Category: Environment

National Park Designation Boosts Economic Fortune of California Town

The spire at Pinnacles National Park reflects on a calm reservoir below it. (Photo: NPS.gov)

The spire at Pinnacles National Park reflects on a calm reservoir below it. (Photo: NPS.gov)

Some fearful “old-guard” folks in Grand Junction are trembling in their boots at the prospect of the Colorado National Monument being upgraded to a national park, but if the experience of Soledad, California is an indicator, national park status confers a significant bump in the local economies of small towns situated near them.

In the year and a half since the Pinnacles National Monument near Soledad, California was designated the nation’s 59th national park in February, 2013, Soledad has seen its sales tax receipts jump 11 percent. Nearby restaurants report that signage posted on the routes to the new national park is bringing in more customers.

Pinnacles National Park has also seen a jump in admission fees over when it was a national monument, and the park’s book store has experienced record sales.

Park designation has brightened the economic outlook for Soledad, which previously struggled with a limited economic base.

Prior to the national park designation, Soledad’s economy was based almost solely on agriculture and the presence of a state prison. The national park designation has opened up a whole new area of clean, sustainable economic productivity for the town.

Now Soledad is gearing up to capitalize even more on the good fortune of having a national park in its back yard. The city is welcoming the diversification of its economic base and all the benefits it confers.

This summer, Soledad will open up a brand new visitor center downtown to enlighten tourists going to the park about other nearby offerings, like wineries, vineyards and specialty restaurants.

Grand Junction is poised to experience the same type of boost to its economic fortune as legislators consider bringing a bill to upgrade the Colorado National Monument to a national park.

 

Source: KAZU 90.3, June 25, 2014, National Park Status Boosts Tourism and Hopes

Clueless Colorado House Rep. Ray Scott Denies Climate Change

In this 2013 video, Colorado House Representative Ray Scott, a climate change denier who represents Colorado’s western slope, argues against increasing the amount of renewable energy required from rural electric co-ops to 20% within the next 6 years. The bill, SB 252, was ultimately signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Scott says “We have better things to do.” and “We’re going too darn far.” Incredibly, he further states,

“I have people in rural Colorado who say ‘You know, I don’t have a problem with renewable energy. I have solar panels on my house, that’s fine.’ But they’re having a hard time getting their mind around fields of solar panels in a field, or wind generation facilities out in the plains that they’ve never seen before. And if we’re really environmentally conscious, why would we want to look at those things? They don’t even make sense to me. I know I’ve driven through places in Utah and California and said, ‘Oh my gosh. All of this just to say we are changing something that we’re not even really sure we’re changing, based on studies that make no sense and the science is not necessarily true?’ “

According to NASA, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the last century are very likely due to human activities. Most leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

Some of the current consequences of climate change, according to NASA and a majority of scientists, include loss of sea ice, longer and more severe heat waves, and accelerated sea level rise.

The Crucial History Lesson Behind CO Ballot Initiative #75: the “Community Rights Amendment”

SummitvilleSuperfund

Colorado citizens learned their lesson from the Summitville Mine Disaster of 1992-93, but the state courts and legislature did not, and have repeatedly invalidated local laws that communities enact to protect their citizens from hazardous business pursuits.

Colorado citizens are now gathering signatures to get Ballot Initiative #75, a groundbreaking constitutional amendment, onto the state wide ballot in November.

Business interests have called Initiative #75, also known as the “Right to Local Self-Government” or the “Community Rights Amendment,” an “anti-fracking” initiative, but the measure confers more protection on Colorado citizens than just an anti-fracking initiative, and there are some very solid recent history lessons that are driving Colorado citizens to push for this initiative.

One of them is the Summitville Mine Disaster of 1992-1993.

The Summitville Mine, operated by the Summitville Consolidated Mining Corporation, Inc. (SCMCI), was an open-pit gold and silver mine located in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, about 40 miles west of Alamosa.  SCMCI used a cyanide heap leaching technique to extract gold and silver. The process involved excavating ore from the mountain, then crushing it and placing it onto a 1,235 acre open leach pad lined with clay and synthetic material. The company then poured a sodium cyanide solution over the crushed ore to leach out gold and silver. The contaminated water was collected and held in leach ponds on the mine property.

Sodium cyanide is highly toxic, and among the most rapidly-acting of all poisons.

