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Vision Expands Beyond Possibility, Probability | Concepts Collide Wild and Scenic Sparks Anxiety | Fire Supression | Of Mines and Minerals

Public Lands Issue

Navigating the Water World | CFWE 2008 President’s Award


The Colorado Foundation for Water Education would like to sincerely thank all of the organizations and individuals who have provided their financial support for 2008. Our work would not be possible without you. Endowing Partners

Colorado Water Conservation Board | MWH Engineering Charter Members

Board of Water Works of Pueblo, Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, City of Greeley, Colorado Association of Realtors, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Colorado Water Resources & Power Development Authority, Coors Brewing Company, Denver Suburban Water District, Douglas County Water Resource Authority, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Southwestern Water Conservation District, Stanek Constructors, Inc, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Western Colorado Area Office, Wright Water Engineers, Brown & Caldwell. Pioneer Members

Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, Colorado Farm Bureau, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Sakata Farms, Rio Grande Water Conservation District, The Consolidated Mutual Water Company, Ute Water Conservancy District, Colorado Corn Growers Assn, Parker Water & Sanitation District, White & Jankowski, AWWA, Rocky Mountain Section. Sustaining Members

Gregory Hobbs, Jr., Applegate Group, Suncor Energy, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Douglas County Community Development, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, Summit County Board of Commissioners, City of Grand Junction Utilities, City of Thornton, Martin & Wood Water Consultants, Denver Water, JF Companies, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Maynes Bradford Shipps & Sheftel, Bishop-Brogden Associates, Leonard Rice Engineers. Associate Members Jonathon Perlmutter, Kim Koehn, Patty Stulp, Scott Hummer, Colorado Municipal League, Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Christianson Corporate Resources, Headwaters Corporation, Delta County Commissioners, Roggen Farmers Elevator Assn, Duncan, Ostrander & Dingess, P.C., St Vrain & Left Hand Water Cons District, Platte Canyon Water & Sanitation District, Arkansas River Outfitters Assn, Y-W Electric Assoc, Inc, Colorado Livestock Association, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Krassa & Miller, LLC, Black & Veatch Corporation, Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, Roxborough Water & Sanitation District, Center Conservation District, Wheatland Electric Co-op, Colorado Bankers Association, Ayres Associates, Delta Conservation District, Water Colorado, Porzak Browning & Bushong. Watershed Members Dale Mitchell, Dan Bush, Daniel Tyler, Diane Hoppe, Erik Fallenius, Evan Ela, Fred Wolf, Greg Hoskin, Greg Larson, Jack McCormick, James Gehres, Jody Williams, Joel Hecht, John Ballagh, John Blanchard, John & Nancy Porter, John & Susan Maus, Kenton Brunner, Melissa Young, Patricia Blakey, Robert Rich, Robert Ward, Susan Marein, William Tourtillott, Anderson & Chapin, P.C., Aqua Engineering, Inc., Badger Creek Farm, Inc., Boulder County Parks and Open Space, Brown and Caldwell, CH2MHill, City of Longmont, City of Loveland, City of Westminster, Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Company, Colorado Springs Utilities, CWRRI, ERO Resources Corp., Farmers Grain Co., Pallesen Engineering, Inc., Roaring Fork Conservancy, San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, South Metro Water Supply Authority, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Town of Frisco, Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Trout Raley Montano Witwer & Freeman, USDA Forest Service.

Individual Members Steven Acquafresca, Kim Albright, Rick Anderson, Susan Andrews, Frank Anesi, Carl Bachhuber, David Bailey, Jini Bates, Denise Bates, David Batts, David Baumgarten, Jeffrey Baumgartner, Amy Beatie, Carl & Julie Bellmyer, Jeff Berlin, David Bernhardt, Tillie Bishop, Ronald Blatchley, Linda Bledsoe, Sharon Bokan, Ann Brady, Rod Brauer, Allyn Brown, Rob Buirgy, Gretchen Cerveny, Kathy Chandler-Henry, Sasha Charney, Ron Childs, Aaron Clay, Steve Coffin, Amy Conklin, John Cordes, Pete Crabb, Barry Cress, Rita Crumpton, Don Cummins, Elaine Davis, Denver Rescue Mission, Skip Dinges, Joseph Dischinger, Carol Dunn, Jeff Durbin, Blaine Dwyer, Lewis Entz, Megan Estep, Harold Evans, Barney Fix, Jack Fox, Kevin France, Brent Gardner-Smith, Gloria Garza, Jord Gertson, William Goetz, Karen Guglielmone, Pete Gunderson, David Hallford, Jean Hammes, Paul Harms, Stephen Harris, Taylor Hawes, William Hendrickson, Mark & Sara Hermundstad, Kinsey Holton, Diane Hoppe, Barbara Horn, Nancy Hurt, Tom Huston, Will Hutchins, Robert Huzjak, Cliff Inbau, Stacie Johnson, Korey Kadrmas, Russell Kemp, Kirk Klancke, Candace Knoll, Walter Knudsen, Steve Koeckeritz, Ray Kogovsek, Sam Krage, Kate Kramer, Bruce Kroeker, Barbara Lambert, Peter Lavigne, Katryn Leone, Scott Leslie, Mark Levorsen, Penny Lewis, Patricia Locke, Robert Longenbaugh, Zach Margolis, Tyler Martineau, Cheryl Matthews, Murray McCaig, Kevin McCarty, Bryan McCarty, Sharon McCormick, John McCutchan, Gerry McNally, Rich Meredith, Jim Miller, Harold Miskel, Bob Moore, Larry Morgan, Andrew Mueller, David Nelson, Ken Neubecker, Stevan O Brian, Michael O Grady, John Orr, David & Linda Overlin, Lindsey Parlin, William & Donna Patterson, Susan Pence, Jack Perrin, Mark Perry, Stan Peters, Connie Peterson, J T Pickarts, Kristi Pollard, Greg Poschman, Michael Reeg, Chris Reichard, David Reinertsen, Melvin Rettig, Kathy Richards, Daniel Ritchie, Gary Roberts, Bob Robins, Ellen Robinson, Kelly Roesch, Janet Rowland, Rick Sackbauer, Gerry Saunders, Donald Schwindt, Mary Ann Seltzer, Paul & Martie Semmer, Susi Sewald, Tom Sharp, Mike Shimmin, Douglas Shriver, Jim Skvorc, Gregory Smith, Richard Sprague, David Stiller, Gordon Stonington, Luther Stromquist, James Taylor, Phyllis Thomas, Danny Tomlinson, Ralf Topper, Carl Trick, Dale Trowbridge, Brad Udall, Horst Ueblacker, Val Valentine, Richard von Bernuth, Dennis Wagner, Brad Wallace, William Wangnild, Chuck Wanner, Robert Ward, Russell Waring, Jeff Wasden, Tom Waymire, David Wegner, Carrie Weiss, Kyle Whitaker, Curt Wiederspan, Scott Williams, Pat Wilson, Lois Witte, Dick Wolfe, Lane Wyatt, David Yardley, Paul Zaenger, Edith Zagona, Christa Zemlin.


HEADWATERS | S ummer 2008

C O L O R A D O F O U N D AT I O N F O R W AT E R E D U C AT I O N | S U M M E R 2 0 0 8

Colorado Foundation for Water Education 1580 Logan St., Suite 410 •  Denver, CO 80203 303-377-4433 • www.cfwe.org

V E B P, P | C C W  S S A | F S | O M  M

Mission Statement

Public Lands Issue

The mission of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education is to promote better understanding of water resources through education and information. The Foundation does not take an advocacy position on any water issue.

N  W W | CFWE  P’ A

On the Cover: Colorado’s public lands, including the Great Sands Dunes National Monument (background), are host to a varied set of users and managers. Photos by Kevin Moloney

Currents...................................................................................................................... 2

Board Members

Watermarks................................................................................................................. 3

Matt Cook

‘A Full Charge of Relevance’: Public Lands Vision Expands Beyond Possibility, Probability........................ 4

President

Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr. 1st Vice President

Rita Crumpton

2nd Vice President

Wendy Hanophy Secretary

Taylor Hawes

Assistant Secretary

Concepts Collide: ‘the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number’................................................ 8 Wild and Scenic Sparks Anxiety, Opportunity....................................................... 11 Of Mines and Minerals..........................................................................................................13

Chris Rowe

Decades of Fire Suppression: A Good Intention Gone Wrong...................................................................... 19

Dale Mitchell

Navigating the Water World..................................................................................... 24

Becky Brooks Rep. Kathleen Curry Alexandra Davis Veva DeHeza Jennifer Gimbel Alan Hamel Callie Hendrickson Lynn Herkenhoff Senator Jim Isgar Margaret Medellin Chris Piper John Porter Rick Sackbauer Robert Sakata Steve Vandiver Reagan Waskom

CFWE 2008 President’s Award................................................................................ 27

Treasurer

Assistant Treasurer

A Good Intention Gone Wrong, page 19.

Staff Nicole Seltzer Executive Director

CFWE Water Leaders Program, page 24.

CFWE President’s Award Winners, page 27. Headwaters is a magazine designed to provide Colorado citizens with balanced and accurate information on a variety of subjects related to water resources. Copyright 2008 by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. ISSN: 1546-0584 Edited by Lori Ozzello. Design by Emmett Jordan. Acknowledgments The Colorado Foundation for Water Education thanks the people and organizations who provided review, comment and assistance in the development of this issue.

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Currents

As I write this column, I am unwinding from two days spent touring the lower South Platte River with a host of legislators, water managers, engineers and farmers. You will hear more of our tour in the October edition of Headwaters, but the time spent discussing the challenges of meeting demands in an era of transition, and of joining forces to ensure we all prosper, is fresh on my mind. As the map on the opposite pages illustrates, the South Platte River below Denver is not a region famous for, nor dominated by, public lands. So why bring attention to it in an edition meant to feature our public lands? Because those

Snapshot t According to a Natural Resource Ecology Lab inventory, roughly 45 percent—29.9 million acres—of Colorado has some form of protection by federal, state, local or private organizations. t More than one-third of Colorado’s land is owned by the federal government. But the 4 million-plus acres designated as wilderness, national parks and monuments are generally unavailable for use. Lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are available for use under increasingly strict regulatory requirements. t When Colorado gained statehood, the federal government gave the state two 640 acre sections of land in every township, or lands in lieu thereof, consisting of 4.5 million acres of its land, to be used by the State Land Board in trust for the perpetual financial support of the state’s public schools. t Of this, the State Land Board sold 1.5 million acres of surface land but retains the mineral rights along with the 3 million acres of surface land it retained.

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lands shown in green, blue, orange and yellow on the map are critical to producing and protecting the water supplies upon which all Front Range communities, and yes, even the farms and ranches in eastern Colorado, depend. The stories in this issue of Headwaters and the stories told on the tour have another common thread. Whether it is cleaning up toxic mine drainage, ensuring that our drinking water supplies are safe from the ill effects of wildfire, or finding the smartest way to provide new water supplies to areas of growth, the lesson is the same. We must seek out creative partnerships to truly accomplish our goals This sentiment also holds true for the management of an organization. It has been a little more than six months since I joined the Foundation, and the array of challenges and opportunities I’ve experienced could never be summarized here. But what makes it all come together, and what the Foundation is truly dependent upon, is the support of our members. So take a moment to review the list of Foundation supporters on the preceding page, and remember to thank them for their contributions. Their generosity allows all of us to better understand the value of water and to tell the stories of those who dedicate their careers to protect and manage it. Without their help, none of this would be possible. If you’re not a member, won’t you join us?

Nicole Seltzer Executive Director

Colorado Public Lands

t Under a recent Colorado constitutional amendment, the State Land board preserves 107 parcels, amounting to 296,188 acres, in trust for a conservation stewardship legacy. t The U.S. Forest Service manages 14 million acres of prime Colorado watershed, primarily as a result of the work of President Theodore Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. t The Bureau of Land Management manages more than 8 million acres, none of which are part of the national park or forest service lands. t Federal ownership in Hinsdale County is 97 percent and in neighboring Mineral County, 96 percent. t Farms and ranches account for about 80 percent of all non federal rural lands in Colorado. t Most of the BLM and the State Land Board school trust acres are currently leased for livestock grazing. The Colorado Division of Wildlife leases approximately 481,000 acres of school trust lands for seasonal hunting.

t The Colorado Department of Wildlife owns approximately 370,000 acres. t A study commissioned by GOCO and released in April 2007 found that about 3 percent of Colorado—about 1.8 million acres—is open space protected by city or county government. t Land protected by state agencies amounts to 3.2 million acres, or about 5 percent. School LandS The 1785 Land Ordinance, adopted by the U.S. Congress, was the foundation for the school lands program. Congress enacted its successor, the Homestead Act, in 1862. Surveyed townships each contained 36 sections. Each section was 1 square mile, or 640 acres. When it became a state Colorado received two sections in every township, or lands in lieu thereof, for the support of the public schools. The Colorado Board of Land Commissioners manages these lands in trust. School Board Lands are not publically accessible.

