, forecasting temperature extremes beyond the bounds of nature. And it is unclear how they will perform during highly unusual or unprecedented weather phenomena.

And relying on AI tools can raise ethical concerns. For instance, locations with relatively few weather observations with which to train a machine learning system may not benefit from forecast improvements that are seen in other areas.

Another central question is how best to incorporate these new advances into forecasting. Finding the right balance between automated tools and the knowledge of expert human forecasters has long been a challenge in meteorology. Rapid technological advances will only make it more complicated.

Ideally, AI and machine learning will allow human forecasters to do their jobs more efficiently, spending less time on generating routine forecasts and more on communicating forecasts’ implications and impacts to the public – or, for private forecasters, to their clients. We believe that careful collaboration between scientists, forecasters and forecast users is the best way to achieve these goals and build trust in machine-generated weather forecasts.The Conversation

Russ Schumacher, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science and Colorado State Climatologist, Colorado State University and Aaron Hill, Research Scientist, Colorado State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

R.I.P. Vangelis “Whenever the running man awakes”

Vangelis in 2012 with stars of the stage adaptation of Chariots of Fire. By Markdawson7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Click the link to read the obituary from The New York Times website (Richard Sandomir):

Vangelis, the Greek film composer and synthesizer virtuoso whose soaring music for “Chariots of Fire,” the 1981 movie about two British runners in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, won the Academy Award for best original score, died on Tuesday in Paris. He was 79…

A self-taught musician, Vangelis (pronounced vang-GHELL-iss), who was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, recorded solo albums and wrote music for television and for films including “Blade Runner” (1982), “Missing” (1982) and “1492: Conquest of Paradise” (1992). But he remains best known for scoring “Chariots of Fire.”

The most familiar part of that score — modern electronic music composed for a period film — was heard during the opening credits: a blend of acoustic piano and synthesizer that provided lush, pulsating accompaniment to the sight of about two dozen young men running in slow motion on a nearly empty beach, mud splattering their white shirts and shorts, pain and exhilaration creasing their faces.

Vangelis’s music became as popular as the film itself, directed by Hugh Hudson, which won four Oscars, including best picture. The opening song, also called “Chariots of Fire,” was released as a single and spent 28 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including a week at No. 1. The soundtrack album remained on the Billboard 200 chart for 30 weeks and spent four weeks in the top spot. Vangelis said the score immediately came to him as he watched the film in partly edited form…

He was working at the time in his London studio with a Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer.

“It’s the most important synthesizer in my career and the best analog synthesizer design there has ever been,” he told Prog, an alternative music website, in 2016, adding, “It’s the only synthesizer I could describe as being a real instrument.”

R.I.P. Dennis Gallagher: “#Denver is a duller town today” #NorthSide

Dennis Gallagher officiating the Gulch’s wedding vow renewal celebration at the Baldpate Inn in Estes Park June 2003.

Click the link to read Westword’s obituary (Patricia Calhoun). Here’s an excerpt:

Denver is a duller town today. Dennis Gallagher passed away on Friday, April 22, after a short illness. He was 82. Word spread quickly through this city where he was born and raised, this city he’d devoted his life to serving. He did so everywhere from the Colorado Legislature to Denver City Council to the Denver Auditor’s Office, from classrooms to coffeehouses.

Gallagher grew up in north Denver and graduated from Regis University, where he taught off and on for forty years after getting a master’s degree from the Catholic University of America in 1967. Just three years later, he was elected to the legislature…he was still always out in public, hosting his St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, offering tours of cemeteries and other spots around town, and opining on just about everything, with that impish Irish wit and great, deep voice…He seemingly knew everything about Denver and everyone in it, past and present….

Dennis Gallagher’s world was this city. And for so many, he was this city.

#EarthDay 2022

Mammatus clouds, associated with strong convection, grace a sunset over Fort Collins, Colorado, home of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University. Photo credit: Steve Miller/CIRA

Water Planet

The abundance of water on Earth has shaped nearly every aspect of our lives, even if we are not directly aware of it. Using data sets from a variety of sources, including NOAA and NASA, water is shown to be the primary driver of Earth’s dynamic systems. It is the source of all life on the planet, which is astounding, considering just how rare and precious Earth’s fresh water resources are

Home court for #Colorado #climate lawsuits — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

Suncor refinery Commerce City. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

San Miguel County and Boulder lawsuits against two oil companies will be heard in Colorado. That helps. But these cases will still have an uphill struggle to prove damages that might seem obvious.

Colorado has abundant evidence of destruction caused by the warming, and more volatile, climate. Wildfires, ever larger and more destructive, now happen year-round, including the ghastly Marshall Fire of late December and the much smaller fires of recent weeks. Rising temperatures have robbed flows from the Colorado River, from which Boulder and Boulder County get substantial amounts of water. Air conditioning has become more necessity than luxury.

But can Boulder and other jurisdictions show harm from burning of fossil fuels — the primary cause of warming — in their climate liability lawsuits against oil companies?

Marshall Fire December 30, 2021. Photo credit: Boulder County

In 2018, Boulder (both the city and the county) as well as San Miguel County sued two oil giants, ExxonMobil and Suncor. These Colorado cases are among more than 20 climate lawsuits now in courts from Hawaii to Massachusetts. They’re the only cases from an inland state claiming actual damages from climate change — and after a recent legal victory, they could be among the first where substantive arguments are heard in court. (Only Honolulu’s case is on a faster track.)

Despite all the evidence of climate destruction, the legal case will be challenging, according to Pat Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School.

“In a court of law, you have to prove by the preponderance of evidence and you have to convince the jury, all 12 of them,” says Parenteau, who has advised some parties who filed similar lawsuits, but is not currently involved directly in the litigation.

He points to the difficulty of pinning health impacts on tobacco companies in the 1990s. “Cigarettes kill people. Global warming, per se, kills people: Heat waves kill people. High tides kill people.”

Proving responsibility in a courtroom will be the tricky part. “There are multiple links in the causal change that you have to prove with climate change,” Parenteau says. “It was difficult enough to prove with tobacco. It never was proven [in court]. It was just settled. Just imagine how difficult it is for climate change.”

Suncor operates a refinery in Commerce City northeast of downtown Denver that processes 98,000 barrels of oil daily. “We purchase crude oil from the Denver-Julesburg Basin, process it in Commerce City, and sell nearly 95% of our products within the state,” Suncor’s website says.

Exxon’s private prediction of the future growth of carbon dioxide levels (left axis) and global temperature relative to 1982 (right axis). Elsewhere in its report, Exxon noted that the most widely accepted science at the time indicated that doubling carbon dioxide levels would cause a global warming of 3°C. Illustration: 1982 Exxon internal briefing document

Exxon has no refinery in Colorado, but it does sell fuel in the state.

“They are the two most consequential oil companies in Colorado, given their local operations,” says Marco Simons, the lead attorney with EarthRights International, the organization representing the three jurisdictions in Colorado.

So far, the arguments in the Colorado cases (and others) have been about process, namely where the cases should be tried.

In legal cases, as in basketball, home court matters. This is likely why Exxon and Suncor wanted lawsuits filed against them by Boulder and San Miguel heard in federal courts instead of Colorado district courts.
“Basically, their argument was that you can’t let state law allow these people to seek remedy before climate change injury when federal law doesn’t provide that remedy,” Simons explains.

The oil companies lost that round. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled on Feb. 8 that the two lawsuits should be heard in Colorado. The court then ordered, on March 2, for that mandate to take effect.

“The court is basically saying there’s nothing wrong with using ordinary state law to hold oil companies accountable to their contribution to climate change,’” says Simons. “That does not in any way violate federal law. It’s not something inappropriate for states to do.”

arenteau agrees there is value to the climate cases being heard in state courts. The empirical evidence is clear: “Where do the states and cities find the best success? It’s in their own courts. The faster these cases get back to state courts from federal courts, the better.”

Colorado’s cases, originally filed as one, have been separated. San Miguel County’s case is to be heard in Denver District Court, and the Boulder and Boulder County case in Boulder County District Court.

Telluride. San Miguel County alleges damages to its skiing economy at Telluride. The case will be heard in Denver District Court.

Home-court advantage goes only so far. Attorneys for EarthRights International must now prove that the fossil fuels sold by Suncor and ExxonMobil in Colorado have produced damages from a changing climate to the local jurisdictions.

While many legal analysts say that will be difficult to prove, some observers think the Colorado lawsuits could be successful, even short of total courtroom victories.

One of those making that case is Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment, a program embedded in the law school at the University of California Los Angeles. She has coordinated with counsel for several jurisdictions in California that filed climate change lawsuits in 2017, but is no longer involved in those other climate liability cases.

“On an even more deep level, one goal that the plaintiffs have across the set of cases is undermining the social license of the corporations to do what they have been doing for decades,” says Horowitz. “They just need one good victory to hang their hats on.”

That could help supporters of these suits win verdicts in the court of public opinion.

Neither Suncor nor Exxon responded to requests for comment, but the premise of the fossil fuel companies is that they have been doing nothing wrong by peddling gasoline, diesel and other fossil fuel products.

Climate change-related lawsuits have been filed since the mid-1980s. Early lawsuits generally sought to force actions by state governments and federal agencies. The most notable such case is Massachusetts v. EPA, which resulted in the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 decision that gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Other lawsuits, such as Connecticut vs. American Electric Power in 2011, targeted energy companies. For complex legal reasons, these cases using federal courts have struggled to go forward.

Investigative reports in 2015 by Inside Climate News and independent work by the Los Angeles Times about ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company, were important in triggering the wave of lawsuits of the last five years. The journalists showed that the oil giant misled the public about what it knew about climate change and the risks posed by fossil fuel emissions decades ago. The investigative series were based largely on the company’s internal records.

Since then have come a wave of lawsuits by state and local governments.

California jurisdictions — first Marin and San Mateo counties along with the city of Imperial Beach in July 2017, followed by Oakland and San Francisco that September — were at the forefront of suits by state and local governments. Currently pending are lawsuits filed by seven states and the District of Columbia and 19 by cities and counties, according to the Center for Climate Integrity.

These lawsuits fall into primarily two overlapping buckets. The two cases in Colorado fall into both.

In one bucket of lawsuits are claims of fraud and deception by oil companies, primarily by Exxon. The second bucket consists of suits alleging the oil companies have created “nuisances” that have caused damages. In the Colorado cases, local governments have suffered harm as a result, the lawsuits say.

“It’s about fundamental principles of tort law that basically boil down to, ‘If you harm someone, you have to pay for it,’” explains Simons, the EarthRights attorney.

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck.

The 2018 lawsuits for the Colorado jurisdictions cite many climate impacts from fossil fuels. Rising temperatures will affect water supplies. Emergency management services will have to be ramped up because of increased wildfires, heavy rainfall and other extreme weather events. Warmer temperatures will worsen the already problematic ground-level ozone in Boulder County.

This car in Superior was among the victims of the Marshall Fire in late December 2021 that burned 1,084 homes and caused 30,000 residents of Superior and Louisville to flee. Photo/Allen Best

Some increased costs have already occurred, the lawsuit filed by the three Colorado jurisdictions in 2018 says. It points to the West Nile virus spread by mosquitoes amid rising temperatures. Prior to 2002, Boulder had no mosquito control program. That was the year the virus first appeared in Colorado. After that, costs of mosquito abatement grew steadily. By 2018 mosquito management nicked the city budget roughly $250,000. In Boulder County, the cost approached $400,000.

Buildings will have to be modified, the lawsuit says. “Due to the expected continued heat rise in Boulder County, a place that historically rarely saw days above 95 degrees, Boulder County and the City of Boulder are expected to see increased public health heat risks, such as heat stroke, and their associated costs,” the lawsuit filed in 2018 says.

This increasing heat, the lawsuit continues, will drive up costs, such as that of cooling infrastructure for buildings. “Cooling centers that are available during heat waves, and/or assisting with home air-conditioning installation, could cost Boulder County and the City of Boulder millions of dollars by mid-century.”

The lawsuit cites the $37.7 million of a $575.5 school construction bond for the Boulder Valley School District used for air-conditioning and better ventilation.

How the Colorado cases are different

Colorado’s lawsuits were the first filed in an interior state. Even now, the only other states without coastlines to have filed climate change lawsuits against oil companies are Minnesota and Vermont. They claim fraud. That makes the Colorado cases the only ones claiming damages.

This duality, an inland state claiming actual damages from climate change, sets Colorado’s cases apart from all others.

“It’s easy to imagine a city like Miami or other coastal cities being imperiled by climate change,” says Horowitz, the UCLA law professor. “The Boulder case is helping to illustrate that even inland cities, cities in the middle of America, are being harmed by climate change.”

One long-sought goal of the litigation is getting to what in courts is called the discovery phase. That’s the stage where documents, emails, other correspondence and information related to the suits could reach the public and prove devastating to the company. (That is essentially what happened to the tobacco industry, with the release of memos and documents in discovery.)

Horowitz, the law professor in Los Angeles, expects the filings and rulings to accelerate. “You will start to get state court decisions sooner rather than later, by which I mean probably in the next year,” she says. Appeals will follow, but these Colorado cases — and those similarly proceeding in other states — will move along.

“I wouldn’t think it will take five to 10 years,” she says.
And the fact that Colorado has no beach-front property could spur other similar cases. Sea level rise is not imminently threatening Boulder the way it is in Imperial Beach, a city of 26,000 people near San Diego that has also filed a climate change lawsuit.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if more jurisdictions realize they will need help in funding climate change adaptation,” Horowitz says, “and the fossil fuel companies are logical places to look as sources for that funding.”

This story was prepared in collaboration with the Boulder Reporting Lab, whose editing and suggestions enormously improved the story.

Congratulations, soon to be Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson via the White House. Photo credit: Lelanie Foster, a young black photographer from the Bronx

Click the link to read the remarks from President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on the White House website:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Good morning. (Applause.) Good morning, America. (Laughs.) Have a seat, please.

President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, members of Congress, members of the Cabinet, members of our administration, and friends and fellow Americans: Today is, indeed, a wonderful day — (applause) — as we gather to celebrate the confirmation of the next justice of the United States Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Applause.)

President George Washington once referred to America as a “great experiment” — a nation founded on the previously untested belief that the people — we, the people — could form a more perfect union. And that belief has pushed our nation forward for generations. And it is that belief that we reaffirmed yesterday — (applause) — through the confirmation of the first Black woman to the United States Supreme Court. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Whoa! It’s about time!

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And, Judge Jackson, you will inspire generations of leaders. They will watch your confirmation hearings and read your decisions.

In the years to come, the Court will answer fundamental questions about who we are and what kind of country we live in: Will we expand opportunity or restrict it? Will we strengthen the foundations of our great democracy or let them crumble? Will we move forward or backward?

The young leaders of our nation will learn from the experience, the judgment, the wisdom that you, Judge Jackson, will apply in every case that comes before you. And they will see, for the first time, four women sitting on that Court at one time. (Applause.)

So, as a point of personal privilege, I will share with you, Judge Jackson, that when I presided over the Senate confirmation vote yesterday, while I was sitting there, I drafted a note to my goddaughter. And I told her that I felt such a deep sense of pride and joy and about what this moment means for our nation and for her future. And I will tell you, her braids are just a little longer than yours. (Laughter.)

But as I wrote to her, I told her what I knew this would mean for her life and all that she has in terms of potential.

So, indeed, the road toward our more perfect union is not always straight, and it is not always smooth. But sometimes it leads to a day like today — (applause) — a day that reminds us what is possible — what is possible when progress is made and that the journey — well, it will always be worth it.

So let us not forget that, as we celebrate this day, we are also here in great part because of one President, Joe Biden — (applause) — and — (laughs) — and because of Joe Biden’s vision and leadership and commitment — a lifelong commitment — to building a better America.

And, of course, we are also here because of the voices and the support of so many others, many of whom are in this audience today.

And with that, it is now my extreme and great honor to introduce our President, Joe Biden. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Kamala. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The first really smart decision I made in this administration. (Laughter.)

My name is Joe Biden. Please, sit down. I’m Jill’s husband — (laughter) — and Naomi Biden’s grandfather.

And, folks, you know, yesterday — this is not only a sunny day. I mean this from the bottom of my heart: This is going to let so much shine — sun shine on so many young women, so many young Black women — (applause) — so many minorities, that it’s real. It’s real.

We’re going to look back — nothing to do with me — we’re going to look back and see this as a moment of real change in American history.

