Opinion Columns, Columnists

Polis: Widening the footprint of Colorado’s wilderness area

August 22, 2014 — 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. For a half century, this landmark conservation measure has helped protect our great nation’s last remaining unspoiled lands and natural wonders. Over 100 million acres of wilderness and iconic landscapes from the Everglades in Florida to Grand Teton in Wyoming to the Mojave Desert in California have been protected. In our own backyard, we enjoy 43 wilderness areas across Colorado, which highlight our 14,000-foot peaks, pristine forests, vast canyons and high-altitude lakes. These wild lands are symbolic of our Western heritage and enhance the quality of life for all Coloradans.

This weekend we take another step to further our state’s strong legacy of conservation and recreation. I am introducing the Rocky Mountain Recreation and Wilderness Preservation Act, a bill that will benefit wildlife, protect our clean air and water, and strengthen our local businesses and economy. The Rocky Mountain Recreation and Wilderness Preservation Act preserves some of Colorado’s most special remaining wild places by designating approximately 40,000 acres of new wilderness and over 10,000 acres of Recreation Management Areas in Eagle and Summit counties.

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An Earthly Idea: Giant lessons from tiny bugs

August 22, 2014 — 

I was certain that the Dillon Ranger District was wrong about lodgepole pine being the natural climax vegetation for Summit County. So I went to the library to find books on what kinds of trees were in our forests historically. Instead, I found a book that is must reading for anyone that cares about our local forests or the global environment. “Empire of the Beetle” by Andrew Nikiforuk is a real eye-opener.

Our pine-bark-beetle infestation was not that unusual. Nor was it very severe compared with recent ones elsewhere. Canadian author Nikiforuk explains that beetles are among the oldest, most numerous and most diverse organisms (more than 400,000 species) on Earth. They are crucial to decomposition, serious threats to crops and master forest managers. His colorful stories of beetle infestations and the scientists studying them show beetles and the tree death they cause to be part of normal forest ecology.

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The PetriDish: Chikungunya a new viral threat from mosquitoes

August 22, 2014 — 

I was sitting in my living room the other night when I happened to notice a mosquito on my arm. A quick swat left a mangled body and a rather large spot of blood; I gather the thing had been feeding for a while. This encounter prompts me to write about a newly emerging disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes — Chikungunya virus. You may not have heard of Chikungunya virus before, but chances are that it will be all over the news before long. The virus is spread through mosquito bites and causes an illness that is characterized by flu-like symptoms and can sometimes be followed by severe joint and muscle pain. In fact, the term “chikunguny” is a term used by an ethnic group in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique to describe the contorted posture of patients suffering from joint pains. While the infection is usually not fatal and cleared in a few days, the joint pain can sometimes persist for months or even years. There is no cure for the disease, so treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.

Prior to 2006, Chikungunya was generally limited to Africa and parts of Asia. But in 2006, there was a severe outbreak on the French Island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean that killed more than 250 people. Since then, the virus has spread to the western hemisphere with the first confirmed cases in the Caribbean in December 2013 (St. Martin). The virus then spread to other Caribbean islands and has subsequently reached Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States. Over the last couple of months, cases have been confirmed in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas. It looks like the virus is spreading all across the western hemisphere and is with us to stay. The virus has also been found as far afield as the Philippines, Taiwan and Australia.

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Ask Eartha: Plastic microbeads used in cosmetics can pollute our waterways

August 21, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I recently saw a news story about personal care products breaking down into plastic microbeads that pollute waterways. I was curious if Lake Dillon is at risk?

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Writers on the Range: A day on the river that ended in a death

August 20, 2014 — 

I keep thinking about Mary, a woman I never met. I Googled her name looking for her obituary, but I kept getting the same headlines of the articles I’ve already read too many times: “Woman dies in Pine Creek rafting accident.” “Texas woman drowns while rafting the Arkansas River.”

When her obituary is posted, I’m still not appeased. I want to know what she looked like, beyond the smiling photograph on the funeral home’s website. I want to know how long she was married to the husband who lost her so unexpectedly. I want to know what she lived for. I think I already know what she died for.

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Liddick: ‘If ain’t broke, don’t fix it’

August 19, 2014 — 

Before the rain of poisoned arrows that the 2014 campaign will be begins in earnest, it might be useful to review first principles. I won’t deal with the Left side of the aisle, where core beliefs are protean; that is a task of years. What follows is a list of characteristics common to all conservatives — with the caveat that when evaluating, deeds are always more important than words.