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Watermarks

Two years ago, I signed on with a bond analyst publication to cover the Kansas City Fed Chief, Tom Hoenig, when he’s in Colorado. At a meeting in Montrose where he spoke to a group of business people, I sat beside a travel agent. She’d moved from Texas to Montrose a few years earlier. During the course of lunch, she told me that she wasn’t having the same level of success in Colorado that she’d had in the Lone Star State. She said Texans vacationed. They went places and stayed for a while, which often required a travel agent’s assistance. People in Colorado stay home, she lamented. The state is just too magnificent and there is too much to do. Wow. What a problem for a state to have. But I had to agree. There are places to go and things to do: national grasslands, mountain parks, open space to explore; trails to hike and bike; rivers to raft; lakes and streams to fish; rocks to climb; slopes and meadows to ski; birds to watch. Coupled with breathtaking beauty, Colorado is blessed with a wealth of minerals. Gold and silver, and later coal, oil and hard rocks—are woven into Colorado and the West’s history. The rights to the minerals still untapped are in the same stunning places where we make our greatest escapes. And that’s the rub. Interests and passions collide. Underlying it all is a history rich in controversy, disaster, commerce, growth and more. President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act in May 1862, roughly a year after the Civil War began and land rushes cycled after gold rushes. Fortune seekers, settlers and traders streamed West. Native Americans, despite treaties, were

pushed off their ancestral territories. The government wanted the West populated and promoters insisted that ”rain follows the plow.” Blizzard, drought, and financial panic hammered Colorado mid 1880s-1890s. Talk about climate change. The big rains and good fortunes returned in the years before World War I, but they didn’t last. The high winds of the 1930s blew tilled prairie soil and precariously perched families away. In 1937, Congress passed the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act, authorizing what is now the Natural Resource Conservation Service to purchase 11 million acres of sub-par farmland, 3.8 million of which became national grasslands. Two of the nation’s 20—Pawnee and Comanche—are in eastern Colorado. In the early 1900s, President Teddy Roosevelt and his forester Gifford Pinchot pitched preservation. John Muir’s vision marked in the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park and many future debates about what to preserve and what to develop. A century after Roosevelt, Pinchot and Muir we’ve got more questions than answers about public lands. Bandied about in political arenas, the areas are more than pieces on a map. They’re what keep a lot of us here and in the conversation.

Lori Ozzello

Lori Ozzello Editor

Land Ownership, Management & Protection Federal Land Ownership In Colorado Federal Government State Government

Local Government

Land Trust/NGO

Private/ Unknown

Total land area 66.4 million acres Total federally owned lands

24.2 million acres

Forest Service

14 million

Bureau of Land Management

8.4 million

Army

182,000

Navy

60,000

Fish and Wildlife 33,000 Department of Energy 30,000 Corps of Engineers 28,000 Air Force

27,000

Wilcox, G., D. M. Theobald, J. Whisman. 2007. Colorado Ownership, Management,and Protection V6. htt p://www.nrel. colostate.edu/projects/comap/contact.html

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I

By Patty Limerick

In 1907, the first chief forester, Gifford Pinchot, traveled to Denver to speak at the Public Lands Convention. The creation of Forest Reserves by Pinchot and his close friend Theodore Roosevelt had riled up many Coloradans, by what they saw as the imposition of federal authority over lands that locals had come to feel were theirs to use. The Brown Theater in Denver was filled with holders of that opinion. Thus, when Pinchot stood before them, the audience jeered, booed, shouted, and, in every way they could think of, indicated that they disapproved of the man who stood before them. When the Denver audience quieted down for a moment, Pinchot seized the opportunity. “If you fellows can stand me,” he said, “I can stand you.” With that,

Federal Land and Regulatory Laws of Primary Importance to Colorado

There are many federal laws by which Congress has asserted its property, supremacy, and commerce clause powers under the United States Constitution. The following partial list illustrates systemic laws of primary importance to Colorado. (Timeline not to scale.)

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an audience, who had planned to specialize in heckling, shifted over to listening. Over the decades, Pinchot’s Denver Declaration still carries a full charge of relevance. Coloradans have made the holding of contentious meetings about the public lands into a state tradition. The lands held by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the branches of the military and the Department of Energy have become a kind of collective Rorshach test, as American citizens project upon them a stream of contesting desires, claims, ambitions, hopes, expectations and, of course, visions. Over the century since Pinchot visited Denver, the range of interest groups who want something from the public lands

has expanded past any predictability or probability. Despite periodic obituaries and memorial services for the extractive industries, advocates for grazing, mining, natural-gas production, and logging remain audible and active. The activities performed on public lands and corralled under the category of “tourism and recreation” have proliferated beyond any possible foresight or anticipation: hiking, backpacking, camping, horseback-riding, mountain-biking, rock-climbing, skiing (downhill, cross-country, back-country, extreme), snowboarding, snow-shoeing, snowmobiling, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hunting, riding a variety of off-the-road vehicles, wildlife-watching, landscape-painting, photography, geocaching…and the author stopped here

1841 General Preemption Act Allowed squatting settlers on surveyed public domain lands to obtain 160 acres they had improved and built a residence on. This supplemented the federal government’s ongoing periodic sales of public lands by auction to private parties.

1862 Railroad Act Granted railroad right-of-ways and odd numbered sections of land along right-of-way as incentive to railroad builders.

1861 Colorado Territorial Act Carved Colorado Territory out of Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, and Utah territories.

1803

1848

1862

Louisiana Purchase Brought lands east of the Continental Divide and north of the Arkansas River into the United States.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Brought lands west of the Continental Divide and south of the Arkansas River into the United States.

Homestead Act Allowed settlers to claim 160 surface acres of surveyed public domain lands and obtain a patent (title from the government) by living on the land for five years, but reserving the mineral estate to the federal government.

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more out of vicarious exhaustion, than out of the conviction that this list was now complete and comprehensive! Plus, the environmental laws of the 1970s brought a whole new set of regulations and requirements, involving the designation of wilderness, the preservation of species and habitat, and the consideration of the environmental act of any action (building of roads, diversion of water, extracting of resource, etc.) that might take place on the public lands. And, at the same time, old uses for the public lands have gained new currency and stature. An original justification for the creation of forest reserves was the crucial role played by forests as watersheds, holding the snowpack in the winter and releasing high-quality water to the farms, towns, and cities downstream; forgotten for a time, this function of the public lands has retaken center stage. For Colorado, headwaters to four great rivers, the appreciation of public lands as watersheds is of colossal importance. With a breathtaking cascade of desires and uses aimed at the pub-

lic lands, human beings who work as managers and caretakers of those lands have a particular expertise in the activity known as “being pulled in several different directions.” The responsibilities of the Bureau of Land Management offer a fine case study of the process that has acquired the curious name, “mission creep”—the expansion of the agency’s obligations and duties. The Federal Land Management and Policy Act of 1976 has several passages which, if they do not qualify as poetry, still are stunning pieces of creative writing, almost in the manner of Walt Whitman in scale and sprawl: The public lands [will] be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archaeological values; that, where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition; that will provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals;

and that will provide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use. … Management [will] be on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield… The term “multiple use” means the management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people;… a combination of balanced and diverse resource uses that takes into account the long-term needs of future generations for renewable and nonrenewable resources, including, but not limited to, recreation, range, timber, minerals, watershed, wildlife and fish, and natural scenic, scientific and historical values; and harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources without permanent impairment of the productivity of the land and the quality of the environment with consideration being given to the

Colorado Historical Society

1876 1868 Ute Indian Treaty Established the Ute Indian reservations in western Colorado Territory.

Colorado Enabling Act Provided for Colorado statehood and granted two sections of surveyed land in every township, or lands in lieu thereof, to Colorado for the perpetual support of its public schools.

1902 Reclamation Act Provides for federal financing of local irrigation projects and the use of federal lands for irrigation and the construction of reclamation project features.

1866

1872

1897

Mining Act Allowed free exploration and occupation of mineral resources on the public domain. Also recognizes severance of the water on the public domain from the land, providing for the states and territories to create water rights in unappropriated water, and granting rightsof-way for the construction and operation of water facilities on the public domain.

General Mining Act Allows location of valuable hard rock mineral deposits by private parties on the unreserved public domain lands and the perfection of patents (title from the government) to the surveyed claims.

National Forest Organic Act Provided for reservation of forested land on the public domain, thereby prohibiting homesteading, for the purpose of providing a perpetual supply of timber and water to the settlers of the west. Recognized the continued operation of state water law on the forest lands but made use of these lands subject to Forest Service regulation.

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stables in the course of one day, while public commentary unfolds over your shoulder and stakeholders point out the spots you’ve missed? Kill the Hydra, while also paying close and respectful attention to “public involvement” that includes voices ardently raised on behalf of the right, held even by hydras, to hold on to their unsevered heads? Steal the girdle of the Amazon warrior queen, while observing and deferring to federal prohibitions of workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination? Considerably easier to be a Greek Hero, really, than to be an employee of the Bureau of Land Management. Mythic or prosaic, Olympian or terrestrial, the labors of public land managers are of enormous consequence to the state of Colorado. The BLM itself manages 8.4 million acres in Colorado. Altogether, one-third of the state’s land— or 24.2 million acres—falls into the category of public land. While our minds first travel, on hearing the words “public lands,” to the territory under the authority of the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the BLM, another important category of public ownership involves the military: 182,000 acres for the U.S. Army; 60,000 acres for the Navy; and 27,000 for the Air Force. The sites of nuclear weapons production came under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy,

combination of uses that will give the greatest economic return or the greatest unit output. If you raced or jumped over these two passages, now go back and read them again, this time imagining that you are an employee who is reading her or his job description, calculating and recalculating your job as assignments layer upon assignments. When you finish this second reading, ask yourself if you do not begin to envy Hercules for the relative simplicity and manageability of his legendary Twelve Labors. And then, as you wilt beneath these burdens, read on to another item from the Act of 1976, reminding you, as you perform all these tasks, to seek out and respond to “public involvement”: The term “public involvement” means the opportunity for participation by affected citizens in rule making, decision making, and planning with respect to the public lands, including public meetings or hearings held at locations near the affected lands, or advisory mechanisms, or such other procedures as may be necessary to provide public comment in a particular incident.” Wouldn’t even Hercules have drawn the line at this? Clean up the Augean

not the military. The Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, pleasantly renamed the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, represents an interesting case study in the omnipresent historical phenomena called “unintended and ironic outcomes.” Prohibiting human settlement or visitation is, after all, a commonly used technique to preserve original ecosystems and minimize their disturbance and disruption of original ecosystems. When it comes to limiting human impacts on landscapes and wildlife habitats, the production and testing of military weapons turn out to have much to recommend them. Thus, Rocky Flats, as well as the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (where chemical weapons were produced) find themselves enjoying unlikely designations as wildlife refuges, as deer, eagles, hawks, and other charismatic megafauna pursue their destinies with an enviable indifference to the legacies left by the Cold War. In truth, unintended outcomes and inadvertent consequences are thoroughly at home and have very deep roots in the public lands. One set of historians has called our attention to “boundary-setting” as one of the most important undertakings in the history of the American West. The result of centuries of human action in the West is an astonishingly complex, spaghetti-like arrangement of lines and jurisdictions: borders between and among

1960

1920 1916 1909/1910 Coal Lands Acts Reserved all coal lands and allowed for location and entry of coal lands for mining.

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National Park System Organic Act Provides for administration of the National Park System. Individual parks are created by Congress.

Federal Power Act Allows for the withdrawal and licensing of water power sites on federal lands.

Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act Provides that lands administered by the Forest Service be managed for multiple use and sustained yield balanced with an assessment of economic factors and environmental quality factors, such as aesthetics, public access, wildlife habitat, and recreational and wilderness use.

1906

1916

1920

1934

National Parks and Monuments Antiquities Act Allows for the establishment of national monuments by Presidential order.

Stock Raising Homestead Act Allowed 640-acre homesteads on the unreserved public domain for the raising of livestock.

Mineral Leasing Act Allows for the leasing of reserved non-hard rock minerals on the federal lands, such as oil and gas.

Taylor Grazing Act Provided for grazing districts, regulation of grazing, and grazing allotments on the remaining unreserved public lands, thereby virtually ending the homestead era.

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nations, states, reservations, counties, cities, irrigation and conservancy districts, utility service districts, along with plats of private property and assignments of territory to particular federal land and resource agencies. And one could make the case that this frenzy of line-drawing proved to be the activity that produced the most in the way of unintended outcomes and inadvertent consequences. Why? Because all these units of governance and authority had to wrestle with substances and entities that crossed and transgressed these tangled lines of jurisdiction and authority. Consider any particular set of public lands bordering on private lands, and you will instantly notice that water, fire, airborne chemicals, wildlife, weeds, and a very diverse flock of human beings move across their boundaries, making it impossible for any one unit of governance to manage a system so dynamic, so fluid, and so complex. And thus an undertaking that seems, on first glance, to be very pedestrian and very dreary—the undertaking known as “interagency cooperation”—turns out to be also very consequential. So consequential, in fact, that it might be worthwhile for a philanthropist to enlist the efforts of poets and advertising gurus, rhetoricians and linguists, to find a better term for a project that, in actual practice, demands from its participants, creativity, self-sacrifice, bravery and even heroism.

