Interim city manager named sole finalist for top Glenwood Springs position
Interim City Manager Steve Boyd was named the lone finalist for the position by Glenwood Springs City Council. Council voted unanimously to name Boyd the finalist at Thursday’s meeting.
No offer of employment will be made until a required 14-day notice period expires. Boyd’s application materials and resume will be available for any interested members of the public, Councilor Jonathan Godes said while reading the motion Thursday night.
Boyd most recently served as the chief operating officer of the city administration, and has been the interim city manager since former city manager Beverli Marshall’s departure. Marshall’s tenure with the city was short-lived and capped off a search process featuring two different groups of finalists.
“I feel honored to be considered for City Manager by Council and am truly proud to be part of this staff,” Boyd said in an email.
Gov. Jared Polis visits RFSD schools; discuss housing crisis with ACCC Tuesday
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis engaged with the Glenwood Springs community on Tuesday, underscoring at multiple stops his administration’s focus on education and economic growth. Colorado Proud School Meal Day celebrations at Sopris Elementary School and discussions on the Universal Pre-K program during a visit to the Riverview School marked the beginning of his visit while his afternoon dialogue with the Association of Colorado Chambers of Commerce (ACCC) at the Hotel Colorado encapsulated the crux of the ongoing discourse on the state’s future.
The governor acknowledged the first year of free preschool in Colorado, a policy aimed at alleviating the financial burden on families and contributing to workforce development.
“Many families have struggled with the high cost of child care, and preschool is part of that,” Polis said. “This is the first year of free preschool in Colorado, which obviously has positive workforce ramifications.”
However, the central focus of the governor’s address was the state’s formidable housing crisis.
“This represents an existential threat to our success,” Polis said, pointing out the private sector’s struggles caused by inadequate housing supply. Roaring Fork Valley businesses, both large and small, face an uphill battle maintaining operational efficiency amidst staffing challenges.
The governor emphasized actions already in motion to remedy this predicament. The signing of House Bill 1255 was a notable step, prohibiting cities across Colorado from enforcing growth caps. The initiative aims at accelerating housing development and diversifying the available options, especially for middle-income families.
“We especially need homes that are the least likely to be built. Homes in the 200s and 300s, quadplexes, and accessory dwelling units,” Polis said.
This blended approach toward housing underscores the administration’s commitment to fostering an inclusive and dynamic economic environment, he added.
As the governor engaged with the ACCC, a narrative of concerted action emerged regarding the cost of housing.
“It has got to change,” Polis said. “So we can have a future where the private sector can succeed and where we can have a strong workforce.”
As the high price of housing continues to be a topic of discussion in the state, Polis noted what needs to be done to reinforce affordable living.
“We know what we can do better,” Polis said. “We have simply got to expedite the approval process for building homes and building barriers for homes… We need homes that are the least likely to be built. Homes in the 200s and 300s, quadplexes, and accessory dwelling units.”
Sen. John Hickenlooper praises Wapiti Commons during Tuesday visit to Rifle
As the housing pinch tightens in Western Colorado, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper underscored the importance of local housing initiatives during a Tuesday visit to the Wapiti Commons housing project in Rifle.
“I’m impressed with Habitat for Humanity and their work all over Colorado,” he said. “People working throughout this state should be able to rent or buy a home.”
A Dec. 20 announcement added fuel to the housing momentum, with him celebrating the $178.3 million earmarked for Colorado projects in the 2023 federal budget. With his efforts, a solid $129.3 million was secured for 94 projects.
Wapiti Commons, located in the heart of the housing crunch, is slated to receive $1.2 million. A project costing about $9 million, minus the land, which came as a donation from Basalt-based developers Clay Crossland and Paul Adams, the project will feature 10 townhomes as well as 10 condominiums.
Habitat for Humanity’s journey, starting 20 years ago with individual homes, has evolved, now boasting significant projects like the Basalt Vista neighborhood. In the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys, Habitat has laid foundations for 60 homes and counting, with a goal in mind to bring affordable housing back to these communities.
“We need stable housing for good business and community,” Habitat Roaring Fork President Gail Shwartz said. “Local people can’t buy homes here. There aren’t enough houses. So, we need to build more.”
Plans are already on the table, with 46 homes projected in Rifle and Glenwood Springs over the next 2-3 years. This pace promises growth, with potential projects in New Castle, Carbondale and Basalt. Other groups have stretched their efforts between Parachute and Gypsum, filling the gaps.
“The quality of life is suffering because of housing costs,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Ingrid Wussow said. “We don’t have enough supply to support the need in these mountain communities.”
