Point of view: A toast to Coloradans determination to unify on water needs

#setaside❓ ? ☑️ ? ? ? ? ?

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It may be time to amend the old adage, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.” 

On three different ballot questions in the 2019 and 2020 elections, Colorado voters set aside differences and chose to tax themselves to invest in the state’s water future. It’s clear that water wins in Colorado, and it wins because diverse coalitions unite against our significant and growing water challenges to face them together. 

The collaboration of ranchers and rafters, cattlemen and city-dwellers, environmentalists and entrepreneurs has proven politically powerful at a critical time. This year, we’ve seen wildfires ravage Colorado’s forests and watersheds, making it the state’s worst fire season on record – and it’s not over yet. 

Jon Goldin-Dubois, Terry Fankhauser

Seventy-five percent of the state is currently in “extreme or exceptional” drought. Climate change is warming our summers, decreasing runoff from snowpack, and speeding up spring melts, leading to less water in our rivers. Our water supply is shrinking yet the demands for that water continue to grow. 

Colorado voters passed Proposition DD in 2019 to legalize and tax sports betting and send proceeds to implement Colorado’s Water Plan. This year, two regional water measures passed overwhelmingly that will generate a combined $8 million a year to support healthy rivers, local agriculture, watershed and forest health, and water quality. 

On the Front Range, voters approved a property tax increase for the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, which will provide an additional $3.3 million a year to the district’s efforts to protect local water supply. On the West Slope, residents voted to pass a mill levy increase for the Colorado River Water Conservation District to bring in nearly $5 million annually to support water projects backed by Basin Roundtables and communities.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

The West Slope water measure won with 69% of the vote in conservative Mesa County, where President Trump prevailed by 62% and U.S. Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert won by 61%, proving beyond a doubt that water transcends partisanship.

These three measures combined could generate at least $15 million a year to implement water projects and programs around the state that will provide multiple benefits to Colorado watersheds, wildlife, and communities. Projects like increasing flows in rivers and streams, expanding municipal conservation efforts, improving outdated agricultural infrastructure, multi-user water storage, and mitigating forest fire risks. This is a great start and an enormous upfront investment.

Colorado’s Water Plan – a statewide water blueprint designed to ensure a productive economy, efficient and effective water infrastructure, and a strong environment – identifies a need for $100 million annually to protect scarce water resources to prevent future water shortages in the state. 

COVID-19 has impacted state budgets and funding mechanisms that go to water, including the very volatile severance tax from oil and gas revenues. This year, Gov. Jared Polis’ budget includes $20 million for watershed health investments as a response to the worst wildfire season in Colorado’s history. Recent budgets for the first time allocated general fund dollars for water. This additional financial commitment over the recent past is great news, and we will need more down the road.

Colorado’s first Water Plan brought together a strong coalition, including our two organizations, and we remain active today, working on the big issues: Protecting river health, wildlife and ecosystems, supporting thriving agriculture, promoting smart water use in our cities, and finding the funding to get it all done. 

Colorado’s water challenges aren’t going away, and we look forward to investing our new resources, updating the state’s Water Plan, and improving the resilience of Colorado’s rivers and water systems. 

Water will always have its conflicts, but the last two years have taught us that when future water funding needs and opportunities arise, a diverse cross-section of Colorado stakeholders and voters will support them every time. 

When it comes to investing in Colorado’s water future, perhaps whiskey is for celebrating and water is for the victory hangover.


Jon Goldin-Dubois is president of Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder-based group that seeks to protect the West’s land, air and water. Terry Fankhauser is executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, an Arvada-based organization that serves as an advocate for Colorado beef production.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.

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Three coal-burning power plants in Colorado face orders to shut early. Their proprietors aren’t pleased about it.

#airquality? ? ✂️ ?

Colorado News

Tri-State, Xcel and Platte River Power had the closures slated for 2030. But Colorado air quality regulators say it must be done earlier to meet greenhouse gas targets.

Colorado air quality regulators on Friday moved to order three coal-fired power plants to close by the end of 2028 to cut regional haze and meet Colorado greenhouse reduction targets.

The operators of the three plants had all said they would voluntarily close their units by 2030, but the Air Quality Control Commission, in a preliminary decision, mandated that they close by the end of 2028. A final vote will take place in December.

The three plants are Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s Craig Unit 3 in Moffat County; the Platte River Power Authority’s Rawhide plant north of Fort Collins; and the Colorado Springs Utilities’ Martin Drake Power Plant.