At the very least, “interagency cooperation” deserves to be the subject of compelling and popular novels and films. Not a single important challenge facing those who care about public lands sits congenially and compliantly within the borders of any particular jurisdiction, and the need to find a route to cooperation among competing agencies and interest groups is urgent—and Herculean. And, once the philanthropist has mobilized the incentives and gotten results on livening up the idea of interagency cooperation, she or he can turn the team toward rehabilitating and revitalizing the word “public.” When we discuss the public lands, historian Richard White pointed out our attention tends to focus on the word “lands.” He urges us to redirect our attention to the word “public,” and to the difficulty of assigning that word a definition that most citizens would support and affirm. “The concept of the public has rarely been at a lower ebb,” White observes. “Americans can hardly hope to get a clear idea of what to do with the public lands when we are abandoning the very concept of public.” We can wish that White has overstated this dilemma, but daily life delivers plenty of evidence that his assessment carries weight. In a quest to place positive meaning in that essential word “public,” it would not be hard to find more inspirational

words to guide us than the declaration that Pinchot made to his hostile audience in Denver in 1907. When Abraham Lincoln was giving his First Inaugural Address, he concluded his speech with the hope that Americans would be “touched, as surely they would be, by the better angels of our nature.” Surely was quite a plucky adverb to use, at a time when the Union was the splitting apart and the very idea of civility was surrendering its meaning. The context for Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address acts as a first-rate “nostalgia blocker,” reminding us that a search for the good old days when Americans resolved their differences with grace and generosity is unlikely to succeed. With nostalgia reduced, our habits of bemoaning the ways that polarization and lack of civility disrupt our public discussions begins to look a little doubtful. Rather than a temporary and recent affliction, crabbiness over the public domain registers more as a chronic condition, and a manageable condition at that. In that cause, while we await the delayed arrival of our better angels, we are nonetheless positioned to stand, in public, before our opponents, adversaries, enemies, and critics and to greet them with that surprisingly stirring and uplifting declaration: “If you can stand me, I can stand you.” q

1976 1973 Endangered Species Act Provides for consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and protection of threatened and endangered species in regard to proposed federal actions.

1966 National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act Provides for administration of a national system of wildlife refuges.

National Forest Management Act Provides for assessment of forest lands to develop a management program based on multiple-use, sustained-yield principles, and implementation of a renewable resource management plan for each unit of the National Forest System. The Forest Service must assess the balance between economic factors and environmental quality factors, such as aesthetics, public access, wildlife habitat, and recreational and wilderness use.

1964

1970

1976

Wilderness Act Provides for a wilderness preservation system on federal lands, grandfathering pre-existing authorized uses, but essentially prohibiting any future alteration unless by presidential exemption. Individual wilderness areas are created by Congress.

National Environmental Policy Act Provides for an environmental impact analysis of proposed federal actions.

Federal Land Policy and Management Act Provides for a land use planning process and regulation by the Bureau of Land Management of unreserved public lands it manages, based on multiple use and sustained yield. Management is to include: protection of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archaeological values; preservation of certain lands in their natural condition; protection of food and habitat for fish, wildlife and domestic animals; provision for outdoor recreation and human use; and use to meet the nation’s need for domestic sources of minerals, food, timber and fiber.

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By John Loftis

A

crowded raft bounces over rapids; a skier glides across a high country meadow; a fisherman stands in clear water, his line looping gracefully behind him. Such images entice tourists and natives alike to enjoy outdoor recreation in Colorado, mostly on public lands. But the simple, pure images obscure difficult conflicts in the uses of public land and water. Other images suggest different perspectives, such as agricultural productivity or population growth: center pivot irrigators spraying rows of bright green carrots or alfalfa, or handsome new housing developments with lush lawns and flower beds. With increasing frequency and severity, recreational uses of public lands and resources conflict with industrial, agricultural, and residential uses, and sometimes even with other recreational uses. Public land is a uniquely American idea. In the nation’s early years, vast tracts of land with forests and streams seemed inexhaustible. But by the late 1800s, some foresighted individuals became concerned about the destructive 8

consequences of free and unrestrained grazing, mining and logging. Gifford Pinchot, one of the first trained foresters in the United States, and President Theodore Roosevelt initiated the idea of setting aside land to be owned by and for the benefit of the American people and managed by a new government agency, the U.S. Forest Service. In 1905, Pinchot became the new agency’s first chief. Under his leadership, public land holdings more than tripled, to 172 million acres in 1910 from an initial 56 million. Today 36 percent of Colorado, nearly 24 million acres, is federally owned: most by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and

the National Park Service. Other agencies have smaller holdings and the state of Colorado owns another 3.5 million acres. Pinchot saw public land as a source of raw materials for the nation’s development; he never intended it to sit idle or be used exclusively for recreation. He established the deceptively simple principles on which the Forest Service and later other agencies were to manage public lands: “the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.” Another friend of Teddy Roosevelt’s had a different vision for public lands. Pinchot’s one time friend and later adversary John Muir valued the natural world for what it is in itself, not just as a storehouse of raw materials. The two men were initially conservation allies, but in a vocal public argument in a hotel lobby in 1897, they split irreconcilably over the issue of sheep grazing on public reserves—Muir calling sheep “hooved locusts.” He also worked with President Roosevelt, who Muir persuaded to support National Park status for Yosemite in 1905. But soon the city of San Francisco, citing the need for a steady water sup-

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ply for a growing city, began planning a dam to flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, despite its national park status. Pinchot argued the benefits of a reliable water supply; Muir argued the irrevocable loss of the recreational and aesthetic value of what he believed was the loveliest area of Yosemite. The plan was debated in newspapers nationally, most major dailies supporting Muir. After years of hearings, Congress voted for the dam in 1913, the Chiwalame River flooded the Hetch Hetchy Valley, and utility won out over the less tangible values of recreation and aesthetics. The legacy of Muir’s battle was the National Parks Act of 1916, which forever protected national parks from such incursions. But in law, Pinchot’s vision would prevail. Subsequent acts of Congress defined and reasserted his principles for the Forest Service and later the Bureau of Land Management, the two largest managers of federal public lands. The MultipleUse, Sustained-Yield act of 1960 declared that National Forests were established for “outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and fish and wildlife purposes.” In addition to recreational use, surface resources of National Forests should be managed for “high-level regular output of the renewable resources of the national forest without impairment of the land’s productivity,” primarily timber. Two acts of 1976, one for the USFS under the Secretary of Agriculture and one for BLM under the Secretary of the Interior, use some identical language for the two agencies but distinguish likely uses of the two kinds of federal public land. Both reiterate the “multiple-use, sustainable-yield” formula from the 1960 act, but the USFS directive now urges high yield management to meet “our citizens’ needs in perpetuity.” While these USFS yields are still conceived mostly as timber, BLM anticipates a wider range of uses, not all surface ones. These lands are to be managed to “preserve and protect certain lands in their natural condition, to provide food and habitat for fish, wildlife and domestic animals and to provide outdoor recreation and human use,” but also “in a manner that recognizes the nation’s need for domestic sources of minerals, food, timber and fiber.” In its decisions, the BLM must

consider “the relative scarcity of values involved” and “weigh long-term against short-term benefits.” Public land, with such multiple, disparate management goals, land that, after all, belongs to millions of people collectively, not technically to the U. S. government, and land that elicited competing visions in its earliest years was destined for conflicts over use. Colorado public lands, as Vince Matthews, Director of the Colorado Geological Survey notes, are rich in “all energy and minerals” as well as in recreational potential. With the “global tightening of markets” for these

resources, he says, the world turns to Colorado to supply its needs. The pressure to follow Pinchot’s vision of resource utilization not only grows, it becomes international, and its application inevitably entails some negative impacts on the land and wildlife. And so, it elicits resistance from those more in tune with Muir’s vision of recreational and aesthetic values. Mining, energy development, and water storage are cases in point. The long history of mining on public lands probably shapes many people’s views of non-recreational use. Active mining historically predates public lands as created under Teddy Roosevelt, and

it had already gained preferential treatment under the Mining Act of 1872 by which “all valuable mineral deposits in lands belonging to the United States… are hereby declared to be free and open to exploration and purchase” by all citizens, or those who declare their intent to become citizens. Subsequently, mining was designated the “best and highest” use of public lands, thus trumping any attempt to deny mining applications for almost any reason. Mining pollution in the West is notorious, and as illustrated by the 1991, socalled “Summitville disaster,” Colorado and the West continue to live with the consequences of mining’s special status. At 11,500 feet in the San Juan Mountains, surrounded by Rio Grande National Forest, open pit mining exposed naturally acidic rock to runoff, and cyanide spills from the gold leaching killed all aquatic life for miles downstream in the Alamosa River. After mine owner Galactic Resources, Ltd. declared bankruptcy in 1992, the cleanup was taken over by the EPA’s Superfund and continues to this day. According to conservation and fishing organization Trout Unlimited, in the West, more than 40 percent of all headwater streams are affected, in one fashion or another, by abandoned mine runoff, and “[the] archaic 1872 Mining Act…gives the mining industry priority status among public land users …and doesn’t do enough to require mining companies to clean up their messes, which are poisoning streams, driving big game away and impacting downstream water users.” A newer pressure on public lands in the West is energy, specifically oil and gas, development. The BLM has recently released its second record of decision, its management plan and environmental impact statement, outlining conditions under which drilling will take place on the Roan Plateau in western Colorado, where the BLM had been ordered by the U.S. Congress to open oil and gas leasing. Because the Roan is so rich in fish, game and other recreational opportunities, vigorous opposition remains. A coalition of sportsman’s groups expressed strong opposition to Gov. Bill Ritter’s decision to support energy development on the Roan Plateau: “These

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Sustainability—doing only those things that we can do forever without destroying the very resources we use—is Pinchot’s ultimate long run, and perhaps the point at which Pinchot’s and Muir’s visions come closest together. areas that could be opened for drilling are the best of the best for fish and wildlife,” said Matt Keena of Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in a joint press release. “The BLM and the industry need to hear that drilling on top of the Roan is simply unacceptable.” Trout Unlimited’s executive director David Nickum adds that TU’s main concern is the fragile habitat for cutthroat trout, for which, he says, the “Roan deserves full protection.” But hopes are also high for a better outcome than from earlier mining practices. Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Tyler Baskfield notes that “as Coloradans we have to understand that the oil and gas industry is with us for the long term, and we have to deal with it.” While no energy development is totally without impact, Baskfield also believes we can “soften the blow” on public land and its wildlife. Vince Matthews, Colorado Geological Survey director, concurs, arguing that the multi-agency planning for the Roan drilling is a “wonderful example of how things ought to work.” In fact, he says, it could be a model for the future. Because the first priority of all agencies was creating the “best way to protect everything,” participating in the process was, he says, one of the most rewarding experiences of his professional career. Baskfield points to management regulations such as “timing stipulations” that keep activity out of certain areas at specified times of year, for mule deer breeding in winter or sage grouse leks in spring, for example; or property limitations that completely disallow activity in especially fragile or sensitive areas; or mandatory reclamation of drilling sites. DOW, he says, “is on top of this issue” and evolving quickly in response to the challenges of mitigation. Matthews points especially to the staged leasing, which allows development of only one ridge at a time as a piece of the plan that simultaneously strengthens protection and maximizes the value of the leases to the state and federal government. The new gold in the West is water, 10

and a current issue starkly exemplifies the complexity of public land and resource conflicts: plans for the Cache la Poudre River. Containing Colorado’s only designated wild and scenic segments, the Poudre begins in Rocky Mountain National Park, flows through Roosevelt National Forest, through the city of Fort Collins, which has purchased much of the river within its boundaries, and across the plains, where it is bordered by the Poudre Trail, a multi-use trail from Windsor to Greeley. In short, it traverses four varieties of public land, from federal to local, all heavily used for fishing, hiking, rafting, biking, skating, walking, birding, wildlife observation and more. The Poudre’s water already supplies both municipalities and agriculture, and more of it is being eyed to supply increasing demand of northeastern Colorado’s growing population. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has proposed the Northern Integrated Supply Project to serve 15 participating municipalities. The district predicts a near tripling of demand for water by these communities, from 48,000 acre feet in 2005 to 121,500 by 2050, an increase of more than 70,000 acre feet. They plan to supply more than half—40,000—with two new reservoirs, Glade and Galeton. NCWCD spokesman Brian Werner says the new reservoirs are “quality of life” issues, because in the last 20 years “the population of northern Colorado has doubled, while no new water storage has been built.” He asserts the 15 participating communities have aggressive conservation programs, but conservation alone cannot meet the projected need. While he admits flows in the Poudre below Glade will be lower, he says every effort will be made to mitigate effects on the river. Save the Poudre, an ad hoc organization opposed to NISP, disputes many of these claims. While acknowledging that minimum stream flows in the Wild and Scenic upper sections of the river will be maintained, they argue that the river below the canyon mouth will be effectively dried up. The Army Corps of Engineer’s envi-

ronmental impact study provides some support for this: The high-water May flow of the river will be reduced by as much as 71 percent and the already low August flow by an additional 26 percent. The May flow is especially important since it is the flushing flow that is necessary to scour the river for its long-term health. Further contradicting NISP’s claims, STP asserts that the projected water needs can and should be provided through conservation, water exchanges, reuse and other creative methods. Trout Unlimited’s Drew Peternell, head of the Colorado Water Project, says TU is currently “concerned” about Glade, but their concerns “could be satisfied if Northern could assure that they will protect stream flows in the Poudre at a healthy level below Glade.” STP’s Gary Wockner characterizes this as a modern version of the Pinchot/Muir conflict, as “the Old West vs. the New West.” He points out “entire economies are emerging around recreational and aesthetic” uses of land and resources, in what he calls a “different definition of utility.” All this brings us back to the images with which we began: rafters, skiers, fishermen—and add snowmobilers, four wheelers, hikers, and many more—on the one hand, farmers, developers ranchers, mineral and energy developers, and more on the other. Land, water, minerals, timber, and water, for use both as raw material and for recreation, are finite, and neither use has absolute legal superiority. As demand for both grows, conflicts over access to and uses of public land will undoubtedly increase. The economic raw material benefits that began in Pinchot’s vision will continue to be challenged by the economic and recreational benefits that began in Muir’s vision. Sustainability—doing only those things that we can do forever without destroying the very resources we use—is Pinchot’s ultimate long run, and perhaps the point at which Pinchot’s and Muir’s visions come closest together. The idea may be a guide through the struggle to sort out the competing claims for commercial AND recreational uses of public land and resources. q