Conservatives value tradition. To them, tradition is not a set of stogy practices, ossified by mindless repetition over centuries. Traditions represent the past’s winnowing of behaviors, separating the beneficial and productive from the vicious and useless. To lack this filter is to be rudderless on the shifting tides of fashion, obsessed with the new or novel. Those who advocate the abandonment of long-standing practices should be challenged to specify criteria they would substitute for the test of time. To use a familiar aphorism, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sage words, but painful to those who justify their existence by fixing problems, mostly imaginary.

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Sirota: Is corruption a Constitutional right?

August 18, 2014 — 

Wall Street is one of the biggest sources of funding for presidential campaigns, and many of the Republican Party’s potential 2016 contenders are governors, from Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Perry of Texas to Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. And so, last week, the GOP filed a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning the pay-to-play law that bars those governors from raising campaign money from Wall Street executives who manage their states’ pension funds.

In the case, New York and Tennessee’s Republican parties are represented by two former Bush administration officials, one of whose firms just won the Supreme Court case invalidating campaign contribution limits on large donors. In their complaint, the parties argue that people managing state pension money have a First Amendment right to make large donations to state officials who award those lucrative money management contracts.

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Biff America: A drop of madness

August 16, 2014 — 

The first time I saw Sean Casey was in the summer of 1974. He had a shaved head and wore a skirt.

I entered the employee entrance of the Sea Swell restaurant on Cape Cod. As I passed through the kitchen I noticed a new face. Standing in front of a prep table, knife in hand, was Sean.

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Heard around the West: At Colorado EPA office, ‘defecating in the hallway’

August 15, 2014 — 

COLORADO

Anyone who reads a blog called Government Executive now knows that some U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staffers are not just unhappy; they also appear un-housebroken. In the agency’s Denver office, for example, there have been several incidents of “inappropriate bathroom behavior, including defecating in the hallway.” Managers said they were trying to find the culprit — probably the same person or persons who clogged the toilets with paper towels — and were taking the situation “very seriously.” So seriously that the EPA hired John Nicoletti, a national expert on workplace violence. What writer Eric Katz dubbed Region 8’s “poop bandit” was not the only problem; the EPA recently learned that some of its contractors had constructed “secret man caves” in an agency warehouse. That’s not all: One EPA employee was pretending to simultaneously work for the CIA to get unlimited vacations, and yet another spent most of his days exploring pornography on the Web. Presumably, all were summarily flushed out of the workplace, a fate that we hope awaits the poop bandit.

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Holm: Dire water predicament spurs cooperation, compromise

August 14, 2014 — 

After a winter of happy news about the generous snowpack in Colorado’s mountains, summer brought reminders that our regional water situation is dire — or, at least, poised on the edge of direness.

Just as the ink was drying on mid-July headlines announcing that Lake Mead had dropped to its lowest level since filling 80 years ago, a new study found that groundwater loss in the Colorado River Basin has been even more dramatic. The study used satellite data to track changes in the amount of water in the basin from 2004–2013, and found that 75 percent of the nearly 53 million acre feet lost during that period was from groundwater depletions.

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Young: Profitability and social responsibility – an incompatibility?

August 14, 2014 — 

The name is New Belgium, and if you’re a beer drinker, most likely you are familiar. It started 23 years ago in Jeff Lebesch’s basement in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now, with Fat Tire its most popular label, it’s the nation’s eighth-largest brewery.

It’s also one of the most socially responsible corporations in America.

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Ask Eartha: Summit County recycling a surprisingly complex process

August 14, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I see people putting their co-mingled recycling out for curbside pick-up, but I separate mine at the Breckenridge drop-off center. What is the difference?

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Bargell: Holding back and letting go as kids return to Summit schools

August 13, 2014 — 

It’s back ...

The crispness in the air startled me this morning, signaling the beginning of the end of summer, just when I was getting used to the idea. Perhaps more startled are the kids around the county that will hit the books again come Monday, just when they were getting used to the idea of sleeping in.

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Liddick: Obama lost in a world of Bond villains

August 12, 2014 — 

Kuwait City, Kuwait, 1990. Srebenica, Bosnia, 1995. Precaz, Albania, 1998. Tuol Sleng, Cambodia. Rwanda. The Holocaust.