Pointing to the flux of people planting themselves in local communities, prompting for less housing stock and higher prices, Wussow said the housing crisis continues to push throughout the valley.
“Homes up in Aspen, Basalt and down the valley have gotten more expensive, which means Glenwood and even New Castle is a destination for second homes; so we have this quandary, and home-ownership is one of those ways to support it — but affordable home-ownership.” she said.
While some of the Wapiti townhomes are set to be ready for move-in come this October, full completion of the project is scheduled for early fall of 2024.
U.S. Sen. meets with city officials from the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys to discuss the housing crisis. Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper listens in while discussing the housing crisis in Western Colorado. Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
The I-70 corridor between Glenwood Springs and Vail, along with the Highway 82 corridor from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, is likely to be the first area where wolves are introduced as CPW has concluded that large, contiguous areas of public lands with a high abundance of prey and low livestock densities will be the best sites for reintroduction.
CPW plans to release wolves during winter months, from November to March, as cold temperatures create less stress for the reintroduced wolves, and fall presents conflicts with hunting season.
Wolves will be released on state or private lands, not federal lands, because CPW does not have the staffing or financial resources to undertake the required National Environmental Policy Act analysis prior to any federal land management agency authorizing releases on federal lands, according to the plan approved Wednesday.
“Specific release locations will not be made public in this Plan in order to protect private landowner information and sensitive species locations, but targeted outreach will occur with potentially affected stakeholders prior to release,” according to the plan approved Wednesday.
10-15 wolves per year
CPW plans an initial release of 30-50 wolves over a 3-to-5-year timeframe, expressing a preference to release the animals at a pace of 10 to 15 wolves per year. After the initial release, active reintroduction will stop, and post-release monitoring will determine if the effort to establish a self-sustaining wolf population in Colorado has been successful.
“All released wolves will be monitored using satellite GPS collars, which will inform managers on survival and dispersal, as well as future release protocols,” according to the plan approved Wednesday.
The success of the reintroduction efforts will be determined by the wolves’ survival rate in the first 6 months after release, with a survival rate of less than 70% initiating a review of the program. The program will be deemed successful if released wolves demonstrate low mortality rates over the initial 2-3 years post-release, wolves remain in Colorado, reintroduced wolves successfully form pairs and reproduce, and if wolves then born in Colorado also survive and reproduce.
After the first-year releases occur in the areas between Vail, Glenwood Springs and Aspen, a second area along the Highway 50 corridor between Monarch Pass and Montrose could also see wintertime releases in later years.
“Subsequent release sites will be considered based on the efficacy of the initial release,” according to the plan approved Wednesday.
Thousands of comments
The intent of the wolf reintroduction effort is to create a self-sustaining population of wolves that will restore a natural balance on wild lands in the state.
Groups like the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance and the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund spoke out in favor of wolf reintroduction in 2020 when it was placed on the Colorado ballot and approved by voters later that year.
“The presence of wolves can change elk behavior, keeping them from grazing stream-side vegetation out in the open,” the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance wrote in an editorial. “By allowing aspen and willows to recover along those streambanks, songbirds return and beavers recolonize these areas, building dams, improving water storage and trout habitat. Wolves are not a panacea but restoring wolves to their natural habitat in Colorado undoubtedly will, in the long term, send positive ripples through our mountain ecosystems.”
“Wolf reintroduction is seen as one way to improve the health of elk and deer herds suffering from chronic wasting disease,” wrote the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund.
Wolf predation on livestock, however, was raised as a major concern for reintroduction.
“My constituents in central and Northwest Colorado will be directly impacted by the reintroduction of wolves into Colorado,” said Sen. Dylan Roberts, of Avon. “It is vital that … an adequate source of funding to compensate ranchers for their losses is guaranteed.”
As a result of those concerns, the CPW Commission supported revising the draft plan to raise the cap on livestock compensation, as well as guard and herding animal compensation, to $15,000 per animal.
Gov. Jared Polis said the revised plan is better due to the thousands of Coloradans who provided input.
“This science-based plan is the result of months of planning, convening stakeholder and expert working groups, and offering live and public comment opportunities, while factoring in the biological needs of the species, and creating the best possible chance for these amazing animals to be successfully restored to our state,” Polis said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission gives final approval to wolf plan in Glenwood Springs
The picturesque Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus setting just outside of Glenwood Springs played host to a historic vote Wednesday approving the state’s gray wolf reintroduction plan.
Meeting at the CMC-Spring Valley Outdoor Leadership Center and Field House, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, chaired by CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser, voted unanimously, 11-0, to OK the plan.
