Tag Archive for Boulder County

Spirit Hound Distillers at Boettcher Mansion

Mayor Gierlach and Neil Sullivan, Co-Founder of Spirit Hound Distillers, at Boettcher Mansion

Mayor Gierlach and Neil Sullivan, Co-Founder of Spirit Hound Distillers, at Boettcher Mansion

After Governor Hickenlooper came to Nederland last week, I figured the least I could do, was return the favor, attend the holiday celebration at the Governor’s residence, and thank him once again. Upon arrival, I found my way to the bar and asked for a glass of Cabernet. The bartender said they didn’t have any. “Alright, how about a snifter of scotch, neat.” Didn’t have that either. “Martini? Shaken, not stirred?”

As it turns out, the bartender explained that the historic Boettcher Mansion has white marble floors that could get stained, so the owners of the estate only allow clear drinks. He added that the Governor had ordered Spirit Hound Gin for the mansion. I went with that.
[Related Story: Governor Hickenlooper’s visit to Nederland]
Spirit Hound Distillers, are a hand-crafted, micro-distillery, located in Lyons, Colorado, which was impacted by the flood. Here’s the write-up on their gin:

“Quite possibly the smoothest and most unique Gin out there, Spirit Hound Gin is made from only the finest locally sourced botanicals. Juniper berries, anise, fennel, clove, and cinnamon to name a few, are all hand selected from the earth of our sweet town in Lyons. We then craft our Gin using the rare ‘basket’ method, suspending our signature mix of botanicals in a delicate wire mesh basket in the column of the still.  The vaporized spirit then passes through this botanical basket and extracts their flavors. The result: a brighter, lighter gin bursting with aroma and flavor.”

I found this gin to be bright, fresh, smooth – the fennel/anise/clove notes are quite interesting, and compliments the Juniper very well. To that end, I can’t wait to try their whisky when I’m not in a white marbled mansion.
As I made my way around the Governor’s mansion, I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Sullivan, one of the co-founders of Spirit Hound Distillers, and we had a great conversation about the flood, mountain culture and local distinctiveness. Bringing back micro-distilleries, micro-breweries, and local groceries is appealing to me from a community sustainability perspective.
[Related Story: Holiday Celebration at the Governor’s Mansion (last year)]
Lyons and Nederland are similar in many ways – population, strong community volunteerism, proximity to Boulder and federal open space. There are a lot of connections between the two communities and many Nedheads attend RockyGrass at Planet Bluegrass every year. Personally, I’ve been a member of Stonebridge Farm CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) in Lyons, for over a decade and have stopped in at local shops on my way home many times (via the scenic route).
I would like to recommend that our Nederland liquor stores and restaurants carry Spirit Hound Distillers whisky and gin, and that Nedheads make a point to order it this holiday season as we look for unique ways for the region to recover from the flood. Click here for a list of where Spirit Hound is sold. Of course, drink responsibly, but if you are given the choice, think about choosing Spirit Hound Distillers. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.
[Here is a Video Valediction] This is Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers performing Daddy Played the Banjo at Planet Bluegrass’ RockyGrass (2011) which was recorded on an iPhone by my friend. [What is a Video Valediction?]

Lafayette Community Forum on Hydraulic Fracturing

Forum: The Hidden Risks of Fracking
When: Sunday, March 24th 2:00 – 5:00
Where: Angevine Middle School, 1150 S. Boulder Rd., Lafayette

Please join East Boulder County United on Sunday, March 24th for our forum on hydraulic fracturing. Lafayette sits on the Wattenberg Shale and is in line to see major drilling operations in the period of time to come. We boarder Erie, which now has over 150 wells and is seeing levels of propane in their air several times higher than those of Houston, Texas and ten times that of Pasadena California, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hydraulic fracturing, unchecked, will alter the daily life of our community in every possible sense.

Join us in hearing from the affected neighbors, expert Shane Davis on the full dangers of hydraulic fracturing, and Our Longmont organizers that successfully banned the process from their community in November of 2012.