13 Insane Republican Arguments Against Upgrading the Colorado National Monument to a National Park

LIES, LIES, LIES -Opponents to changing the Colorado National Monument into a national park posted this photo on their website, "Friends of the Colorado National Monument," to warn that lack of access will ensue if the Monument becomes a national park. The photo's caption says it was taken at the entrance to the "Kapalua National Conservation Area." No such conservation area exists.

Mesa County Republicans who oppose changing the Colorado National Monument into a national park posted this photo on their website, “Friends of the Colorado National Monument,” to warn that lack of access will ensue if the Monument becomes a national park. The photo’s caption says it was taken at the entrance to the “Kapalua National Conservation Area.” There is no such conservation area.

Name a simple, cost-free way to boost our area’s sagging local economy and put Grand Junction on a lot more tourist maps.

That’s right, it’s upgrading the Colorado National Monument to national park status.

The push to turn the Monument into a national park has won widespread support from a broad spectrum of the community, and for good reasons.

The Monument has all the natural features it needs to qualify as a national park, and making the change would clarify what tourists are looking for. Right now, tourists think the Colorado National Monument is a statue or a commemorative plaque. If the Monument were called a “park” instead, it would clarify what they are heading to see. Also, as a national park the Monument would draw more travelers from the airport and more tourists off I-70, boosting business at local hotels, restaurants, coffee bars, rental car companies, gas stations, art galleries and other businesses.

Sounds like a good idea, right? That’s because it is. And for that reason, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership endorses it. The Chamber of Commerce has supported it. The Grand Junction Visitors and Convention Bureau says it is a “clear opportunity to attract more visitors.” Even the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association supports it. The Daily Sentinel supports it, saying “Studies show that monuments which become national parks don’t necessarily see a big increase in the number of visitors. But they do see a change in the types of visitors, with more people coming from outside the immediate area, staying longer in the area and spending more money.”

So if upgrading the Colorado National Monument to a national park is such a no-brainer and it would do our area so much good, why isn’t the effort going forward full throttle?

Midwife Sounds Alert Over Spike in Stillbirths in Heavily-Drilled Vernal, Utah

Drilling density in the Uintah Basin, where Vernal is located

Drilling density in the Uintah Basin, where Vernal is located

A midwife in Vernal, Utah, has raised a red flag about a spike in the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the small town in 2013. The statistic has emerged alongside explosive growth in drilling and fracking in the area. Energy companies have flocked to Vernal in the last few years to develop the massive oil and gas fields that underlie Uintah County.

The midwife, Donna Young,  who has worked in the Vernal area for 19 years, reported delivering the first stillborn baby she’s seen in all her years of practice in May, 2013. Doctors could not determine any reason for the baby’s death.

While visiting the local cemetery where the parents of that baby had buried their dead child, Young noticed other fresh graves of babies who were stillborn or died shortly after birth.

Young started researching local sources of data on stillbirths and neonatal deaths, like obituaries and mortuary records, and found a large spike in the number of infant deaths occurring in Vernal in recent years. She found 11 other incidents in 2013 where Vernal mothers had given birth to stillborn babies, or whose babies died within a few days of being born.

Vernal’s full-time population is only about 9,800.

The rate of neonatal deaths in Vernal has climbed from about equivalent to the national average in 2010, to six times the national average in 2013.

Along with the surge in oil and gas drilling in the Vernal area over the last few years, the winter time air in the Uintah basin, where Vernal sits, has become dense with industrial smog generated by drilling rigs, pipelines, wells and increased traffic.

“DrillingAhead.com” Gives Inside Look at Problems, Accidents and Worker Behavior in Oil and Gas Field

DrillingAhead.com is a worldwide networking website for employees of the oil and gas field. Rotating news stories on the the site’s front page have headlines like “Fingertip Amputation Hangs Over Chesapeak Energy,” “2 Dead, 9 Injured After Oilfield Explosion Near Orla, Texas,” and “Texas Newspaper Investigation Questions Oilfield Safety; Says 663 Killed in 6 Years.” The latter story discusses the U.S. federal government’s failure to enforce safety standards on drilling rigs.

DrillingAhead.com also lets oil and gas field workers upload videos of what they see  at their worksites. So far workers have uploaded almost 16,000 videos onto the site, with many showing accidents and workers screwing around. One video titled “Directional Drilling Nightmare” shows a drill bit gone awry and surfacing in a nearby field, spewing mud and fluid around the area. Others show workers sleeping on the job, and another shows a gas plant exploding in fire at an unnamed location in Colorado. Another truly incredible video shows drilling rig workers engaging in a pipe-licking contest (video at left), where two men actually try to outdo each other for the length of time they can hold their tongues against an active, circulating vertical section of pipe.