I was on the phone this morning, Jesse, with President Ramaphosa of South Africa. And he was talking about how — the time that I was so outspoken about what was going on and my meeting with Nelson Mandela here. And I said, “You know” — I said, “I’m shortly going to go out,” look- — I’m looking out the window — “I’m going to go out in this — what they call the South Lawn of the White House, and I’m going to introduce to the world — to the world — the first African American woman out of over 200 judges on the Supreme Court.” And he said to me — he said, “Keep it up.” (Laughter.) “Keep it up.” (Applause.) We’re going to keep it up.

And, folks, yesterday we all witnessed a truly historic moment presided over by the Vice President. There are moments, if people go back in history, and they’re literally historic, consequential, fundamental shifts in American policy.

Today, we’re joined by the First Lady, the Second Gentleman, and members of the Cabinet, the Senate Majority Leader. Where — there you are, Chuck. The Senate Majority Leader. And so many who made this possible.

But — and today is a good day, a day that history is going to remember. And in the years to come, they’re going to be proud of what we did, and which (inaudible) — Dick Durbin did as the chairman of the committee. (Applause.) I’m serious, Dick. I’m deadly earnest when I say that.

To turn to our children and grandchildren and say, “I was there.” “I was there.” That — this is one of those moments, in my view.

My fellow Americans, today I’m honored to officially introduce to you the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Applause.)

After more than 20 hours of questioning at her hearing and nearly 100 meetings — she made herself available to every single senator who wanted to speak to her and spoke for more than just a few minutes, answered their questions, in private as well as before the committee — we all saw the kind of justice she’ll be: Fair and impartial. Thoughtful. Careful. Precise. Precise. Brilliant. A brilliant legal mind with deep knowledge of the law. And a judicial temperament — which was equally important, in my view — that’s calm and in command. And a humility that allows so many Americans to see themselves in Ketanji Brown Jackson.

That brings a rare combination of expertise and qualifications to the Court. A federal judge who has served on the second most powerful court in America behind the Supreme Court. A former federal public defender with the — (applause) — with the ability to explain complicated issues in the law in ways everybody — all people — can understand. A new perspective.

When I made the commitment to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, I could see this day. I literally could see this day, because I thought about it for a long, long time. As Jill and Naomi would tell you, I wasn’t going to run again. But when I decided to run, this was one of the first decisions I made. I could see it. I could see it as a day of hope, a day of promise, a day of progress; a day when, once again, the moral arc of the universe, as Barack used to quote all the time, bends just a little more toward justice.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I knew the person I nominated would be put through a painful and difficult confirmation process. But I have to tell you, what Judge Jackson was put through was well beyond that. There was verbal abuse. The anger. The constant interruptions. The most vile, baseless assertions and accusations.

In the face of it all, Judge Jackson showed the incredible character and integrity she possesses. (Applause.) Poise. Poise and composure. Patience and restraint. And, yes, perseverance and even joy. (Applause.) Even joy.

Ketanji — or I can’t — I’m not going to be calling you that in public anymore. (Laughter.) Judge, you are the very definition of what we Irish refer to as dignity. You have enormous dignity. And it communicates to people. It’s contagious. And it matters. It matters a lot.

Maybe that’s not surprising if you looked to who sat behind her during those hearings — her husband Dr. Patrick Jackson and his family. (Applause.) Patrick, stand up, man. Stand up. (Applause.) Talia and Leila, stand up. (Applause.) I know it’s embarrassing the girls. I’m going to tell you what Talia said. I said to Talia, “It’s hard being the daughter or the son of a famous person.” I said, “Imagine what it’s like being President.” And he said — she said, “She may be.” (Laughter and applause.) I couldn’t agree more. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And Ketajh, her brother, a former police officer and a veteran. Ketajh, stand up, man. (Applause.) This a man who looks like he can still play, buddy. He’s got biceps about as big as my calves. (Laughter.) Thank you, bud. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And, of course, her parents: Johnny and Ellery Brown. Johnny and Ellery, stand up. (Applause.) I tell you what — as I told Mom: Moms rule in my house. (Laughter.) No, you think I’m kidding. I’m not. My mom and my wife as well.

Look, people of deep faith, with a deep love of family and country — that’s what you represent; who know firsthand, Mom and Dad, the indignity of Jim Crow, the inhumanity of legal segregation, and you had overcome so much in your own lives.

You saw the strength of parents in the strength of their daughter that is just worth celebrating. I can’t get over, Mom and Dad — you know, I mean, what — what you did, and your faith, and never giving up any hope. And both that wonderful son you have and your daughter.

You know, and that strength lifted up millions of Americans who watched you, Judge Jackson, especially women and women of color who have had to run the gauntlet in their own lives. So many of my Cabinet members are women — women of color, women that represent every sector of the community. And it matters. And you stood up for them as well. They know it — everybody out there, every woman out there, everyone — (applause) — am I correct? Just like they have. Just like they have.

And same with the women members of Congress, as well, across the board.

Look, it’s a powerful thing when people can see themselves in others. Think about that. What’s the most powerful thing — I’ll bet every one of you can go back and think of a time in your life where there was a teacher, a family member, a neighbor — somebody — somebody who made you believe that you could be whatever you wanted to be. It’s a powerful, powerful, powerful notion.

And that’s one of the reasons I believed so strongly that we needed a Court that looks like America. Not just the Supreme Court. (Applause.)

That’s why I’m proud to say, with the great help of Dick Durbin, I’ve nominated more Black women judges to the federal appeal courts than all previous presidents combined. (Applause.) Combined.

And that’s why I’m proud that Kamala Harris is our Vice President of the United States. (Applause.) A brilliant lawyer. The Attorney General of the State of California. Former member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kamala was invaluable during this entire process. (Applause.)

And, Chuck, our Majority Leader, I want to thank you, pal. You did a masterful job in keeping the caucus together, getting this vote across the finish line in a timely and historic manner. Just watching it on television yesterday, watching when the vote was taken — and the Democratic side, they’re brave people — there was such enthusiasm, genuine. You can tell when it’s real. You can tell when it’s real. You did an incredible job, Chuck. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

Folks, because you’re all able to sit down and don’t have to stand, I’m going to go on a little longer here and tell you — (laughter) — I want to say something about Dick Durbin again. Dick, I’m telling you, overseeing the hearing, how you executed the strategy by the hour, every day, to keep the committee together. And you have a very divided committee with some of the most conservative members of the Senate on that committee. It was especially difficult with an evenly divided Senate.

Dick, I served as chairman of that committee for a number of years before I had this job and the job of Vice President. As did all the Democrats, you did an outstanding — I think all the Democrats in the committee did and every Democrat in the Senate, all of whom voted for Judge Jackson.

And notwithstanding the harassment and attacks in the hearings, I always believed that a bipartisan vote was possible. And I hope I don’t get him in trouble — I mean it sincerely — but I want to thank three Republicans who voted for Judge Jackson. (Applause.) Senators Collins, who’s a woman of integrity. Senator Murkowski, the same way — in Alaska — and up for reelection. And Mitt Romney, whose dad stood up like he did. His dad stood up and made these decisions on civil rights.

They deserve enormous credit for setting aside partisanship and making a carefully considered judgment based on the Judge’s character, qualifications, and independence. And I truly admire the respect, diligence, and hard work they demonstrated in the course of the process.

As someone who has overseen, they tell me, more Supreme Court nominations than anyone who’s alive today, I believe that respect for the process is important. And that’s why it was so important to me to meet the constitutional requirement to seek the advice and the consent of the Senate. The advice beforehand and the consent.

Judge Jackson started the nominating process with an imper- — an impressive range of support: from the FOP to civil rights leaders; even Republican-appointed judges came forward.

In fact, Judge Jackson was introduced at the hearing by Judge Thomas Griffith, the distinguished retired judge appointed by George W. Bush.

She finished the hearing with among the highest levels of support of the American people of any nomination in recent memory. (Applause.)

So, soon, Judge Jackson will join the United States Supreme Court. And like every justice, the decisions she makes will impact on the lives of America for a lot longer, in many cases, than any laws we all make. But the truth is: She’s already impacting the lives of so many Americans.

During the hearing, Dick spoke about a custodial worker who works the night shift at the Capitol. Her name is Verona Clemmons. Verona, where are you? Stand up, Verona. I want to — (applause) — if you don’t mind.

She told him what this nomination meant to her. So he invited Ms. Clemmons to attend the hearing because she wanted to see, hear, and stand by Judge Jackson.

Thank you, Verona. (Applause.) Thank you, thank you, thank you.

At her meeting with Judge Jackson, Senator Duckworth introduced her to 11-year-old — is it Vivian?




THE PRESIDENT: Vivienne. I’m sorry, Vivienne. There — that’s her — that’s your sister. He’s point- — (laughter) — who was so inspired by the hearing that she wants to be a Supreme Court justice when she grows up. (Applause.) God love you. Stand up, honey. Am I going to embarrass you if I just ask you to stand up? Come on, stand. (Applause.)

There’s tens of thousands of Viviennes all through the entire United States. She met Judge Jackson and saw her future. Vivienne, you’re here today, and thank you for coming, honey. I know I embarrassed you by introducing you, but thank you.

People of every generation, of every race, of every background felt this moment, and they feel it now. They feel a sense of pride and hope, of belonging and believing, and knowing the promise of America includes everybody — all of us. And that’s the American experiment.

Justice Breyer talked about it when he came to the White House in January to announce his retirement from the Court. He used to technically work with me when I was on the Judiciary Committee, and that’s before he became a justice. He’s a man of great integrity. We’re going to miss Justice Breyer. He’s a patriot, an extraordinary public service [servant], and a great justice of the Supreme Court.

And, folks — (applause) — let me close with what I’ve long said: America is a nation that can be defined in a single word. I was in the foothi- — foot- — excuse me, in the foothills of the Himalayas with Xi Jinping, traveling with him. (Inaudible) traveled 17,000 miles when I was Vice President at the time. I don’t know that for a fact.

And we were sitting alone. I had an interpreter and he had an interpreter. And he looked at me. In all seriousness, he said, “Can you define America for me?” And I said what many of you heard me say for a long time. I said, “Yes, I can, in one word: possibilities.” (Applause.) “Possibilities.” That, in America, everyone should be able to go as far as their hard work and God-given talent will take them. And possibilities. We’re the only ones. That’s why we’re viewed as the “ugly Americans”: We think anything is possible. (Laughter.)

And the idea that a young girl who was dissuaded from even thinking you should apply to Harvard Law School — “Don’t raise your hopes so high.” Well, I don’t know who told you that, but I’d like to go back and invite her to the Supreme Court so she can see the interior. (Laughter.)

Look, even Supreme Court of the United States of America.

Now, folks, it’s my honor — and it truly is an honor; I’ve been looking forward to it for a while — to introduce to you the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Applause.)

JUDGE JACKSON: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all. Thank you, all, very much. Thank you.

Thank you so much, Mr. President. It is the greatest honor of my life to be here with you at this moment, standing before my wonderful family, many of my close friends, your distinguished staff and guests, and the American people.

Over these past few weeks, you’ve heard a lot from me and about me, so I hope to use this time primarily to do something that I have not had sufficient time to do, which is to extend my heartfelt thanks to the many, many people who have helped me as part of this incredible journey.

I have quite a few people to thank. And — and as I’m sure you can imagine, in this moment, it is hard to find the words to express the depth of my gratitude.

First, as always, I have to give thanks to God for delivering me as promised — (applause) — and for sustaining me throughout this nomination and confirmation process. As I said at the outset, I have come this far by faith, and I know that I am truly blessed. To the many people who have lifted me up in prayer since the nomination, thank you. I am very grateful.

Thank you, as well, Mr. President, for believing in me and for honoring me with this extraordinary chance to serve our country.

Thank you also, Madam Vice President, for your wise counsel and steady guidance.

And thank you to the First Lady and the Second Gentleman for the care and warmth that you have shown me and my family.

I would also like to extend my thanks to each member of the Senate. You have fulfilled the important constitutional role of providing advice and consent under the leadership of Majority Leader Schumer. And I’m especially grateful for the work of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, under Chairman Durbin’s skillful leadership. (Applause.)

As you may have heard, during the confirmation process, I had the distinct honor of having 95 personal meetings with 97 sitting senators. (Laughter.) And we had substantive and engaging conversations about my approach to judging and about the role of judges in the constitutional system we all love.

As a brief aside, I will note that these are subjects about which I care deeply. I have dedicated my career to public service because I love this country and our Constitution and the rights that make us free.

I also understand from my many years of practice as a legal advocate, as a trial judge, and as a judge on a court of appeals that part of the genius of the constitutional framework of the United States is its design, and that the framers entrusted the judicial branch with the crucial but limited role.

I’ve also spent the better part of the past decade hearing thousands of cases and writing hundreds of opinions. And in every instance, I have done my level best to stay in my lane and to reach a result that is consistent with my understanding of the law and with the obligation to rule independently without fear or favor.

I am humbled and honored to continue in this fashion as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, working with brilliant colleagues, supporting and defending the Constitution, and steadfastly upholding the rule of law. (Applause.)

But today, at this podium, my mission is far more modest. I’m simply here to give my heartfelt thanks to the categories of folks who are largely responsible for me being here at this moment.

First, of course, there is my family. Mom and Dad, thank you not only for traveling back here on what seems like a mos- — moment’s notice, but for everything you’ve done and continue to do for me.

My brother, Ketajh, is here as well. You’ve always been an inspiration to me as a model of public service and bravery, and I thank you for that.

I love you all very much. (Applause.)

To my in-laws, Pamela and Gardner Jackson, who are here today, and my sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, William and Dana, Gardie and Natalie: Thank you for your love and support.

To my daughters, Talia and Leila: I bet you never thought you’d get to skip school by spending a day at the White House. (Laughter.) This is all pretty exciting for me as well. But nothing has brought me greater joy than being your mother. I love you very much. (Applause.)

Patrick, thank you for everything you’ve done for me over these past 25 years of our marriage. You’ve done everything to support and encourage me. And it is you who’ve made this moment possible. (Applause.)

Your — your steadfast love gave me the courage to move in this direction. I don’t know that I believed you when you said that I could do this, but now I do. (Laughter and applause.) And for that, I am forever grateful.

In the family category, let me also briefly mention the huge extended family, both Patrick’s and my own, who are watching this from all over the country and the world. Thank you for supporting me. I hope to be able to connect with you personally in the coming weeks and months.

Moving on briefly to the second category of people that warrant special recognition: those who provided invaluable support to me professionally in the decades prior to my nomination, and the many, many friends I have been privileged to make throughout my life and career.

Now, I know that everyone who finds professional success thinks they have the best mentors, but I truly do. (Laughter.) I have three inspiring jurists for whom I had the privilege of clerking: Judge Patti Saris, Judge Bruce Selya, and, of course, Justice Stephen Breyer. Each of them is an exceptional public servant, and I could not have had better role models for thoughtfulness, integrity, honor, and principle, both by word and deed.

My clerkship with Justice Breyer, in particular, was an extraordinary gift and one for which I’ve only become more grateful with each passing year. Justice Breyer’s commitment to an independent, impartial judiciary is unflagging. And, for him, the rule of law is not merely a duty, it is his passion. I am daunted by the prospect of having to follow in his footsteps. And I would count myself lucky, indeed, to be able to do so with even the smallest amount of his wisdom, grace, and joy.

The exceptional mentorship of the judges for whom I clerked has proven especially significant for me during this past decade of my service as a federal judge. And, of course, that service itself has been a unique opportunity. For that, I must also thank President Obama, who put his faith in me by nominating me to my first judicial role on the federal district court. (Applause.)

This brings me to my colleagues and staff of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., and the D.C. Circuit: Thank you for everything. I am deeply grateful for your wisdom and your battle-tested friendship through the years.

I also want to extend a special thanks to all of my law clerks, many of whom are here today, who have carved out time and space to accompany me on this professional journey.

I’m especially grateful to Jennifer Gruda, who has been by my side since nearly the outset of my time on the bench — (applause) — and has promised — has promised not to leave me as we take this last big step.

To the many other friends that I have had the great, good fortune to have made throughout the years — from my neighborhood growing up; from Miami Palmetto Senior High School, and especially the debate team; from my days at Harvard College, where I met my indefatigable and beloved roommates, Lisa Fairfax, Nina Coleman Simmons, and Antoinette Sequeira Coakley — they are truly my sisters. (Applause.)

