Front Range Groundswell

Anti-fracking protest in Boulder (image via Ecowatch)

Anti-fracking protest in Boulder (image via Ecowatch)

The widespread ramp-up of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas has collided with cities’ growth along Colorado’s Front Range, and elevated fears over health and environmental impacts as wellpads are sited near homes and schools.

A protest movement is gaining ground, and citizens aren’t waiting for state or local officials or the courts to hand down tougher rules to stop fracking. My article, “Front Range drilldown,” for High Country News in August 2013, covers the groundswells (energy-based and citizen-powered) ahead of the fall election season when several communities will vote on potential fracking bans.

I also discussed the story with Nelson Harvey of KDNK’s Sounds of the High Country.

 

The Long Dam Wait

Construction of Moffat Tunnel near Denver, 1936 (Denver Water)

Construction of Moffat Tunnel near Denver, 1936 (Denver Water)

Colorado water managers say they desperately need to shore up supplies and storage in a region growing larger and seemingly drier. But proposals for major storage and pipelines now face high regulatory hurdles, long waits, and ever-escalating costs.

My September 2013 story for the Northern Colorado Business Report looks at water projects stuck in “regulatory limbo,” and how some cities are adjusting their proposals and expectations in response to new administrative and environmental realities.

Continue reading

Sifting Through Soapstone

Replica of a bison vertebrae pierced by a prehistoric spear point, from Soapstone Prairie Natural Area.

Replica of a bison vertebrae pierced by a prehistoric spear point, from Soapstone Prairie Natural Area.

Soapstone Prairie holds archaeological clues to the living, eating and travel habits of people since the last Ice Age. And researchers are still unearthing new artifacts and forging theories at the 19,000-acre high-plains natural area outside Fort Collins.

My Spring 2013 story for Fort Collins Magazine, “Sifting Through Soapstone,” covers my travels on the prairie with Colorado State University archaeologist Jason LaBelle, and what Soapstone’s prehistoric treasure trove tells us about how early human settlers migrated across and lived on the North American landscape. Continue reading

Fracking on the Range

Methane flaring from natural gas well (image via Ecowatch)

Methane flaring from natural gas well (image via Ecowatch)

Oil and gas companies are on a drilling bender across Western public lands but surrounding communities aren’t interested in the hangover.

My story for Sierra Magazine, July/August 2013 issue — “Busting Out of Boom and Bust” — looks at how fracking and drilling has gotten lax oversight on public lands, and how towns across the West are fighting back to protect forests and rangelands, rivers and water supplies. Continue reading

Fuel for Energy Research

Carbon Sink, an art installation at University of Wyoming that was removed after state leaders and industry supporters perceived it was critical of coal development and energy exploration in the state (University of Wyoming)

Carbon Sink, an art installation at University of Wyoming that was removed after state leaders and industry supporters perceived it was critical of coal development and energy exploration in the state (University of Wyoming)

The collision of environmental research and energy industry funding has earned the derisive moniker of “frackademia,” and been clouded by questions over industry’s bias at state universities and academic programs.

My January 21, 2013 story, “Oil and gas companies pour money into research universities,” in High Country News explores the deepening relationship between the energy industry and university research, and how colleges are trying to maintain their scientific integrity, research funds and even their aesthetics — a task some are handling better than others. Continue reading

Port Gamble Predicament

Meeting of Kitsap Forest & Bay Project at Port Gamble S'Klallam Reservation, April 2012

Meeting of Kitsap Forest & Bay Project at Port Gamble S’Klallam Reservation, April 2012

A western Washington tribe and timber country are trying to put 160 years of sticky history aside to protect the local forests and bay shorelines, including shellfish beds that still provide subsistence meals for local Indians.

My November 26 cover story for High Country News explores how a shared past is complicating efforts for a promising future on Port Gamble Bay. For the story, I made two visits to western Washington (including on a reporters’ expedition through the Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources), and spent time amid the forests, shorelines and communities surrounding Port Gamble.

 

 

 

The Ever-Evolving Farmer

lamar hay crew 1912

Hay crew, Deeter Farm, Lamar, Colo., 1912 (Source:www.waterarchives.org)

During a summer of drought, farmers, ranchers and agricultural researchers in Colorado are living with and adjusting to environmental changes and economic realities. I wrote on Colorado farmers’ adaptations and attitudes  during dry times (“The Ever-Evolving Farmer”) in the Fall 2012 issue of Headwaters Magazine.

 

 

 

 

One Last Look Across the Range

BobAbbey

Bob Abbey speaking at public meeting in eastern Montana, September 2010

The chief of America’s largest land-management agency sat down to share some parting wisdom with me before retiring and after nearly 3 decades of working on environmental challenges across the West.

My interview with former director U.S. Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey, “Abbey’s Road,” ran online for High Country News in October 2012.

 

Timber Road Rage

Chris Winter, of Crag Law Center, checks out logging- runoff impacts on the Tillamook State Forest.

A battle over the effects of logging and roads on salmon streams and drinking water is moving up to the Supreme Court, with sides disagreeing over just how perilous the problem — or a solution — is. I visited the Tillamook State Forest in Oregon — ground zero for logging runoff — this spring to look into the issue for High Country News.

My July 23, 2012 article, “Oregon ignores logging road runoff, to the peril of native fish,” looks at environmentalists’ concerns over runoff impacts from timber operations in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and the claims behind their lawsuit. Continue reading

The Water Commish

With Colorado bracing for a hot and dry summer of 2012 — which ultimately brought extreme heat, drought and wildfires — I spoke with state water commissioners for University of Northern Colorado’s Northern Vision magazine to hear about the challenges of managing flows for a parched state of farmers, river runners, and homeowners.

My Spring 2012 story, “The Water Gatekeepers,” tracks the tasks and tribulations of several Colorado water commissioners, faced with administering river flows and reservoir releases to meet legal, public, and environmental needs.