Barack Obama ran on a platform of changing America — and now we know what he meant: a nation weaker; vacillating in the face of threats; detached from the world. He’s close to his goal of making the nation that won the Cold War irrelevant, endangering both our country and much of humanity in the bargain. For proof, study the list of places above. The first three mark interventions led by the United States which ended immense butchery; the latter, instances in which we did nothing, and millions died. Look however one will, there is one inescapable conclusion: our European associates have a much higher tolerance than we for mass slaughter and bitter tyranny, so long as their own people are untouched. If monstrosities are to be opposed, ours is an indispensable role.

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Sirota: Juking the job stats

August 10, 2014 — 

A decade ago, as the United States hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, the federal government considered reclassifying fast food as a manufacturing industry.

Sound ludicrous? Today, with the manufacturing sector still ailing, the federal government wants to take something called “factoryless goods” and categorize the firms that make them as manufacturers. As part of the plan, the government could also classify some foreign-manufactured goods as U.S. exports. The change would help politicians make the case that domestic manufacturing is recovering, even if the assertion isn’t true.

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Durst: Pandora’s box of worms

August 10, 2014 — 

In a move less surprising than hot dogs at a ballgame, the House of Representatives voted to give Speaker John Boehner the authority to sue the president of the United States. This isn’t like a divorce, or a civil suit for money; it’s more of a restraining order. They want Obama to quit trying to resuscitate the government they’ve been working so hard to render unconscious.

On one hand, it’s a brilliant tactical move. Nobody can call them a Do-Nothing Congress anymore. “Do nothing? What are you talking about? We sued the president.” Many see the action as a stopgap measure to quiet the crazies on the right, who continue to demand nothing less than impeachment. And this is Impeachment Lite.

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Read: The virtues of old-school car camping

August 9, 2014 — 

When I was a kid, my parents took me camping to instill in me a deep and abiding love of nature’s wondrous bounty.

Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound right.

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Littwin: Lucky John got the deal done

August 9, 2014 — 

It looks like Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially broken his long losing streak. Yes, there had been signs of the old Hick recently. He told his terrible shark joke the other day. He played banjo and sang with Old Crow Medicine Show at Red Rocks.

But, still, people wondered. Liberals were mad at him over fracking. Conservatives were mad over guns and the death penalty. The moderates? Everyone likes a winner, and suddenly Hick was tied — yes, tied — with Bob Beauprez in the polls, which people were saying was an occasion for embarrassment.

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An Earthly Idea: Replacing our forests with hair of the dog

August 8, 2014 — 

When talking about why clear-cutting is the exact wrong thing to do in Summit County — as I often do — the conversation frequently turns to “dog hair.” I’ve been asked several times “What is this dog hair you talk about?” No, I’m not bemoaning the pet fur that covers my house. Nor am I alluding to “hair of the dog,” a draught of liquor meant to cure a hangover.

When talking about forests, dog hair refers to very dense thickets of small trees, most frequently with regard to lodgepole or ponderosa pines. The only dictionary-style definition that I found on the Web was “a thick growth of small, suppressed trees.” Many citations referred to dog hair as being forest that is “grossly overstocked.”

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Writers on the Range: Thanks for the wilderness we’ve got

August 7, 2014 — 

Looking for a respite from jobs, laptops and cellphones, my friend Gabe and I backpacked into the Weminuche Wilderness in southwest Colorado this June. I’d like to say we were consciously celebrating the Wilderness Act’s 50th birthday, but our decision to go into the area was mostly random.

If you’re looking for solitude, wilderness can be a rotten choice, as the designation tends to be a people-magnet. Besides, the Wilderness Act is a bit worse for half-a-century’s wear. Its philosophical underpinnings have been questioned. And our do-nothing Congress is especially useless when it comes to designating new wilderness areas, even if the proposals come from locals and have bipartisan support.

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Ask Eartha: Slow Fashion movement weighs ethical concerns of clothing

August 7, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

Recently I overheard a conversation about an eco-friendly trend called “slow fashion” but didn’t understand it. Can you explain?

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Young: The GOP’s answer now is to ‘dynamite the bridge’

August 6, 2014 — 

By review: If the Affordable Care Act were blown up as congressional Republicans desire, 12 million Americans who now have health insurance would have none.

