Letters 3/31/22

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NCAR FIRE probably beneficial 

As long as no human structures are impacted and nobody gets injured, a fire like the NCAR fire is probably quite beneficial for the ecosystem. The grasses and wildflowers have deep roots that are not impacted unless the fire gets really hot, and they will be right back after a couple of rains. The area will most likely green up with amazing rapidity after we get some spring moisture, and by June or July you’d never guess the area burned. The ponderosa pines are adapted to fire, and are quite fire resistant unless the temperatures get really hot; mostly I expect they were singed a bit, a little toasty around the bottom but most will recover quickly. Even if some of the trees were killed, they will become wildlife trees—condos for all sorts of forest creatures like bats, woodpeckers, insects and nuthatches. The fire may also have cleaned out some of the encroaching Douglas firs that are moving into the pines, and will clean up dead wood and pine needle litter that could contribute to a truly destructive fire under worse conditions. I hope I can lead some fire ecology nature hikes for the public into that area to be able to show the two sides of wildfire, and how it creates healthy forests and grasslands.

David Sutherland, Community Naturalist/Boulder, DaveSutherland.co 

We can do better than Redtail

There’s no reason to fear the Conoco-Phillips General Development Plan (GDP). But there is reason to fear its amendment through the Redtail Ridge Master Plan (Redtail). Right now, the property is zoned commercial. Redtail permanently changes the zoning from commercial to commercial-industrial.

Redtail is too big and too industrial. Picture a development 30 times the size of our rec center and its parking lot. Picture light industry-generating noise, smoke, vibration, fumes, and various “other environmental factors.” Perhaps, there’s a five-story office tower or medical facilities interspersed among the manufacturing facilities. Or, perhaps, there are laundry cleaning plants, dry cleaners, car washes and other commercial businesses among the office towers and medical buildings. And, if the land is zoned industrial, Avista—not the developer—will need to negotiate covenants to bar incompatible uses, such as collision repair services, on adjoining property.

We’ve given too much away and need to drive a harder bargain. The GDP identifies 13 potential uses. Redtail authorizes 33 potential uses, pretty much a code-based laundry list. This kitchen sink approach is a great, profit-generating tactic, allowing a quick flip. The developer can get a quick buck just by selling the property with its new industrial zoning and 20 newly authorized uses.

The perimeter of the property is bordered by roads incapable of handling today’s traffic—much less 20,000 daily additional trips. To manage traffic, we will need more traffic lights, and, they will have long wait times. The interchange with US 36 will need to be upgraded to handle the additional traffic. Because our City Council rejected the staff’s recommendation, the developer is not on the hook for the full cost of these roadway improvements.

Louisville is already absorbing the Marshall Fire’s unbudgeted and unexpected financial burden. We have homes and critical infrastructure to repair and rebuild. This is not the time to use public money for private gain.

There is no reason to fear losing the sustainability measures added to Redtail. LEED Silver is not the only way to get sustainable development or wildlife corridors. There will be opportunities for further negotiation when the land is sub-divided and subdivision improvement agreements negotiated.

We stand at a climatic and environmental tipping point. Louisville can and must do better. 

Learn more about Redtail at preservelouisville.org/home. Vote no. We can and must do better.

Cathern Smith/Louisville

Responsible use of pesticides in city of Boulder and Boulder County

Environmental protection and personal health are both key values in the Boulder way of life. Boulder has the greatest concentration of organic and natural food companies in the country. Residents of Boulder County invest time and money in their food to stay away from pesticides. But food is not the only way to get exposed to pesticides as our bodies can also absorbe these chemicals from the environment, for example during a hike in an area treated with pesticides.

Are our Boulder County and City of Boulder Open Spaces, where so many of us go to exercise, as healthy as we expect them to be?

Unfortunately there is currently no system in place to confirm that the Boulder County Open Space areas we plan to visit have not been treated with pesticides. Boulder County Open Space has not made the effort to inform the public in order to protect our communities and our ecosystems from pesticides.

Boulder County Parks and Open Space is spraying toxic chemicals including Glyphosate (the active ingredient of Roundup) and Indaziflam (the active ingredient of Esplanade and Rejuvra) to control cheatgrass on Open Space natural lands. Glyphosate is associated with a wide range of illnesses, including Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, genetic damage, liver and kidney damage, and endocrine disruption. Indaziflam is a neurotoxin for mammals, an endocrine disruptor, and it affects the kidneys, liver, thyroid, stomach, seminal vesicles and ovaries.  