The decision came after more than two years of meetings with stakeholders and a series of public hearings that followed voter approval of Proposition 114 in November 2020.
That decision — with 50.9% of voters statewide in favor but much of the Western Slope where the wolves are to be reintroduced opposed — directed the CPW to come up with a plan to reintroduce wolves to parts of Colorado where the habitat was deemed suitable.
After that extensive process, including an April 6 meeting in Steamboat Springs where the final details of the plan were hashed out by the commission, Vice Chair Dallas May said it’s time to turn the reintroduction program over to the experts at CPW.
“Is it a perfect plan? Probably not,” May said. “If any group of stakeholders thought it was the perfect plan, it probably wouldn’t be as fair and balanced as I think it is.”
Arriving at the final plan required give and take, he said, just as its implementation will require some compromises along the way.
Hauser applauded the work of the commission and the more than 3,400 people who participated in the process and acknowledged the nearly 4,000 verbal and written comments received, which she said were factored into the development of the plan.
When that process started in December of 2020, Hauser said she never would have anticipated a unanimous vote to approve the plan. That speaks to the collaborative process, she said.
The final approval clears the way for CPW biologists to introduce wolves in the Western Slope area, including vicinities around Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Vail and Gunnison, and meet the voter-approved deadline of reintroduction by Dec. 31 of this year.
However, Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, speaking on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners, took issue with that deadline.
“There’s nothing in the law that says wolves need to be on the ground by the end of 2023,” Samson said in comments before the commission on Wednesday. “That was a choice made by CPW.”
Samson noted that 63% of Garfield County voters were against Prop 114, and reiterated a joint stance by several Western Slope counties that a so-called 10(j) rule under the National Environmental Policy Act be implemented before wolves are set loose.
Such a rule would allow wolves to be hunted by license under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules as a means to control the wolf population.
Without that, critics say, management of wolf populations would be left to state and federal agencies that they say don’t have the resources to adequately do the job.
“The state’s reintroduction plan must provide our citizens, grazers, outfitters, etc., with adequate tools to manage an apex predator being forced upon them,” Samson said. “The 10(j) rule must be in place before wolves are reintroduced.”
“… Wolves need to be legally hunted and trapped to keep their numbers in check,” he said.
Several other speakers representing ranching and landowner interests agreed that the 10(j) rule should be in place first.
The bipartisan Colorado Senate Bill 256 would require the state to obtain a 10(j) rule. It was approved in the Colorado House, also on Wednesday, and was co-sponsored by state Sens. Perry Will, R-New Castle, and Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and state Reps. Megan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, and Matt Soper, R-Delta.
Ginny Harrington, speaking on behalf of the Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association, said ranchers face many challenges, and dealing with the threat of livestock predation from wolves is just another challenge.
“If we’re not fairly compensated, we are at risk of losing these lands that provide important wildlife habitat,” she said in reference to deer, elk and other species.
Matthew Collins, speaking for the Western Landowners Alliance, referred to the “four C’s” — compensation, conflict prevention, control and cooperation — in achieving wolf management.
“Take one of these c’s out, and the system can fall out of balance,” he said. “A resilient, productive and diverse Colorado in which we can all share spaces depends on all four c’s being included in our approach to wolf management.”
Wolf-livestock depredation compensation rules contained in the reintroduction plan includes, in part:
Raising the cap on livestock compensation, as well as guard and herding animal compensation, to $15,000 per animal.
Excluding veterinary expenses from the compensation cap for livestock, as well as guard and herding animals, up to $15,000 or the fair market value of the livestock at issue, whichever is lower.
This means claimants can get paid for injury and death to livestock and related veterinary expenses, up to a potential maximum of $30,000 per animal, according to CPW officials.
Other provisions account for losses associated with future breeding potential of cows lost, and missing yearlings.
Numerous edits to the plan were adopted by the commission on the final vote, including regulations authorizing livestock owners to file applications with CPW seeking to lethally take wolves caught in the act of attacking livestock or working dogs.
Several conservation groups have opposed the provision allowing for wolves to be killed if they’re caught “chasing, harassing or molesting” livestock, as defined in the reintroduction plan.
Some wildlife advocates worry that too much discretion in the plan and rules will lead to significant wolf-killing.
“The devil is in the details and in the discretion allowed to CPW staff who determine when wolves can be killed,” Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, said during Wednesday’s final hearing. “If caution and coexistence are emphasized in those determinations, wolves stand a chance to thrive. If not, there will likely be more conflict than there needs to be.”
In a news release issued after the CPW vote, the group noted that the law designates wolves as a “non-game” species, which precludes recreational trophy hunting and trapping.