Cliff Willmeng, Steering Committee, EBCU; 303-478-6613
Rachael Zatterstrom, Steering Committee, EBCU; 970-409-9820
Cliff Smedley, Steering Committee, EBCU; 303-808-0117

Will humanity be humane to prairie dogs?

The following address was given to the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Board.

I thank you for providing this time to address the committee about the County’s prairie dog management plan. There are a few more things I believe should be included in this management plan before it goes to the commissioners.

First, (1) the County should develop and implement an online public notification and comment process for all fumigation and trapping/donation proposals prior to implementation on county open space. Having such a process will encourage greater transparency and accountability in the county’s decision-making process concerning the killing of our prairie dogs. As it stands now, county lethal control data is released months or a year after lethal management has occurred. The public has no say in the matter; the citizens who care about our wildlife are shut out of the decision-making process of how our wildlife will be treated and open space money will be spent. Longmont has an online notification/comment process. Why can’t Boulder County do the same?

2. Utilize artificial burrows for relocation. The policy in the draft plan states only existing burrows will be used at a relocation receiving site. This will severely limit the County’s options on where it can relocate prairie dogs.

3. Utilize only non-lethal management controls in Habitat Conservation Areas.

4. Increase the acreage of suitable prairie dog habitat on HCAs through the county’s land acquisition program.

5. Review the management plan every three years not ten.

Before I get to my remaining recommendations, I have a story I would like to share with you. A couple of years ago my husband Chris and I passively relocated prairie dogs at Quail Campus in Longmont. While working the site, I often saw children, who lived nearby, ride their bikes at Quail and along the Lefthand and St. Vrain Greenways. One evening as I was checking burrows, three young boys, aged 9 to 11 years old, stopped by where I was working and asked me why were all the prairie dogs dying. They told me of a place where they saw dead prairie dogs with a skull and crossbones sign posted. I knew they were talking about a fumigation site. I explained to them what happens to prairie dogs when they are poisoned with aluminum phosphide. I told them to stay out of the area because it was very dangerous.

We are sending the wrong message to our children every time we kill prairie dogs to get them out of the way because of development, landscaping, farming or because we just don’t like them. We are teaching our children it’s alright to torture wildlife with poisons because it is a quick way to get rid of them.

I often wonder about those young children and how that particular event, as well as all the other poisonings that occur in Boulder County, may shape their perspective in life. When they grow up, will they be ones who consider prairie dogs as vermin or prairie rats; or will they have respect for our wildlife and one day stand at this podium and tell you to stop killing our prairie dogs and treat them humanely.

Boulder County should lead by example. I truly believe this; that’s why I am recommending (6) inclusion of a management procedure that prioritizes non-lethal management as the first option. Additionally, (7) the county should provide a training course on non-lethal management to agricultural leaseholders. I attended several of the Cropland Policy meetings. At the joint meeting, POSAC had to choose between two words to include in a policy statement, “discourage” or “eliminate.” POSAC chose “discourage.” The policy statement reads: “Priority shall be given to discouraging prairie dogs from occupying cropland.” To me, this means non-lethal management.

And finally, (8) as the last resort, utilize “humane” fumigation instead of poisoning with aluminum phosphide. There are effective humane methods of fumigating prairie dogs. Try pressurized carbon monoxide.

As of June 17th, the County received approximately 300 comments from citizens stating their support for “non-lethal” management controls as the first management option. Prior to that, 1500 comments were received in support of the Rabbit Mountain relocation. Parks and Open Space staff wrote in its relocation application to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife division that the comments “show broad community support for relocation as an alternative to lethal control in Boulder County.”

I ask you: how many times do we have to tell Boulder County we want our prairie dogs to be managed humanely and with non-lethal methods?

Destruction of prairie dogs may seem to be a relatively simple management option. It is the approach that has been used most often by default in Boulder County and this part of the country. In the long run, though, elimination of our prairie dogs will only be detrimental to other wildlife that depend on them and the ecosystem they inhabit. The prairie dog is not a limitless resource; and misperceptions that it is, must change, if it is to survive as a species.