That being the case, one of the most telling comments of the last six rip-roarious years came the other day from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

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Liddick: Stop making a Cass of yourself

August 4, 2014 — 

Cass Sunstein thinks Paul Ryan’s proposals for regulatory reform are “progressive” because they call for analysis of the economic and social effects of new regulations. Mr. Sunstein, who thinks you are incompetent and who never met a government diktat he didn’t love, suffers from Social Justice Syndrome. This disease, common to the Left, causes Manichaean vision in its victims: they divide the world into greedy businessmen and the exploited poor. As one of the infected, Mr. Sunstein vigorously pounds the square peg of Congressman Ryan’s proposals into the round hole of this vision. More’s the pity, because if he really stopped to think he would arrive at a much more disturbing analysis of regulations and their evil twin, subsidies — one which confounds most of his life’s work.

Simply put, regulations and subsidies are two sides of the same coin: government interference in the operation of markets and lives, picking winners and losers through political criteria. True, some regulations, like pure food and drug or weights and measures laws, are there because the world of commerce has always had bad actors who are not above cutting corners to make a quick buck — one reason the Egyptian Book of the Dead has at least five negative confessions about not cheating customers. But most of this interference has another motive.

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Sirota: Clinton vs. Warren: Big differences, despite claims to the contrary

August 3, 2014 — 

Hillary Clinton’s political allies want Democratic primary voters to believe that the former secretary of state is just like populist Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, and they’ve been claiming that there are no differences between the two possible presidential contenders. There’s just one problem: That’s not true.

Clinton last week filled in for George W. Bush at an Ameriprise conference, continuing a speaking tour that is raking in big money from Wall Street. One of her aides later downplayed the idea that Clinton’s relationship with the financial sector could be a political liability for her, should she face Warren in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. The aide defiantly insisted that the two are exactly the same.

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Biff America: Lost on the road less traveled

August 3, 2014 — 

I looked my wife straight in the eye and lied.

This is far from the first time I’ve fibbed about this issue. In fact, I’ve been misleading friends, family and educators my entire life.

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Ask Eartha: Turning Lake Dillon trash into recycling treasure

July 31, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I’ve noticed a lot more trash recently along Lake Dillon. Do you have any idea why there seems to be more garbage there than in other places around the county?

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Pokrandt: Colorado needs a better water plan

July 30, 2014 — 

It’s almost time for football training camps, so here’s a gridiron analogy for Colorado River water policy watchers: Western Colorado is defending two end zones. One is the Colorado River. The other is agriculture. The West Slope team has to make a big defensive play. If water planning errs on the side of overdeveloping the Colorado River, the river loses, the West Slope economy loses and West Slope agriculture could be on the way out.

This is how the Colorado River Basin Roundtable is viewing its contribution to the Colorado Water Plan ordered up by Gov. John Hickenlooper. A draft plan will be submitted in December and a final plan in December 2015. The roundtable is assessing local water supply needs and environmental concerns for inclusion in the plan, and there is plenty of work to consider in the region. But the big play may very well be the keeping of powerful forces from scoring on our two goal lines.

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Mountain Law: Are parents legally responsible for their childrens’ actions?

July 30, 2014 — 

If a minor child damages property or injures someone, can the parents be held legally responsible? In Colorado, the answer is yes.

When a person is held legally responsible for something that someone else did, this is known as “vicarious” liability. In Colorado, a parent can be vicariously liable for property damage caused by a child under the age of 18 years who was living with the parent if the child’s act is “malicious” or “willful.” The parent’s liability is capped at $3,500.

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We have an immediacy problem

July 29, 2014 — 

Those of us who walked this planet 45 years ago this week remember exactly what we were doing that day when man first landed on the moon.

I was in the back seat of the family station wagon in my pin-striped jersey and navy-blue ball cap, headed to an American Legion baseball game.

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Liddick: The good, the bad and the Nancy Reagan rule

July 28, 2014 — 

As Nov. 4 crawls ever closer it behooves us to remind ourselves that, like it or not, we are in election season. In this breathing space before we are buried in the avalanche of lies and slime that political ads have become, we should take time to study the changes that various well-heeled pressure groups are trying to make to our state constitution and laws. With rare exception, they are recurring proof that Nancy Reagan’s advice on another front was best: “Just say no.”

A few weeks ago, I introduced the Ugly: a constellation of proposals designed to drive hydraulic fracturing from the state, thus crippling a major contributor to Colorado’s recent economic growth. Mostly funded by our very own Jared Polis, these measures are a product of our representative’s personal pique that, when confronted by his petulance over its small wellhead across the street from his Weld County property, Sundance Energy didn’t tug its forelock properly while giving a fulsome three-bags-full apology. So: political action as temper tantrum. Grow up, Jared. Being represented by a 7-year-old is embarrassing.

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