“The commission decision was significant,” said Michael Hiatt, an attorney with the environmental law group Earthjustice. “The benefits are going to be big — cleaner air, saving Coloradans money and helping to meet the 2030 greenhouse gas goals.”

The proposal to speed the closures came from the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association, which also wanted the commission to order the closure of two units at Xcel Energy’s Hayden Generating Station in Routt County, which is not slated for final closure until 2036.

 The commissioners, however, said they did not have enough information to rule on Hayden and asked the state Air Pollution Control Division to come back with more data with the goal of seeking an earlier closure.

MORE: Colorado releases its plan to slash greenhouse gases, leaving some environmental groups wanting more

The order was made under the federal Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule, which aims to improve visibility at 156 national parks and wilderness areas, including Rocky Mountain National Park.

The AQCC is also responsible under House Bill 1261 to oversee the reduction of greenhouse gases and meet targets, including a 30% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Friday’s action also addressed these targets.

Commissioner Jana Milford noted that even with the closure order, the plants “will be operating for some eight years, and some of these are quite large in their greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.”

All four utility companies opposed making the voluntary closures mandatory.

“The commission lacks the authority to order closures,” James Sanderson, an attorney for the Platte River Power Authority, said in rebuttal testimony. “Closure is not a tool or a control measure … It is not a pathway the commission can take.”

Tri-State CEO Duane Highley, said in a statement that the “accelerated plant closures were unnecessary to achieve visibility goals.” He said the company is reviewing the AQCC decision.

“We’ve mashed up this notion of what’s necessary for regional haze versus what might be useful or necessary to meet greenhouse gas goals,” Jon Bloomberg, Xcel’s counsel, told the commissioners. “It is important to keep those two concepts in our minds, because this is a regional-haze proceeding.”

MORE: Drafting rules to reduce Colorado’s greenhouse gas emissions may prove even harder because of missing data

Under the Clean Air Act, to count toward reducing haze-causing pollutants, actions must be required, not just voluntary, and the Air Pollution Control Division staff had recommended that the announced voluntary closure dates on 11 coal-fired units ranging from 2023 to 2036 be added to the plan.

The environment groups pressed for earlier closures for the five units at Craig, Rawhide, Martin Drake and Hayden.

“If the commission is ever going to achieve its mandate under the regional haze program to eliminate visibility impairment in Colorado national parks and if it is ever going to meet its 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals, it is simply going to have to do more than rubber stamp voluntary industry proposals,” Hiatt told the commission.

The environmental groups also contend that the closing of the aging and inefficient coal-fired plants, which are more expensive to run than wind and solar facilities, will save the utilities and their customers money.

PacifiCorp, which provides power to customers in six western states, is a partial owner of the Xcel-operated Hayden plant and calculated that closing it would save the utility $81 million.

A study done for Sierra Club by Strategen Consulting estimated that closing Hayden and Craig, of which Xcel has partial ownership, and replacing the power with wind or solar would save the utility between $148 million and $156 million.

In 2017, electricity generation released 33 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions, about 25% of Colorado’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Coal-fired plants accounted for about 88% of the electricity sector emissions, according to the Center for Climate Strategies.

Two of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, Xcel Energy’s Pawnee Station and its Comanche 3 unit, which has been out of service all year due to an accident, were not part of the coal plant closures outlined by the Air Pollution Control Division.

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  • Three coal-burning power plants in Colorado face orders to close early. Their owners aren’t happy about it.
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Agricultural water polluted with permanently chemicals could taint generate Colorado research discovers

#thebanned? ? ? ? ? ? ⛔️

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Lettuce and other produce could soak up dangerous concentrations of the banned firefighting chemical PFAS tainting agricultural irrigation, even in areas where drinking water is already filtered for the substance, according to a new modeling study led by the Colorado School of Mines.

The study proves the possibility, but does not claim real-world tests on Colorado vegetables have found the chemical. 

Nevertheless, state water quality officials and outside experts said the results are a valuable warning flag and they will incorporate the possibility into ongoing PFAS testing that has vastly expanded in recent years. The researchers say communities need to test and track agricultural water just as many are now tracking drinking water.

“Our No. 1 priority is to find where that chain of exposure may exist and how to break it,” said John Putnam, environmental programs director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “This study filled in a hole of knowledge.” 

The study, published last week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, shows that “we really need to not ignore this potential exposure,” said Juliane Brown, lead author and an environmental engineering Ph.D. candidate at the School of Mines. Brown worked with co-authors Christopher Higgins, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at School of Mines, and engineering consultants Jason Conder and Jennifer Arblaster.