DrillingAhead.com also links to a fascinating Flickr site featuring still photos of “Oilfield Accidents.” Photos show frightened workers clinging desperately to the railing of a severely listing offshore rig, an offshore rig sinking into the water, a truck impaled by oilfield equipment, rigs that have collapsed or caught fire (or both), and rigs completely encased in ice.

DrillingAhead.com gives a detailed inside look at the actual operation of drilling rigs around the world as seen by the workers themselves, and in so doing does plenty to undermine confidence — if there ever was any — in how drilling operations are carried out worldwide.

In fact, DrillingAhead.com provides ample justification to worry mightily about the safety and integrity of oil and gas drilling operations everywhere.

 

Texas Family Wins $2.95 Million Verdict from Aruba Petroleum for Damaging their Health

Drilling rig outside the Ruggiero's kitchen window. The Ruggieros were neighbors of the Parrs, who won the lawsuit against Aruba Petroleum, for damaging their health (Photo by Tim Ruggiero)

Drilling rig outside the Ruggiero’s kitchen window. The Ruggieros were neighbors of the Parrs, who won the lawsuit against Aruba Petroleum, for damaging their health (Photo by Tim Ruggiero)

A Texas ranching family won a $2.95 million award in a civil lawsuit against Aruba Petroleum, Inc., after a jury found that the company’s drilling and fracking operations near their home caused the entire family to become desperately ill.

It is believed to be the first jury award in the country resulting from a claim of health damages from drilling and fracking operations. Most landowners who bring such suits are pushed to settle and submit to gag orders so drilling companies can keep the terms of the settlements out of the public realm.

Robert and Lisa Parr lived on a ranch about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth, Texas, and had 20 active wells being drilled and fracked within two miles of their home.

In November, 2008, Lisa, a stay-at-home mom, started feeling nauseated and getting extreme headaches. At first she thought she was getting the flu, but the symptoms did not abate. She soon developed muscle spasms, a strange rash all over her body and open sores that would not heal. The sores and rashes got so severe that she went to the emergency room, where doctors packed her body in ice to give her some relief.

Lisa’s daughter, then about six years old, started getting severe nosebleeds in her sleep and would wake up soaked with blood.

Her husband, Robert, began experiencing memory loss. Their house pets died, and their livestock gave birth to deformed offspring.

Where are the Jobs? Where are the Trails? Brady Trucking Site Sits Untouched

BradySite

The Brady Trucking site by the Colorado River more than a year after citizens voted to re-zone the site. Proponents promised the re-zone would create high-paying jobs and a landscaped extension of the Colorado riverfront trail. 

 

“Vote for Jobs and Trails!”

That was how local pro-business interests promoted passage of Referred Measure A on the April, 2013 City ballot, which asked voters to uphold light industrial zoning by the Colorado River and the proposed Las Colonias Park site, so a private company, Brady Trucking, could expand its operations.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, it’s deep-pocketed lobbying arm, the Western Colorado Business Alliance and the West Slope Oil and Gas Association all championed the re-zoning measure.

Chamber President Diane Schwenke, CEO said, “This is an issue where the voters can support good jobs and development of trails.” Schwenke promised that if the measure passed, the new jobs Brady would provide would average $70,000 per year.

“What would we as a community be willing to give up to attract this kind of business and job opportunity? And yet here we have a private company that is willing and eager to provide the opportunity and actually enhance the riverfront’s recreational opportunities at the same time,” Schwenke crowed.

If the measure passed, voters were told, Brady Trucking would build a walking and biking trail within on a 50-foot wide easement along the river, as well as fencing and landscaping. Proponents boasted Brady’s expansion would attract even more businesses and jobs to the area.

Voters passed the measure.

One year later the site is completely untouched.

No jobs, no trails, no landscaping, no nothing.

Schwenke suckered us again.

So much for the promises of a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Update – as of January 15, 2015, the site looks exactly the same.

 

Untangling Colorado’s Web of Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiatives

NoFrackingColorado voters who try to figure out all the proposed statewide ballot initiatives to regulate drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) are in for a real challenge. So far, fully eleven ballot initiatives have been proposed on the subject, with many of them extremely similar to each other.

It’s tempting to think the oil and gas industry filed some of them to confuse voters and try to pass a watered-down measure, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. So far all of the initiatives filed seem to have been brought by people who truly want more serious regulation of the energy industry, or who are trying to gain an advantage over Colorado’s legal and regulatory regimen, which favors corporate dominance over the desires of residents.