Joining the meeting via video conference after the vote was Gov. Jared Polis, who acknowledged the work of the commission to arrive at the final wolf reintroduction plan.
“This plan is better because of the thousands of Coloradans who provided thoughtful input, and I thank the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for their comprehensive work to develop this thoughtful plan,” Polis said. “This science-based plan is the result of months of planning, convening stakeholder and expert working groups and offering live and public comment opportunities, while factoring in the biological needs of the species, and creating the best possible chance for these amazing animals to be successfully restored to our state.”
The CPW Commission’s monthly meeting was set to continue Thursday at Spring Valley, with additional agenda items including a Wildlife Habitat Program overview and final approval.
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at email@example.com or at 970-384-9160.
Ganja glut? With excess weed, growers seek interstate sales
TUMWATER, Wash. (AP) — The email went out to legal cannabis growers around Washington state. Another of their colleagues had gone under.
“Liquidation sale,” it said. Attached was a spreadsheet of items for sale: LED grow lights for $500 apiece. Rotary evaporators for hash oil, $10,000.
Across the Columbia River in Oregon, where the state’s top marijuana regulator recently warned of an “existential crisis” in the industry, it’s an open secret some licensed growers have funneled product to the out-of-state black market just to stay afloat.
California’s “Apple store of weed,” MedMen, is teetering with millions in unpaid bills, while the Canadian cannabis company Curaleaf has shuttered cultivation operations in California, Oregon and Colorado.
Along the West Coast, producers face what many call the failed economics of legal pot. There is vast supply, thanks to great growing conditions and a wealth of expertise, but any surplus remains trapped within each state’s borders due to the federal ban on marijuana. Prices have plunged and producers have struggled.
“I’m at rock bottom,” said Jeremy Moberg, who owns CannaSol Farms in Washington and, like many growers, complains that the state’s 37% cannabis tax leaves virtually no profit margin.
No one expects Congress to help out by legalizing the drug nationwide. Instead, some are pinning their hopes, however faint, on President Joe Biden’s administration approving marijuana trade among states that have regulated it.
That would allow the West Coast — with its favorable climate and cheap, clean hydropower for indoor growing — to supply the rest of the country, they argue.
In Senate testimony last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department will soon announce a new marijuana policy. Drug policy experts say they do not expect it to go as far as permitting interstate commerce.
Nevertheless, lawmakers in Washington last week approved a “trigger bill” — modeled after ones already passed in Oregon and California — that will allow the governor to enter into interstate cannabis agreements should the feds allow it.
Twenty-one states have now legalized the recreational use of cannabis by adults.
How they have set up their markets has implications for how they might fare if their growers and processors are allowed to sell pot in other states.
Washington and Colorado were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Many of the early regulations Washington adopted to keep the Justice Department at bay — including restrictions on the size of growing facilities and banning out-of-state investment — remain.
That has helped some smaller growers thrive. But it would hamstring those who hope to compete in an interstate marketplace alongside larger, more efficient producers from Oregon or California, who face fewer restrictions.
In Oregon, where sales began in 2015, large growers have achieved some economy of scale that could give them a leg up in a broader market — but in the meantime, the state’s oversupply is considered the nation’s worst.
“Cannabis in Oregon is like corn in Iowa,” said TJ Sheehy, an analyst for Oregon’s cannabis agency. “If you put a box around Iowa and said you can only grow corn in Iowa to sell to Iowans, you’d have exactly the same dynamic.”
The oversupply has been terrific for cannabis consumers.
When legalization started in Oregon in 2015, a pound of cannabis might have gone for $3,000 wholesale; today, it might be $100 to $150, said Isaac Foster, co-founder of Portland Cannabis Market, a wholesale distributor.
In Washington, which has some of the highest cannabis taxes in the country, the prices consumers pay are still cheaper than illicit weed. The state is raking in half a billion dollars a year in taxes.
But with such cheap prices, keeping the industry sustainable is a challenge.
With the spring planting season arriving, Moberg, of CannaSol Farms, says he already has three shipping containers of unsold weed, including 75% of what he produced last season.
East Fork Cultivars, one of Oregon’s first licensed growers, has thousands of pounds stashed, said co-founder Nathan Howard.
“We hope we can sell most of it to keep the lights on,” Howard said.
Oregon regulators know producers are suffering, but say they’ll be in a good position should the federal government allow interstate commerce.
Legal growers generally want to supply the legal market, rather than risk their businesses and freedom if they get caught selling out the back door. But oversupply and cheap wholesale prices have made it tough for some to survive on legal sales alone.