The public is not aware that Boulder County implements such methods to control weeds and to manage our public lands, using ground crews, tractors and helicopters. The map of the areas sprayed with pesticides has never been shared with the public. This issue is going to get worse as the County is now getting ready for extensive aerial spraying using helicopters, once again without informing the public. Because of Boulder County Open Space’s lack of transparency, kids are biking, hiking, running and playing on Boulder County Open Space while their parents confidently assume these lands are chemical free!  You can sign and share this petition (sign.moveon.org/p/stopthespray) to demand full public transparency on the use of chemicals on Boulder County Open Space natural lands.

So far, unlike Boulder County Open Space, City of Boulder has made major efforts to protect our communities from the impact of pesticides on human health and our ecosystems. Their website is an excellent ressource to get educated on the subject of pesticides. Almost all pesticides are banned on city property, including Neonicotinoids and Glyphosate. City staff are required to notify the public of any pesticide applications on city property. Before taking a walk on city property you can check the maps that Boulder City provides to find the location of any pesticide treatments, along with the reason for and timing of pesticide application. Signs are placed at each application site at least 24 hours prior to the application. Boulder City cultivates healthy Open Space for the well-being of residents and visitors alike, along the longterm health of our ecosystems.

I hope this information will help you stand up for your values and make informed choices.

Christel Markevich/Boulder

Remind Polis that climate leadership is nonnegotiable 

When Jared Polis first ran for governor of Colorado, he claimed to be willing to tackle climate change. I hoped that was true and I voted for him. If we were talking about something other than the fate of the planet, his actions the past few years would have been disappointing. Inaction on climate change can only be devastating.

He has continued to ramp up oil and gas drilling in our state. Over 4,600 oil and gas (methane) wells have been approved since Polis was elected governor. Other governors have directed their regulatory bodies to deny drilling permits because of climate change. Polis could make that same choice, but hasn’t. To date, only one oil and gas development plan has ever been denied and that was a hard fought battle that ended with regulators inviting industry to try again. Not only have over 4,000 wells been approved under the Polis administration, but the oil and methane industry is still sitting on 3,000 unused permits. We could deny all drilling permits starting today and still get drilled for years.

Besides oil and gas drilling, Polis went against his own party and threatened a veto of SB21-200. It would have been our strongest climate legislation ever but his veto threat destroyed it. There is nothing close to that dead bill even being considered this legislative session.

So far, there are no indications that his record will improve. His administration continues to ignore the fact that the majority of the oil and gas extracted from Colorado is exported. If we were honest with ourselves and talked about the emissions from all the oil and gas that comes from Colorado, we would have to double the numbers we use when calculating how many emissions we need to cut. However, those emissions are not included in any of the data about our state’s climate impact. With that magic math, Polis’s Roadmap for Reducing Greenhouse Gases includes increasing oil and gas production until 2030. By then it will be too late. 

I wish I was being hyperbolic, but I’m not. The UN’s recent IPCC report confirms how little time we have to change course. A consortium of the world’s top scientists just told us, again, that if we don’t make some monumental changes very quickly the consequences will be even more catastrophic than they are today.

Changing light bulbs, eating less meat, riding bikes more and driving less are all good things, but it won’t have the meaningful impact we need. It is too late for that. The conversation can no longer be about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We need to eliminate them. To do that we need deep, systemic change. 

The status quo is comfortable for the powerful and wealthy. It will take all of us raising our voices together to get us off the course of extracting and burning as many fossil fuels as possible and onto the path that reduces our impact on the climate. The time is now.

We must call on Governor Polis to support the transformative change that will save our community and the world from the worst of climate chaos. Rather than increasing oil and gas production over the next eight years, we need a managed phase out from oil and gas production that supports the workers. We need a just transition plan and we needed it yesterday. Email Polis, call Polis 303-866-2471, sign this petition that has been brought forward by a coalition of over 60 groups United for Colorado’s Climate, talk to him about it when you run into him at Whole Foods or at a fundraising event. Tell him climate leadership is imperative, is non-negotiable, and essential for him to keep his job as governor.

Kate Christensen/Colorado

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