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By Peter Roessmann

Wild and Scenic Sparks Anxiety, Opportunity In Congressional testimony in 1921 on renaming the former Grand River in the Colorado River, Rep. Ed Taylor exclaimed that it was silly to have a river in Colorado named the Grand River since it could be said that all the state’s rivers were grand. Likewise, it may seem foolish to designate certain river stretches in Colorado as wild and scenic since by all appearances so many reaches deserve that tag. But federal Wild and Scenic River designation carries with it a great weight— the weight of a federal reserved water right—that complicates the picture for future use and development of water. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s recent studies of river and stream reaches in Colorado for Wild and Scenic consideration, carried out as part of their normal cycle of management plan revisions, is prompting a lot of concern but it is also getting people talking—with each other. “What makes some people nervous is that if BLM names a river, it’s easier for that designation to occur,” says BLM’s Wild and Scenic coordinator Roy Smith. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 is an addition to the list of federal reservations that enable the federal government to designate lands and waters of the United States for specific purposes. In this case, the federal government recognized that rivers, streams and riparian areas that possessed “outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values, shall be preserved in freeflowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.” The language of the act goes on to say that if the federal government is going to have a policy to dam certain river sections, it should also have a complementary policy to preserve the other reaches, A lack of specificity in the 1968 act on how federal agencies should proceed with reaches to be added to the Wild and Scenic list caused a dearth of listings in Colorado. A 75-mile portion of the Cache la Poudre above Fort Collins, designated by congressional legislation in 1986, remains the only one in Colorado.

In contrast, New Jersey, not as widely recognized as Colorado for its wild and scenic character, has four rivers and streams listed. Some cite the complexity of interstate water issues as a reason coastal states have many more listed rivers than landlocked states that share waterways. Designation of the Poudre Wild and Scenic River is a classic example of political risk taking and long years of negotiation between water user and environmental interests (see “Cache la Poudre River, Colorado’s First Wild and Scenic River” in CFWE’s Citizen Guide to Colorado’s Environmental Era). In 1977, the U.S. Forest Service undertook its study of the Poudre for Wild and Scenic Status and in 1983 issued its recommendation for designation of 62 miles of the river. Environmental interests favored designating the river from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park all the way down to Fort Collins. Water users wanted to preserve the Grey Mountain dam site above Fort Collins for a possible future reservoir. Then-U.S. Rep. Hank Brown convened a four-year negotiation process. Ultimately, Congress designated a 75-mile reach, preserving pre-existing water rights and exchanges in the designated portions of the river. It also created a federal reserved water right for all remaining unappropriated water in the wild and scenic river segments. The Grey Mountain dam site was excluded from the designation. The 1968 federal law also called on BLM to study streams on lands it manages. BLM reviews management plans approximately every 15-20 years. Armed with a new mandate to evaluate waters within its boundaries and the funding to engage in the study, BLM field offices around Colorado have been searching for

waterways with “outstandingly remarkable values,” or what BLM’s Smith calls “the best of the best.” Suddenly, Colorado water users were hit with the possibility of new federal reserved water rights becoming intertwined in the already tangled web of water management. Like it or not, a conversation about what should be protected and why was under way. Designating a river or stream reach as Wild and Scenic is but one tool in an available array to preserve various Colorado waterways. It is also the one that some view as the most heavy handed. For water managers whose job it is to plan ahead for future water demands, the Wild and Scenic study process is a wild card they’d prefer not to have in the deck. Three reasons rise to the top of list of concerns of water users: Federal agencies will determine how much water is needed for adequate protection; federal agencies will be stakeholders in any water rights cases possibly affecting Wild and Scenic reaches; and, the federal government is forbidden from approving or assisting any project that may adversely affect a protected reach. While water agencies concede that protecting other competing values of water is something important to even their own constituents, they argue the federal framework imposed on the process is much more difficult to work with rather than sitting down and negotiating other protective actions with local and state groups. “We realize there are a lot of competing values out there,” said Alan Berryman of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, “and to the extent that we can plan collaborative solutions that address everyone’s needs, we think they’re necessary to be looked at.”

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But it’s not only water agencies that are cautious of the Wild and Scenic Act, agencies and groups working to protect the many values along Colorado’s waterways also see that the act can cut both ways. The delicate relationship that has been built between water user groups and competing water interests is hard won and painstakingly constructed. Preservationists are aware that listing a stream reach can win a battle but ultimately lose the war should other situations arise that require water users’ cooperation. If the stakeholders collaborate “it’s an opportunity for all to have certainty,” says Taylor Hawes, the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s former associate counsel. “If we come up with a management plan that will serve as an alternative (to the designation), there’s local and state input. “The alternative is to leave it up to the BLM.” Part of the trepidation from both sides comes from the uncertainty of the Wild and Scenic process. For those who want river reaches protected, there is no certainty which river portions will become eligible and suitable, that recommendations for listing are acted upon by the nominating agency, that Congress will ratify the listing or be certain that the quantity of water approved

and Scenic, the federal agency will manage that reach to preserve the values that brought it into the process. For that and other reasons, agencies along three Yampa River sections—deemed suitable for listing by the BLM—opted out of collaborating and plan to take their chances. They’ll challenge the BLM record of decision when it’s issued in 2009. “There’s a long list of guidelines federal agencies have to follow, visual, scenic, wildlife and so on,” says Moffatt County Commissioner and River District board member Tom Gray. “Each one has several other things to check. We don’t feel like they went through their own guidelines to suitability.” Even without a congressional designation, a determination of suitability can hobble water development. It also can lead to more scrutiny and opposition from federal agencies if a water project could negatively affect waterways suitable for designation. This makes the case that negotiated rather than federally mandated protections would be a preferred alternative. On the other hand, Gray says each of the Yampa sections, which total 10 miles, would affect “existing development, the ability to maintain existing development and new uses.” The federal agencies charged with evaluating Wild and Scenic candidates

lation depends on the point of view. Gray says the Yampa River representatives—including Moffatt County, the Juniper Water Conservation District, Rio Tinto Minerals, the Wilderness Society and the River District—tried negotiations. The stakeholders, water users and environmental groups “worked out a process to create a management plan that would meet everyone’s needs and that (would) be the guiding document. “We had a couple of meetings with the groups. One of the things we wanted to work on, were anxious to work on going in, was that we each needed to outline what our issues are so we know which way we’re headed. We didn’t want the Wild and Scenic designation, but the group would agree to a management plan in lieu of the designation. Environmental groups wouldn’t sign it.” Notes Iseman, “It’s obvious the BLM’s process has focused attention on this issue. I don’t think people were talking about Wild and Scenic a year ago.” Wanner, who was instrumental in getting the Cache la Poudre listed as Colorado’s only Wild and Scenic River, takes a pragmatic approach to seeking river protections. “The current situation and the variety of interests in the Upper San Juan Basin indicate that the way to get protection

for the federal reserved water right will be sufficient. Some agencies, such as the River District, have a spectrum of constituents, including water providers, the recreation industry and local governments. San Juan Citizens Alliance’s Chuck Wanner sees citizen momentum as necessary to move the process forward, “Without citizen action, (Wild and Scenic recommendations) would become a matter of record, it would be in the forest plan, and it would sit there, probably.” The Nature Conservancy’s Tom Iseman adds, “If you have water users on board, they have control of things the federal government couldn’t affect, so maybe there’s a way to achieve more.” For water users, another concern looms: If a reach on a waterway is considered suitable for designation as Wild 12

recognize the concerns from all parties and are very careful to work with an array of stakeholders in the process. While determining “outstandingly remarkable values” may sound like a subjective judgment, it is actually a rigorous and complicated undertaking. From the federal point of view, Wild and Scenic is not taken lightly nor rashly. It’s also understood that it all comes down to water. “The critical thing is the water management.” says Smith. “Since some of the outstandingly remarkable values are water-dependent, figuring out how to make sure that the water is there to support those outstandingly remarkable values—that’s the challenging piece of it.” But in Colorado, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act has been most successful as an incentive-inducing device. Whether that incentive is in the form of a carrot of opportunity or a stick of impending regu-

for rivers in this area is to try to work within the general, larger community to get consensus and implement protections. Those protections might include Wild and Scenic rivers and they might include other forms of protection.” Bart Miller, Western Resource Advocates’ water program director, sums it up, “I think most find the end is more important than the means. Federal protections are potentially powerful but usually take a long time, sometimes decades, to come into being and often are stalled or stopped altogether by stiff resistance from state and local interests. “But for critics of federal agencies, water appears to be especially touchy. That’s unfortunate, because there is a public element to water and, as such, it’s completely appropriate to have it meet public benefits, not just private ones, through avenues of federal and state law.” q

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Kevin Moloney

…the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act has been most successful as an incentive-inducing device. Whether that incentive is in the form of a carrot of opportunity or a stick of impending regulation depends on the point of view.


By Eryn Gable

Of Mines andMinerals Ever since William Green Russell discovered gold at the mouth of Dry Creek in 1858, mining has been a fact of life in Colorado. It was the lure of making a fortune from the state’s vast natural resources that led many settlers here. Today, that historical legacy of mining has Colorado in an odd position: The state is left with an environmental legacy of degraded streams and piles of toxic waste. At the same time, it’s attracting attention—and more mining—because of the remaining resource richness. As environmental groups argue for updated mining laws, climbing mineral prices have sparked a new rush. The current laws allow mining interests to take valuable hardrock minerals from public lands without paying royalties—unlike the severance taxes required to extract coal, oil or natural gas—and buy mineral-bearing public lands for as little as $5 an acre. A recent report by the Environmental Working Group found mining claims in Colorado have mushroomed, to 23,473 in January 2008 from 5,430 in January 2003.

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“More than 10,000 mining claims were filed on public lands last year, 80 percent of them for uranium,” says Vince Matthews, director of the Colorado Geological Society. “All mineral and energy resources in the world are in very short supply. Their price has escalated. A year ago, the average price increase was 538 percent for 25 mineral resources, like gold, platinum, silver, copper, lead and zinc. Lead has increased 630 percent, copper 434 percent.” Think there will be a downturn? “It’s not going to go away,” says Matthews. “There is no reason to slow down. China is tying up minerals all over the

the Great Plains in 1858-1859, at least one-third turned back before they ever laid eyes on the Rocky Mountains. Only about 30,000 people stayed to form the population nucleus of what would become the state of Colorado, settling in mining camps such as Denver City and Boulder City that would later develop into cities. The mines would also form the backbone of the region’s early economy. Although William Russell was the first person to discover gold in Colorado, it was John Hamilton Gregory’s lode discovery in the Rockies that gave substance to the Pikes Peak gold rush. Some $85 million worth of ore, mostly in gold, was

ment, is expected to cost approximately $750 million, though Stover said that estimate could be off by as much as 20 percent either way. The abandoned mines contain an estimated 23,000 hazardous features such as mine openings and shafts that the state is slowly whittling away at. Colorado closes about 300 of those features every year and has now addressed about 7,500 of them altogether, Stover said. Without a large infusion of additional funding for hardrock mine cleanup, however, that’s about all the state can do, Stover said. “There is no overall source of funding for hardrock mine cleanup, so