“They were either going to die or get creative,” said Tanner Mariani, head of sales for the Portland Cannabis Market. “And a lot of people chose to get creative and … found a way to get it from this market into the other side and then out of the state.”
Authorities have also contended with illegal farms operating under the guise of legality — notably in Oregon, where many have been financed by foreign cartels.
In California, about two-thirds of communities don’t allow legal marijuana activity, which helps the illicit market flourish.
A post-pandemic economy ushered in layoffs in the already-strained legal sector. A glut pushed wholesale prices to fire-sale levels. As in Oregon, it’s no secret some growers have fed the black market.
An analysis by cannabis investor Aaron Edelheit determined California’s legal market lost nearly one-quarter of its total growing area after the start of 2022 — “a wipeout,” he called it.
With so many California producers going out of business, wholesale prices have started to recover.
One of the first licensees was Erik Hultstrom, who began nurturing boutique buds in a steel-gated warehouse on the fringes of Los Angeles.
Five years later, he’s sold his license and is trying to contract with a large grower to sell bud under Hultstrom’s brand.
“I don’t know any companies that are really making money,” he said.
Still, not everyone is so concerned. Rob Sechrist, of the cannabis-only lender Pelorus Equity Group, described the market tumult as typical for an emerging industry.
“Every time somebody fails, market share goes to somebody else,” Sechrist said.
Indeed, cannabis distributor Nabis is opening a massive warehouse southeast of Fresno this month.
Some growers have found a happy medium.
Indoor producer Doc & Yeti Urban Farms, in Tumwater, Washington, has about 100 regular retail-store customers, said co-founder Joseph DuPuis. Brand loyalty has helped his team of 13 survive and profit.
“If you can withstand the storm, you have a chance to come out to calmer seas and survive in this market,” DuPuis said.
Colorado water update: Little information released on conservation-program proposals
Upper Colorado River Basin water managers have released little information so far about the Colorado proposals submitted for a conservation program, raising concerns about the approval process of the program, which aims to dole out $125 million in federal taxpayer money.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board on March 22 posted on its website the heavily redacted applications for 22 projects that meet the preliminary criteria for approval in a rebooted System Conservation Program (SCP). But in addition to redacting the applicants’ personal identifying information, nearly everything else has been blacked out as well: the location of the projects, such as which streams and ditches are involved; details of the water rights involved; and how much the applicants are asking to be paid for their water.
The Colorado River Water Conservation District wrote a memo and discussed the issue at a board meeting Thursday. The state and the Upper Colorado River Commission, which is administering the program, had invited the River District and the public to provide input on the project proposals. But with so little information available, the River District said that is impossible.
“Most, if not all, substantive details are blacked out,” the memo reads. “Thus, it is not possible to provide meaningful analysis of the applications, including whether implementation of the individual proposals would cause injury to other West Slope water users.”
River District General Manager Andy Mueller said his organization, which advocates for water users across 15 Western Slope counties, has concerns about the lack of a public process.
“At this point, that program is not something the district is going to have the capacity to weigh in on in any substantive manner,” he said. “We are proceeding to prepare comments from the district to the UCRC in terms of our concerns about how this process happened… It’s not the way we wish it had been to say the least.”
Becky Mitchell, CWCB executive director and state commissioner to the UCRC, had promised that the River District and Southwestern Water Conservation District would have a say in the approval of project proposals within their boundaries. The River District then developed criteria to evaluate projects, which included who could benefit from program money and preventing too much participation in a single basin. But on March 10, Mitchell walked back her commitment, saying only the UCRC could approve projects, using its own criteria.
The SCP was restarted this year as part of the UCRC’s 5-Point Plan, which is aimed at protecting critical elevations in the nation’s two largest and depleted reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The program will be paid for with $125 million in federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and will pay water users in the upper basin states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming — to cut back. The original SCP, which ran from 2015 to 2018, saved an estimated 47,000 acre-feet of water, at a cost of about $8.6 million. For the renewed program, the UCRC set a baseline price of $150 per acre-foot of water saved, but applicants can ask for more.
Paying water users to irrigate less has long been controversial on the Western Slope, with fears that these temporary and voluntary programs could lead to a permanent “buy and dry” situation that would negatively impact rural farming and ranching communities.
Officials say more information to come
CWCB and UCRC officials say more details of the projects will be made available after they are approved and contracts are in place. The UCRC is set to consider the proposals at an April 10 meeting.
The decision to redact nearly all the information in the applications was a result of a conversation among the UCRC commissioners, said UCRC Executive Director Chuck Cullom.