Sanfaçon Community Forum

Garry Sanfacon 2011

Garry Sanfacon, District 1 Boulder County Commissioner candidate

Boulder, CO– Garry Sanfaçon, candidate for Boulder County Commissioner, District 1, is hosting a community forum to help inform the public about the risks to Boulder County, including the City of Boulder, from natural gas extraction, including hydraulic facturing, commonly called fracking. The forum will take place on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 6:30 -8:30 p.m., at the Nomad Theater, located at 1410 Quince Avenue, in Boulder.

The forum will consist of a presentation by leading experts on the impacts of fracking on the environment, public health, and overall community well-being, including data specific to the City of Boulder and Boulder County. They will also present data about the failure of state regulations to prevent adverse environmental and human health impacts. The experts will answer questions from the audience following their presentation. Local youth with the environmental education and youth empowerment group, Earth Guardians, will perform their latest song about fracking and, as always, remind us that their future is in our hands.

Boulder County, including the City of Boulder, is already experiencing significant adverse impacts from natural gas extraction and fracking. With over 1800 wells that can potentially be fracked in unincorporated Boulder County (that number does not include wells in incorporated municipalities within the County), this is only the tip of the iceberg. This heavy industrial, toxic activity is occurring in neighborhoods, next to schools and on County open space.

The experts presenting will be Shane Davis, Wes Wilson and Phil Doe. Shane Davis is a research biologist and leading investigator into adverse environmental and human health impacts related to fracking in Colorado. Wes Wilson was an environmental engineer with the EPA for 30 years. He was featured in the movie Gasland as a whistleblower on the EPA’s failure to regulate fracking. Phil Doe spent his career working on water issues with the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation. He is currently the Environmental Issues Director for the grassroots advocacy group Be the Change, and an activist for protecting our most precious resource, water.

Open Letter to Longmont City Council

I attended the hearing for Boulder County Commissioners last Thursday, March 1, about terminating, renewing, or amending their Moratorium on accepting applications for oil and gas development in unincorporated Boulder County.  I don’t know if the commissioners had directed their staff differently from how Longmont City Council directed its staff in doing background research on this issue, but I can report that the two reports had a decidedly different focus.  Whereas Longmont city staff framed their report along legalistic lines, the Boulder County staff looked at the impacts of oil and gas development on citizens, landscape, and finances.

In addition to hearing testimony from the public, the Boulder County Commissioners heard detailed reports from county staff representing the Land Use Department, the Parks and Open Space Department, the Transportation Department, and—most importantly—from Public Health officials.  Staff from each of these departments presented research and analysis on everything from the inadequacy of county roads to hold up against heavy truck traffic to scientific studies detailing water pollution in Wyoming and air quality in Erie, Colorado, where oil and gas development had compromised public health.  I don’t recall that Longmont even considered requesting input about public health from city staff.  In Longmont that aspect of planning has had to come from the public.

Boulder County staff also looked at some of the dilemmas faced by administrators in the face of pressure from state regulators.  For instance, county roads might have to be rebuilt at considerable expense before they could be safely used by large semi-trucks servicing the industry and before revenues could be collected.  Furthermore, anticipated income from oil and gas development might not even cover the county potential expenses associated with mitigation and litigation.  Boulder County staff also pointed out that the area’s reputation for healthy living, hiking and biking, would be adversely affected by the higher ground ozone levels that accompany large scale oil and gas development.  Again, I don’t believe quality of life was a topic of consideration for Longmont staff input to Council.

Appeals to the “inalienable rights” guaranteed under the U.S. and Colorado constitutions, which county and city officials are pledged to protect, were mentioned by many of the citizens offering public testimony.  Among these are the right to clean air, water, health, and safety—all of these under threat by an overbearing industry in a hurry to preempt local authority.  Legal appeals on these grounds may carry more weight than adjustments to existing regulations in stemming the tide.

In conclusion, I would like to suggest that there are many more avenues of research related to limiting or preventing fracking in the city of Longmont that city staff has so far explored.  Please direct them to study impacts and options for resistance as we move forward with our extended Moratorium.


Hickenlooper thumbs nose at Coloradans fracking concerns

The Daily Camera ran an interesting article with staff comments from a report on the large infrastructure costs associated with fracking.