“A year ago, the average price increase was 538 percent for 25 mineral resources, like gold, platinum, silver, copper, lead and zinc. Lead has increased 630 percent, copper 434 percent.” world. They’ve been doing it. The Chinese just signed a joint venture with world’s largest mining company to go around the world and buy up small and medium mines, regardless of what they mine.” Amidst the new surge, the remnants of the last rush remain. Says Western Mining Action Project’s Roger Flynn: “We have hundreds of miles of streams in the high country that are still being polluted by old mining facilities and tunnels and dumps.” Mining and milling processes throughout the West in the 19th and early 20th centuries typically focused more on efficiency and expediency than environmental protection. Waste rock from the mines was often dumped outside the mine portal, and mill wastes were dumped in the nearest stream. “Mining was done really without regard to protecting the environment or thinking about the future,” said Elizabeth Russell, watershed-restoration coordinator for Trout Unlimited. One reason for that may be that few of the European settlers who migrated to Colorado during the early days of the gold rush had any intention of staying in the area. They hoped to strike it rich and take their fortunes back home with them. Many never even made it that far. Of the estimated 150,000 people who crossed 14

eventually excavated from the area where Gregory made his discovery. For about 50 years, mining was the driving force behind Colorado’s economy, tied to everything from agriculture to transportation. When a major economic depression hit the United States in 1893, it was the gold mines that helped keep the state’s economy afloat despite depressed farm prices. The state’s mining industry expanded again with the demand for raw materials caused by the outbreak of World War I in 1914. And although the Great Depression hit the state’s economy hard, mining remained the one bright spot, with mineral production actually increasing during the 1930s. It wasn’t until World War II, when government offices, defense plants and training camps moved to Denver and other cities that mining was finally eclipsed by other economic activities. While Colorado’s great mining boom is over, the state is still working to address the historical legacy of that boom, particularly its effects on Colorado’s environment. Bruce Stover, senior project manager for the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, said the state has about 7,000 orphaned and abandoned mining sites covering an estimated 13,000 acres. Cleaning and restoring those properties, including water treat-

that’s not really getting done in an any large-scale fashion,” he said. Eric Huber, senior staff attorney for the Sierra Club in Boulder, said the state and EPA have been good at addressing the big problem mines, but they have been less successful in tackling the thousands of small, abandoned mines that still dot the landscape in the high country. “There is no systematic way of dealing with them all right now,” he said. All of those abandoned mines have affected the state’s water quality. A 1998 study found more than 1,300 miles of Colorado streams have heavy metal contamination. Aimee Konowal of the state’s Water Quality Division said as many as 168 stream segments out of 772 monitored by the agency and 25 out of 106 lakes and reservoirs could be impaired due to mining activities. Local Efforts The Upper Animas Watershed has an extensive history of mining dating back to the 1870s, when a U.S. Army scouting team discovered placer gold. From 1872 to 1991, when the Sunnyside mine closed, the area produced about 18.1 million tons of ore, making it one of Colorado’s most productive mining regions. Nearly half of that ore – or about 8.6 million tons – was deposited

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Steve Sanchez, a natural resource also the largest source of cadmium and into nearby streams between 1872 and specialist with the federal Bureau of Land lead in the watershed, according to the about 1935. Mining waste deposition put zinc, alu- Management, said local landowners have Environmental Protection Agency. Gokhale-Welch said the group was minum, cadmium, copper, lead and man- also been critical in efforts to clean up ganese into the streams, damaging water Kerber Creek in the historic Bonanza worried about attempting to clean up quality and degrading habitat. As a result, Mining District in the San Luis Valley. The the tunnel, because it would mean they native cutthroat trout were largely extirpat- 17-mile-long, $1.2 million project, which would have to assume legal liability. Reps. ed from the 146 square-mile watershed, started in 1993, is expected to be com- Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Steve Pearce pleted in the next several years and could (R-N.M.) proposed federal legislation that with the exception of a few tributaries. The environmental challenges make Kerber the first stream to come would allow well-intentioned groups to related to historic mining in the Upper off the state’s list of impaired waters, clean up abandoned mines under the auspices of an EPA permit and eliminate Animas Watershed led the Environmental Sanchez said. Grassroots efforts also benefited the their liability if something goes wrong Protection Agency to consider placduring the cleanup, but ing the area on its the bill has stalled in National Priorities List, Congress. commonly known as “The lack of ‘good Superfund. But local Samaritan’ legislation residents feared that makes it impossible a Superfund designafor us to do anything,” tion could harm the Gokhale-Welch said. community’s image, One possibility for reduce property valmoving the bill this year ues and lead to higher is attaching it to legislacosts and litigation. tion aimed at overhaulTo avoid such a ing the 1872 Mining Law. designation, the comUdall spokeswoman munity organized Heather Fox said mining the Animas River reform legislation could Stakeholders Group in be one vehicle to move 1994. After examining the good Samaritan 1,500 mine sites in the bill. “We think it makes region, the group idensense to address good tified 67 priority sites Bruce Stover, senior project manager for the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, said the Sam in that legislation, state has about 7,000 orphaned and abandoned mining sites covering an estimated 13,000 acres. Cleaning that they judged to be and restoring those properties, including water treatment, is expected to cost approximately $750 million. but we don’t know how the biggest contributors of metals in the Animas River. The group town of Creede. The narrow valley above likely that is,” she said. Perhaps the most famous example raised more than $35 million for remedia- the town is lined with abandoned mines, tion activities and more than $3 million of some of which date back to the 1800s. of the damage caused by mining operain-kind volunteer support to help clean up The sites continue to leach toxic heavy tions is the Summitville Mine in the San metals, such as cadmium and zinc, that Juan Mountains. Using the cyanide heap 50 of these high-priority sites. The cleanup effort has already seen flow into the Rio Grande valley’s streams, leach method to remove gold from lowgrade ore, the Summitville Consolidated some promising results, including an such as Willow Creek. Carishma Gokhale-Welch, director of Mining Company produced gold worth overall increase in water quality and the downstream establishment of two spe- the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee, about $81 million from 1984 to 1992. But cies of trout. The project’s success in said the group has cleaned up at least leaks of toxic metals—including copper, reducing pollution levels has convinced seven abandoned mine sites, capping the iron, manganese, zinc, aluminum and the EPA not to take formal action as long mine tailings, restoring the streams and cadmium—from the leach pad into the as the group continues to produce signifi- revegetating the areas. Although Gokhale- Alamosa River headwaters destroyed all Welch said it’s still too early to tell how aquatic life in the river for more than 17 cant results. The Milsap Mill Tailings Restoration much that work has paid off, she noted miles downstream of the mine. EPA placed the site on the Superfund Partnership experienced similar results. that the group did see fish in one section The partnership has stabilized approxi- of the creek last summer, which she called list after the company declared bankruptcy and abandoned the mine. Cleanup mately 1 million cubic yards of mine tailings a step in the right direction. The biggest hurdle remaining is clean- has cost about $210 million so far and is on a 60-acre site in the Milsap Watershed. The unstable tailings had become highly ing up the century-old Nelson Tunnel, predicted to continue to cost $1.5 million erosive, causing significant downstream which Gokhale-Welch said is responsible per year for years to come. Elyssa Rosen of the Pew Campaign for damage to streams, streamside vegeta- for almost half the zinc that flows into tion and agricultural fields over the past 80 Willow Creek. The tunnel, which was orig- Responsible Mining said the Summitville years, as well as large dust storms in the inally constructed as a drain for water and disaster is a good example of why tougha way to haul ores from the mine shaft, is er regulations are needed on even modneighboring communities. H e a d w at e r s | S u m m e r 2 0 0 8

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“Any development in a watershed should be regulated,” Susan Parker said. “If you lose your water, what have you got?” ern mining practices. “These things are just a decade away. They’re not historic problems,” she said. But Stuart Sanderson of the Colorado Mining Association said the state already has tough standards to safeguard ground and water quality, noting that most of the current environmental problems relate to mining practices dating back to the turn of the century. “Modern mining is very different. It’s very stringently regulated in Colorado.” As an example, Sanderson noted that the state’s largest gold mine, the Cripple Creek and Victor gold mine, does not discharge any water, so there is no effect on water quality. The new rush The rush for precious metals in the Colorado hills is on. With gold prices hitting an all-time high of more than $1,000 an ounce in March, Colorado is experiencing a resurgence of the 1850s gold rush. At least five gold mines are operating or preparing to open in the Centennial State. Among them is a planned restart of the Bates-Hunter in Central City. The Bates vein was the second lode discovered in Colorado and helped spark the 1850s gold rush. The company estimates the Bates vein alone could contain approximately 1.1 million ounces of gold and eight other veins covered by the project claims could increase that potential by a factor of two to 10. LKA International of Gig Harbor, Wash., hopes to restart its Golden Wonder mine near Lake City, developing a new drift approximately 1,000 feet below the current workings of the mine. Since commercial production began in 1998, the Golden Wonder mine has produced nearly 134,000 ounces of gold valued at more than $45 million. Gold isn’t the only precious metal whose prices have been on the rise. Prices of molybdenum, a metal used in alloys to toughen and strengthen other metals such as steel and cast iron, have skyrocketed to $33 a pound today, from

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about $2 a pound in 2002. “There are antimony, selenium and cadmium,” says the geological society’s Matthews. “It doesn’t matter where you look, the price has dramatically increased.” Matthews says europium, found in Colorado, is more valuable than platinum. A metal as soft as lead, it is used in the control rods of nuclear reactors and small lasers and in the production of red phosphorus. Red phosphorus’ most notable use: It produces the red on color television screens. It reportedly is the luminescent metal used in Euro bank notes to prove their authenticity. The state, says Matthews, is rich. “We have significant oil fields. The world’s largest titanium deposit is near Gunnison” he says. “Colorado’s diverse geology (contains) molybdenum, gold, one thing after another. We’re very, very rich. They haven’t been mined for a long time.” With price increases that dramatic, it’s little wonder that mining companies are looking to boost Colorado’s production by reopening old mines and starting new ones. In December, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. announced it would reopen that Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville, which is believed to contain the world’s largest and highest grade undeveloped molybdenum deposit. The $500 million project includes the restart of open-pit mining and the construction of new mining facilities. The mine is expected to produce 30 million pounds of molybdenum annually starting in 2010, and the company is considering a large-scale expansion of the mine that could double production to 60 million pounds annually. The mine, which first processed ore in 1918, has been shuttered since 1995. In November, Vancouver, Canadabased Bolero Resources Corp. announced it would buy $10 million worth of land and mineral rights east of Rico that include the Silver Creek molybdenum project and other copper and gold deposits in the Pioneer Mining District. Based on drilling completed by the Anaconda Co. from

1979 through 1983, the company expects the total molybdenum deposit could be up to 1.2 billion pounds. The resurgence of molybdenum has not been welcomed everywhere. For the past 30 years, the High Country Citizens’ Alliance has led opposition to a mining operation on Mt. Emmons, arguing that a molybdenum mine would hurt the environment and economy of Crested Butte and the entire Gunnison Valley. Steve Glazer, water director for the High Country Citizens’ Alliance, said the group remains “very engaged” in fighting the mine effort, despite Kobex’s decision. “This is no end,” he said. “The price of moly is too high for us to think somebody isn’t going to be interested.” Elyssa Rosen of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining said the controversy over molybdenum mining on Mt. Emmons, affectionately called ‘Red Lady’ by locals, is a good example of why Congress should overhaul the 1872 Mining Law. “The town doesn’t want the mine, but the town doesn’t have a say under the 1872 Mining Law,” she said. Dan Morse, public lands director for the High Country Citizens’ Alliance, said the mining reform bill passed by the House of Representatives last year could help the group’s fight by giving federal agencies the authority to deny a mine permit based on “undue impacts.” But, for now, he said the group’s best chance for defeating the mine lies at the local level, since state and federal agencies do not typically deny mining permit applications. Gunnison County and the town of Crested Butte have both established regulations intended to protect the area’s watershed. If the mine can’t meet those standards, it won’t be able to move forward, he said. Crested Butte Town Manager Susan Parker said protecting the town’s water supply is one of the local government’s primary responsibilities. “Any development in a watershed should be regulated,” she said. “If you lose your water, what have you got?” q

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Kevin Moloney (2)

Lake County Emergency Manager Jeff Foley addresses residents at a meeting in a local gymnasium in Leadville, Colo., Friday, Feb. 23, 2008. Residents of the historic Colorado mining town feared that water buildup in abandoned mines above the town could blow out and send more than a billion gallons of polluted water into parts of the town.

A lesson in Leadville The issue of abandoned mining tunnels made headlines last winter when the Lake County Board of Commissioners claimed that the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel posed an “imminent and substantial” danger to the Arkansas Valley watershed. Leadville was one of the nation’s key mining centers for more than a century, but since the 1960s it’s had to deal with the aftermath of mining. As winter closed in, the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, owned and operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, had a serious blockage. Behind it a pool of approximately 1 billion gallons of toxic acid and metal-laden water, nearly 200 feet deep, had built up. The commissioners claimed the pressure behind the blockage put the tunnel at risk for a catastrophic blowout, especially since large amounts of water infiltrated the mine pool during the spring snowmelt. In February, the EPA promised to try to prevent a disaster by install-

ing a pump in one shaft to remove water from the mine and to construct a relief well in the tunnel to pump water directly to it then pipe the water to the Bureau of Reclamation’s existing treatment plant. According to the agency, the EPA began pumping water from the Gaw Shaft on Feb. 27. As of mid-April, 28 million gallons of water had been pumped from the underground mine workings in the Leadville Mining District. The agency began treatment of water from the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel in late June. Bruce Stover, of the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, said it’s unclear whether the tunnel was at immediate risk of a blowout, but the potential risk necessitated action. “If there were a blowout, it would be a disaster for the Arkansas,” he said. The Arkansas River already had that experience.