Here’s a rundown on what is known so far about Colorado’s slew of proposed anti-fracking ballot measures.

Colorado Ballot Initiative Puts Rights of People Over Corporate Rights

corporate_logo_flag_new-500x333Think businesses have too many rights over citizens? Then attend a free informational session Tuesday, April 29 in Grand Junction about the groundbreaking Ballot Initiative #75, the “Right to Local Self-Government,” also known as the “Colorado Community Rights Amendment.” Initiative #75 would amend Colorado’s constitution to make the rights of people superior to corporate rights. It is now moving to the petitioning stage, and if it passes, will give local communities “the power to enact local laws establishing, defining, altering, or eliminating the rights, powers, and duties of corporations and other business entities operating or seeking to operate in the community.” Initiative #75 would bar the state from forcing unwanted for-profit corporate projects onto unwilling communities. It would let communities have the final say in whether they want to allow pursuits like hazardous waste dumps, factory farms, fracking, GMO crops, etc., near houses, schools, playgrounds, etc. Communities would be able to make these decisions freely, without the threat of lawsuits by the state or by corporations or their lobbying groups..

What: Informational session on Ballot Initiative #75
When: Tuesday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Mesa County Public Library, Central branch (5th St. and Grand Ave.)
Who: By the ballot initiative’s main listed proponent, Cliff Willmeng, a registered nurse from Lafayette, CO.

Over Half of Weld County’s Winter Air Pollution Comes from Drilling Rigs

Weld, County, Colorado

Weld, County, Colorado

A team of atmospheric scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado (CU) found that drilling operations for oil and natural gas in Weld County, Colorado was the “dominant wintertime source” of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air pollution emissions in that area. VOCs contribute to the formation of ozone, a constituent of photochemical smog. The researchers tested the air at a site 2.5 miles east of downtown Erie, Colorado.

In 2011, at the time of the study, Weld County had over 15,000 active gas wells. Two years later, it had 19,000. The study, titled “Source Signature of Volatile Organic Compounds from Oil and Natural Gas Operations in NOrtheastern Colorado,” was published in Environmental Science and Technology in January, 2013.

The study’s lead author, Jessica Gilman, Ph.D., said, “Average levels of propane [in the air in Weld County] were higher than the range of values reported for 28 U.S. cities. For example, they were four to nine times higher than in Houston, Texas, and Pasadena, California.”

The CU-NOAA study also found that air pollution from oil and gas emissions have a “chemical signature” that clearly differentiates them from other air pollution sources, like vehicular exhaust.

The study found that more than half of ozone-forming pollutants in Erie come from drilling activity.

Retail Marijuana Coming to DeBeque

DeBequeThe new marijuana economy crept a bit closer to Grand Junction this week, after the citizens of DeBeque, Colorado, just 25 miles east of Grand Junction, voted to approve the sale of retail pot.

DeBeque’s election is an object lesson for everyone who thinks their vote won’t count.

DeBeque has just over 500 residents. Of the 234 ballots sent out, 165 were cast. Of those, 69 were in favor of retail marijuana and 65 against. The measure won by just four votes.

DeBeque’s Town Clerk, Shirley Nichols, reports the election went smoothly, with no questionable ballots.

So, in DeBeque’s case, just four voters indisputably made Colorado history.

Hey, man, but isn’t retail pot illegal in Mesa County?

Amendment 64 legalized recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, but the law allows cities and counties to opt out of permitting retail marijuana commerce within their borders.

In August, 2013, Mesa County’s three Commissioners — Rose Pugliese, John Justman and Steve Aquafresca — unilaterally passed an ordinance banning retail marijuana commerce (pdf) in the county, but the measure only bans retail pot in unincorporated areas of the county. Incorporated cities and towns can make their own choice, so DeBeque, an incorporated town, can do whatever it wants.

And it did.

Interestingly, DeBeque citizens voted down a medical marijuana question in November, 2012. That measure failed by about 13 or 14 votes. So what’s changed since then?

Colorado Health Department Investigating Spike in Fetal Abnormalities in Heavily-Drilled Garfield County

Cross-posted from DeSmogBlog.com

Garfield County drilling rig (Photo: Garfield County government)

Garfield County drilling rig (Photo: Garfield County government)

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has called in an epidemiologist to investigate a recent spike in fetal abnormalities in Garfield County on Colorado’s western slope. Stacey Gavrell, Director of Community Relations for Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, said area prenatal care providers reported an increase in fetal abnormalities to the hospital, which then notified CDPHE. So far neither the hospital nor the state have released information about the numbers of cases reported, over what span of time, or the amount of the increase.