On the opposite page was an ad of Governor Hickenlooper touting the economic and environmental protections from the new disclosure rule. Interestingly, the fine print at the bottom is “This message is brought to you as a public service by Colorado Oil and Gas Association.” So that is who has Governor Hickenlooper’s ear. I have known that he is not listening to me, and probably not to most of the readers of this letter.

The public is learning about the environmental, health, and property damages wrought upon our neighbors in Weld County and other parts of Boulder County. We are not ignorant about this issue any more. The disclosure rule itself is a bit like the state preparing to kill an innocent prisoner, and saying “No worries, we’re going to disclose what’s in the lethal injection!” In fact all of the regulations touted by Governor Hickenlooper and Colorado Environmental Coalition are obviously ineffective. Not only do we have physical evidence of the damage they claim to avoid, but there are also only 17 Inspectors for the approximately 47,000 active and 82,073 abandoned wells in Colorado.

There are numerous reports found on COGCC’s website that report groundwater contamination, surface water contamination, and to even include, aquifer contamination. I am absolutely surprised by what appears to be an erroneous statement,when factual state information reports the opposite.

Where have all the prairie dogs gone?

Black-tailed Prairie Dog

Black-tailed Prairie Dog (courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division has approved Boulder County’s permit application for the Rabbit Mountain Open Space prairie dog relocation.  Starting on July 1st, black-tailed prairie dogs will be live-trapped at the Alexander Dawson county property near Boulder Creek and released to their new home at Rabbit Mountain Open Space in north Boulder County.  The prairie dog relocation is necessary because the Army Corps of Engineers and Boulder County Parks and Open Space will be doing major stream re-alignment work in the area and the prairie dogs in question would be impacted by earthmoving operations.

I applaud Boulder County’s effort to preserve prairie dogs at the Alexander Dawson property.  The black-tailed prairie dog is a keystone species and a Colorado species of special concern and deserves this type of protection.  While the county should be commended for its conservation effort, the Rabbit Mountain relocation is certainly way overdue. It has been 10 years since the county conducted its last prairie dog relocation.  During that time, Boulder County has been relying exclusively on lethal control to manage prairie dogs on Parks and Open Space (POS) properties. I define lethal control as wildlife control that results in the eventual death of wildlife, including trapping and donation of prairie dogs to wildlife recovery centers.

According to county wildlife data, over 15,000 prairie dogs have been trapped on POS properties and donated to wildlife recovery centers to become food for black-footed ferrets and raptors since 2002.  An unknown number of prairie dogs have been fumigated on county properties.  The county does not provide an estimate of the number of prairie dogs they poisoned: it only gives the number of properties fumigated.

Lethal control has primarily occurred on Multiple Objective Areas (MOA), where prairie dogs can supposedly coexist with other uses, and No Prairie Dog (NPD) areas.  The prairie dog populations on the Habitat Conservation Areas (HCAs), which according to the Boulder County’s prairie dog management plan “form the foundation of the prairie dog conservation strategy,” have been significantly declining in recent years due to outbreaks of sylvatic plague.  In 2004, there were 1581 acres occupied by prairie dogs on HCAs.  After 2005, prairie dog acreage on habitat conservation areas decreased to 418 acres in 2011, or 7.76% of the total acreage designated as habitat conservation areas.  This small percentage of prairie dog habitat on HCAs is not sufficient to implement a prairie dog conservation strategy for Boulder County; nor is it adequate to support associated wildlife species that depend on prairie dog habitat as a food and shelter source in wildlife conservation areas.

In 1999, I attended the commissioners’ public hearing for the adoption of the county prairie dog management plan.  At the hearing, Boulder county residents spoke up in favor of the plan, believing that prairie dog conservation would be its primary objective.  For several years Parks and Open Space staff made a concerted effort to preserve prairie dogs by relocating them.  In 2002, at staff’s recommendation, the plan was amended to include the management option of trapping and donating prairie dogs to wildlife recovery centers.  Thereafter, wild-to-wild relocation was abandoned by the county even though its own management plan states “non-lethal controls are the preferred methods of removing prairie dogs from inappropriate locations.”  For the past ten years Boulder County has ignored this important language and instead has managed prairie dogs in the “Old Wild West” tradition, as a pest instead of as the keystone species that it rightfully is.