By 1900, Leadville had more than 400 individual mines and more than 100 miles of underground workings. Most of the mines closed by the 1960s, but drainage continued at a rate of 4 million gallons a day until the early 1980s. Then, the EPA tagged the area a Superfund site and began treating the drained water. The mine drainage that followed the 1960s’ closing left a trail: Absolutely no fish could be found for several miles downstream of Leadville, and for up to 40 miles downstream, fish showed elevated metal levels. After the area was declared a Superfund site in 1983, water treatment plants were built to treat the tunnel flow and remove heavy metals before they reached the Arkansas River. More than 90 percent of the acid mine drainage has been eliminated, and fish populations are recovering. q —Eryn Gable

The soon-to-be-reopened Climax molybdenum mine stands in the snow above Leadville, Colo., Friday, Feb. 23, 2008.

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Concerns about global climate change have renewed interest in nuclear power and driven prices for uranium to record highs, creating a resurgence of uranium mining in Colorado. The Uravan mineral belt, the oldest uranium mining area in the United States, is historically the most productive uranium and vanadium region in Colorado, producing an estimated 63 million pounds of uranium and 330 million pounds of vanadium from 1948 to 1978. Colorado ranks third in the United States for uranium reserves, behind Wyoming and New Mexico. There are 32 permitted and active uranium projects in Colorado, but only three mines—owned by Denison Mines Corp— are currently producing. Still, uranium claims have skyrocketed in recent years—jumping from 107 in 2003 to more than 11,000 this year—and many more projects are being planned. Perhaps the most controversial of these is Powertech Uranium Corp.’s 6,880-acre Centennial Project in northern Colorado’s Weld County, which would use open-pit and in-situ leach uranium mining. In-situ leach mining involves pumping water treated with chemicals into the ground to dissolve the uranium and then pumping the solution to the surface. The process has created concerns about possible groundwater contamination. The project would be within and use water from the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer, which covers most of the Denver Basin. In February 2001, there were 33,700 recorded wells in the aquifer. Additionally, some residents worry that the project could also affect the DakotaCheyenne aquifer, which is Colorado’s largest aquifer east of the Rockies. The Dakota-Cheyenne aquifer is in a geological layer known to hold uranium deposits and it spreads beneath some of the most populated areas of northern Colorado. Jeff Parsons of the Western Mining Action Project noted that residents of Weld County are particularly concerned about groundwater contamination because the county is highly reliant on its agricultural economy, much of which is sustained through groundwater sources. “This mine might operate for 10 years, but groundwater contamination is permanent, and that’s simply not acceptable, particularly to the people who live there,” Parsons said. To ensure that Colorado’s aquifers will not be damaged by in-situ uranium min18

Kevin Moloney

Uranium’s popularity,residents’ concern both on the rise

Robin and Jay Davis on the ranch they recently bought near the town of Nunn in Weld County.

ing, Gov. Bill Ritter in May signed into law a measure that requires uranium companies to prove that they can return groundwater to pre-mining conditions or levels in line with current state standards. A third-party contractor appointed by the state would be in charge of certifying the water quality. The law also applies the standards of “designated mining operations” to all uranium mines. That would require existing uranium mines to submit an environmental protection plan to the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. Matt Garrington of Environment Colorado noted that in-situ leach mining is of particular concern because of the potential for excursions to nearby aquifers, which can contaminate neighboring wells. In addition to the uranium released through in-situ mining, other pollutants such as radium and selenium can also be released, he said. “These pollutants can have a deadly effect on the surrounding water and landscapes,” he said. Garrington said Colorado’s sole experience with in-situ mining does not bode well. That mine, known as the Grover Test Site, increased radium levels 15 times above what the aquifer’s safe, pre-mining condition had been, he said. While Powertech’s proposal has garnered the most attention so far, it is not the only in-situ leach mining proposal in the state. Similar projects are also being considered in Park and Fremont counties. Park County is a major source of water for the Denver metro area. While it is possible to treat water to remove health hazards such as uranium and radium, Jim Miller of Denver Water said the city’s current water treatment plants are not set up to remove con-

taminants such as uranium, radium, vanadium and molybdenum. Even with more conventional mining operations, the threat of water contamination still exits. Energy Fuels Resource Corp.’s Whirlwind Mine, which straddles the Utah-Colorado border, calls for treating any excess ground water to meet state standards prior to discharge, but some local residents and environmental groups have expressed concerns about possible contamination of the Dolores River. Perhaps the biggest concern is that the company plans to truck the uranium ore down John Brown Road, a steep, narrow gravel road featuring perilous drop-offs and hairpin turns as it runs alongside the Dolores. As many as 40 trucks per week are expected to eventually make the trip from the mine site to a nearby mill in Blanding, Utah. The milling of the uranium ore that comes from the mines is also an environmental issue. Cotter Corp. is currently considering whether to reopen its mill in Canon City, one of only four mills in the United States capable of milling uranium. The mill has been shut down since March 2006. The original mill, which was constructed in 1958 and has not been used since 1979, is currently designated as a Superfund site. In its recent five-year review of the cleanup effort, the Environmental Protection Agency found some groundwater contamination related to the site, even though the cleanup of soils in the area is now complete. John Hamrick, vice president of milling at the Cotter mill, said the company is cooperating with EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to resolve the issues brought up in the review. Sharyn Cunningham, co-chair of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, said the mill’s close proximity to the local community—an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people live within a 2-mile radius of the Cotter site—makes decommissioning the mill the best option from a public safety perspective. “If they tried to place a uranium mill like this in this location today, the government wouldn’t allow them do it because it’s not remote enough from the population,” Cunningham said. “We’re concerned they may decide to build a whole new mill out there and continue the source of contamination in the community.” q —Eryn Gable

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Decades of Fire Suppression

A Good Intention Gone Wrong By Jayla Ryan Poppleton

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Kevin Moloney (2)

Following the Hayman fire, a Denver Water Board worker secures straw bales and burned logs in a drainage near Cheesman Reservoir to keep ash and eroded soil from washing into one of Denver’s most important water sources.

History has no shortage of examples in which humans attempted to alter the flux of nature and later realized the error. The exclusion of fire from fire-adapted ecosystems is another case of good intentions gone wrong. Of course fires burned, but beginning in 1910 and continuing for more than a half century, the U.S. Forest Service promoted their immediate suppression. Our forests have grown dense and fuelladen as a result, and are now more likely to burn hotter, longer and across larger areas than ever before. The mountain pine beetle is literally adding more fuel to the fire. Now that the beetle has killed 90 percent of Colorado’s lodgepole pines, forest managers, water managers and lawmakers alike are increasingly concerned about the tremendous fire hazard resulting from so many dead trees. The danger to human life, infrastructure, and forested watersheds is not lost on anyone who reads between the lines. The question now is: How do we get ahead of this and prevent another catastrophic forest fire? Treating hazardous fuels by taking down dead trees, mechanically thinning overgrown forests to reduce density, and applying small, controlled burns called prescribed fires to treat surface fuels are foresters’ primary tools. Though forest20

ers have recognized fire’s integral role within Colorado’s natural environment for decades, the emphasis that has been placed on re-introducing and managing to include fire is relative. “Prescribed fire can be traced back into the 70s,” says Paul Langowski, USFS branch chief of fuels and fire ecology for the Rocky Mountain Region. “But it didn’t truly increase in importance until the mid1990s when we started seeing large-scale fires across the west.” Colorado has had its share of those fires. Perhaps the first that really got the state’s attention was the Buffalo Creek fire and flood of 1996. It gave Denver Water a bad taste of how much damage a fire could create in its water supply. The fire, which burned almost 12,000 acres in five hours on May 17, was followed by a severe rainstorm on July 12. The fire burned so hot it created a layer of hydrophobic soils impenetrable to water. When the rain hit and ran off, it took the soil with it, flushing sediments into the north fork of the South Platte River and down into Strontia Springs Reservoir. Strontia Springs, through which 75

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“If the fire burns hot enough,” says Joan Carlson, water quality specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, “it can create a hydrophobic layer in the soil that is impenetrable to water [as in the Buffalo Creek fire]. Water will hit that layer and run off, taking the top layer of soil with it.”

percent of Denver’s water passes, was bombarded with 13 years worth of sediments. Denver Water spent an estimated $1 million in immediate cleanup after the fire and millions more since. The agency was forced to build a pre-treatment plant to filter out extra sediments before the original Foothills treatment plant could handle the turbid water. Buffalo Creek was dwarfed in scale by the fires that raged in 2002. At the height of a record drought, Colorado’s forests were loaded with dry fuels. That combined with windy conditions and dense tree stands resulted in fires that were impossible to beat. Hayman, the largest fire in Colorado history, charred 138,000 acres of forest southwest of Denver and northwest of Colorado Springs. More than $42 million was spent suppressing the fire, and another $36 million to rehabilitate the damaged watershed. Property loss was estimated at $23 million. During the same summer, the Missionary Ridge Fire blazed through 73,000 acres of southwestern Colorado just north of Durango. It burned for more than a month. The first post-fire rain fell two months later, sending debris and ash into the Pine and Florida Rivers that supply water to much of that region. “The first rains dropped maybe one quarter or one half inch of rain,” says La Plata County Director of Emergency Services Butch Knowlton. “Normally that wouldn’t do any damage. But at that time, it created a significant problem.” The Lemon and Vallecito reservoirs

were swamped with debris and ash 6-12 inches deep, says Knowlton, affecting water supplies for Bayfield, Ignacio and Durango, as well as the Southern Ute Nation. Fire and rain really don’t mix. When a fire burns, it consumes both the vegetation and groundcover. When rain hits the bare earth, it immediately runs off, rather than soaking into the ground. “Expect your runoff to be three times that of normal,” says Beth Roman, Denver Water’s source of supply staff analyst. Soil erosion is the biggest threat to water quality following a fire. Chemical reactions within the soil can make the erosion even worse. “If the fire burns hot enough,” says Joan Carlson, water quality specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, “it can create a hydrophobic layer in the soil that is impenetrable to water [as in the Buffalo Creek fire]. Water will hit that layer and run off, taking the top layer of soil with it.” The extra sediments in the runoff affect the water’s suitability for drinking, agriculture or industrial uses and increase treatment costs, says Carlson. Increased turbidity also affects aquatic life by preventing light penetration, reducing primary productivity and clogging the gills of fish and other aquatic organisms. The extra sediments damage habitat by smothering fish spawning gravels. After the Hayman fire, Denver Water took another hit. Forty percent of the Hayman burned area drains into Strontia Springs. “We’re going to have ongoing problems,” says Roman, who calculates that the capacity of Strontia Springs shrunk by

nearly 10 percent from the combined sediments washed down with the Hayman and Buffalo Creek fires. Twelve years after Buffalo Creek, Denver Water continues to consult with engineering firms to determine how sediments are accumulating in Strontia Springs. According to Roman, the agency plans to build a floating dredging system that will pipe 800,000 cubic yards of sediment out of the reservoir to dry in old sand filtration beds. They’ll use the material for bedding buried pipes in order to recoup costs, which are estimated at $23 million. Denver Water learned from Buffalo Creek, and was able to protect its oldest reservoir, Cheeseman, which was surrounded by Hayman’s flames. “We sent people to work right away conducting restoration efforts to keep sediments from migrating into the reservoir,” says Roman. “The dam is over 100 years old. We knew we needed to act fast.” Those efforts paid off, and Cheeseman hasn’t had nearly the problems Strontia Springs has. The USFS has its own division dedicated to protecting water resources following a fire. After ensuring human safety by minimizing the risks of landslides and debris flows, Burned Area Emergency Rehab teams apply land treatments to minimize soil erosion. From aerial seeding to spreading straw mulch across a barren landscape to moving dead trees parallel to the slope to act as erosion barriers, they try to lay some kind of groundcover before the first dam-

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aging storm. After the Buffalo Creek fire, BAER teams spent $1.8 million. Following Hayman, they spent $22 million, the largest BAER expenditure to date in the nation, according to Tommy John, regional BAER coordinator and soil scientist. Considering the tremendous costs of fire suppression, property loss, and watershed rehabilitation, lawmakers’ attempts to move more money into the proactive front of fuels treatment seem prudent and long overdue. Colorado’s congressional delegation has been fighting on a national level to win more U.S. funds for the effort. And state Sen. Dan Gibbs co-sponsored legislation to provide loans up to $20 million per year to water providers to use for fire mitigation in their watersheds. The idea is simple: spend money up front to prevent catastrophic fire rather than paying later to clean up. House bill 07-1130 passed, granting $1 million for a dozen restoration projects. Even with the necessary funds, managers must strategize which areas to target first. The Colorado State Forest Service is planning to release an updated statewide fire risk assessment in mid-May that will help decision-makers prioritize where to utilize limited resources, says Rich Holman, the state agency’s fire management division supervisor. According to the USFS, an estimated 4.5 million acres of Colorado’s National Forest system lands are currently at high risk from insect, disease and catastrophic damage including fire. To put that in perspective, consider that it has taken Langowski’s fuels and fire ecology division seven years of hard work to treat roughly 375,000 acres using a combination of prescribed fires and mechanical thinning to reduce hazardous fuels. The USFS isn’t the only agency working on fuel reduction. The Colorado State Forest Service is a major player, partnering with local communities as well as water agencies and county governments to provide technical assistance for carrying out wildfire protection plans. Yes, even water providers are at work in the forest. They are as concerned with the headwaters environment as anyone. In fact, Denver Water began working with the Colorado State Forest Service before the Hayman fire. “We have almost 8,500 acres surrounding and including Cheeseman Reservoir, purchased so we could protect that watershed,” says Roman. “A lot of what we do has to do with thinning and creating healthy forest conditions.” A truly healthy forest will require movement toward a future where fire can function as closely as possible to its natural