To my time at Harvard Law School and the many professional experiences that I’ve been blessed to have since graduation: Thank you.

I have too many friends to name, but please know how much you’ve meant to me and how much I have appreciated the smiles, the hugs, and the many “atta girls” that have propelled me forward to this day.

Finally, I’d like to give special thanks to the White House staff and the special assistants who provided invaluable assistance in helping me to navigate the confirmation process.

My trusted sherpa, Senator Doug Jones, was an absolute godsend. (Applause.) He was an absolute godsend. He’s not only the best storyteller you’d ever want to meet, but also unbelievably popular on the Hill, which helped a lot. (Laughter.)

I’m also standing here today in no small part due to the hard work of the brilliant folks who interact with the legislature and other stakeholders on behalf of the White House, including Louisa Terrell, Reema Dodin, and Tona Boyd, Minyon Moore, Ben LaBolt, and Andrew Bates. (Applause.)

I am also particularly grateful for the awe-inspiring leadership of White House Counsel Dana Remus. (Applause.) Of Paige Herwig. Where is Paige? (Applause.) And Ron Klain. (Applause.)

They led an extraordinarily talented team of White House staffers in the Herculean effort that was required to ensure that I was well prepared for the rigors of this process and in record time. Thank you all. (Applause.)

Thank you, as well, to the many, many kind-hearted people from all over this country and around the world who’ve reached out to me directly in recent weeks with messages of support.

I have spent years toiling away in the relative solitude of my chambers, with just my law clerks, in isolation. So, it’s been somewhat overwhelming, in a good way, to recently be flooded with thousands of notes and cards and photos expressing just how much this moment means to so many people.

The notes that I’ve received from children are particularly cute and especially meaningful because, more than anything, they speak directly to the hope and promise of America.

It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. (Applause.)

But we’ve made it. (Applause.) We’ve made it, all of us. All of us.

And — and our children are telling me that they see now, more than ever, that, here in America, anything is possible. (Applause.)

They also tell me that I’m a role model, which I take both as an opportunity and as a huge responsibility. I am feeling up to the task, primarily because I know that I am not alone. I am standing on the shoulders of my own role models, generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity but who got up every day and went to work believing in the promise of America, showing others through their determination and, yes, their perseverance that good — good things can be done in this great country — from my grandparents on both sides who had only a grade-school education but instilled in my parents the importance of learning, to my parents who went to racially segregated schools growing up and were the first in their families to have the chance to go to college.

I am also ever buoyed by the leadership of generations past who helped to light the way: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Justice Thurgood Marshall, and my personal heroine, Judge Constance Baker Motley. (Applause.)

They, and so many others, did the heavy lifting that made this day possible. And for all of the talk of this historic nomination and now confirmation, I think of them as the true pathbreakers. I am just the very lucky first inheritor of the dream of liberty and justice for all. (Applause.)

To be sure, I have worked hard to get to this point in my career, and I have now achieved something far beyond anything my grandparents could’ve possibly ever imagined. But no one does this on their own. The path was cleared for me so that I might rise to this occasion.

And in the poetic words of Dr. Maya Angelou, I do so now, while “bringing the gifts…my ancestors gave.” (Applause.) I –“I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” (Applause.)

So as I take on this new role, I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride.

We have come a long way toward perfecting our union.

In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States. (Applause.)

And it is an honor — the honor of a lifetime — for me to have this chance to join the Court, to promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry our shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward, into the future.

Thank you, again, Mr. President and members of the Senate for this incredible honor. (Applause.)

1:15 P.M. EDT

4 #Colorado Companies Awarded For Slashing Pollution — 303 Magazine

Leprino Foods headquarters in North Denver April 22, 2020.

Click the link to read the article on the 303 Magazine website (Ellie Sullum). Here’s an excerpt:

Every year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honors companies nationwide for significant progress in pollution prevention This year, the EPA awarded four Colorado-based companies for their contributions to the state’s sustainability efforts…

Taco Star

A Thornton staple, family-owned Taco Star now has four locations in the Denver Metro Area. The Colorado fast-food chain updated its infrastructure to feature LED lighting, low-flow sink aerators and sustainable commercial refrigerators. Refrigeration is the leading source of energy misuse, making Taco Star’s transition a vital step towards energy conservation within Colorado’s sustainability work. Overall, Taco Star’s activities have contributed to an annual cost savings of $4,695, 32 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent avoided and 13,000 gallons of water conserved…

Leprino Foods Company

Based in [Denver], Leprino Foods Company is a leading dairy manufacturer. With over 5,000 employees in multiple locations, they specialize in producing mozzarella cheese and popular dairy products. Conventional dairy production is a leading polluter industry. To reduce the company’s footprint, Leprino Foods installed sustainable equipment to limit greenhouse gas and water use. They also implemented cleaning and production process improvements to lower waste brine…By overhauling its equipment and systems, the company modeled water conservation processes for others in the industry to follow…

Management and Engineering Services

Headquartered in Longmont, Management and Engineering Services LLC provides business consulting services. They specialize in consulting with government agencies and private companies that operate on public lands. Over a three-year span, the company installed water reduction equipment, stopped stocking disposable office products and implemented renewable energy throughout the building. They also promoted a bike-to-work program and provided bicycles for employees. Through their efforts to improve Colorado’s sustainability, Management and Engineering Services embodies the purpose of their own work in environmental business solutions.

Learn more about the 2021 EPA Region 8 Pollution Prevention (P2) Award Program here.

How the US stole thousands of Native American children: The long and brutal history of the US trying to “kill the Indian and save the man.” — Vox

Click the link to read the article on the Vox website (Ranjani Chakraborty). Here’s an excerpt:

For decades, the US took thousands of Native American children and enrolled them in off-reservation boarding schools. Students were systematically stripped of their languages, customs, and culture. And even though there were accounts of neglect, abuse, and death at these schools, they became a blueprint for how the US government could forcibly assimilate native people into white America.

At the peak of this era, there were more than 350 government-funded, and often church-run, Native American boarding schools across the US.

A rough map of 357 Native American boarding schools. Alvin Chang/Ranjani Chakraborty

The schools weren’t just a tool for cultural genocide. They were also a way to separate native children from their land. During the same era in which thousands of children were sent away, the US encroached on tribal lands through war, broken treaties, and new policies.

As years of indigenous activism led the US to begin phasing out the schools, the government found a new way to assimilate Native American children: adoption. Native children were funneled into the child welfare system. And programs, like the little-known government “Indian Adoption Project” intentionally placed them with white adoptive families.

In our latest episode of Missing Chapter, we explore this long legacy of the forced assimilation of Native American children. And how native families are still fighting back against the impacts today.

How to Live a More Zero Waste Lifestyle — The City of #Boulder #ActOnClimate

Bulk section of the grocery store. Photo credit: City of Boulder

Click the link to read the article from the City of Boulder website (Leah Kelleher):

Individual action matters

The most affordable and effective way to keep waste out of the landfill is to avoid creating it in the first place. To this end, the city aims to build a circular economy that focuses on the reuse and repair of an increasing number of items.

Individual action is the backbone for societal impact and systemic change. By reducing how much each of us buys new and reusing materials as much as possible, we collectively save energy, natural resources and money.

Together, we can achieve our goal of 85% waste diversion by 2025 and become a zero waste community.

Here are 12 ways to reduce and reuse on a daily basis.

  • Practice zero waste dining by using reusable takeout containers through the Repeater app.
  • Reduce your food waste by planning weekly meals, buying only what you need, and donating unused food to local food banks.
  • Borrow, share and rent items when possible. Borrow a book or movie from the library or swap clothes with a friend. Rent tools from the Tool Library at Resource Central.
Swap books in neighborhood library boxes around the city. Photo credit: City of Boulder
  • Repurpose worn out items by turning them into fun, creative projects. An old shirt could be transformed into a reusable bag, quilt or cleaning rags.
  • Repair items with life left. Check out Boulder U-Fix-It Clinic events for repair trainings.
  • Try to cut down on plastic purchases at the grocery store by shopping in the bulk section or buying products in certified compostable packaging. If your favorite grocery store does not have a bulk section, let them know that reducing packaging by buying in bulk is important to you.
Learn how to repair your bike by attending a local workshop. Photo credit: City of Boulder
  • Bring reusable containers to grocery stores for produce and bulk purchases, and to restaurants for leftovers. Glass jars, cloth bags and plastic containers are great vessels for bulk and produce purchases at your local grocery store, and they reduce the amount of material sent to the recycling center. Instead of reaching for single-use plastic and compostable produce bags, bring your own reusable cotton bags.
Replace plastic produce bags for reusable cloth and mesh bags. Photo credit: City of Boulder
  • Shop for used clothes, shoes, furniture and other items from thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets and consignment shops.
  • Donate gently-used items to secondhand stores.
  • Bring reusable bags whenever you shop. This helps keep disposable plastic bags out of the landfill, conserves water and energy required to produce paper bags, and saves you 10 cents per bag at local grocery stores.
  • Carry reusable water bottles and coffee mugs when you are on the go.
  • Look for products made with recycled materials. These products help create a market for our recyclables – allowing them to circulate in our economy.
Bring a reusable coffee container when visiting your local coffee shop. Photo credit: City of Boulder

Film: Craig, America — @AmericanRivers #YampaRiver #ActOnClimate

Learn more about the Yampa River at…
Read about one person’s first trip down the Yampa –…
Support American Rivers and our work across the country –…

A story of transition and renewal in the rural west, Craig, America shares the many perspectives that encompass a community upheld by coal but looks towards a future without it. It brings to life the unique story of Craig, Colorado, and how its people, economy, and community are both resilient and adaptive.

Craig, Colorado is a small town in Northwest Colorado, about 40 miles west of Steamboat Springs. While Craig lies in the high mountain plains above the meandering Yampa River, it is a case study as a town, and region, that is in transition. Craig has traditionally been a town defined by the extraction of fossil fuels and ranching. There are multiple coal mines, and energy generating stations (power plants) in the area. Under pressure from environmental groups and government agencies state-wide and nationally, the owners of Craig Station voted unanimously to close all three units of Craig Station, one of Colorado’s largest coal-fired power plants, by 2030. The decision to close the plant will send waves of change across the city of Craig and surrounding Moffat Country for decades to come, costing the region hundreds of high-paying jobs, removing an estimated 60% of the town’s tax revenue, and forcing a reckoning with its future.

Fortunately, Craig sits in a region of abundant beauty, and accessible opportunities for outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing, rafting, hiking and mountain biking and other pursuits or plentiful. As the recreation economy grows, Craig is in an ideal position to make that transition as well. As Jennifer Holloway, the new Executive Director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce puts it, “Craig is a community with a lot of opportunities, and in a unique moment to seize them.” As the town reckons with the closure of the plant and surrounding mines, a growing coalition of leaders and community advocates are working to save their town and move from a extraction based economy to one focused in recreation, tourism, and that centers the health and well being of our planet and its inhabitants.

This situation in Craig is one in which we are currently seeing across the United States. As renewable sources of energy continue to grow in demand and the profitability of coal continues to plummet in tandem with its role in climate change, small towns and cities that depend on these industries are questioning their future. The story of Craig can be a moment of hope for many regions across the country, and potentially a guidepost for how they can embrace the natural beauty of their regions, rather than think of them only for extraction and consumption.

The power of place names: The #Colorado naming advisory board recommends new designations for 28 geological sites considered offensive to Native American populations — Metropolitan State University of #Denver

Sloans Lake with Mount Blue Sky in the background April 2, 2021.

Click the link to read the article on the Metropolitan State University of Denver website (Jill McGranahan):

U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland issued an order in November declaring “squaw” a derogatory term and established a task force to rename more than 600 geographical sites across the country that have the word in their names.

“Squaw” — a racist and sexist term for Native American women — is just the latest target for renaming as the United States continues to reconcile historical names and events to modern sensibilities. Haaland also called for the creation of a complementary Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names to solicit, review and recommend changes to other derogatory geographic and federal place names.

“Place names are very powerful,” said Sara Jackson Shumate, Ph.D., a human geographer and the director of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Center for Individualized Learning. “It’s important to rethink our landscapes and what we are valuing through these geographical names.”

The federal Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force convened by Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico and the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency, has recommended 28 sites in Colorado for renaming. All of those sites incorporate the word “squaw.”

The task force works closely with the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which gives final determinations for standardizing the names of geographic and natural features. The board is a federal body created in 1890 that was established to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government.

As you begin to descend towards Echo Lake on the Squaw Pass road, Mt Evans and its barely visible road come into focus. Photo credit: Colorado Bike Maps

“You can’t erase history,” said Adriana Nieto, Ph.D., associate professor chair of Chicana/o Studies at MSU Denver. “Changing geological names doesn’t change our history; it reframes it. Reframing history is important because it points out the holes. Naming important places should be a way to remember or learn about important people and events. It changes what we talk about.”

Nieto said she’s hopeful the conversation is now happening at the national level. “It means it won’t go away easily like it has at a local level,” Nieto said. “A lot of credit goes to Secretary Haaland, who has created an opening for a conversation and brought the significance of names to the public eye.”

Local efforts

Jared Polis established the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board last year to evaluate proposals concerning name changes, new names and name controversies of geographic features and public places in Colorado.

In September, the board made its first recommendation: to change the name of Squaw Mountain in Clear Creek County to Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain. Pronounced mess-taw-HAY, the name honors an influential Cheyenne translator known as Owl Woman.

Other discussions at the state level include renaming Negro Creek and Negro Mesa in Delta County to Clay Creek and Clay Mesa, respectively; changing the name of Redskin Mountain in Jefferson County to Mount Jerome; and renaming Mount Evans as Mount Blue Sky, the name the Arapaho people call themselves.

Mount Evans was named for Territorial Gov. John Evans, who oversaw the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, in which volunteer soldiers attacked a Cheyenne and Arapaho village, killing approximately 750 people.

Jackson Shumate is hopeful that renaming such a well-known site might spur conversations about past and current values.

“People vacation at these sites. If we start renaming places like Denali (from Mount McKinley) and Mount Evans, it creates an inflection point to begin a critical conversation about our past and what we value as Americans and Coloradans,” Jackson Shumate said. “Do we want the [a] peak in Colorado to be named for a territorial governor who was forced to resign because of his part in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre and its subsequent coverup or something we can all be proud of?”

Mount Evans from Summit Lake. By Boilerinbtown – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Mount Evans’ name change may soon be a reality. On Tuesday, the Clear Creek County commissioners recommended changing its name to Mount Blue Sky. The recommendation will go to the state Geographic Naming Advisory Board and Polis before a final decision.

Last June, Colorado legislators passed Senate Bill 116, which prohibits the use of American Indian symbols and names by Colorado public schools beginning this June. Schools that do not come into compliance by June 1 face a $25,000 monthly fine.

“These efforts are steps, albeit baby ones, in the right direction,” Jackson Shumate said. “This is scratching the surface of what really needs to change, which is how we think about and relate to one another, but it gets us moving in the right direction.”

Stunning timelapse of the Earth rising over the Moon as captured by Japanese lunar orbiter spacecraft Kaguya — JAXA/NHK-

“We’re water beings on a water planet” — Wallace J. Nichols

Oligarchs and #Pueblo’s steel mill — @BigPivots

Putin crony Roman Abramovich’s ownership of London’s Chelsea soccer club has been crimped by sanctions levied by the U.K. The Colorado steel mill of which he is a major owner is operating as usual—for now. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots Website (Allen Best):

In the early 20th century Pueblo’s steel mill was owned by American oligarchs, John Rockefeller Jr., the descendants of Jay Gould, and others. Might ownership of that steel mill—and Colorado’s largest solar array—revert to American ownership as a result of the Russian war against Ukraine?

Now called Evraz, the steel mill is owned primarily by Russian oligarchs, with Roman Abramovich having the largest stake.

The United States has not yet imposed sanctions on Abramovich, unlike the United Kingdom and Canada. That leaves his ownership stake in the Pueblo steel mill intact as well as his ownership of two houses in Snowmass Village.

In Pueblo, there are doubts that the mill could end up being cut off from its Russian owners because the product is for the domestic consumption, not for export.

But then Chelsea, the soccer club in London that Abramovich owns, is no longer selling tickets, the result of sanctions applied last Thursday by the United Kingdom. As long as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues, ownership of the plant in Pueblo will remain an active question.