Gavrell said it is too early to speculate on the causes of the spike in abnormalities.

The report comes on the heels of the February, 2014 publication in Environmental Health Perspectives of a study that found an association between the density of natural gas wells within a ten mile radius of expectant mothers’ homes and the prevalence of fetal anomalies such as low birth weight and congenital heart defects in their infants.

The study examined a large cohort of babies over an extended period of time in rural Colorado, and specifically controlled for confounding factors that also emit air pollution, including traffic and other heavy industries. The abnormalities in infants in the study are associated with exposure to air pollutants like those emitted from natural gas wells, including volatile organic compounds and nitrogen dioxide.

map of current drilling activity in the Garfield County area shows the number and concentration of active wells along the busy I-70 corridor between Glenwood Springs and Rifle, one of the areas of interest in CDPHE’s investigation.

Colorado Legislators Seek to Punish Cities that Ban Fracking

Cross-posted from DeSmogBlog.com

Colorado Representative Frank McNulty announced  initiative effort to punish cities that ban fracking

Colorado Representative Frank McNulty announced initiative effort to punish cities that ban fracking

Two Colorado legislators announced they are introducing a ballot initiative aimed at punishing cities and towns that vote to ban fracking within their borders.

Rep. Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch and Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, both Republicans, announced they will attempt to get an initiative on the ballot to block local jurisdictions from getting severance tax revenues or grants from Departments of Local Affairs as long as they have fracking bans or moratoria in place.

The state collects severance taxes on income derived from the extraction of non-renewable natural resources, like oil and gas, coal and metallic minerals. Severance taxes also help pay for programs administered by Departments of Local Affairs.

The legislators estimated it will cost about $150,000 to get the initiative on the November, 2014 ballot. According to the Colorado Secretary of State, they  would need to gather approximately 86,000 valid signatures.

The lawmakers did not say why they chose a ballot initiative instead of just introducing legislation to achieve this goal, but it could be because they know chances are slim it would pass in Colorado’s Democratically-controlled legislature.

New Business Coalition Forms in Colorado to Fight Anti-Fracking Movement

Cross-posted from DeSmogBlog.com
Vital for Colorado's full page "Energy Chaos" ad is aimed at derailing a potential ballot initiative to rein in corporate power over citizens

Vital for Colorado’s full page “Energy Chaos” ads, run in rural areas of the state, are aimed at derailing a potential ballot initiative to rein in corporate power over citizens

A new pro-fracking business coalition called “Vital for Colorado” (VfC) has sprung up to fight the growing grassroots anti-fracking movement in Colorado. VfC’s board chairman and registered agent is Peter T. Moore, a senior partner at the Denver law firm of Polsinelli, P.C., which serves the oil and gas industry. Calls and emails to Peter T. Moore and VfC seeking information on the group’s major funders and legal registration information went unanswered.

Most of VfC’s supporters (pdf) are chambers of commerce in more rural areas of the state, cattle and dairy farmers, trade groups like the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, prominent construction and real estate companies, and oil and gas drilling companies like Encana and Suncor Energy, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, and not in Colorado.
So why has VfC gone to Colorado’s hinterlands to try to drum up support? Because VfC’s best chance to gain support appears to be away from the front range, where so far five front range cities have passed ordinances banning fracking within their limits, a fact that has apparently made a big impression on Colorado businesses.

 

In typical front group fashion, VfC’s website doesn’t list a phone number and only permits email contact through a web form, but the site does give a street address for the group: 4950 S. Yosemite St., F2 #236. Coincidentally this is the same address as the former office of the issue group “No on Measure 2A,” whose registered agent was also Peter T. Moore.

Study Links Natural Gas Drilling to Congenital Heart Defects in Babies

"Drill, baby, drill?"

“Drill, baby, drill?”

A newly-published study specific to Colorado (pdf) links the rate of congenital heart defects in babies to how close they live to natural gas wells. The study, published January 28, 2014 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, examined a large cohort of babies over an extended period of time — 124,842 births between 1996 and 2009 in rural Colorado. Researchers discovered an association between the density and proximity of methane (“natural gas”) wells within a ten mile radius of the mothers’ residences and the prevalence of heart defects, low birth weight and small-for-gestational age in newborns. Congenital heart defects are often associated with maternal exposure to toxins during gestation from sources like maternal smoking, alcohol abuse, exposure to solvents, benzene, toluene and petroleum-based solvents. Low birth weight and pre-term births are associated with exposure to air pollutants including volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, all of which are emitted during natural gas production. The authors restricted their study to people living in rural areas and towns in Colorado with populations under 50,000 to reduce the potential for exposure to other sources of pollution, like heavy traffic and pollution from other industries. The researchers compared results with births among mothers who live in control areas that do not have natural gas drilling nearby.