Forest fire debris from the Hayman fire is trapped by a floating boom in Cheesman Reservoir near Denver.

role. By gradually restoring fire to the forest, the hope is that the natural processes will once again become self-regulating and beneficial, rather than disastrous. Fire, after all, regenerates the forest. By consuming accumulated tree litter, accelerating the return of nutrients to the soil, and keeping the forest free of dense underbrush, fire leaves surviving trees better off with increased access to light, water and nutrients. Some species, such as the lodgepole pine, need fire to regenerate. They have what’s called a serotinous cone, which relies on extreme heat to open and release the seeds inside. “The bottom line is we’re trying to emulate natural processes and match how those functioned in the natural environment,” Langowski says. The goal of restoring fire is shared by environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy. A healthy forest is not only less susceptible to catastrophic fire, it also provides better wildlife habitat and a healthy watershed by protecting snowpack, trapping pollutants, and minimizing soil erosion. The Nature Conservancy’s government relations program manager, Paige Lewis, is involved with advising state and federal agencies in planning to restore fire in a way that is “ecologically responsible.” “We’re interested in being involved in the discussion with agencies in asking, ‘What does it mean to really restore and protect those watersheds?’” Lewis says. Lewis believes foresters are doing the right things with the right tools, but not at the right scale. “It takes a lot of coordination across

forest ownership,” says Lewis. She hopes Colorado’s new Forest Health Advisory Council will make that coordination more effective. Gov. Bill Ritter created the council in February, convening experts and policymakers into an action-oriented task force focused on the pine beetle epidemic and other forest threats. Lewis will be providing staff support to the council. Pressures on Colorado’s resources come in many forms. One is the challenge posed to forest managers as people continue to move into the wildland-urban interface, living within or adjacent to forested land. It makes the job of managing to include fire increasingly tricky. Not to mention that the task is absolutely huge. The forests are massive. And again, the funds are limited. This year, the U.S. Forest Service has $18 million to conduct hazardous fuels treatments in Colorado, which includes $4 million above base funding allocated specifically to address high priority treatment areas, says Langowski. Revitalizing the forest products industry to offset the cost of tree removal and thinning is another proposal from legislators. Even environmentalists, long opposed to logging, are supportive of the idea if it can be done on an appropriate scale. “The idea behind this is that if there were more businesses that could profit from the woody material removed during forest treatments,” says Lewis, “we would be able to reduce the overall costs of forest restoration.” Colorado’s forests are already burning, and state foresters won’t predict what kind of fire season lies ahead. q

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Lodgepoles’ Last Stand Mountain pine beetles,

once little-known pests, have achieved infamy as they continue to decimate lodgepole pines. From Colorado to British Columbia, an aging forest is under attack from the tiny beetles. “The infestation as of last fall [in Colorado] was 1.5 million acres,” says Susan Gray, group leader for forest health protection for the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region. “Those are staggering results.” There are only 1.7 million acres of pure lodgepole pine forests in Colorado. No human action can effectively stop the beetles as they fly from tree to tree, burrowing in the bark to hatch their larvae. The epidemic must now run its course, and within three to five years, most mature lodgepoles in Colorado will be dead. “That’s if the infestation continues at its current rate and intensity,” says Gray. “The most important thing that has set back previous infestations is really cold weather.” The combination of drought-weakened trees and unseasonably warm winters created what some call “the perfect storm.” Mountain pine beetles, which typically survive in stressed or weakened trees, are attacking even seemingly healthy trees. The beetles prefer evenly-aged stands of densely-packed mature pine. Most of Colorado’s lodgepole forests are the same age, and they are old. Mountain pine beetles are part of the lodgepole’s natural life cycle, and many scientists accept as inevitable the process of death and rebirth. They expect the forest will regenerate in a more diversified form that is less prone to such dramatic effects from insects, disease or fire. “Everyone, including the Forest Service, accepts there is nothing that can be done to stop the beetle infestation,” says Greg Aplet, senior forest scientist for the Wilderness Society. “The question is: Is there anything that needs to be done as a result of it?” Ted Wang, Granby’s mayor from 2004 to 2008, would answer in the affirmative. Wang has been extremely active on the beetle front through his involvement in the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative. Wang, who’s witnessed the die-off of 100 percent of the

lodgepoles on the west side of the Rocky Mountain National Park outside Granby, has been working to secure funding to cut down the dead trees. He says the biggest threats are to life, infrastructure and key watersheds. “Some of those things are threatened at the very least by falling trees,” says Wang. “But the big worry is a huge fire.” Wang and others support legislation introduced both at a national and state level to speed the dead trees’ removal. State Sen. Dan Gibbs, a Silverthorne Democrat, sponsored a bill last year that provided $1 million for matching grants for forest restoration, including tree removal and replanting in deforested areas. Projects selected under the Forest Restoration Pilot Program must protect water supplies. Pending senate approval, the program will be extended to 2012. Tom Fry, national fire program lead for the Wilderness Society, sat on the program’s technical advisory committee. He says that while the state’s driving issue is community fire-risk reduction, the Wilderness Society wants to free up land managers to spend time restoring the integrity of forest ecosystems. “This is a great bill because it transcends just the beetle issue, which is specific to one type of forest, and allows us to tackle some other forest restoration issues,” says Fry. As Fry points out, lack of funding continues to be the resounding theme. Another way to offset the costs of tree removal is to utilize the dead pine. “The wood has some commercial value for about five years,” says Wang. “As long as it’s still standing. After that, it’s good for wood pellets, biofuels, and non-structural lumber. It is degrading over time. Eventually it will become useless.” Not everyone believes the dead wood will increase the risk of severe fire. Says Aplet, “There is likely some added fire risk with the dry needles in the canopy. But the fire hazard drops dramatically once those needles fall. And in the decades after the trees fall to the ground, there’s no evidence fire hazard will actually be elevated.” Aplet notes that lodgepoles have a history where high-severity crown fires

were part of the forest. “The risk of those fires burning is true whether the leaves have green needles or brown,” says Aplet. The Wilderness Society is working to keep fuel-reduction activities focused near the communities where it will make a difference, as opposed to a landscapescale approach. According to Gray, the forest service is indeed focused on reducing fire hazards in areas where people are living, and in areas surrounding key watersheds. It seems with an infestation this large, it would be futile to attempt more. Though lodgepoles have been most severely affected, the beetles have also killed bristlecone and limber pine. Foresters predict the beetles will move into ponderosas next. “Because we can see it coming,” says Gray, “we have the opportunity to do more to increase regeneration in ponderosa pine stands. We’ll give the forest a head start for growing fast.” Some have suggested an upside to the beetle epidemic is the likelihood of increased water yield downstream. Kelly Elder, research hydrologist for the USFS Fraser Experimental Forest says it is still premature to say for sure. “Almost anything you do to the forest that reduces the number of trees is going to increase water yield,” says Alder. “But there’s a threshold in a snow-dominated hydrologic regime where you can actually decrease the water yield.” He says that is because the missing trees would affect snowpack accumulation. He also points out that a new forest will regenerate in the wake of the dying one. “A thirsty forest will still be there,” says Alder. “It’s an important question,” says Alder. “That’s why we’re studying it.” The gluttonous scientist in Gray finds the beetle epidemic extremely interesting: “I look at this and go, wow, this is a once in a lifetime event that we’re witnessing. No one in recorded history has ever seen something like this. But if you look at it from the aesthetics, the economics of the recreation community, the threat of wildfire, it’s also a catastrophic event for so many aspects of society.” q

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Colorado Foundation for Water Education

Water Leaders Program

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onsider it a networking opportunity extraordinaire. Participants in the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s water leaders program are raving about the same thing: relationships. Connecting with other up-and-coming leaders in the state as well as major players in the water community is making each person’s work not only more enjoyable but more effective. The water leaders program trains Colorado’s emerging professionals in communication, negotiation and conflictresolution skills. Participants gain a broad understanding of water resources issues in the state and have the opportunity to partner with mentors who are willing to impart knowledge gained through their own careers. “By investing in these highly-motivated professionals,” says Foundation Executive Director Nicole Seltzer, “the Foundation is facilitating conversation and teaching participants to ‘pay it forward’ and use their education and training to improve the dialogue within the water community.” Twenty-one people have completed the program during its two inaugural years. “Two good things are coming out of it,” says Seltzer. “One, the opportunity to meet a group of excellent peers, a vetted group of professionals all working in the water resources field in different areas. And two, the self-assessment work they 24

do is pretty intense.” It was through this work that Tom Iseman found his voice. Iseman may be a bona fide introvert, but he’s determined to shake that tendency when it comes to expressing his point of view in public settings. As the Nature Conservancy’s water program manager, he is increasingly involved in state legislative issues and planning for statewide water supply. If he’s going to have an influence, he must speak up. “I made a lot of progress,” he says, “just by understanding that this was my personality type and working on being more extroverted in terms of how I participate in meetings and my willingness to engage in public speaking.” Professional coach Len Loudis works with participants on a spectrum of selfassessments, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, which identifies personality types. Participants learn not only about themselves, but about working with others who perceive the world through a different filter. “Dr. Loutis uses real-life examples of how we can better deal with fellow human beings and promote positive outcomes by doing so,” says program graduate Scott Hummer. Sasha Charney, from the program’s first year, says, “Different people need different information to be able to work, to be motivated.” Charney describes an exercise Dr.

Loutis gave the class after splitting them into two groups. Each group brainstormed a definition for “pristine waters.” “Our group, the thinkers, was throwing out things like: parts per million contaminants, the definition of wilderness, that there’s no such thing as pristine. The other group, the feelers, came back with pictures of a bubbling brook and sparkling water. It was a fabulous example. If you’re presenting to a board and they’re a different type, they’re not going to hear a word you said.” Charney, water resources specialist for Boulder County, manages water holdings for Boulder as part of its parks and open space program. For most of her work, she doesn’t encounter others in the water field, so she especially valued the connection with her mentor, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs. “He was like three mentors in one,” says Charney. “Part of it was his incredible enthusiasm for water. Even after working on this for decades, he still has so much hope, enthusiasm and excitement about water. It is very motivating to be around that.” She also appreciated the camaraderie and opportunity to bond with others in the same stage of their careers. “You’re in a confidential environment where you can really share your successes, failures, and challenges with a bright group of people,” says Charney. Iseman agrees the best part was

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building relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and gaining new perspectives. “It’s easy to stay in your own community,” says Iseman. “But someone from the environmental community having the chance to work with farmers, engineers, municipal water providers—it was great.” Ken Knox, deputy state engineer, was one of Iseman’s mentors.