Evraz North America, which operates the steel mill, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Evraz, a company incorporated under laws of the United Kingdom, with shares traded on the London Stock Exchange—until last Thursday.

In sanctioning Evraz, the British government accused Roman Abramovich, the largest shareholder, of being a “pro-Kremlin oligarch” who has received preferential treatment and concessions from Putin and the Russian government and “is or has been involved in destabilizing Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”

The statement also accused Evraz of “potentially supplying steel to the Russian military, which may have been used in the production of tanks.” In response to a Financial Times inquiry, the company insisted it only made steel for the “infrastructure and construction” sectors, the Financial Times reported.

The Financial Times last Friday also reported that 10 members of Evraz had resigned after the United Kingdom’s action.

Canada last Friday also imposed sanctions on Abramovich, and on Tuesday so did the European Union.

Within hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States imposed actions against several Russian oligarchs and institutions, but not Abramovich nor Evraz.

Five Russians own two-thirds of Evraz’s shares. Second to Abramovich in holdings is Alexander Abramov, a former scientist who founded Evraz in 1992. The other three are also Russian oligarchs, reported the Pueblo Chieftain in a March 5 story.

An oligarch is defined as a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence. An oligarchy is a country ruled by oligarchs. Forbes in 2021 ranked Abramovich as 12th wealthiest among Russia’s billionaires, with a net worth of $14.5 billion.

Evraz also has steel, mining, and vanadium operations in Russia, the Czech Republic, and Kazakhstan.

In the United States, Evraz has mills in Pueblo, which has 1,100 employees, and in Portland, Ore. It also has five mills in Canada, three in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan, according to its website.

This is from Big Pivots 54. Please consider subscribing to get issues of the e-journal.

Evraz also has scrap operations, including one along the South Platte River north of downtown Denver.

Nowhere has there been even a suggestion that the Pueblo steel mill or other operations in North America have directly supported the Russian war effort.

The Pueblo mill primarily uses recycled steel to make its products, which requires a lower temperature than is necessary when using iron ore and other raw resources. Foundry operations became electrified in the early 1970s, the result of construction of the nearby Comanche 1 and 2 coal-burning units.
Early last November, a 298-megawatt solar farm was completed on land owned by Evraz between the steel mill and beyond the Comanche units. This allowed the steel company to proclaim that it had become the first solar-powered steel mill in the world, as Big Pivots explained. Financial and other details of that claim have never been made public.

The investment in the solar farm hinged upon plans to go forward with construction of a $500 million mill that will make quarter-mile rail segments that Union Pacific, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, and other railroads want. The construction project employs 400 to 500 people.

Jeffrey Shaw, chief executive of the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, says the impact to Pueblo and the steel mill there appears to be nil.

“We have asked what the impact of the global geopolitical front will be to the facility, and the answer we have gotten back (from Evraz) is—consistent with what has been reported—that they are moving forward with the facility,” he says. He also points that the market for the products of the steel mill is domestic, not foreign.

Driving by the mill, construction work continues with no evidence of slowdown. “We’re very optimistic that it will carry on” as planned, he added.

The Pueblo Chieftain story by editor Karin Zeitvogel reported no changes evident at the steel mill in early March. “We haven’t seen anything yet, and everything is just like it was a week ago,” said Eric Ludwig, president of the United Steelworkers 2102 Union, a week after the invasion.

The Evraz annual report for 2021 noted the cloudy global horizon, referring to Ukraine five times and potential for sanctions nine times. The report mentions the “worsening situation relating to Ukraine and heightened risk of the economic sanctions.”

In modeling, the company also described a “severe downside scenario” that could cause it to reduce capital spending by $500 million a year.

Might that include the work on the new Pueblo mill? No mention there.

Abramovich was the focus of a lengthy New York Times article on Sunday that explored his ties with the United States and other western countries. An orphan who grew up in a town along the Volga River, he dropped out of college and then emerged from the Red Army in the late 1980s just as the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was opening new opportunities for private enterprise. Abramovich, says the Times, thrived as a trader—of almost anything and everything, it would seem.

The big break for Abramovich came in the mid-1990s, when he and a partner persuaded the Russian government to sell them a state-run oil company for $200 million. In 2005, he sold his stake back to that government for $11.9 billion.

His holdings include the Chelsea soccer team in London, which he bought in 2003 and which he was frantically trying to sell last week before the UK sanctions. The sanctions prohibit the club from selling tickets to matches.

The Times said leaders of cultural, educational and medical institutions, along with a chief rabbi, had sent a letter urging the United States not to impose sanctions on Abramovich, a major donor to Jewish and other causes.

A request to the American ambassador to Israel “reflects the extraordinary effort Mr. Abramovich, 55, has made over the last two decades to parlay his Russian fortune into elite standing in the West,” said the Times, going on to describe his houses, his art works, his yachts, his private 787 jet, and more.
That includes real estate in Colorado’s most elite resort community. The Aspen Times on March 1 explained that Abramovich has owned two houses in Snowmass Village since 2008. One 12,859-square-foot house has 11 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms and sits on 200 acres of land. The smaller 5,492-square-foot house sits on 1.8 acres of land.

Abramovich’s name is also prominent in Aspen, reported Rick Carroll of the Aspen Times. Lettering on the outside of a synagogue on Main Street in Aspen suggests Abramovich and his now ex-wife Dasha were major donors.

Russia’s oligarchs have “used their ill-gotten gains to try to launder their reputations in the West,” Thomas Graham, a Russian scholar from the Council on Foreign Relations, told the New York Times. “But the message of these sanctions is, that is not going to protect you.”

Michael McFaul, an American ambassador to Moscow during the Obama administration, described disingenuous behavior on several sides. He told the Times that while Putin’s government claimed to despise the United States and its allies, his foreign ministry was constantly trying to help the oligarchs around him, including Abramovich, obtain visas so they could ingratiate themselves with the Western elite.

“On our side, we have been playing right along,” he said, overlooking ties of the oligarchs to Putin and welcoming them and their money.

Sources also told the Times that the relationship that Abramovich and other oligarchs enjoyed with Putin cut both ways. After Putin was inaugurated president in 2000, he quickly moved to dominate the billionaires who had profited from privatization, sending a message by jailing the richest and most powerful oligarch. Abramovich is one of the few early elites who remained in Putin’s circle.

Putin’s display of force, however, also gave oligarchs freedom to establish ties in the West—as potential places to land.

As for Pueblo, it’s had ups and downs in the last 141 years it has been making steel. The mill was a consequence of Pueblo having rail connections, water, and proximity to coal, iron ore, and limestone. Coal mines at Crested Butte, Redstone, and elsewhere supplied the smoke-belching mill that was then called Colorado Fuel & Iron.

Much of the old CF&I plant at Pueblo remains standing even as a new long-rail mill goes up. Photos/Allen Best

CF&I was owned by American-born oligarchs of their day. A smaller figure was John Cleveland Osgood and the larger names were John Rockefeller Jr. and Jay Gould.

Ruins of the Ludlow Colony near Trinidad, Colorado, following an attack by the Colorado National Guard. Forms part of the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress. By Bain News Service – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs divisionunder the digital ID ggbain.15859.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain,

There have been downsides for Pueblo, too, including a bloody strike in the coalfields south of Pueblo in 1913-1914. The strike culminated in the deaths of 21 miners and their families, including 2 women and 11 children in what is remembered as the Ludlow Massacre. In 1921, a flood killed at least 78 and likely many more while swamping the downtown district and other low-lying areas.

The steel mill at one time employed 12,000 people and, by the 1970s, paid handsomely and gave months-long vacations to employees with greater seniority. Going into 1990, CF&I teetered into bankruptcy. It was acquired by Oregon Steel in 1993 and the name was changed to Rocky Mountain Steel Mills. In 2007, it and other Oregon Steel holdings were acquired by Evraz for $2.3 billion.

Happy Pi Day

A Pi Day pie from Reilly’s Bakery in Biddeford at Biddeford High School in Biddeford, ME on Friday, March 13, 2015. (Photo by Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

SOUND UP for today’s moment of Zen. Hear the trumpet of Sandhill cranes arriving by the 1000s for stopover — @CPW_SE

@ColoradoStateU, biotech company partnering on RNA-based method for weed control

Wheat. Photo credit: Colorado State University

Click the link to read the release on the Colorado State University website (Anne Manning):

For generations, farmers have relied on the spraying of herbicides to prevent invasive plants and weeds from choking their soybean, corn and wheat crops. But over the last several years, this tried-and-true system has been faltering.

Weeds are quickly evolving resistance to even the most advanced herbicides, including glyphosate – better known as Roundup – which was first introduced to farmers in the 1970s by agrochemical giant Monsanto. Herbicide-resistant weeds have brought farmers to their knees, desperate for solutions for protecting their crops.

Todd Gaines, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Biology, is one of weeds’ worst enemies. His expertise is in the molecular and genetic underpinnings of the most highly evolved superweeds of the world, with the goal of helping farmers target these foes with new, genetically precise and sustainable methods.

Palmer Amaranth in the Field. Photo credit: United Soybean Board

Gaines is now leading a project aimed at changing the game of weed control by using an entirely new mode of action to combat the most out-of-control weed species, king among them, a noxious, highly herbicide-resistant weed called Palmer amaranth.

Biotech company partnership

Gaines is partnering with biotechnology company AUM LifeTech to research the application and methods of an emerging gene-silencing weed control technology. Their method uses molecular tools called antisense oligonucleotides, which are next-generation single-stranded nucleic acid molecules, to infiltrate the cells of weed plants and target single strands of RNA. The molecular targets would be so specific that the crops would remain untouched.

Their goal is to optimize a delivery system in the form of a nanoparticle-based, shelf-stable spray. If they’re successful, their technology would give farmers a non-genetically modified, environmentally conscious tool to control weeds that are rapidly gaining the upper hand against legacy herbicides.

“This is the most exciting thing I have ever worked on in terms of promise,” Gaines said. “If we can solve this problem, this will be something every single person out there managing weeds will be affected by.”

He added that among his larger goals is to help make farming systems more sustainable, both by helping farmers maintain their livelihoods, and by making products that are safe for the public and the environment. “We need to help ensure we are not harming other organisms, while also managing these weeds.”

DARPA funding

Gaines and collaborator Veenu Aishwarya, founder and Chief Executive Officer of AUM LifeTech, are funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for their two-year project, in which they will prove out the fundamental technology and test a delivery system.

Their system will focus on Palmer amaranth as a test case, a hardy and aggressive pigweed that exhibits extensive herbicide resistance and is a growing problem for commodity farmers. Its genome has been sequenced thanks in part to an international weed genomics consortium that Gaines also leads.

Antisense oligonucleotide technology is better known in life science applications because of its promise as a targeted therapeutic device for a host of diseases, including neurological and autoimmune disorders. But Aishwarya has long seen the potential for these single-stranded DNA molecules to be useful in agricultural settings, and he wants to expand his company in that direction.

“Since our gene silencing products use a non-GMO and non-permanent approach, this makes this technology very attractive for such applications,” said Aishwarya in a press release announcing the partnership.

A chance encounter with Gaines at an agricultural biotechnology conference several years ago paved the way for the partnership; now, AUM LifeTech’s proprietary gene silencing technology will form the basis of the RNA-targeting system he and Gaines will develop and test together.

“Todd’s work in collaboration with AUM LifeTech in RNA targeting to develop next-generation herbicides is an exciting example of CSU’s leadership in life science breakthroughs for agricultural applications,” said Alan Rudolph, vice president for research and a former program manager at DARPA. “The awarding of DARPA funds to address the intractable problem of herbicide resistance speaks to the extraordinary work of Todd and his team in developing new, molecular strategies to combat the worst effects of invasive plant species on our food supply.”

Coyote Gulch’s preference is “Mount Blue Sky” as the new name for Mount Evans

Sloans Lake with Mount Blue Sky in the background April 2, 2021.

The place that #coal built and #wildfire burned: Extractive industry laid the infrastructure for the suburban sprawl that fueled #Colorado’s destructive #MarshallFire — @HighCountryNews

Photo of the Dhanoa family by Caleb Santiago Alvarado/High Country News

Click here to read the article on the High Country News website (Kate Schimel) [February 7, 2022]:

When she first saw the smoke, Gurjeet Dhanoa thought it was a dust storm. She watched it as she pumped gas at a Conoco off the highway between Boulder and Denver, Colorado. But when she got back in the car, a cop car pulled out in front of her. The officer told her to turn around and go back. “Something is very, very wrong here,” she thought.

She turned, drove to a ridge a few minutes away, and, for the first time, saw clearly what would soon be called the Marshall Fire. Pushed by winds so strong she could barely stand upright, the fire cut through the suburb of Superior toward the home where her mother, a recent cancer survivor on oxygen, lived. Dhanoa called her brother, who lived with their parents and cared for their mother, and told them to evacuate now; there was no time to grab anything. They jumped in the car and escaped to Dhanoa’s house, a couple of miles away. From Dhanoa’s perch on the ridge, she watched the smoke plume of the burning houses grow so large it hid the flames.

When Dhanoa got home, the fire had not yet made the TV news. The danger seemed to have faded. “It’s not real,” she remembers thinking. “Your mind keeps trying to joke about this.” Her brother said they should prepare, just in case, so she packed up some photo albums and a chest filled with childhood memorabilia. She called her son and husband, who were on a hunting trip, and asked what they’d save. Arjun, 14, asked for a jersey and his Wayne Gretzky card, and Dhanoa’s husband requested a trophy elk mount and his old stick-shift Bronco. “All those years you’ve had that Bronco, you’ve never taught me how to drive it,” she reminded him. They left it behind.

UNLIKE SO MANY of Colorado’s wildfires, the Marshall Fire began out on the plains. The flames tore through grasslands and shrubs and burned more than 1,000 homes, making it the most destructive in the state’s history. Boulder County, once a coal-mining hub, now faced a destructive fire regime, fueled in part by the carbon that was mined there a century ago.

Boulder and the suburbs surrounding it sit at the divide between the Great Plains and the Rockies. The Flatirons — the steep rock faces west of town — draw the eye, but the low roll of the plains rising up to their base is just as significant. This is the shortgrass prairie, stretching north into Canada, south into Texas and east into Kansas, the Dakotas and Oklahoma. It was once the home and hunting grounds of Arapahoe and Cheyenne communities, before the Sand Creek Massacre and treaty violations drove them into Oklahoma in the 1800s.

The Front Range plains are scruffy, typically sparser than the tall and mixed-grass prairies to the east. From the steep hogbacks of the foothills, they look like a smooth sea of green in the spring and gold in the winter. Before the towns were built, wildfires were infrequent but massive, spreading swiftly through the grass.

Housing developments now dominate the Front Range. In Boulder County, the suburbs were often built on the scaffolds of old coal-mining towns. A map from 1915 shows the Northern Coal Field of Colorado running beneath much of the Marshall Fire burn area: Louisville, once the heart of that coal field, now a quiet suburb where more than 500 homes burned; Old Town Superior, home to people who worked at the Industrial, Enterprise and Monarch mines; and Marshall Mesa, a swath of open space where trail signs remind hikers of the coal seam fires that burned underground and where the Marshall Fire may have started.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the miners repeatedly went on strike, sometimes for years, over pay and working conditions. In an oral history recorded in 1978, Thomas Kerr, a former miner, described how they used explosives underground in the 1930s: “Couldn’t breathe. Dust and smoke. That black powder — awful lot of smoke.” In 1936, an explosion killed eight men working the graveyard shift at the Monarch #2 coal mine. Nearly a century later, in Superior, even Dhanoa and her family knew of that tragedy.

A disaster recovery researcher told me that what we call catastrophes, whether fires, floods or collapsing coal mines, are essentially change, compressed in time. Monarch closed a decade later, and many of the nearby mines followed suit, clearing the way for entirely different settlers.

The prairie makes way for the coal mine. The coal mine becomes a suburb. Most people in Boulder today have jobs in tech or health care or service work. They are often drawn to the area by the promise of the Rockies, dreaming of exploring those high mountains, but they build their lives on the prairie.

Since the 1970s, new housing developments have transformed the shortgrass prairie. Driven by rising prices in Boulder and Denver and the desire to escape the city’s perceived woes, wanting more land or a larger home, people flocked to the suburbs. From an airplane, the houses form an irregular grid that stretches from horizon to horizon.

