The Home Front: ‘Links between wildfires and climate change in Colorado’

“Colorado residents grew accustomed to the sight of smoke this summer as a faint haze from wildfires across the state formed an ominous backdrop against the mountains on the Western Slope,” reports Summit Daily. “More than 175,000 acres of the state have burned this season, including three blazes — the Spring Creek Fire (108,045 acres) near Ft. Garland, the 416 Fire (54,129) near Durango and the Mile Marker 117 Fire (42,795) near Pueblo — that all ranks within the top 10 most destructive fires in Colorado history by acres burned. It may be easy to chalk 2018 up as a fluky year, with less than average snowpack and droughts throughout the state, but some local scientists have a different theory: This is the new norm. …  Korb was one of three scientists who participated in a teleconferenced panel on wildfires held Thursday morning and hosted by the Environmental Colorado Research & Policy Center. The panel, which also included Dr. Deborah Kennard of Colorado Mesa University and Dr. Heidi Stelzer of Fort Lewis College, focused on the links between wildfires and climate change in Colorado, exploring issues such as snowmelt, fuels mitigation and the potential for change.”

“In the six months leading up to the June 26 primary election, in which El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder was vying for the Republican nomination, the county relentlessly touted its marijuana eradication efforts,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Records show the office put out releases about its busts up to four times a month. A crackdown on black market marijuana growers was a pillar of Elder’s re-election campaign — he appeared at many of the busts to give interviews.”

“As of April 2018, 69,662 Puebloans were enrolled in Medicaid, with the majority — 42,346 — being 21 and older,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. “Based on a county population of 166,000-plus, that means more than 42 percent of Puebloans use Medicaid, a health insurance program based on income. The 69,662 figure is slightly lower than 2017’s year-end mark, when Pueblo County saw 70,851 people enrolled in Medicaid. Local officials credit this in part to an improving economy. Statewide through the end of April, there were 1.2 million Medicaid users, or nearly 22 percent of the state’s population.”

“Lafayette’s eventual choice for a new city councilmember will draw from a candidate pool reflective of the city’s varying identities: Oil and gas activists, a sitting planning commissioner and multiple committee leaders are among the 10 vying for the seat,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “Applicants include Jonathan Bent, Ralph Frid, Mary Henry, Patricia Kelly, Shaun LaBarre, Jennifer Belle Lake, JD Mangat, Julie Marshall, Andrew J. O’Connor and DL Thomas, the city announced Friday. Whoever is appointed to fill the seat left vacant by Gustavo Reyna’s exit last month will be charged with helping steer decisions on two of the city’s most pressing issues: staving off oil and gas development without the cover of Boulder County’s now-expired drilling moratorium and creating “affordable” housing options that don’t automatically preclude a large portion of its residents.”

“The Rev. Jack Stapleton Saturday morning looked out over the packed Trinity Episcopal Church at the Celebration of Life for Mary Margaret Cox, the founder and long-time executive director of Meals on Wheels of Greeley and Weld County,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “He was not at a pulpit. Stapleton came down from the altar, stood at the opening between the two rows of pews and spoke from the heart, not the Liturgy, in a tribute involving both pathos and humor.”

“The trail’s opening is so near, some cyclists can taste it,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “Actually, some cyclists have done more than tasting. Fruita officials were forced to fix a fence cyclists have broken down to access the final connection of the Kokopelli Trail segment of the Colorado Riverfront Trail.”

“Rainfall provided some respite from the haze in the Yampa Valley on Saturday, but wildfire smoke and dry skies returned to the area Sunday,” reports The Steamboat Pilot. “Rainfall collects smoke particles and carries them to the ground, clearing them from the air, according to Scott Stearns, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. Smoke is expected to remain in the area until Monday afternoon. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said some of this smoke is from out-of-state fires, but smoke from the Silver Creek Fire is also contributing to the haze.”

“Erika Crespin thought it would be fun that her daughter would be born on 8/18/18, but she had no idea the little one would throw in two more 18s,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Luciana Catstillo was born Saturday at exactly 6:18 p.m., which in military time is 18:18, at Medical Center of the Rockies. “She cooperated quite well,” Crespin said, according to a press release. The daughter of Crespin and Derrick Castillo of Greeley made her appearance at the Loveland hospital on a palindrome day, which means that the numbers associated are the same both forward and backward. Though every day of the past week was a palindrome, Luciana was born on the 18th — a number that is considered to bring luck and prosperity in many cultures and on a day that was described as the busiest wedding date of 2018 for just that reason. (The wedding website, The Knot, reported 28,000 couples would marry on that Saturday.)”

“The Cañon City Council will conduct a discussion regarding recreational marijuana sales in the city during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at John D. Havens City Hall, located at 128 Main St,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “According to the meeting agenda, the discussion stems from a request by “a group of interested citizens.” The name of the group and any associated citizens is not identified in the packet materials. The request is to approve zoning regulations and special use conditions to allow retail marijuana sales in commercial and industrial zoned areas but not the central business district.”

“Police use of force, body camera footage, unconscious jury bias and domestic violence are at the forefront as the trial of a CSU student accused of misdemeanor resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer is set to begin — again,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “Michaella Surat’s arrest gained notoriety last year after a 9-second video clip in which she can be seen being forced to the ground by a Fort Collins police officer went viral in April 2017. Police say officer Randy Klamser, who was cleared of wrongdoing in the incident, was employing a standard arrest technique on someone who was not complying with directives.”

“Eyebrows shot up across the area recently when a photo and video surfaced showing a mountain lion that broke into a home near downtown Boulder and killed the family’s domestic cat before being discovered and scared from the residence, back into the wild,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “Few know as much about the majestic and enigmatic animal — it’s the mammal with the widest distribution in North America, other than humans — than mammals researcher Mat Alldredge, who led a 10-year study of mountain lions on the Front Range for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.”

“The Aurora Police Department officer who twice fatally shot people this summer, including an armed homeowner who had defended his family against an intruder, will return to work Monday, although it may be some time before he is behind the wheel of a patrol car,” reports The Denver Post. “That decision will not come lightly as the officer and his commanders evaluate everything from his mental state to the findings of two pending investigations into the those shootings. Already, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz has had to defend his department’s decision to place the officer back on the graveyard shift 18 days after the first fatal shooting. While Aurora cannot discuss the psychological services that specific officer is receiving and which benchmarks he must achieve, experts say there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to when an officer who has shot a suspect is ready to return to duty. Lots of factors are involved, including whether the officer himself was injured, input from district attorneys investigating the case and an officer’s own feelings about his readiness.”

“As election season nears and the Denver Broncos prepare for the regular season, residents in Southwest Colorado will be subjected to another year of television from the Land of Enchantment, featuring Albuquerque crime, New Mexico political campaigns and perhaps a Dallas Cowboys game instead of the home team in orange and blue,” reports The Durango Herald. “Such is life as an “orphan county,” a term used to describe counties that receive television programing from a neighboring state. Montezuma and La Plata counties are in Colorado but receive broadcasting from New Mexico. La Plata County commissioners hoped to change its “orphan” status by filing a petition to the Federal Communications Commission in October 2016 that would allow satellite providers – including DirecTV and DISH Network – to partner with local television companies in Denver to broadcast in La Plata County.”

The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.

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