“I was looking for a different set of experiences than what I was familiar with,” says Iseman. “I wanted to work with people who administer water rights, who work with real water management issues from a different perspective. Ken was a great mentor, he really cared about it.” Iseman continues to work with Knox on groundwater management issues in the San Luis Valley. Beorn Courtney, director of water

resources engineering at Headwaters Corporation, also linked up with her real world mentors. Currently, her main project is managing the water resources pieces of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. Courtney entered the program in 2007 with a desire to understand the process of creating legislation and how that differs from water court law. The Foundation paired her with two mentors:

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Colorado Foundation for Water Education

Water Leaders Program

Doug Kemper of the Colorado Water Congress and Thomas Morris from the State Legislative Legal Services Branch. “Before I knew it, I ended up at a meeting with both of these mentors for a project I had been working on,” Courtney says. “Together we were helping others brainstorm how a new statute could be crafted based in part on the consulting work I’d been doing. Not only did the Foundation create a professional networking opportunity for me that made it more comfortable for me to attend these meetings because there were two familiar faces in the room, I also realized what a success the mentoring program was because I was matched with the ideal people to help me accomplish my goal.” Even Scott Hummer, who has worked with the Colorado Division of Water Resources for 18 years, saw an opportunity to make contacts outside of his 26

agency and cull their knowledge. As water commissioner for the Blue River Basin, Hummer manages Blue River water rights. Whether the water is destined for an individual’s home well, a rancher’s irrigation diversions or storage in Dillon Reservoir, Hummer is the man charged with doling it out. Born, raised and educated in Colorado, Hummer also takes advantage of his position to educate others about respecting his home state’s most precious resource. Hummer agrees that the program offered an incredible opportunity, even 18 years into his career: “What I learned was that there are a tremendous amount of experts out there within the Colorado water world and it is to my advantage to meet and learn from as many of those people as I possibly can. I would recommend the program to anyone out there in the water world no matter where

they’re at in their career.” If the program keeps attracting people as it has, the networking opportunity will only continue to expand. The current alumni have already planned to meet periodically and envision a growing circle as each new class begins. For Courtney, the relationships have been the greatest career benefit. “It’s a very unique opportunity to do this type of leadership training with people who are familiar with your field and the issues that you face,” she says. “Lots of leadership classes out there are teaching the same things. But it’s more rewarding to do it with people who can relate to you, and the connection is water.” The 2008 water leaders’ class commenced in June and concludes next January. Contact the Foundation if you’re interested in the class of 2009. Information is also available online at: http://www.cfwe.org. q

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Wright Water Engineers

Ken and Ruth Wright of Boulder make progress backwards. They dig into the past for proof that ancient people were good water engineers and governed themselves effectively in the community for the public good. They’ve married their talents and degrees to a passion for each other and water education that embraces peoples of all ages in Peru and in Colorado. From Machu Picchu to Mesa Verde, Ken and Ruth’s story is compelling. They met on a ski bus in Wisconsin while she was at Marquette and he at the University of Wisconsin. A resident non-Catholic, take-the-streetcarto-the-local-Jesuit-university-daughter-of-a-single-mother kind of girl, she studied philosophy, English, and history. He took civil engineering, business, and her seriously enough to have two daughters and a lifetime together of public giving. They married in Salzburg, Austria, in 1954 while he was working in Saudi Arabia for the ARAMCO oil company. She was in Germany as a civilian employee for the U.S. Army. He proposed to her from a hospital bed after a car accident on an Austrian ski trip. Because he was so injured he couldn’t speak, he wrote on the back of his ski boot receipt, “I dreamt that I had asked you to marry me and I think that’s a good idea.”

Ruth and Ken Wright pictured at work in Machu Picchu, Peru. Photo courtesy of Wright Water Engineers. H e a d w at e r s | S u m m e r 2 0 0 8

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Astounded by the indirect boldness of a dreaming engineer who could write so inventively, she returned to the United States to think it over. This kind of thinking led to helping her new husband in the Arabian desert write and edit his first published article addressing “Cathodic Protection of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline.” With her active help in bridging English, engineering, science, culture and a sure feel for working with other people, he’s now the author of three books: “Machu Picchu, A Civil Engineering Marvel;” “Tipon, Water Engineering Masterpiece of the Inca Empire;” and “The Water Mysteries of Mesa Verde.” She’s the author of “The Machu Picchu Guidebook, A Self-Guided Tour,” which has sold an incredible 70,000 copies and counting. Something in the desert causes a mighty thirst. Ruth has often fed Ken’s water obsession. In Arabia she asked him what engineering subject he liked best as an undergraduate. He said hydrology. They returned to Wisconsin; he for a master’s in hydraulic engineering; she, thirsty for the elixir of a good argument, to law school, both at the University of Wisconsin. They came to Colorado in 1957 because Ruth had been to Aspen skiing when she was single and managed to lead Ken to the Great Divide one fall as the aspen turned golden. Ken’s always enterprising. Figuring water for gold, as in Saudi Arabia so in Colorado, he relocated his rising career west. Ken spent a couple of years with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Lakewood, office as a GS-9—when his boss said Ken’s work on cathodic protection in Saudi Arabia didn’t count as government work, Ken didn’t get the grade increase he needed; Ruth delayed law school to have their two daughters while Ken went out on his own. He toured Colorado for potential clients. He found one with a seepage problem: one of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s supply canals. The district settled the damages with the propery owner on the strength of the will-work-for-a-living budding water engineer’s good counsel. From there Ken went to work for the leading Colorado water engineer of the day, Pete Wheeler, at $5 an hour, on jobs Wheeler could bill to clients. Pete taught Ken how to testify persuasively in court. Through Pete, Ken got to work with some of the great water lawyers of the day, Ray Moses, Chuck Biese, and Glenn Saunders. In 1961, Ken started Wright Water Engineers. The engineers part of that was Ken; now it’s 50 working with him. Ruth finished law school at the University of Colorado after 12 years out, graduating in 1972. She’d been busy in the meantime with family and volunteer civic activity, centering on the beauty of Boulder and the future of Colorado, her lifetime preoccupations. In the mid-to-late 60s, she participated in and chaired Plan Boulder and the Colorado Mountain Club. For Plan Boulder, broad thoroughfares and open space was the winning combination in a successful campaign to enact a 1-cent sales tax, 60 percent for attractive utilitarian thoroughfares and 40 percent for open space—a paradigm for how Ruth approaches the pragmatics of political persuasion. Always an articulate woman in Colorado community, Ruth

served as a member of the State Board of Health; the Water Quality Control Commission; the Colorado General Assembly in the House of Representatives for 14 years—including a stint as Minority Leader; the Great Outdoor Colorado Commission; the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District board; and many other official and unofficial volunteer organizations. The environment in which all of we creatures live continues to be the opensky canopy of her existence as a public and private person. Ruth’s contribution to the work of the Colorado Supreme Court as a lawyer occurred in front of our predecessors in 1979 when she filed, on behalf of the League of Women Voters, an amicus curiae brief in favor of the constitutionality of Colorado’s new instream flow law. Her presentation on how instream flow water rights could be administered within the prior appropriation water law system so impressed Justice Jim Groves, the author of the opinion, that he invited her to lunch after the case was over. Her brief led to a decision in favor of the state’s perpetual role for preserving stream flows for protection of the natural environment. Ruth credits Ken for telling her how those instream flows could be administered. With these two, it’s partnership, research, scholarship, authorship and passion for the pursuit of a working understanding of communities. They generate enthusiasm, if not active cooperation, for getting up early in the morning. My wife, Bobbie, and I first experienced the early morning part of this when we participated in the 2003 paleo-hydrologic survey of the fourth-discovered Mesa Verde ancestral Puebloan reservoir in Prater Canyon. They had rigged the clock radio in our Cortez hotel room to blare at 5 a.m., and again and again until we got up. If the crack of dawn proved itself to the ancestral Puebloans, it would be good enough for the 21st century students of their water history. Besides, the archeologists Jack Smith, Jim Kleidon, and David Breternitz, and the soil scientist Doug Ramsey, had their walking boots and daypacks on, waiting for the rest of the Wright survey team to assemble in the parking lot. The morning briefing by Ken and Ruth, about the day’s assignments and the necessity to strictly observe park protocols, is a familiar ritual. Assigned tasks involve assembling evidence to support the hypothesis that sediment mounds were not natural geologic features or Native American dance platforms but, rather, water storage vessels that had served for up to 350 years before silting in. These investigations extended to check dams in gullies for spreading water onto corn plants, cisterns for capturing drinking water cascading through rimrock cracks high above, and vegetation-covered hidden springs the Puebloans must have used to haul the water away in five gallon pottery water jugs, back to their mesa top pit houses or alcove cliff palaces. Corn, water, and community, that’s what it took to sustain these people over generations from approximately 500 A.D. before they migrated south towards the Hopi mesas, the Mogollon Rim, and old Mexico by the year 1300. The Mesa Verde National Park invitation to the Wrights flowed naturally from their paleo-hydrology Machu Picchu

Editor’s note: CFWE Board President Matt Cook presented the Foundation’s 2008 President’s Award to Ken and Ruth Wright at a March 19 reception. Before Matt gave them a John Fielder photograph of Two Story House in the Ute Tribal Park Greg Hobbs presented excerpts from this profile of their remarkable contributions to water education.

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findings. Ruth visited Machu Picchu in 1974 with their daughters. She came back with an observation and question for Ken, “I saw water stains on what I think are fountains now dry, what do you think the water source might have been?” “Don’t know,” said Ken, “Let’s try to find out.” They waited 20 years for their first permit from the Peruvian Institute for National Culture, finally granted when Deputy Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth helped clear the way. Permit in hand, Ken and Ruth asked their good friend, Denver Art Museum’s Gordon McEwan who among the Peruvians was the leading Machu Pichu expert. McEwan’s immediate answer: Alfredo Valencia Zegarra. This Peruvian-Coloradan partnership has restored to Machu Picchu its 16 flowing fountains that flash and pipe their way down Machu Picchu’s incomparable stone staircase, fed by a perennial spring high above the Urubamba River. Ken explains the necessity for a good hypothesis, even one that doesn’t pan out. You need to imagine, as Einstein did, that the natural world and any functional human accommodation begin with imagining. You imagine a possible explanation. Then you measure, calculate, and map the way to a resolution. But, you will have no resolution if you can’t assemble the evidence. Says Alfredo: “If there’s no proof, it’s not true.” So you postulate again until revelation of what’s been hidden within emerges. Then you help to educate others. That’s your public responsibility and your personal joy. Peruvians highly prize Ruth and Ken for their contributions to understanding that country’s astounding water heritage. When I visited Machu Picchu with friends in 2002, I experienced this in the central plaza of Machu Picchu. The Wrights had given me a blue soccer team T-shirt with my name on the back and WWE (Wright Water Engineers) and INR (Instituto Nacional de Cultura) on the front. Seeing me, the restoration workers put aside their spades and trowels, called out “Amigo, Amigo,” and gave me big embrazos. I had Ruth’s Machu Picchu guidebook in hand, the one she co-authored with Alfredo Valencia—he explaining to her every aspect of structure, function, huaca and glyph and she adding her confident written narration. The workers showed me their pictures in the guidebook and signed those pages for me. Just recently the Peru’s president presented Ken and Ruth with beribboned medals celebrating their contributions. Deep respect for people and their heritage wins friends who want you back again. It begins at home, at the core you live in. When you’re a Coloradan, like Ken and Ruth, you love the mountain ground, the mountain waters, and the mountain skies. You’re a Peruvian, you’re a Mesa Verdean. A good marriage they have made. Ruth says, “Crow with him for his successes and show compassion in the hard times.” Ken says, “I couldn’t have done any of this without Ruth.” In celebration of Ken and Ruth Wright, for bringing the water heritage of the Americas back home, I affectionately dedicate this poem:

She’s the fountain, he the water jar. They leap continents ears tasting underground for the stone-cool water drops their fingers can see the ozone smell-of before a spade or trowel may untouch the web of mother earth’s womb. Machu Picchu and Mesa Verde respect Ken and Ruth Wright For their half-step, quarter-step, go-slow no-step solution to progress – progress backwards. Consider this engineering argument your lawyer mate can calculate precisely, matching your insight: the Wright Corollary – Shoe-Be-Do, tread softly and carry a walking stick, for the present’s a rocky prologue to the past and contemporary civilization a remnant of ancient understandings modern myths obscure. Get up early. Ken and Ruth aren’t talking the cutting edge of dull, no TV-staged exotic island enticement where the Survivor leaves her unspared change with an advertiser before changing channels They’re talking rock tongues in high places where condors wheel at your feet and pot sherds speak with thirsty lips in high-hand niches holding out for a good rain. “Take a look at this, Hobbit.” Ruth relates a piece of mug that flashes a zig-zag pattern of black and white lightning, “Pueblo II.” Ken writes in his field book yet another second coming. Come you the departed whole of the sky, the ground, the underground, come trinity the ancient ones revered as one. Mountain goat on weathered outcrop. Llama ash on water. Corn roots feeling their way down. For the dead do not sleep but preside among us, “Que Milagro!” I am the arc that nests this mountain, hold to my umbilical.

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Friends of Water Education Golf Classic Red Hawk Ridge Golf Course — July 25, 2008

Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Climate Change —available summer 2008 The Colorado Foundation for Water Education is pleased to announce the next publication in the Citizen’s Guide series will be available later this summer. Written by Colorado experts and peer reviewed, the Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Climate Change includes an overview of Colorado’s climate and historic climate events; factors influencing global climate change and what the models predict; possible impacts to Colorado energy production, agriculture, tourism, recreation, urban health and water supplies; and actions citizens and government are taking. All CFWE publications, and membership information, are available at cfwe.org, or by calling 303-377-4433.

1580 Logan St., Suite 410 • Denver, CO 80203

Mark your calendars for the annual CFWE golf tournament! Please join us—and bring a friend—for a fun-filled golf scramble and 19th hole social hour. This year, the Foundation is pleased to partner with Red Hawk Ridge Golf Course in Castle Rock. This beautiful course offers extreme elevation changes, abundant wildlife, rolling terrain and dramatic vistas. Red Hawk Ridge was designed by Jim Engh for golfers of all experience and skill levels to play. Space is limited so please sign up early. For reservations or additional information, visit cfwe.org or contact tournament coordinator Jenna Spendlove (303-377-4433 or jspendlove@cfwe.org).

Profile for Water Education Colorado

Summer 2008 Public Lands  

Colorado's public lands mean that there are places to go and things to do. We have national grasslands, mountain parks, wild rivers, open sp...

Summer 2008 Public Lands  

Colorado's public lands mean that there are places to go and things to do. We have national grasslands, mountain parks, wild rivers, open sp...

Profile for cfwe