Firefighting aircraft dropping fire retardant on the Flagstaff fire (2012). By User:Runningonbrains, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In June 2012, during a hot, dry summer, lightning started a fire that quickly burned right up to the crest of the Flatirons that form Boulder’s back wall. From the windows of my childhood home, I saw the wind blow embers over the ridge, igniting the trees on our side. My father explained that fire was far less likely to burn downhill, but we still packed up to leave. Later, after the fire was under control, I watched the smoke plume from the plains. At least nine other notable fires started that month in Colorado, including two that set new state records for how many homes they destroyed.

Looking back, that fire seems like the start of a new era for my hometown, a time when the decisions of the past — the development of the prairie and our dependence on fossil fuels — finally find their consequences. Back then, I could imagine living with fires like that, finding ways to survive and prepare, to be resilient and tough as we faced the climate crisis. The woods surrounding Boulder continued to burn — in 2018 down Bear Creek and then again in 2020 through the north edge of town. Alongside the floods and waning snows, they came to feel like habitual crises.

In a video made after the Marshall Fire, Dhanoa’s brother Mandip tallied the family’s losses. “You see the trailer and mom’s car? That’s all that’s left. Those stairs going up to the right, that’s where my office was,” he quietly narrates. The view shifts to Dhanoa’s house, miles from the start of the burn. “That’s all that’s left, that little fence. That fence is all that’s left.”

Dhanoa’s home burned to the ground. She rescued that one carful of treasured things and no more. The house where her parents and brother lived was lost, along with all their belongings. Across the street from her parents, a house she once lived in and now rented out burned, too. Her tenants couldn’t get back in time, and they lost their pets and everything in the home.

When I spoke with Dhanoa two weeks after the fire, she was at her restaurant, the Tandoori Grill, as her staff deep-cleaned the kitchen. We talked for nearly two hours and, for the most part, she spoke enthusiastically and with great precision about her life. She told me affectionately of the close, warm community that grew out of the old mining town, between the strip malls and sprawl. “Some of them had no idea that this little small town existed in what they thought was a giant suburb,” she said.

But when she talked about her restaurant, she sounded tired. I ate there often when I was growing up; I remember the neat silver trays of the buffet and the crisp white tablecloths next to windows that looked out on a quiet south Boulder mall. When Dhanoa looks around now, though, she sees the evidence of what they survived: the booths they shoved together to sleep on, and the clothes strewn about from when they briefly lived there after evacuating.

“It’s a disaster in the restaurant. I have no ability to deal with it,” she told me. Everything that was stored at the house, from her checkbooks to her menu templates, burned. She can no longer find the answers to even the routine questions her staff has.

It had already been a hard year. Dhanoa, her husband, Paul, and the staff worked long hours to stay afloat during the pandemic. Then her mother was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and with cancer, now in remission. The fire scattered her once tight-knit neighborhood to the winds, and she doesn’t know if the people will return.

“People keep reaching out and trying to help. They don’t know how to help, and they keep asking. I don’t know what to ask for,” she said. “They feel guilty they can’t help. Because I see they feel guilty, I feel guilty. ”

The day after the fire, the smoke blew away. Snow finally fell. It arrived too late to stop the flames from sweeping through town, but it laid a quiet blanket over the wreckage. A few weeks after that, investigators announced they had narrowed down the fire’s suspected causes. One possibility: an underground fire still burning away in one of the region’s abandoned coal mines.

With Spike in Concern Over #Drought, #Wildfire and #ClimateChange, Westerners Are Eager for Action to Protect Public Lands, New Poll Finds — #Colorado College @RockiesProject

Click the link to read the release from The State of the Rockies Project (Katrina “Kat” Miller-Stevens and Jacob Hay):

Twelfth annual Conservation in the West Poll reveals strong support for policies to protect more outdoor spaces

Colorado College’s 12th annual State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today showed a spike in concern over issues like drought, inadequate water supplies, wildfires, the loss of wildlife habitats and natural spaces, and climate change among voters in the Mountain West. Those concerns align with continued strong support for pro-conservation policies.

The poll, which surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming), found 69 percent of voters are concerned about the future of nature, meaning land, water, air, and wildlife. That level of concern was a notable jump from 61 percent in last year’s poll. Against that backdrop, 86 percent of Western voters now say issues involving clean water, clean air, wildlife and public lands are important in their decision of whether to support an elected official, up from 80 percent in 2020 and 75 percent in 2016.

“We are seeing a perfect storm of threats that are driving higher levels of concern than ever before for the state of our lands and water in the Mountain West,” said Katrina Miller-Stevens, Director of the State of the Rockies Project and an associate professor at Colorado College. “Not surprisingly, most voters are aligning behind policies that would help mitigate threats by conserving and protecting more outdoor spaces.”

After the climb out of Coyote Gulch at Jacob Hambiln Arch (2000).

Consistent with prior year results, voters in the Mountain West feel deeply connected to the outdoor landscapes that surround them. 88 percent of voters surveyed report at least one visit to national public lands like national parks, national forests, national monuments, and national wildlife refuges in the past year. Similarly, 93 percent report participating regularly in outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, camping, picnicking, bird and wildlife watching, biking, water sports, snow sports, hunting, and fishing. 74 percent say the presence of public lands in their state helps the local economy.

At the same time, 48 percent of voters report making changes to where or when they recreate outdoors because of crowding and 26 percent adjusted plans because of changes in climate like fires, less snow, or less water. 53 percent of voters view the loss of natural areas as a very or extremely serious problem, up from 44 percent in 2020 and 36 percent in 2011.

Ranking and time evolution of summer (June–August) drought severity as indicated by negative 0–200 cm soil moisture anomalies. Maps show how gridded summer drought severity in each year from 2000–2021 ranked among all years 1901–2021, where low (brown) means low soil moisture and therefore high drought severity. Yellow boxes bound the southwestern North America (SWNA) study region. Time series shows standardized anomalies (σ) of the SWNA regionally averaged soil moisture record relative to a 1950–1999 baseline. Black time series shows annual values and the red time series shows the 22-year running mean, with values displayed on the final year of each 22-year window. Geographic boundaries in maps were accessed through Matlab 2020a.

Climate change seen as a threat with voters expressing concern over impacts

Most voters in the Mountain West, 62 percent, believe climate change is happening and requires action. Among them, 44 percent agree climate change is established as a serious problem and immediate action is necessary. Another 18 percent say there is enough evidence of climate change that some action should be taken. 52 percent of voters view climate change as a very serious or extremely serious problem, up from 46 percent in 2020 and 27 percent in 2011.

Voters express heightened concern about impacts commonly associated with climate change.

Smog blankets Salt Lake City. Photo credit Wikimedia Commons.
  • 79 percent are concerned about worse air quality due to ozone and smoke.
  • West Drought Monitor map February 15, 2022.
  • 86 percent are concerned about droughts and reduced snowpack.
  • Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River. Photo credit: CDOT via Roads & Bridges
  • 61 percent are concerned about extreme weather events like intense storms or floods.
  • Daytime high temperatures across the western United States on June 23-28, 2021, according to data from NOAA’s Real-Time Mesoscale Analysis/URMA. animation based on NOAA URMA data.
  • 69 percent are concerned about extreme heat.
  • The East Troublesome Fire burns in Grand County in October 2020. Credit: Northern Water
  • 82 percent are concerned about more frequent and severe wildfires.
  • Marshall Fire December 30, 2021. Photo credit: Boulder County
  • 62 percent say uncontrollable wildfires that threaten homes and property are a very or extremely serious problem, up from 47 percent in 2020 and 32 percent in 2016.
  • USFS highest risk firesheds January 2022.
  • 70 percent say wildfires are more of a problem than ten years ago.
  • Continued super-majority support for conservation and access efforts

    Westerners’ heightened concerns about climate change and its impacts are matched with strong consensus behind proposals to conserve and protect the country’s outdoors.

    Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy
  • 77 percent support setting a national goal of conserving thirty percent of land and inland waters in America, and thirty percent of its ocean areas by the year 2030.
  • Sandhill Cranes West of Dunes by NPS/Patrick Myers
  • 80 percent support creating new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges and tribal protected areas to protect historic sites or areas for outdoor recreation.
  • The water replenishing the delta takes a circuitous path. A maze of irrigation infrastructure and long-neglected side channels delivers water to the 160-acre El Chaussé habitat restoration site, located 45 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border in Baja California, and to downstream river segments. Photo: Claudio Contreras Koob
  • 91 percent support addressing the backlog of infrastructure repairs, reducing risk of wildfires, and natural resource protection on national public lands such as national parks by providing jobs and training to unemployed people.
  • Arapahoe County Open Spaces opened a new trailhead on South Quebec Way in southeast Denver. The site includes parking, a bathroom, a trash can and a trail map. Adding new trailheads is major goal of the High Line Canal Conservancy to improve access and facilities for the public. Photo credit: Denver Water.
  • 81 percent support providing funding to ensure more communities, especially those that have historically lacked access, have safe and nearby parks and natural areas.
  • The Dolores River, below Slickrock, and above Bedrock. The Dolores River Canyon is included in a proposed National Conservation Area. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism.

    Locally, a variety of proposed conservation efforts are popular with in-state voters. In Arizona, 61 percent of voters support legislation to make permanent the current ban on new uranium and other mining on public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. 89 percent of Coloradans agree with protecting existing public lands surrounding the Dolores River Canyon to conserve important wildlife habitat, safeguard the area’s scenic beauty, and support outdoor recreation. 79 percent of Montanans support enacting the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act to ensure hunting and fishing access, protect stream flows into the Blackfoot River and add eighty thousand acres of new protected public lands for recreation areas, along with timber harvest and habitat restoration. In New Mexico, 73 percent of voters want to designate existing public lands in the Caja del Rio plateau as a national conservation area to increase protections for grasslands and canyons along the Santa Fe river and other smaller rivers flowing into the Rio Grande. 79 percent of Nevadans want to designate existing public lands in southern Nevada as the Spirit Mountain National Monument to ensure outdoor recreation and help preserve sacred Native sites. In Utah, 60 percent of voters call President Biden’s restored protections for over a million acres of the Bears Ears National Monument “more of a good thing.”

    Spike in water issues viewed as very and extremely serious problems

    The level of concern among Westerners around water issues spiked in this year’s poll. Water issues viewed as very serious or extremely serious problems by voters include drought (73 percent, up from 52 percent in 2016) low levels of water in rivers (73 percent, up from 55 percent in 2020), inadequate water supplies (71 percent, up from 45 percent in 2020), and pollution in rivers, lakes and streams (56 percent, up from 42 percent in 2011).

    Those concerns translate into strong support for water conservation efforts aimed at addressing water shortage situations in the future by voters in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. 81 percent prefer using water supplies more wisely by encouraging more water conservation, reducing use, and increasing water recycling. By contrast, 14 percent would rather divert more water from rivers in less populated areas of the state to communities where more people live.

    Asked about remote locations, 87 percent of voters across the survey support increasing federal funding to extend running water and sanitation services to rural areas and tribal communities that currently lack access.

    Voters seeking a cleaner and safer energy future on public lands

    With oil and gas drilling taking place on half of America’s public lands, Western voters are familiar with the harmful impacts and want to ensure their public lands are protected and safe. 43 percent of voters view the impacts of oil and gas drilling on land, air and water as an extremely or very serious problem.

    Turning to solutions, 91 percent of voters support requiring oil and gas companies to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas and other pollution into the air. 91 percent of voters support requiring oil and gas companies, rather than federal and state governments, to pay for all of the clean-up and land restoration costs after drilling is finished. On compensating the public for extraction, 65 percent of voters support increasing the fees that oil and gas companies pay to have the opportunity to drill on national public lands.

    Voters in the Mountain West prefer clean sources of energy. 66 percent of voters support gradually transitioning to one hundred percent of our energy being produced from clean, renewable sources like solar and wind over the next ten to fifteen years. Asked which sources of energy they want encouraged in their state, solar power and wind power top the list at 61 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

    Given a choice of public lands uses facing lawmakers, 67 percent of voters prefer ensuring we protect sources of clean water, air quality and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. By contrast, 28 percent of voters would rather ensure we produce more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available for responsible oil and gas drilling and mining.

    Nearly three-fourths of Western voters want to significantly curb oil and gas development on public lands. 55 percent think that oil and gas development should be strictly limited on public lands and another 15 percent say it should be stopped completely. That is compared to 28 percent of voters in the West who would like to expand oil and gas development on public lands. That is compared to 28 percent of voters in the West who would like to expand oil and gas development on public lands.

    Black, Latino and Native American voters support conservation at higher levels

    For the second consecutive year the poll examined the intersection of race with views on conservation priorities. Results were separated by responses from Black, Latino, and Native American voters, along with combined communities of color findings. The poll included an oversample of Black and Native American voters in the region in order to speak more confidently about the view of those communities.

    The poll found notably higher percentages of Black voters, Latino voters, and Native American voters to be concerned about climate change, pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams, and the impact of oil and gas drilling on our land, air, and water. The poll also found higher levels of support within communities of color for bold conservation policies like protecting 30 percent of the country’s lands and waters by 2030, establishing more national public lands and transitioning to one hundred percent renewable energy. Large majorities of Black voters, Latino voters, and Native American voters also believe in climate change and want to see action on it at even higher levels than the overall survey sample.

    This is the twelfth consecutive year Colorado College gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2022 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The survey is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

    The poll surveyed at least 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, & WY) for a total 3,400-voter sample, which included an over-sample of Black and Native American voters. The survey was conducted between January 5-23, 2022 and the effective margin of error is +2.4% at the 95% confidence interval for the total sample; and at most +4.8% for each state. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.

    Yosemite #Firefall – Horsetail Fall on February 21, 2019 — Beth Pratt

    This was the most spectacular firefall I have seen in my 20 years in Yosemite National Park — Beth Pratt

    Paper: Smokey the Beaver: beaver-dammed riparian corridors stay green during wildfire throughout the western United States — Ecological Society of America

    Conceptual model of vegetation response to normal, drought, and fire with and without beaver. Credit: ESA

    Click the link to read the paper from the Ecological Society of America (Emily Fairfax, Andrew Whittle). Here’s the abstract:

    Beaver dams are gaining popularity as a low-tech, low-cost strategy to build climate resiliency at the landscape scale. They slow and store water that can be accessed by riparian vegetation during dry periods, effectively protecting riparian ecosystems from droughts. Whether or not this protection extends to wildfire has been discussed anecdotally but has not been examined in a scientific context. We used remotely sensed Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data to compare riparian vegetation greenness in areas with and without beaver damming during wildfire. We include data from five large wildfires of varying burn severity and dominant landcover settings in the western United States in our analysis. We found that beaver-dammed riparian corridors are relatively unaffected by wildfire when compared to similar riparian corridors without beaver damming. On average, the decrease in NDVI during fire in areas without beaver is 3.05 times as large as it is in areas with beaver. However, plant greenness rebounded in the year after wildfire regardless of beaver activity. Thus, we conclude that, while beaver activity does not necessarily play a role in riparian vegetation post-fire resilience, it does play a significant role in riparian vegetation fire resistance and refugia creation.

    Photo credit: Wisconsin Wildlife Services

    International Day of Women and Girls in Science, February 11, 2022 #internationalwomenandgirlsinscienceday

    Hellchild in the lab 2021.

    Click on this link to go to the UN website:

    Full and equal access and participation for women and girls in science

    Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past decades, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.

    In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2015.

    Happy Birthday U.S. Forest Service (February 1st)

    Gifford Pinchot portrait via the Forest History Society

    Click here to go to the USFS History webpage:

    Federal forest management dates back to 1876 when Congress created the office of Special Agent in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assess the quality and conditions of forests in the United States. In 1881 the Department expanded the office into the Division of Forestry. A decade later Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorizing the President to designate public lands in the West into what were then called “forest reserves.” Responsibility for these reserves fell under the Department of the Interior until 1905 when President Theodore Roosevelt transferred their care to the Department of Agriculture’s new U.S. Forest Service. Gifford Pinchot led this new agency as its first Chief, charged with caring for the newly renamed national forests.

    National forests and grasslands

    Q&A with an expert: Winter Olympics in a warming world — CU #Boulder Today

    Mikaela Shiffrin via the Beijing Games website.

    From The University of Colorado (Kelsey Simpkins):

    When the 2022 Winter Olympics kick off in and around Beijing, China, this Friday it will mark the first time in the history of the Winter Games that outdoor events rely almost entirely on artificial snow.