“There was a discussion, and that’s what the four state commissioners were comfortable sharing at this time,” Cullom said.
According to Amy Ostdiek, CWCB section chief for Interstate, Federal and Water Information, the final implementation agreements and verification plans might look different — after analysis, revisions and back-and-forth with UCRC consultant Wilson Water Group and the applicant — from what was initially proposed. That is part of the reason the information in the proposals is not yet public, she said.
“We, frankly, didn’t want to make a bunch of personal information about our water users or their property, their water rights or how they value them public until we knew we were moving forward with the project,” Ostdiek said. “If they are providing a lot of information that doesn’t get incorporated,… we didn’t want to release that personal information when it wouldn’t be part of a project anyway.”
Ostdiek said the UCRC received more than 80 proposals for projects across the upper basin states. Thirty-six of those were in Colorado, and 22 so far have been given preliminary approval. Those 22 projects (one of which involves land in Wyoming) are estimated to involve 5,800 acres of land and save up to 9,618 acre-feet of water. Most propose halting irrigation for at least part of, if not the entire, season. Ostdiek said the state and division engineers at the Department of Water Resources are reviewing the proposals to make sure projects don’t cause injury to other water users.
Ostdiek said the approval process by the UCRC would be different from that of CWCB, which was narrow and simply designated SCP as a “state-approved conservation program” so that participants could be protected from Colorado’s “use it or lose it” law.
“(The UCRC) will be looking at individual projects,” she said. “It will be a different process than what our board did.”
Both Ostdiek and Cullom said more information will be publicly available after the approval process, but exactly what information that will be is unclear.
“We need to coordinate with the other three upper division states,” Ostdiek said. “We are still kind of working through these issues, but I think it’s fair to say more information will be available once these projects are contracted.”
Aspen Journalism covers water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times. For more information, go to www.aspenjournalism.org.
Ganaderos recibirán compensación de hasta $8.000 por cabeza perdida por la depredación de lobos, según CPW
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) vendrá a Rifle la próxima semana para discutir y recopilar comentarios del público sobre el polémico plan del estado para restaurar los lobos grises en su ecosistema.
La reunión está programada de 8:30 a.m. a 3:00 p.m. el martes en la sede de Colorado Mountain College de Rifle, en 3695 Airport Road. Cualquiera que no pueda asistir a la reunión en persona pero que esté interesado en hacer un comentario público puede completar un formulario en línea, en engagementcpw.org. La fecha límite para completar y enviar este documento de comentario público es el 22 de febrero.
La oficial de información pública de CPW, Rachael Gonzales, dijo que las personas que se presenten en persona a la reunión de Rifle podrán hablar en orden de llegada.
“Aparecerán, se registrarán y el orden en que se registren será el orden en que proporcionarán comentarios públicos,” dijo.
La reunión será moderada por Reid DeWalt y Eric Odell, dos funcionarios de CPW encargados de crear el Borrador del Plan de Gestión y Restauración de Lobos. Este plan, que se encuentra en la página CPW’s Wolves – Stay Informed detalla exactamente cómo CPW va a regular una población autosuficiente de lobos grises en Colorado. El Gerente de CPW Game Damage, Luke Hoffman, también asistirá.
“El plan se basa en la gestión de los lobos en Colorado utilizando un marco basado en el impacto,” dijo DeWalt, Director Assistente de Recursos Acuáticos, Terrestres y Naturales de CPW, a la Comisión de CPW el mes pasado.
“Esperamos que la gran mayoría de los lobos no se vean afectados por ningún tipo de conflicto en ninguna parte del estado.”
El plan en sí surge de una petición creada en el 2019 por el Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, un grupo liderado por ciudadanos con sede en Louisville. El esfuerzo recibió suficientes firmas (215.370) y, en las elecciones de noviembre del 2020, los votantes de Colorado aprobaron por poco la Proposición 114: La reintroducción de lobos.
Desde entonces, el esfuerzo ha generado varias preocupaciones de ganaderos y ambientalistas tanto a favor como en contra del plan. Algunos ambientalistas aún se muestran escépticos sobre el plan de CPW para potencialmente acabar con los lobos que atacan al ganado. Mientras tanto, una de las principales preocupaciones de los ganaderos es que los lobos puedan afectar sus ingresos.
La presidenta comisionada de CPW, Carrie Besnette Hauser, dijo el mes pasado que el objetivo es desarrollar un plan que la mayoría del público apoye y que represente un compromiso razonable.
“Esto es histórico para Colorado,” dijo. “Y lo haremos bien.”