The Rabbit Mountain relocation has been a long time coming.  For many people, the relocation is a step in the right direction in fulfilling the county’s promise to its citizens that non-lethal methods will be the preferred management option for our prairie dogs.  This is clearly evident in the nearly 1500 comments Boulder County received in response to the Rabbit Mountain relocation, which “show broad community support for relocation as an alternative to lethal control in Boulder County,” according to a county document.  Looking beyond 2012, it still remains to be seen whether Boulder County will expand its prairie dog conservation efforts in a meaningful way.  Let’s hope the Rabbit Mountain relocation is not just a token conservation effort that will have to do for another ten years.

Ban fracking – because it can happen here

Like most people, I had no idea what hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was until one day over two years ago. At the time, I was living in New York City where land isn’t even available for elbow room, let alone to frack. But, one clear day in January, I got a call from my mother who had just received a letter in the mail.

She called to tell me she had received a lease agreement from an oil and gas company. My parents had moved to Northeast Ohio a couple years prior and purchased a pretty house in a small farming community. They chose this property because it abutted protected wetlands. And now, this oil and gas company wanted to frack wells on their property.

Like other states in the rust belt, Ohio had been hit hard by the recession, and communities were suffering. The developer of my parents’ subdivision was no exception. The neighborhood was not built out and new homes weren’t in demand, so it came as no surprise that when an oil and gas company approached the developer with an offer to drill natural gas wells in the subdivision with the promise of hefty compensation, he readily accepted.

In order to get around the protected wetlands, the proposed drilling would happen on adjacent property and the drilling would go horizontally under multiple houses. Because the oil and gas company needed more acreage than the developer had, several residents were contacted with the purpose of leasing their land in order to drill.

Feeling uneasy about the situation, my mom did her research and discovered the environmental hazards associated with hydraulic fractured wells, as well as the possibility of decreased property values. Her suspicions were confirmed when she discovered that in 2008, a house in a neighboring town was blown off its foundation from a faulty gas well that leaked oil and gas into the aquifer. Last spring in another neighboring town a poorly maintained well exploded, spewing crude oil, brine, and natural gas into a nearby stream — next to a busy commercial district.

Although my parents didn’t sign the lease, you don’t have to venture too far from their house today to find that hydraulic fracturing had already invaded their area: Within a mile radius of my parents’ home, there are more than eight producing wells, and over 2,324 producing wells in their county alone — most of which had been drilled since 2007. Many of these were drilled unbeknownst to the community, and the large wells litter the landscape — even in public open spaces.

I moved out to Boulder in September because, like most of the people here, I love the outdoors. The scenery and environmental spirit here are unparalleled. The open spaces in which Boulder residents have access are breathtaking.

But, the danger of fracking in these public lands is imminent. There are over 45,000 fracked wells in Colorado, with more than one spill each day. In 2008, a wastewater pit in Western Colorado leaked 1.6 million gallons of fluid, which migrated into the Colorado River–the source of drinking water for 30 million Westerners downstream.

We need to speak out clearly and say we don’t want drilling in Boulder County. Although the Boulder County Commissioners passed a 6-month moratorium on accepting and processing new applications for oil and gas drilling operations in our open spaces, this is just a first step. During these six months, I encourage the county commissioners to use our taxpayer dollars to investigate all legal options to ban fracking in Boulder County.

As my parents discovered, there is no way to make fracking perfectly safe. Once our land and water have been fracked, the damage can’t be undone. Is that a risk we are willing to take on the landscape that so many of us enjoy? The land that was purchased with taxpayer dollars to be enjoyed by all as open space? To truly protect the health of our families, our community, and our environment, Boulder County should follow the lead of dozens of other localities across the United States that have passed measures to ban fracking.

Melissa A. Schiltz lives in Boulder.

