Water, Water everyhere but not a drop to drink

Lemon Resevoir - Heather Ellis

Lemon Resevoir - Heather Ellis

Water is always a big topic in the west. Water is required for life. Without it our crops die, our cities dry up, and eventually we would die. According to a Durango Herald editorial, Colorado’s Front Range is seeking new sources of water to fuel their population. Where do you think they’re looking? Across the continental divide, to the green and fertile western slope, at least that’s how they see us. One plan designed by Aaron Million, a Fort Collins developer, calls for a private pipeline that would carry as much as 250,000 acre feet of water from the Green River to the Front Range. The Green River, which begins in Wyoming and travels all the way into Utah where it merges with the Colorado River, is the primary water source for Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Southwestern Wyoming, and is one of the more popular river routes in the region. Luckily, Governor Bill Ritter does not support the idea of taking water from the Western Slope to support the Front Range. Gov. Ritter sees that while the Western Slope may have more water running through it, it is also a very arid region. Ritter also believes that the water from one watershed should not be used to support another, especially one that drains to the east instead of the west. If you want to learn more about this discussion check out the Durango Herald’s article here.

Is the Western Slope that wet? The Durango Herald reported that the Animas River, the river than runs through Durango, Colorado, is well below what it was in 2002. Why is this important? 2002, was one of the worst drought, and fire, years in Colorado history. The low water levels have been attributed to early runoff and a dry monsoon season. Hopefully, Colorado will have a snowy winter that will make up for the lack of a monsoon. But only time will tell. If we don’t get a good winter base it is likely that we could find ourselves in a drought with fires raging around us. If that happens we might need to steal some water from the Front Range.

– Ben Rogers

Save the Gulch

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EC File Photo

Durango area residents have a common misperception that the Horse Gulch area is a protected playground. Horse Gulch is used for hiking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife habitat, and it serves as an important natural classroom for the college. All these activities in this area could easily be lost.

Volunteers from Trails 2000 began work in 1991 to build an impressive trail system in this area. Horse Gulch was host to the Single Speed World Championships at the end of last summer; this is a prestigious event that takes place once a year in different venues around the world. The fact that it landed in Horse Gulch illustrates the areas importance as a recreational resource.

Much of Horse Gulch is privately owned. These areas would be worth millions of dollars if they were to be developed and turned into homes. Some of the land is owned by the city of Durango and some by Fort Lewis College but that does not mean that the private owners do not have their own agenda. If the city built a road back into Horse Gulch, which has been talked about in city planning meetings, there would be a rush for private owners to start developing. A road may be built through this area to clear congestion on Hwy. 160 near the Farmington Hill. Many of the uses would be forever ruined if this were to happen.

An interpretive guide was put together last summer explaining all of the uses of Horse Gulch and will soon be on sale at the college and around town. The money from the sales of this guide will go towards a massive cleanup effort in the spring. For more information on this topic refer to this informative guide. There are many people that use this area daily and would be willing to do what it takes to keep it safe. With community support this area can be a free and permanent part of the Durango outdoor experience.

– Royce Johnson

Make the Jump to Compost

EC File Photo

EC File Photo

Fall is finally here, and it is now the season for pumpkin carving, corn mazes, and leaves to change and fall. I’m sure most of you will agree that no matter what age you are you still enjoy taking part in the fall pastimes. Raking a pile of leaves and then jumping in them has always been a favorite of mine, but what do you do when you’ve had all the jumps you want and need a place to get rid of the leaves?

Leaves happen to be one the best fertilizers. So after you have had all of the fun jumping into the pile you can compost the leaves and spread them across your garden. For those of you without a composter you can use your lawnmower to chop the leaves up so they’ll break down sooner. You can also add fruits, vegetables, napkins, and coffee grounds for extra nutrients. This leaf concoction can help you harvest winter roots like leeks, carrots, and rutabagas. The only precaution to take when spreading the leaves is to make sure they don’t get too thick over the crowns of your perennials. This can cause root rot.

You can also compost your leaves during the winter and use them next spring to give your garden an early boost. You can simply place the leaves in a wire round bin and turn them every three or four weeks. Adding coffee grounds, vegetables, and fruits is also a great way to make the fertilizer even more nutritious, but can attract animas. If you’re adding food scraps to your compost make sure you have a closed container. By spring next year you can have all of the fertilizer you need to start a beautiful s garden.

Finally, if you don’t garden but don’t want all that leafy goodness to go to waste, call the Environmental Center at 247-7676. Our zero-waste crew is collecting leaves this fall for several of the community gardens we work with. This fall after carving pumpkins, going to corn mazes, and haunted mansions don’t forget to re-use those fun filled leaves. Gardens everywhere will thank you.

– Devon Dey

Think Local: Save the Frogs!

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Save the Frog - Liz Grogan

In the world of preservation all animals may be equal, but some are definitely more equal than others. We tend to focus on exotic endangered species rather than our own “mundane” local ones, even those in great danger.
There is no reason to believe that tigers are ecologically more valuable than Colorado’s own boreal toad, yet there are hundreds of “Save the Tiger” campaigns, and zero “Save the Toad” lobbyists. Plants are ignored completely. Most people don’t even realize plants can, in fact, become endangered, and are just as necessary for a stable environment as animals.

Thousands of species on this planet are facing extinction due to human destruction. The World Conservation Union lists 3246 species that are critically endangered, with thousands more endangered, vulnerable, or threatened. Less than 300 Sumatran tigers are left in the wild. 150 Iberian lynx survive in all of Europe. There are only 125 kakapos, a type of parrot, still alive. Echo parakeets are finally recovering from a drop to 10 individuals in the mid-80s. So yes, some species are more endangered than others, and most of those do not live in Colorado.

Thirty-three endangered plants and animals live in Colorado. Amphibians face fatal mutations because of our polluted rivers. Fish are dying off and unable to reproduce because of hormones and heavy metals in the water. Not to mention the effects of development and overfishing. Birds have trouble migrating because city lights interfere with their navigation. Large carnivores such as wolves, lynx and grizzly bears are either extinct in the state or nearly so. As long as we live here, we cannot forget about those 33 species. No matter how boring they may seem to us, we need to do all we can to protect them. Without them, our entire ecosystem will collapse.

You can find a complete list of local endangered animals here and plants here.

– Liz Grogan