Hasta ahora, CPW ha tenido dos reuniones sobre el plan de reintroducción, una en Colorado Springs el 19 de enero y otra en Gunnison el 25 de enero. Además de Rifle, se llevarán a cabo dos reuniones más: Una virtual y otra en persona en Denver
Cada uno aborda cuestiones como la mitigación de conflictos no letales, así como la posible compensación que proporciona CPW en caso de que un lobo ataque al ganado.
Odell, Gerente del Programa de Conservación de Especies y líder biológico del proyecto de lobos, dijo que CPW está ofreciendo hasta $8.000 por cabeza perdida directamente debido a la depredación de lobos.
“CPW ha desarrollado opciones de compensación adicionales para abordar la falta de terneros y ovejas,” dijo el mes pasado.
CPW proporcionará un borrador del plan final con las regulaciones propuestas en Steamboat Springs el 6 de abril. La Comisión de CPW votará sobre el plan final del 3 al 4 de mayo en Glenwood Springs.
Traducción por Edgar Barrantes.
Si decides ir:
Qué es: Reunión de CPW para revisar el Borrador del Plan de Manejo y Restauración del Lobo.
Cuándo: 8:30 a.m. a 3:00 p.m. el martes 7 de febrero.
Dónde: Sede en Rifle de Colorado Mountain College, en 3695 Airport Road.
State officials draft bill regulating stream restoration
Colorado officials have drafted a bill aimed at addressing a tension between stream restoration projects and water rights holders.
The draft clarifies that restoration projects do not fall under the definitions of a diversion, storage or a dam and do not need to go through the lengthy and expensive water court process to secure a water right.
But before a project begins, proponents would have to file an information form with the state Division of Water Resources showing the project will stay within the historical footprint of the floodplain before it was degraded and doesn’t create new wetlands, the draft bill proposes. These forms would be publicly available, and anyone could then challenge whether the project meets the requirements by filing a complaint, which would be taken up by DWR staff.
If stream restoration projects were required to secure a water right and spend money on an expensive augmentation plan, in which water is released to replace depletions it causes, it could discourage these types of projects, something the state Department of Natural Resources wants to avoid.
“We are trying to make it clear that stream restoration projects do not fall under the definition of diversion,” said Kelly Romero-Heaney, the state’s assistant director for water policy. “However, we put limits on what a restoration project is or isn’t and the restoration project has to fall within the historical footprint of the stream system.”
Slowing the flow
Restoration projects on small headwaters tributaries often mimic beaver activity, with what are called beaver dam analogues. These temporary wood structures usually consist of posts driven into the streambed with willows and other soft materials woven across the channel between the posts. The idea is that by creating appealing habitat in areas that historically had beavers, the animals will recolonize and continue maintaining the health of the stream.
The goal of process-based restoration projects like these is to return conditions in the headwaters to what they were before waterways were harmed by mining, cattle grazing, road building and other human activities that may have confined the river to a narrow channel and disconnected it from its floodplain.
In these now-simplified stream systems, water, sediment and debris all move downstream more quickly, said Ellen Wohl, a fluvial geomorphologist at Colorado State University.
“Natural rivers have all these sources of variability,” Wohl said. “They have pools and riffles, meanderings, obstructions like wood and beaver dams. All those things can help slow the flow, which leads to less bed and bank erosion. It allows sediment to be deposited gradually along the channel, and you increase biological processing and recharge of ground water and soil moisture.”
Although these projects benefit the environment, improve water quality and create resiliency against wildfires and climate change, keeping water on the landscape for longer could potentially have impacts to downstream water users. Under Colorado’s system of prior appropriation, the oldest water rights — which nearly always belong to agriculture — have first use of the water.
Some are concerned that if the projects create numerous ponds in the headwaters, it could slow the rate of peak spring runoff or create more surface area for evaporation, meaning irrigators may not get their full amount of water.
John McClow is an attorney for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District and is chair of a Colorado Water Congress sub-committee studying the bill, which will make suggestions to the bill’s sponsors. He said there have been wet meadow restoration projects in the headwaters of the Gunnison River that have harmed water rights holders.
“We had some examples of well-intentioned but poorly designed projects,” he said. “In each case we worked with water rights holders and removed the obstruction so their water rights were not impaired.”
McClow said he would like to see the bill set a standard to avoid problems at the outset of projects.
State Sen. Dylan Roberts, who represents District 8 and is chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, is one of the bill’s sponsors. He said part of the bill’s urgency is so that Colorado can take advantage of unprecedented federal funding for stream restoration from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.
“If we can demonstrate to the federal government that we have a streamlined process for stream restoration projects, then we will make Colorado significantly more eligible for those federal funds,” Roberts said. “We are trying our best to position our state to receive the resources that we deserve.”