Don’t rush drilling decisions

Editor’s Note: The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council on November 15, 2011. The address was authored by Darcy Juday, Vice Chair of the Water Board, who has 20 years experience in oil and gas exploration. It was presented and endorsed by Kaye Fissinger, Chair of the Board of Environmental Affairs.

Short-term profit, long-term damage

Drilling in Wattenberg Field is coming to the edges of Longmont; and if the first wells are successful, it could continue west into the heart of our city.

Now we have the unique opportunity to consider the effects this will have on Longmont’s livability. If we rush into this unprepared, we may have regrets for 20 years to come. Other nearby communities are also assessing the impact of large scale drilling within their boundaries. Longmont should take advantage of the experience of those communities.

Council has met with Weld County and heard of their positive experience; but that’s been mostly in rural areas. We should also hear from Boulder County which has had drilling on Open Space, and from Arapahoe County which is about to experience a drilling boom. Other counties and cities are drawing up their own regulations. We should learn about what they are considering. We should learn what other counties and communities are proposing to add to their regulations, regulations that likely may go beyond those that Longmont currently has in place.

We should ask for air pollution controls, pre- and post- drilling water sampling, enclosed drilling mud circulation, visual barriers, and landscaping in our parks. Those are big picture items.

We should also know about the operating company. Weld County has had good experience with large companies but problems with smaller ones. This smaller company, TOP Operating, has drilled on Longmont property before. Did they perform as they said they would?

And lastly, our investigation should be a joint effort with Council, Water Board, Parks and Recreation and the Environmental Board in any studies, meetings and presentations. Deliberate study can prevent future regrets.

Say no to fracking

Short-term profit, long-term damage

Fracking is a seemingly innocuous nickname for an insidious drilling method called “hydraulic fracturing,” where massive amounts of water and fracking fluid (made of a secret mix of caustic toxic chemicals and breaking agents) are pumped under pressure into horizontally drilled wells to release natural gas and oil that are trapped in rock beneath us.

Why should you be concerned?

Because this type of drilling is already occurring in Boulder County and more is coming in a big way (it is rampant next door in Weld County). Fracking will monopolize our water supply (our most valuable resource in Colorado), contaminate ground water (if you use well water, be prepared), release methane gas into the atmosphere (a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide), and much more. (Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg). People who live nearby drilling sites are getting sick, not to mention the effects on livestock and vegetation.

Just last month, toxic fracking fluid contaminated groundwater on Boulder County agricultural land near Valmont and 95th Street. However, Noble Gas wanted this spill to be kept “hush hush,” claiming business confidentiality protection. Lies and deception do not make for good business practices.

Encana Natural Gas drilling touts on their website that they provide “a clean, affordable, abundant resource for future generations.” If we’re thirsty, sick and/or dying from fracking, will there be a future for us?

You should be very concerned about this threat to our health and well-being. Please say NO to fracking.

Matt Jones Announces State Senate Bid

Current State Representative Matt Jones will continue the fight for middle class Coloradans

Jones formally announced his candidacy for state senate in Senate District 17, which covers portions of eastern Boulder County including Longmont, Lafayette, Louisville, and western Erie. The seat is currently held by Brandon Shaffer, who is term limited. Jones is currently serving his 4th term as a State Representative.

Matt Jones returned to the Statehouse in 2010 when he handily won the primary election for House District 12, Longmont, Louisville and Lafayette, by ten points and the general election by 28 points. He previously served three terms in 1987-1993.

His co-chairs include former State Representative Paul Weissmann, County Commissioners Cindy Domenico and Ben Pearlman, former County Commissioner Jana Mendez, District Attorney Stan Garnett, Sheriff Joe Pelle, and former 22-year Longmont City Council member Tom McCoy.

“As a senator I will be even more able to get Coloradans back on track and feeling stronger than before,” Jones said. “I will continue to work on bipartisan solutions to create jobs, fund quality education, and provide affordable health care and a clean environment. Our current economic adversity further stokes my passion to ensure opportunity and security for middle class families.”

Jones added, “I want to thank Senate President Brandon Shaffer for his leadership and tremendous service to the citizens of eastern Boulder County.”