    The mountains 100 miles north of the city, where ski and snowboarding events will be held, only receive about 7 to 8 inches of snow annually, so reliance on artificial snow was part of the picture when Beijing was selected to host. But recent estimates that it will take 49 million gallons of water to support snowmaking for the two-week event have some criticizing its environmental impacts. Meanwhile, a new 2022 report asserts that conditions created by artificial snow can be unpredictable and dangerous for athletes.

    Noah Molotch, associate professor of geography and co-director of the Mountain Hydrology Group at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), studies the distribution of snow in mountains around the world. CU Boulder Today spoke with Molotch about the science of human-made snow, its use at the Olympics, and how climate change may impact the future of snow sports around the world and right here in Colorado.

    Snowmaking. Photo credit: Allen Best

    What is artificial snow made of?

    Human-made snow is a replication of how snow forms naturally in the atmosphere. It requires compressed air, water and some type of small particle, known as a nucleating agent, for the ice crystal to form on, similar to how natural snow is formed. Other than that, the only weather conditions needed are relatively cold air temperatures, right around the freezing point (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Why is artificial snow useful for ski resorts?

    Ski resorts use it to augment natural snowfall. It’s denser than natural snowfall and it’s more cohesive, so it sticks together more effectively than natural snow once it’s on the ground. As a result, it creates pretty firm snow on ski runs, and that can be good for ski resorts that want to cover all the obstacles on the mountain. Then the natural snow that falls on top has a nice solid base to accumulate on. But it’s expensive to make: So most of the resorts in Colorado primarily do their snow making in the fall, or only until they get all the terrain open.

    Do people like skiing on human-made snow?

    In general, most recreational skiers don’t really like to ski on human-made snow because it’s so firm and icy. But because of that firmness and how icy it is, it’s actually really good for ski racing.

    How is snow a factor in who gets to host the Winter Olympics?

    It has to take place near a metropolitan area because of ice skating and all the other events that need the infrastructure of a metro area. Depending on what country the Olympics are in, that can put it at odds with proximity to mountains that get a lot of natural snowfall.

    The last time the Winter Olympics were in the United States it was in Salt Lake City, which is famous for its natural snowfall. But when you look at places like Sochi, which hosted the Olympics in 2014, and the locations near Beijing [Zhangjiakou and Yanqing] that are going to host the alpine skiing events this winter, they are actually famous for their lack of snowfall. So the criteria is not natural snowfall, but guaranteed conditions that are conducive for snowmaking. The most important thing is that you know that the temperatures will be cold enough to make snow.

    Is climate change affecting snowfall and snowpack here in Colorado?

    Looking solely at the amount of snow that we get each year, Colorado stands out as being a little less sensitive to the warming that’s occurred over the last 30 to 40 years. But when you look at how much that snow melts during the winter period over that same 30 to 40 years, in Colorado we see an increase in the amount of snow melt over time.

    That doesn’t mean the ski seasons have gotten shorter yet, but it means snow might get a bit slushier and icier. Depending on the kind of snow you like to ski on, I think of it as a deterioration in the quality of the skiing experience.

    How might climate change affect the Winter Games?

    It is inevitable that at some point in the future, the ski resorts that we currently ski on will not be viable. Whether or not that occurs in my lifetime is an open question, but within the lifetime of my grandchildren it is probable. That means we may be skiing somewhere else in the future. We’re going to have to start thinking higher in elevation when it comes to winter recreation, and we’ll fly longer distances than we’ve historically flown to go skiing.

    The same is likely true when you think about the Winter Olympics: Some of the locations that are viable now will not be viable in 30 to 50 years.

    Justice Greg Hobbs and Governor Richard Lamm. Lamm led the opposition to the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Colorado. Photo credit: Greg and Bobbie Hobbs

    What are Denver’s chances of hosting the Winter Games?

    I think it would be interesting to consider Denver as a location for the Winter Olympics! As the climate changes, Denver actually may become increasingly more viable as a place to host the Winter Olympics, compared with other places that aren’t quite naturally as cold and snowy.

    To mark #BlackHistoryMonth (February), #Yellowstone #CalderaChronicles goes back to 1896, when a group of Buffalo Soldiers took an 800-mile bicycle trek on one-speed bikes over unpaved roads and that included stops in Yellowstone National Park! — USGS

    From the USGS:

    Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles is a weekly column written by scientists and collaborators of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. This week’s contribution is from Michael Poland, geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

    The Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment Bicycle Corps pose on Minerva Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Pvt. John Findley, front left, was the primary bicycle mechanic for the unit, and so carried a heavy toolbox attached to his handlebars. Photo by F. Jay Haynes, 1896. Montana Historical Society Research Center, Haynes Foundation Photograph Collection, H-3614. Used with permission from the Montana Historical Society.

    Bicycles as a means of military transport in the U.S. Army was suggested by Lt. James Moss, an officer in the 25th Infantry, following the example of some European armies. Bicycles offered several advantages over horses—they didn’t require food or water, didn’t make as much noise, and could be repaired if they broke down. His proposal to test the concept was approved by Army leadership, so Lt. Moss began training volunteers from the 25th Infantry Regiment.

    The Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment Bicycle Corps walk their cycles up Minerva Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Photo by F. Jay Haynes, 1896. Montana Historical Society Research Center, Haynes Foundation Photograph Collection, H-3615. Used with permission from the Montana Historical Society.

    The Bicycle Corps pedaled into action for the first time in early August 1896, starting with a four-day, 126-mile ride in the vicinity of Missoula, Montana. This might not sound spectacular, given that Ironman Triathlon bicycle legs cover about the same distance, but remember, this was 1896. The roads were not paved, and the one-speed bicycles, custom built by A.G. Spalding & Co. of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, each weighted over 30 pounds. Importantly, unlike the Ironman, the soldiers also had to carry food, utensils, weapons, ammunition, clothes, repair parts and tools, bedrolls, and tents—well over 100 pounds all told!
    After a few days of rest, the Bicycle Corps began their next expedition on August 15—to Yellowstone National Park and Fort Yellowstone, a journey of over 300 miles that took just over 8 days.

    After 2 days of rest and reprovisioning at Fort Yellowstone, the Corps set out on a tour of the Park on August 25, stopping at Lower Geyser Basin, Upper Geyser Basin (where they observed Old Faithful, Giantess, and Castle Geysers all erupting at the same time), West Thumb, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its waterfalls, returning to Mammoth Hot Springs on August 29. After 2 additional days of rest, during which the iconic photo and several others were taken, the soldiers headed back to Fort Missoula, riding in on September 8—a total journey of nearly 800 miles.

    As part of his official report, Lt. Moss recorded that the trip through Yellowstone included 132 miles completed in 19 hours of actual bicycling. The slowest pace was between Upper Geyser Basin and West Thumb, when the soldiers had to cross the Continental Divide—twice! The fastest time was between Fort Yellowstone and Norris Geyser Basin.

    The Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment Bicycle Corps ride on an inactive portion of Minerva Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Photo by F. Jay Haynes, 1896. Montana Historical Society Research Center, Haynes Foundation Photograph Collection, H-3616. Used with permission from the Montana Historical Society.Ft. Missoula, Montana. Yellowstone National Park.” 25th Infantry.
    October 7, 1896 [August 1896 per Moss’s diary]

    Although there are no records of what the soldiers themselves thought, Lt. Moss recorded that “The soldiers were delighted with the trip…thought the sights grand…and seemed to be in the best of spirits the whole time.” Moss also remarked on “the moral effect of the seething water, the roaring of the geysers and the sulphuric fumes.”

    Even the Yellowstone journey was just a warmup. In 1897, Moss organized 20 soldiers of the 25th Infantry on a 40-day, 1,900-mile ride from Fort Missoula to St. Louis. A planned ride to San Francisco the following year was canceled owing to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, and the 25th Infantry was deployed to the Philippines.

    Although never based in Yellowstone National Park, Buffalo Soldiers had a profound and lasting impact on the early national parks. Serving under perhaps the first Black officer, Charles Young, they were rangers and interpreters in places like Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, helping tourists and even blazing trails—for example, to the summit of Mount Whitney.

    The next time you drive—or cycle!—around Yellowstone National Park, think of the challenging conditions that faced the intrepid Buffalo Soldier bicyclists of the 25th Infantry Regiment, who completed a tour of the park after riding from Missoula and carrying their own provisions, spare parts, and equipment. And the challenges were not purely physical and logistical—of course, they also faced discrimination and were paid less than their white counterparts. But wherever they went, the men of the 25th distinguished themselves, with one Montana newspaper editor remarking, “The prejudice against the…soldiers seems to be without foundation for if the 25th Infantry is an example of the [Black] regiments there is no exaggeration in the statement that there are no better troops in the service.”

    The 8 cyclists of the Yellowstone expedition were Sgt. Dalbert P. Green, Cpl. John G. Williams, Pvt. John Findley, Pvt. Frank L. Johnson, Pvt. William Proctor, Pvt. William Haynes, Pvt. Elwood Forman, and Musician William W. Brown.
    For more information on the exploits of the 25th Infantry Regiment Bicycle Corps, see:

  • (starting on page 79)
  • [1] Following the Civil War, Congress passed legislation to reorganize the military and included these regiments of Afro-Americans, many of whom were among the approximately 180,000 African Americans who previously served in the Union Army. From 1867 to the early 1890s, these regiments served at a variety of posts in the southwestern United States and the Great Plains regions. It was from one of these regiments, the 10th Cavalry, that the nickname Buffalo Soldier was born. Indigenous tribes of the American plains who fought against these soldiers allegedly referred to the black cavalry troops as “buffalo soldiers” because of their dark, curly hair, which resembled a bison’s coat, and because of their fierce nature of fighting. The nickname soon became synonymous with all African-American regiments formed in 1866.

    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, He is a retired backcountry ranger, current wildland fire manager, journalist, and founding director of the

    White House Council on Native American Affairs to Engage Tribal Leaders on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Public Safety and Criminal Justice — @Interior

    At considerable risk, Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians traveled to Denver in September 1864 to seek an understanding of peace. Front row, on left, John Wynkoop, the commander at Fort Lyon, in southeastern Colorado, and Silas Soule. Behind Wynkoop was Black Kettle. Photo via The Mountain Town News

    Here’s the release from the Department of Interior:

    The U.S. Department of the Interior today announced the White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA) will convene an engagement session on January 31 with Tribal leaders focused on the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and public safety resources across Indian Country. The session will be led by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who serves as co-chair of the WHCNAA.

    During the virtual session, Tribal leaders will share their guidance, recommendations and perspectives on the WHCNAA Committees’ all-of-government efforts. The meeting will follow nation-to-nation consultations on the Infrastructure Law to be held earlier that same week.

    “The White House Council on Native American Affairs is an important tool in the Biden-Harris administration’s all-of-government approach to strengthening Indian Country,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “As we work to tackle public safety and criminal justice issues impacting Indigenous people or the implementation of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I’m proud to bring Tribal leaders and government officials together to further invest in our trust relationship.”

    The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests more than $13 billion directly in Tribal communities across the country to bolster community resilience, replace aging infrastructure, expand access to clean drinking water and help ensure everyone has access to high-speed internet.

    The session will also focus on President Biden’s Executive Order on Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. Within the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, Secretary Haaland created a new Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services to pursue justice for missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. Interior is committed to working with Tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, survivors, families of the missing, and all communities impacted to coordinate interagency collaboration to address this crisis.

    During the November 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, Secretary Haaland committed to convening her Cabinet colleagues three times a year to meet with Tribal leaders to share the work of the WHCNAA and listen to feedback, questions and concerns from Tribal communities. January’s session will be the first of these meetings.

    For more information, visit the WHCNAA website.

    R.I.P. Meat Loaf: “The snow is really piling up outside”

    Meat Loaf being interviewed in 2009. By christopher simon – originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0094, CC BY 2.0,

    From The New York Times (Alex Marshall, Ben Sisario and Derrick Bryson Taylor):

    Meat Loaf, the larger-than-life rocker whose 1977 debut, “Bat Out of Hell” — a campy amalgam of hard rock and Broadway-style bombast — became one of the best-selling albums of all time, died on Thursday. He was 74…

    Meat Loaf, who was born Marvin Lee Aday and took his stage name from a childhood nickname, had a career that few could match. He was a trained Broadway belter and a multiplatinum-selling megastar whose biggest hits, like “Bat Out of Hell” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” were radio staples — and barroom singalongs — for decades.

    Despite his success, he earned little respect from rock critics. “Nutrition-free audio lunch meat” was how Rolling Stone dismissed “Bat Out of Hell” — which would go on to sell at least 14 million copies in the United States — in the 1993 edition of its album guidebook.

    Still, some critics gave grudging admiration…

    Meat Loaf also appeared in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Fight Club” and other films…

    Later, Mr. Steinman was trying to write a post-apocalyptic musical based on “Peter Pan,” but, unable to secure the rights for the tale, he turned the work into “Bat Out of Hell,” bringing in Meat Loaf to give the songs the style and energy that made them hits.

    The album, elaborately produced by Todd Rundgren, mingled hard-rock power chords, 1950s-style bubble gum and flashes of disco beats in songs that unfolded in multipart suites; the title track stretches nearly 10 minutes. In some ways the album resembled rock-style Broadway musicals like “Hair,” in which Meat Loaf had performed early in his career.

    Its roster of backup musicians was stellar, including players from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band like the drummer Max Weinberg and the keyboardist Roy Bittan. Members of the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra contributed; the eight-and-a-half-minute “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” even includes the Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto giving a baseball play-by-play that doubled as the description of a seduction.

    After “Bat Out of Hell,” Meat Loaf struggled to repeat his success…

    His comeback came that year when he worked with Mr. Steinman on a sequel to their original hit, “Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell.” It included the song “I’d Do Anything for Love (but I Won’t Do That),” a No. 1 hit that in 1994 won the Grammy Award for best solo rock vocal performance…

    His first major film role came in 1975 in the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” in which he played Eddie, a delivery boy murdered for his brain by the cross-dressing Dr. Frank-N-Furter…

    Marvin Lee Aday was born and grew up in Dallas, the son of Orvis Wesley Aday, a former policeman, and Wilma Artie Hukel, an English teacher.

    USDA Offers Expanded #Conservation Program Opportunities to Support #Climate Smart Agriculture in 2022

    Here’s the release from the USDA:

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing several new and expanded opportunities for climate smart agriculture in 2022. Updates include nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option, a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative, and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). These improvements to NRCS’ working lands conservation programs, combined with continued program opportunities in all states, are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader effort to support climate-smart agriculture.

    “Climate change is happening, and America’s agricultural communities are on the frontlines,” NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said. “We have to continue to support and expand the adoption of conservation approaches to support producers in their work to address the climate crisis and build more resilient operations. We are continuously working to improve our programs to ensure we’re giving farmers and ranchers the best tools to conserve natural resources.”

    New Partnership Announced

    NRCS is announcing a new partnership with Farmers For Soil Health, an initiative of the United Soybean Board, National Corn Growers Association and National Pork Board. Farmers For Soil Health works to advance use of soil health practices – especially cover crops – on corn and soybean farms. The initiative has a goal of doubling the number of corn and soybean acres using cover crops to 30 million acres by 2030.

    “We are pleased to see NRCS announce this new incentive program for cover crops,” said John Johnson, coordinator of Farmers for Soil Health. “Cover crops have great potential to improve soil health, improve water quality, sequester carbon, and make our farms more resilient to severe climate events. We look forward to our partnership with NRCS, working to expand adoption of cover crop practices to help our farmers meet our sustainability goals.”

    Other partners include the National Association of Conservation Districts, Soil Health Institute, and The Sustainability Consortium.

    EQIP Cover Crop Initiative

    To complement the new partnership, NRCS is investing $38 million through the new targeted Cover Crop Initiative in 11 states to help agricultural producers mitigate climate change through the widespread adoption of cover crops. States include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota. States were selected for this initial pilot based on their demonstrated demand for additional support for the cover crop practice.

    Sign-up dates will be determined at the state-level, and applications will be selected for funding by Feb. 11, 2022.

    The initiative is aimed at improving soil health through a targeted, rapid, and streamlined application and contract approval process. NRCS will continue to build on this framework and streamlined application process to support farmers and ranchers across the country.