Source: Lisa M. Mckenzie, Ruixin Guo, Roxana Z. Witter, David A. Savitz, Lee S. Newman and John L. Adgate, Witter, Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado, Environmental Health Perspectives, 28 January 2014

Seven Year Old Fights GMOs in Girl Scout Cookies

Seven year old Alicia Serratos is trying to get Girl Scouts to take GMO ingredients out of their cookies

YOU GO GIRL! Seven year old Alicia Serratos is trying to get Girl Scouts to take the GMO ingredients out of their cookies

Seven year old Alicia Serratos of Orange County, California has been a Girl Scout for almost three years, so when Girl Scout cookie season rolled around, Alicia got excited about the prospect of selling cookies to help raise money for her troop. But then Alicia and her mom read the ingredients on the cookie box and she found she didn’t recognize a lot of them and couldn’t pronounce some of them, either. Since she was six, Alicia has spent time learning about genetically-modified organisms and their dangers, like infertility and tumors. She knew that over 60 countries have either banned GMOs or forced companies to list GMO ingredients on their labels. Alicia recognized some of the ingredients in Girl Scout cookies as GMOs. She got alarmed that she was being asked to sell cookies made with GMOs, and so she wrote to the Girl Scouts and asked them to take GMO ingredient out of their cookies. Alicia also made a YouTube video asking Girl Scouts to remove GMO ingredients from their cookies, and started a petition on Change.org asking Girl Scouts to stop putting GMO ingredients in their cookies. She made YouTube videos showing how to make healthier, non-GMO versions of Thin Mints and Melty Mints, to prove it can be done. Alicia also created her own cookbook, called “Recipes to Grow,” with over 40 recipes for food kids love, all made from organic and non-GMO ingredients. Alicia will be selling her cookbook instead of Girl Scout cookies this year. She plans to donate proceeds from the book to help schools establish organic gardens on their grounds. So far, over 18,800 people have signed Alicia’s petition, and she’s trying to get 25,000 signatures. For its part, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is resisting efforts to get GMOs out of their cookies and towing the GMO-biotech line. In a response to the growing uproar about GMOs in their cookies, Girls Scouts says, in part:

“It is important to note that there is worldwide scientific support for the safety of currently commercialized ingredients derived from genetically modified agricultural crops. The World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all share this assessment. In addition, in the future, GMOs may offer a way to help feed an ever-increasing world population.”

The Grand Valley Canals Double Message

The beautiful banks of the Grand Valley Canals have beckoned locals for recreation for generations.

The beautiful banks of the Grand Valley Canals have beckoned locals for recreation for generations.

Updated September 8, 2016 – Author’s note: On September 5, 2016, The Daily Sentinel published a front page story about the possibility of opening up the Orchard Mesa canal banks to public recreational use. The story quoted former Colorado State Representative Tim Foster, now President of Colorado Mesa University, who called landowners’ claims that they fear legal liability from opening the canals to public recreation a “red herring.” Here’s the quote:

[Colorado Mesa University President] Tim Foster…served as a Colorado state representative between 1988 and 1996 and helped carry a bill in the early 1990s that would transfer liability of canal banks to the state, paving the way to combine trails with canals. The law was passed to help complete the current High Line Canal Trail in Denver that spans more than 70 miles, though that ditch doesn’t usually contain much water.

“The bill gave them protections from liability,” Foster said. “The liability argument is a complete red herring. Me and Tillie (Bishop) carried it, and it gives them immunity. At the end of the day, these guys got stuck on not letting anybody on the canals.”

 

Grand Junction, Colorado area citizens can often be seen walking dogs, running, biking and even cross-country skiing on the beautiful banks of the Grand Valley’s irrigation canals. The maintenance roads along the canals offer expansive vistas, blissful quiet and a feeling of safety for recreators because of the absence of motor vehicles. Newer subdivisions across the valley even have concrete pathways leading straight up onto the canal banks, beckoning residents to take peaceful walks there.

But at the same time signs posted along the canal roads warn that they are “No Trespassing” zones.

So, which is it? Are the canal roads off limits, or is it okay for the public to walk, run or bike on them?

The answer is both, and neither.