Roberts, a Democrat whose Western Slope district includes Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties, expects the bill to be introduced later this month.
Romero-Heaney said the state’s system of water law works well because it is adaptable to the evolving needs of Coloradans. The stream restoration legislation aims to reduce barriers to projects while still protecting water rights.
“We are at that moment where we need to make a decision: Do we want to have a future with healthy streams that are providing all those environmental services, or do we want to make that future pretty difficult to achieve?” she said. “It’s a soul-searching conversation for the water community.”
Aspen Journalism covers water and rivers in collaboration with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and The Aspen Times. For more information, go to www.aspenjournalism.org.
Crystal River Wild and Scenic designation effort gets a guide
The Wild and Scenic Feasibility Collaborative selected a facilitator to organize stakeholder interests and community engagement in the effort to explore — and potentially win — a Wild and Scenic designation for a portion of the Crystal River.
Consultant groups Wellstone Collaborative Strategies and P2 Solutions were chosen for their expertise in community engagement.
Jacob Wornstein, the founder of Wellstone, and Wendy Lowe, the owner of P2, boast “strong backgrounds in natural resource issues and direct knowledge of the Crystal River,” according to a press release.
The companies are based in Denver and Loveland, respectively.
The facilitators will create a stakeholder group to compile interests and viewpoints on protection for the Crystal River, including the Wild and Scenic designation.
In the 1980s, then re-affirmed in 2002, the White River National Forest designated 39 miles of the Crystal River across Pitkin and Gunnison counties as eligible for a federal Wild and Scenic designation. Certain stretches qualify as wild and others scenic.
Members of the collaborative involved in selecting the facilitators include the town of Marble, Gunnison County, Pitkin County, the Colorado River District, American Whitewater, and landowners in unincorporated Gunnison County and the Pitkin County Crystal River Caucus.
A dam proposal on the Crystal in the early 2010s ignited the discussion over the protection of the Crystal River. The process stalled around 2016, but picked back up in 2021 when Pitkin County Healthy Rivers granted $35,000 to Wilderness Workshop for a public outreach campaign to educate the community on the Wild and Scenic designation.
And Pitkin County Healthy Rivers allocated at least $100,000 in the past year and a half to the designation effort, said Francie Jacober, chair of the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners.
Many of the stakeholders in this process already have a long history of supporting a Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River, which would prohibit future dams and diversions along the designated stretch.
“Wild and Scenic designation primarily would prevent any dams or diversions from taking water from the river Watershed into another basin. And we are woefully over allocated in terms of the Colorado River. So, I think we can be fairly certain that they’re going to start coming back to the Roaring Fork Valley and looking for more diversions from our area,” Jacober said. “Keeping our water in our basin is really important for the people who live here for many reasons: cultural, recreational, scenic, house uses, well permits. All those things that we use our Crystal River Basin Water for, we prefer not to have threatened by taking our water somewhere else.”
Another feature of the designation is its ability to customize the act to fit individual rivers’ qualities.
Bill Argeros lives in Redstone along the Crystal River and is a member of the Crystal River Caucus. He has been an advocate for the Wild and Scenic designation for years.
“I’m excited to move forward with the selected facilitation groups in order to engage in a stakeholder process that will result in a Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River that is tailormade for our community,” Argeros said in a press release. “Such a designation will prevent in perpetuity any dams or diversions of our precious water while maintaining the integrity of individual property rights. It will ensure the Crystal River will remain free-flowing and ecologically balanced.”
The Wild and Scenic Rivers System, created by Congress in 1968, is meant to preserve a river’s qualities that caused it to receive designation.
“Designation neither prohibits development nor gives the federal government control over private property,” according to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System website.
The designation does not affect existing valid water rights or interstate water rights, either.
The county posted a request for proposals seeking a facilitator in October 2022 and closed it in November.
Facilitators will need to prove widespread community support for the designation in order for Congress to approve Wild and Scenic designation.
Both Carbondale and Glenwood Springs’ municipal councils passed resolutions in the past year in support of the designation for the Crystal River.
Costs for the facilitation services and expenditures of the stakeholder process are to be shared through both monetary and in-kind contributions from the town of Marble, Gunnison County,Pitkin County, the Colorado River District, and American Whitewater, according to the press release.
Collaborative members said they hope to see federal action on the designation within the year, with stakeholder group work set to start in early 2023.
“In order for this to pass in Congress, we’re going to have to prove that the local people are very supportive of it. So, that would be something that we’d like to strive for,” Jacober said.