    Crop residue. Photo credit: Joel Schneekloth

    Cover crops offer agricultural producers a natural and inexpensive climate solution through their ability to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide into soils. Cover crops can provide an accelerated, positive impact on natural resource concerns. In fiscal 2021, NRCS provided technical and financial assistance to help producers plant 2.3 million acres of cover crops through EQIP.

    EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts

    Conservation Incentive Contracts address priority resource concerns, including sequestering carbon and improving soil health in high-priority areas. Through these contracts, works with producers to strengthen the quality and condition of natural resources on their operations using management practices, such as irrigation water management, drainage water management, feed management and residue and tillage management that target resource concerns, including degraded soil and water quality, available water and soil erosion.

    Conservation Incentive Contracts offer producers annual incentive payments to implement management practices as well as conservation evaluation and monitoring activities to help manage, maintain and improve priority natural resource concerns within state high-priority areas and build on existing conservation efforts. Download our “Conservation Incentive Contracts” fact sheet for a list of practices (PDF, 1 MB).

    Conservation Incentive Contracts last five years. The 2018 Farm Bill created the new Conservation Incentive Contract option, and it was piloted in 2021 in four states.

    CSP Re-Enrollment Option

    NRCS updated CSP to allow an agricultural producer to immediately re-enroll in the program following an unfunded application to renew an existing contract. Previously, if a CSP participant did not re-enroll the year their contract expired, they were ineligible for the program for two years.

    This ineligibility was imposed on CSP participants even if their failure to sign a renewal contract was due to the unavailability of funds, which is beyond their control. USDA is now waiving this two-year ineligibility restriction for all CSP applications.

    This year, producers renewed 2,600 CSP contracts covering 3.4 million acres. Applicants with unfunded fiscal 2022 CSP renewals will receive letters this month, notifying them they are automatically eligible to apply for future CSP funding opportunities, rather than needing to wait two years to reapply.

    How to Apply

    NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs – including EQIP and CSP – year-round, however producers and landowners should apply by state-specific, signup dates to be considered for each year’s funding. To apply, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center.

    More Information

    Through conservation programs, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help producers and landowners make conservation improvements on their land that benefit natural resources, build resiliency, and contribute to the nation’s broader effort to combat the impacts of climate change. More broadly, these efforts build on others across USDA to encourage use of conservation practices. For example, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently provided $59.5 million in premium support for producers who planted cover crops on 12.2 million acres through the new Pandemic Cover Crop Program. Last week, RMA announced a new option for insurance coverage, the Post Application Coverage Endorsement, for producers who “split apply” fertilizer on corn.

    Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity and natural resources including our soil, air, and water. Through conservation practices and partnerships, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA and our agencies to pursue a coordinated approach alongside USDA stakeholders, including state, local and Tribal governments.

    USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit

    #Colorado is Coyote Country — @COParksWildlife

    Coyote (Canis latrans) at sunset Matt Knoth Creative Commons via Flickr

    Coyotes can be found throughout Colorado. Here are the basics of living in coyote country.

    For more information about coyotes please visit:

    Living with Coyotes in Colorado

    Perhaps no other wild animal has en​dured the wrath of humans while evoking such genui​ne heartfelt admiration quite like the coy​ote. Some people curse their existence; Native Americans consider them to be the smartest animal on earth, calling them “God’s dog”, and many urbanites revel in opportunities to see and hear these vocal predators.

    The coyote’s success is attributed to the coyote’s own ability to adapt. Coyotes have adjusted very well to human-disturbed environments, and now thrive in close proximity to people.​​

    Coyotes are opportunistic hunters. They prey on small mammals, domestic pets, livestock, and domestic fowl but will also ​readily eat carrion and plants. A coyote will adjust its diet depending on the food that is available. In Colorado, coyotes are classified as a game species and may be taken year-round with either a small game or a furbearer license. Landowners may kill coyotes, without a license, on their land if the coyotes threaten their property or livestock.

    Interior Department Seeks Nominations for Committee to Replace Derogatory Names

    A Colorado pikeminnow taken from the Colorado River near Grand Junction, and in the arms of Danielle Tremblay, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife employee. Pikeminnows have been tracked swimming upstream for great distances to spawn in the 15-mile stretch of river between Palisade and Grand Junction. An apex predator in the Colorado, pikeminnows used to be found up to six feet long and weighing 100 pounds. Photo credit: Lori Martin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife via Aspen Journalism

    Here’s the release from the Department of Interior:

    The Department of the Interior announced today that it is seeking nominations for members of the new Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names. The committee will identify geographic names and federal land unit names that are considered derogatory and solicit proposals on replacement names.

    On November 19, 2021, Secretary Deb Haaland directed the National Park Service to form the committee as part of a broad effort to review and replace derogatory names of the nation’s geographic features. Secretary Haaland also declared “squaw” to be a derogatory term and instructed the Board on Geographic Names – the federal body tasked with naming geographic places – to implement procedures to remove the term from federal usage.

    “Too many of our nation’s lands and waters continue to perpetuate a legacy of oppression. This important advisory committee will be integral to our efforts to identify places with derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue,” said Secretary Haaland. “I look forward to broad engagement from Tribes, civil rights scholars and academics, stakeholders, and the general public as we advance our goals of equity and inclusion.”

    “The establishment of this committee is a momentous step in making our nation’s public lands and waters more welcoming and open to people of all backgrounds,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “These committee members, who will reflect the diversity of America, will serve their country in an important way.”

    The Committee will consist of no more than 17 discretionary members to be appointed by the Secretary, including:

  • At least four members of an Indian Tribe;
  • At least one representative of a Tribal organization;
  • At least one representative of a Native Hawaiian organization;
  • At least four people with backgrounds in civil rights or race relations;
  • At least four people with expertise in anthropology, cultural studies, geography, or history; and
  • At least three members of the general public.
  • Nominations must include a resume providing an adequate description of the nominee’s qualifications, including information that would enable the Department to make an informed decision regarding meeting the membership requirements of the committee and contact information. More details on the committee and how to apply are available in the Federal Register.

    Nominations for the committee must be submitted to Joshua Winchell, Office of Policy, National Park Service, at

    No big deal; just a deer scoring a goal then celebrating — @SteveStuWill

    Coyote Gulch outage

    Stevens Arch viewed from Coyote Gulch photo via Joe Ruffert

    It’s Colorado River Water Users Association week in Las Vegas. I’m heading down the road to the conference today and posting may be intermittent this week.

    Plants can become #drought resistant, study finds —

    Corn sprouting. Photo credit: Colorado Corn

    From (Cory Reppenhagen):

    A study found crops that survive drought conditions in the early growing season end up stronger if there is also drought in the late season.

    Drought can take its toll on crops in two ways: with a lack of precipitation and with increased transpiration, which steals away any moisture stored in the plants…

    In a new study, [Peng Fu] found that crops that survive drought conditions in the early growing season end up stronger if there is also drought in the late season.

    “So this drought actually gave the crops an opportunity to learn,” he said. “There’s a drought and there’s a stress on us. We need to adapt ourselves.”

    He calls it drought memory.

    The study showed that if there is a late summer drought, corn and soybean crops that also experienced the difficulty of drought in the spring were able to mitigate losses up to 7% compared to crops that had not yet experienced drought.

    He said it’s not actual memories like humans have, but it’s memory on the molecular and cellular level…

    He said information gets stored in the plant cells that protects them from future drought.

    The importance of this research is being amplified by current climate trends, which show that springs have been getting wetter, while summers and falls have been getting drier.

    Fu said the next step is to identify the cells that store that drought memory and give that information to breeders so they can develop more drought-resistant crops.

    Crowds flock to Wyo public lands during COVID summer — Katie Klingsporn

    Visitors fill campsites, reservations fill up and public land managers confront new challenges.

    Crowds flock to Wyo public lands during COVID summer — Katie Klingsporn

    R.I.P. Greg Hobbs: “The water ditch is the basis of civilization”

    Greg and Bobbie Hobbs

    I learned that Greg Hobbs had passed from an email sent out yesterday by Water Education Colorado (reproduced below).

    Greg was a friend of Coyote Gulch and I will always be grateful for his encouragement and appreciation of the work I do here on the blog. When our paths would cross he took the time to say hello and catch up a bit and I will miss him dearly.

    I’ve published many of his poems and have dozens of his photographs in the archives here.

    Red Rocks from Ruby Hill in Denver. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs


    We gathered here for farming,
    for mining and for trees,
    came to work the traplines
    and gold upon our knees,
    we prayed to God for guidance
    and mapped a thousand peaks,
    built the gleaming cities
    and plugged the wildest creeks.

    The Rockies have a hold of us
    and of our ancestry,
    plains and rivers tell us
    there’s granite in the sea,
    an ocean where the canyons are,
    each rock a history,
    Colorado is as old as us
    as young as we might be.

    Now each of us has had a day
    we’ve done our best and worst,
    said our share of lying
    and placing mankind first,
    we’ve but to see that lupine
    is the future at our feet
    and marmots running sprightly
    over Rocky Mountain peaks.

    Thunder’s booming sharply
    across the plains below,
    we see the lightning flashing,
    hear the wind begin to blow,
    mountains all are burning
    in sunset’s awesome glow,
    it’s all up there before us
    in clouds piled up like snow.

    Red Rocks, Justice Greg Hobbs,
    Colorado Mother of Rivers, Water Poems at 26
    (Colorado Foundation for Water Education 2005)

    Will Hobbs, Greg Hobbs, Dan Hobbs, and a string of fish for dinner, Mary Alice Lake, Weminuche Wilderness, 1986 via Greg Hobbs

    Here’s an article that I wrote for Colorado Central Magazine on the occasion of his retirement from the Colorado Supreme Court:

    Hobbs to Say Adiós to the Colorado Supreme Court

    Greg Hobbs is calling it quits after 19 years as the Colorado Supreme Court’s “water expert.”

    Early in his career he clerked for the 10th Circuit, worked with David Robbins at the EPA, and worked at the Colorado Attorney General’s office. AG duties included the natural resources area – water quality, water rights and air quality issues. He represented the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy district before forming his own firm, his last stop on the way to the Court.

    He told the Colorado Statesman that he always had his eye on the Supreme Court. While serving at the 10th circuit, Judge William Doyle told encouraged him to set his sites on the Supreme Court, saying “They do everything over there.”

    When he appointed Hobbs to the court, Governor Roy Romer told him to “get a real tie,” according to the Statesman. A bolo tie, as Hobbs usually wears, didn’t seem to qualify.

    The justice is hardworking outside his court duties. He is often asked to speak at conventions and meetings around the state. He is deeply driven to learn about others and to share his knowledge of law and history.

    A few years ago, over in Breckenridge, the Summit Daily News reported that Hobbs said, “The water ditch is the basis of civilization.”

    His passion is to explain current opportunities and problems within a historical context. He describes himself as a “failed PhD,” having dropped out of a PhD Latin American History program at Columbia University.

    One opinion in particular illustrates the importance of history to Hobbs:

    The University of Denver Water Law Review honored Justice Hobbs at their annual shindig. Former Justice Mike Bender told attendees about a case where a man had been arrested after police entered and searched his zippered tent in a campground.

    In his opinion, Hobbs detailed the history of Coloradans that lived in tents. The plains Indians and their teepees, the miners camps dotted all over the mineral belt and elsewhere, and more than a few homesteaders, also. He said that in Colorado, there is an expectation of privacy when you close up your tent dwelling, and that it is no different from the expectation for a more permanent structure.

    The police violated the man’s Fourth Amendment rights by not obtaining a search warrant, he said.

    The justice credits luck for his interest in water law. He got in on the ground floor of the environmental movement during the early days of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

    He has a deep and abiding respect for Colorado water law.

    During his time on the court, there were two interesting cases dealing with the “speculation doctrine” – that is, a water diverter must put the water to beneficial use, not hold on to it and auction it to the highest bidder.

    Pagosa Springs Water and Sanitation District was told it was not allowed a 100-year planning horizon. High Plains A&M was denied a change of use – agricultural to municipal and industrial – for lower Arkansas Basin water on the High Line Canal, because they didn’t have any firm customers for the water they were changing.

    The Court recognized the Legislature’s legal ability to create whitewater parks as a beneficial use.

    Perhaps one of the most remarkable insights that Justice Hobbs realized pertains to environmental flows within Colorado water law:

    When Amy Beatie, director of the Colorado Water Trust, was clerking for the justice, she told him that her primary interest was working for the environment. He advised her to go into private practice, learn about the workings of water law, the mechanics and hydrology of diversions, and the art of finding common ground at water court. Then, he said, have faith that there will be a way to work for the environment within the water rights system.

    Ms. Beatie paid attention.

    Her organization just secured an instream flow right for the Colorado Water Conservation Board on a tributary of the Gunnison River, the Little Cimmaron River. The trust purchased shares of the McKinley ditch and assigned them to the CWCB – the only entity under state law that can hold rights for instream flows.

    The water rights are senior and near the confluence with the Gunnison. Therefore, in times of low flows they are capable of calling out diversions above them. Water bypasses the McKinley headgate and stays in the stream for the fish and other critters. Further development of junior water rights won’t affect the arrangement, since the instream flow will always be in line ahead of newer ones.

    This agreement and decree were a big deal since they were the first of their kind, with a willing seller, an organization dedicated to finding deals that benefit instream flows, an entity that can legally hold those rights, and an active water rights market.

    At this summer’s Martz Conference hosted by the CU law school, Justice Hobbs spoke about Colorado’s water market. Many groups and individuals decry the current state of water in the western U.S. Brad Udall, for example, told attendees at last fall’s Colorado River District Annual Symposium, that we are living with 19th-century laws, 20th-century infrastructure and 21st-century problems.

    Hobbs reminded attendees at Martz 2015 that Colorado has the most active water market in the U.S. and it evolved under those 19th-century laws. Colorado water law is there to protect all appropriators and works very well, albeit slowly. Things move along more quickly as case law grows.

    The basis of Colorado water law is the “doctrine of prior appropriation,” which is really a doctrine of scarcity, as just about anyone can administer a stream with average or above average flows. The art comes when there are low flows, so the state engineer has the priority system in his toolbox for those dry times.

    Greg is also a prolific poet. I’ve published many of his poems over the years on my blog, Coyote Gulch. Here’s one of my favorites:


    (Reprinted with permission from
    Colorado, Mother of Rivers by Greg Hobbs.)

    To each of us
    The land, the air, the water,
    Mountain, canyon, mesa, plain,
    Lightning bolts, clear days with no rain,

    At the source of all thirst,
    At the source of all thirst-quenching hope,
    At the root and core of time and no-time,
    The Great Divide Community

    Stands astride the backbone of the continent,
    Gathering, draining, reflecting, sending forth
    A flow so powerful it seeps rhythmically
    From within,

    Alive to each of us,
    To drink, to swim, to grow corn ears
    To listen to our children float the streams
    Of their own magnificence,

    Out of their seeping dreams,
    Out of their useful silliness,
    Out of their source-mouths
    High and pure,

    The Great Divide,
    You and I, all that lives
    And floats and flies and passes through
    All we know of why.

    Greg has become a friend to me over the years and I already miss him on the court.

    He assures me that he will keep writing and speaking. After all, he asserts, “Coloradans love a good story.”

    You tell a good story, Greg.

    Greg Hobbs. Photo credit: Water Education Colorado

    From Water Education Colorado (Brian Werner, Amy Beatie and Jayla Poppleton, on behalf of the Hobbs Family):

    The Colorado water community lost a legend yesterday with the passing of Justice Greg Hobbs. Greg, who would have turned 77 on Dec. 15, passed away peacefully with his family – wife Bobbie, son Dan and daughter Emily – by his side after suffering a pulmonary embolism.

    For both the legal and water communities, and really all whose paths crossed his, the loss is heartbreaking. We not only lost one of our most knowledgeable legal minds, but also lost one of our most able and accomplished speakers, teachers, writers and historians. Those who knew Greg understand.

    Greg, who first began practicing law in Colorado in 1973, retired as a Colorado Supreme Court Justice in 2015 and continued to share his water expertise and speaking and writing eloquence in a variety of ways.

    He was the longstanding Vice-President of Water Education Colorado, an organization he helped create in 2002 and for which he was a tireless advocate and ambassador. For the past 19 years, he served as WEco’s Publications Chair, where he oversaw the publication of its well-known Headwaters magazine and Citizen’s Guide series. He was known to greet each new publication with a celebratory, “This is our best issue yet,” and was always championing the publications’ distribution, even toting boxes around in his trunk so that they were always at the ready. He was also a frequent presenter in WEco programs, mentored numerous individuals through the Water Leaders Program, and provided sound guidance in the organization’s strategic growth and evolution over the years to ensure it stayed true to its nonpartisan mission.

    In recent years Greg served as a senior water judge working as a mediator for water rights cases and continued to mentor current and future water lawyers with his knowledge of the legal nuances of Colorado’s water rights system. He taught a water court practice seminar and continued to write and speak about all matters water.

    Greg wrote extensively, whether about the legal intricacies of water or his beloved poetry. He authored a number of books, the most recent of which was published in 2020 entitled Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water, which he co-authored with Michael Welsh.

    During his nearly two decades on the bench, he authored more than 250 majority opinions, many of which dealt with water law. He was an exceptional jurist, principled and deliberate, noting that every word in every opinion mattered. As a perfect reflection of his generous spirit, he hired nearly 60 law clerks over his time on the bench, and ensured that they all knew each other, supported each other professionally, and treated each other like family. He always talked about how proud he was of his clerks and where they are now, many of whom, like him chose careers as public servants.

    Greg’s early legal career included stops with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he worked for two years beginning in 1973, followed by nearly four years with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office in the Natural Resources Section, where he became a leader in environmental law specializing in air and water quality issues.

    In 1979, he became a partner with Davis, Graham and Stubbs and soon after the principal counsel for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, where he became well-known for his advocacy and protection of Northern Water’s water rights. In 1992, he helped form the law firm of Hobbs, Trout and Raley with two other well-known water lawyers – Bob Trout and Bennett Raley.

    In 1996, Gov. Roy Romer appointed him to the Colorado Supreme Court where he took his water knowledge to an even higher level. Greg was a staunch supporter of Colorado’s system of water rights and wrote extensively and spoke often of his support for the unique water law system that has evolved since the state was created in 1876. He had a studied and nuanced approach to the prior appropriation system and defended it against those who felt it no longer suited Colorado.

    Greg did his undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame. After Notre Dame, he attended Columbia University to study Latin American history. Following their 1967 wedding, Greg and Bobbie joined the Peace Corps, moving to Colombia. The couple returned in 1968 and had Dan. Emily followed in 1971.

    Greg spent his early years of family life in law school at Berkeley Law, completing his degree in 1971. He then clerked for Judge William Edward Doyle of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, a critical part of his career and his interest in the bench. In 1973, the Hobbs family returned to Denver and made it their home for good.

    There will be a celebration of Greg’s life at a later, more COVID-safe time. The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Water Education Colorado. You can donate in Greg’s memory online at

    Or, mail a check with your donation to:
    Water Education Colorado
    1600 N Downing St., Suite 200
    Denver, CO 80218

    Please include Greg’s name in the check memo line.

    Now for a gallery of photos of and by Greg Hobbs from the archives.

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Turkeys in Waterton Canyon. Photo credit: Denver Water

    I am thankful that there is a chance that the climate will once again become stable if we stop greenhouse gas emissions.

    Book Review: Powder Days: Ski Bums, Ski Towns, and the Future of Chasing Snow

    I’ve always lived in Denver except for a brief stint in Missoula. You would hear about someone’s sibling, who maybe just graduated from high school, packing up their car and moving to the mountains, to be a ski bum. I felt jealous of course but also reverence.

    Cameron Walker lived the mountain life for a time and has published this review of Heather Hansman’s Powder Days from that insider point of view. It seems that Ms. Hansman moves readers by writing about what she knows.

    From The Last Word on Nothing (Cameron Walker):

    This week, I was reading a story from a few years ago about what the last snow on earth might look like. Snow algae, which occur naturally in the snowpack, rise to the surface during the spring; when they emerge, they turn red. This “watermelon snow,” these days, could be seen as a warning. The algae’s presence means the snowpack absorbs more sunlight and melts even faster, allowing even more algae to grow, melting more snow–another of the many tributaries flooding into the rushing feedback loop of climate change.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of snow, too, while reading Heather Hansman’s Powder Days: Ski Bums, Ski Towns, and the Future of Chasing Snow. The organisms she’s looking at are much bigger, multicellular creatures, yet they live for snow in their own, human way. And in the ecosystems we’ve developed around ski towns, there’s a different feedback loop of low wages, unaffordable housing, class and race issues, and mental health challenges, all against the same backdrop of the rising global temperatures.

    There’s also joy. That’s why I picked up this book in the first place—I spent several years in one of these mountain towns, trying to find my way both on the snow and off of it. Even back then, the tension between bliss and tragedy there could make your throat ache. The feeling of floating down an open bowl with only granite peaks and Jeffrey pines looking on. The accidents and avalanches every winter. The connectedness of being part of an unseen river of localism that runs on friendships and favor, on two-dollar Tuesdays and leftovers from your boyfriend’s restaurant job. The constant scramble for a paycheck and a place to live, the relentless waves of tourists, the aggressive hum that takes over the lift lines on a powder day, the unsettling nature of a world that depends on how much snow will fall. And the interior tensions, too. the idea that you’re here, in this most beautiful place, doing what you love–yet somehow, you’re letting it all slip through your fingers with all of this thinking about it, while everyone around you seems to know how to live like this.

    And that was then. Now, these problems have grown, and grown more entangled. Hansman, a former editor at Powder and Skiing magazines and former ski bum, set off to find out—is this life even possible anymore?

    To find out, she went to the mountains—both to ski with those who’ve managed to make skiing their lives and to look at how history, economics, racism, sexism, and the climate are shaping the mountains and the people who live there today.

    She doesn’t come away with easy answers. In considering the vanishing snow while skiing in Santa Fe, she writes about solstalgia,”the name for the feeling of the world changing around you, when you were told it would be stable.” Hansman feels it almost constantly now, as the places where she would go to reconnect with the land grow drier each year.

    In many ways, the life of a ski town is a rarefied one, and it’s clear from Hansman’s reporting that this life is becoming more and more segregated between the haves and the have-nots, while also maintaining barriers against non-whites and other, subtler barriers against women and anyone who doesn’t quite fit a certain image of the outdoors, including those whose mental health has been affected by mountain tragedies. But it’s also a miniature burden of the problems we face in the flatlands and at every elevation in this country. Throughout the book, she holds up these places to the kaleidoscope, looking at each of these problematic fragments.

    Still, woven within all these challenges is the clear wonder of the mountains. While the book offers no clear solutions, this connection seems to be what gives Hansman hope: that somehow, channeling the best parts of a skiing life—the freedom, the outdoors, and the bonds skiing can create with others and with the land—can somehow shift us toward new ways of thinking. This might mean that the life of a ski bum might not look exactly like what it used to. But the snow–the pale pink of watermelons, the rusty shade of old blood–doesn’t look like it used to, either.

    On Twitter Heather is pointing to this review from Tracy Ross that’s running on Outside Online.

    Land Hoe! Getting Down and Dirty at Common Name Farm — Westword

    End of day, June 10, 2021. Photo credit: Common Name Farm

    From Westword (Claire Duncombe):

    “During our brainstorming process for a good farm name, we all had all these botany books in front of us,” recalls Noelle Trueheart. She and her business partners were searching for words that would represent their farming philosophy, and they were going back and forth between scientific names and the Latin terms for different species and crop varieties.

    At a certain point, though, they stopped looking at the books. “That’s not really who we are,” Trueheart explains.

    Though they have many years of experience in production agriculture, the three founders — Trueheart, Phil Cordelli and Betzi Jackson — wanted to honor a more humble inspiration: the common stories, farming practices and community spirit that exist beyond scientific frameworks.

    They settled on Common Name Farm, and broke ground this past April. Throughout their first season, they’ve sought to prioritize passion, play and goals that nurture both the community and the land.

    Their combination of new farming techniques and age-old practices complement Common Name Farm’s location on the remnants of a 150-year-old farm that once covered two square miles across what’s now the city of Lakewood. They’re renting three acres from the Shelleys, a family that has raised horses and hay on the property for generations.

    As the season winds down, the Common Name Farm partners are still harvesting squash varieties and root vegetables, creating bouquets from flowering herbs and planning to save seeds for next year.

    Trueheart and Cordelli have each been farming for a little over a decade. “I think in retrospect, I’m not suited for much other than farming,” Cordelli admits. “I’m kind of loud. I don’t wear deodorant. I went to art school.” He was first introduced to farming in northern California, where he worked deep in a redwood forest a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. He’s been drawn to cultivating plants ever since.

    Trueheart stumbled onto farming while working as a field archeologist in western Colorado. One day she found an orchard in Paonia and “was totally enamored,” she recalls. “The first day I was there, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to know everything about this.’” A year a half later, farming had become her top priority — a priority that cost her about half her pay.

    Last fall, Cordelli, Trueheart and Jackson, who’d grown up in unincorporated Jefferson County, made the decision to stop working for others and start their own farm. Finding land was a challenge, though. They looked for properties from Boulder to Sedalia. When they found places they liked, they sent owners “handwritten letters of inquiry,” Trueheart explains.

    By late winter, they were close to signing a lease for a property in Boulder, but the landowners backed out.

    After that, Cordelli, Trueheart and Jackson searched for part-time jobs. Jackson found a position on the Western Slope and moved in April, though she remains a mentor, advisor and friend to Cordelli and Trueheart.

    The other two spent the early spring growing seedlings in Cordelli’s sunroom on “a wing and a prayer,” he remembers.

    Then the Shelleys reached out in early April. Cordelli had known Terol Shelley’s daughter Kamise and son-in-law Derek for a few years. They’d met through the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and once traded garlic seed and pepper starts for tarps. Cordelli and Trueheart wound up renting three acres from the family for their farm.

    Colorado’s Front Range farming community is pretty small, Cordelli explains, and most people involved know each other. Many are younger farmers like Cordelli and Trueheart — though at 42, “perhaps in no other profession would I be considered young,” Cordelli notes.

    The local farming community “has really supported us,” he adds. Throughout the spring and summer, Cordelli and Trueheart were able to borrow tractors and rototillers to prep the field. Other farms donated seedlings to help them catch up after their late start to the season.

    “Both of us hate the toxic American masculine culture of ‘I did this all myself,’” Cordelli notes. “It’s not about ego. It’s about creating community and relying on community.”

    It’s also about the land. “We attribute a lot of the [farm’s] success to the quality of the soil,” Trueheart explains.

    “We had a hunch that the land would be productive,” Cordelli continues. “It’d never been sprayed. It was covered by plant material continuously — no bare soil blown away by the wind or burned up by the Colorado sun.”

    “I don’t think anything’s ever been raised on this ground except hay and grass and cattle,” says Miss Betty Opal Mae Shelley. Now 97, she moved to the farm in the 1940s with her husband, Arthur George Shelley, when this corner of Garrison and Dakota streets was rural pasture. Today her next-door neighbors include Family Wine & Liquors, a 7-Eleven and rows of houses lining the streets.

    Her husband’s family had lived on the property since the 1870s. John Everitt started with twenty acres — including the land where Common Name Farm sits — and eventually expanded the property from what is now Mississippi Avenue to Alameda Avenue and from Garrison to Union Street, for a total of two square miles.

    Even after Lakewood incorporated fifty years ago and development began to boom, the Shelleys continued to farm their land. Both Trudy and Terol grew and sold hay with their children. Then Derek and Kamise ran the Everitt Family Farm until they moved to Idaho a couple of years ago…

    Other remnants of Lakewood’s agricultural past are less obvious, including the 100-year-old apple trees that dot nearby yards and the ditch irrigation that Common Name Farm uses as a water source. Trudy and Terol Shelley’s grandfather was the ditch rider who built the waterway down from Clear Creek in the 1920s.

    “Neither of us have ever farmed on ditch irrigation land before,” Trueheart says. “It is a little bit challenging, but this is where the anthropology nerd in me comes out.” Ditch irrigation has been an agricultural technique for thousands of years; the human-made ditches allow water to travel from rivers to crops, and farmers monitor how much to allow into their fields…

    And that’s not the only way that Trueheart and Cordelli hope to take care of the land they’re farming. Part of their practice is keeping the soil covered and letting plants go to seed, including the brightly colored purple dragon tongue beans they’re saving…

    They’re taking a regenerative approach to agriculture that prioritizes sustainability and working within natural systems. They practice techniques such as planting flowers like marigolds that attract beneficial bugs and help repel pests, and keeping the ground between covered rows with low-growing clover.

    Cordelli and Trueheart are also dedicated to donating portions of their harvest to those in need. Trueheart and her daughter live at Warren Village, a housing option for single mothers experiencing homelessness. “It’s been a great place to start with our food-access work,” Trueheart explains. “We’ve learned about what people like and don’t like as much, and the food they care about.”


    Common Name Farm produced many varieties of vegetables and herbs during its first season. Alongside rows of tomatoes, corn, beans, potatoes and leafy greens, the partners experimented with okra and de-hybridizing a Korean hot pepper into the single varieties from which it was created. Soon they’ll be planting garlic seeds for spring.

    Scientists optimistic about #MullenFire recovery: Though it scarred certain zones, scientists believe the blaze may provide some long-term benefits to wildlife — WyoFile

    A cluster of fireweed grows in the Mullen Fire burn area. (Christine Peterson)

    From WyoFile (Christine Peterson):

    Late in the summer of 2020, as hunting seasons ramped up and the world reeled from the COVID pandemic, a fire ignited in southeast Wyoming’s Snowy Range.

    It sparked to life on Sept. 27 and grew rapidly, fueled by winds that raged to 70 mph. What would ultimately be called the Mullen Fire consumed or damaged dozens of structures over more than 176,000 acres.

    Researchers say the size and intensity resulted from a combination of vast swaths of beetle-killed trees and unusually dry conditions exacerbated by climate change. While fire is natural, and in many ways necessary, biologists and fire managers weren’t sure how a blaze that big would impact the health of the ecosystem.

    Smoke from the Mullen Fire on Sept. 30, 2020. (InciWeb)

    A little more than a year later, they have a much clearer picture. In some places, the Mullen Fire burned so hot it sterilized the soil — meaning plant regeneration may take decades. In other places, the threat of invasive plant species looms large, and runoff, erosion and water degradation remain possibilities. But across the bulk of the forest, scientists have found, the fire may well provide long-term benefits to wildlife. It cleared away dead trees that needed to go and ushered in aspens, willows, wildflowers and grasses.

    “Hopefully we have a good snowpack and greater spring rain next year for continued recovery,” said Ryan Amundson, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department terrestrial habitat biologist.

    There’s still much to be learned, but for now, wildlife and land managers are encouraged by what remains from Wyoming’s largest wildfire in recent history.

    Wildlife habitat

    Amundson was nervous when he first ventured into the burn area after snow melted and summer began, he said.

    Little moisture fell on the area in April, May and June. Snowpack had been low. Spring regeneration — the plants that usually sprout as soon as the snow melts — was almost nonexistent. Then record high heat in June, cut the growing season short. He wondered if any plants would have a chance to grow back.

    But summer rains arrived. By late September, some aspens in the burn area measured three feet tall. Willows and wildflowers flourished.

    A yellow heart leaf arnica grows in the Mullen Fire burn zone. (Christine Peterson)

    “In areas we were assessing in early spring, I thought I was going to see very high shrub mortality, but we just needed to be patient and let Mother Nature do her thing,” he said.

    Not only did species like elk, deer and bighorn sheep survive into this year, they are thriving, said Lee Knox, Wyoming Game and Fish wildlife biologist in the Laramie region.

    Deer killed during this year’s hunting season are fat, nourished by the new growth that sprouted in areas now cleared of stands of dead trees.

    Bighorn sheep will particularly benefit from open areas created by the fire. Sheep need to be able to see long distances, and tree encroachment shrinks their available habitat. Wildlife officials are conducting a study with collared sheep to track their movements and progress in the newly cleared areas.

    The post-burn forage in some places may be so good that Knox is concerned about elk and deer overgrazing the new aspen and willow growth, he said. He and other wildlife biologists will continue to encourage hunters to focus on herds in and around the burn area to be sure the new shrubs have a chance to grow.

    “Deer and elk thrive in successional change,” Knox said. “There’s not a lot for them in old growth forests. They need forbs and grasses and aspen communities to allow them to be fatter and have healthier babies and expand.”

    The lack of spring moisture and low snowpack also resulted in minimal runoff and erosion, according to a recent study completed by Game and Fish.

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