National and local experts said they do not want to see the study used to scare consumers about fresh vegetables — eating more farm produce and less highly processed, packaged food is still one of the most important steps consumers can take to improve their health. But they do want the warning to inform expanded state and local testing of water supplies in order to pinpoint the source of the pollution and clean it up. 

They also say the concerns about irrigation water are a new way to remind consumers of all the places they may be exposed to PFAS, from nonstick coatings on cooking pans to waterproofed clothing to fast food packaging. 

“There is some level of choice people can make to reduce exposure,” including filtering their water and avoiding processed food packaging, said Sydney Evan, an environmental science analyst with the Environmental Working Group, a research, consumer action and civic policy advocate based in Washington, D.C. “But they don’t have control. It’s not something they can face alone, it’s going to take broader change.”

Chris Higgins looks at a jar filled with PFAS. Recent research conducted in his lab modeled to determine how so-called forever chemicals bioaccumulate in plants. (Colorado School of Mines)

PFAS are a family of chemicals used as lubricants and nonstick coatings in firefighting foam, Teflon coatings, food wrapping and dozens more uses. The per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals have been found at manufacturing sites and downstream from airports with major fire operations, military bases, refiners and more. In Colorado, ongoing testing looks for PFAS in surface water or underground plumes in Fountain, along Sand Creek at the South Platte River in Denver, around the Suncor refinery and more. 

The EPA has warned the chemicals produce tumors and organ damage in laboratory animals, and are suspected as similar dangers to humans. Establishing safe levels for PFAS in human consumption remains highly controversial. Some scientists and environmentalists dub them “forever chemicals” for their staying power in the environment. 

Efforts to control PFAS surged beginning in 2016 when three El Paso County communities — Security, Fountain and Widefield — found their drinking water had been contaminated for years as an aquifer took in firefighting chemicals running off Peterson Air Force Base. 

Putnam said Colorado and other regulators have now tested groundwater, surface water and filtered drinking water throughout the state and have never seen high PFAS levels in irrigation water. But, he added, testing has not yet focused closely on agriculture. “This will cause us to look out for making sure we test for irrigation water where we do have areas of contamination identified,” he said.

Water consumers with wells can get samples tested for PFAS through the state toxicologist, Putnam said. 

The state has worked with the EPA in the past year to sample half the municipal water systems in Colorado, covering 75% of residents, Putnam said. Where PFAS are found, further testing is done to isolate the source. Any consumers are switched to a clean water supply, and municipal systems can be retrofitted to filter out PFAS to acceptable levels. 

Testing by the state and other entities has reached water supplying 90% of residents, Putnam said.

“It’s an emerging contaminant we are learning about every day,” he said. “Every bit of information helps us do a better job protecting the public.”

PFAS have been discovered in the food chain in other states, including in milk from dairy farms in New York and Pennsylvania. Some of the contamination was traced back to firefighting foam that tainted well water.

In Maine, tainted milk was traced back to a farm that used “biosolids,” or leftovers from wastewater treatment plants that are often spread to fertilize farm fields. Dangerous chemicals entering and reentering the food chain through such means are particularly worrisome to environmental groups, Evans said. 

While consumers should not stop eating fresh produce, or worry about controlling every possible source of PFAS in their life, they should know that the chemical family is only one of many approved for use in American industry and agriculture whose human impacts have never been studied enough, said David Andrews, a senior scientist with Environmental Working Group.

“There’s only so much you can do while you’re at the grocery store,” Andrews said. “But you have to think more broadly about the lack of oversight of industrial chemical use at the state and federal level. Why are these things found in drinking water and nearly everyone’s blood in the country?”

Worried about PFAS?
State officials say water consumers with wells who are concerned about PFAS chemicals can contact the state lab for possible testing: TOXCALL, 303-692-2606 or cdphe_toxcall@state.co.us

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  • Three coal-burning power plants in Colorado face orders to close early. Their owners aren’t happy about it.
  • Agricultural water contaminated with “forever chemicals” could taint produce, Colorado study finds
  • Backcountry.com mostly delivering on reparations one year after trademark bullying
  • Forest Service OKs access road to Eagle County community surrounded by public land. But not the one developers wanted.
  • Silverman: Our greatest generation succeeded despite setbacks. Let’s hope our kids can do the same.

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Backcountry.com mostly supplying on reparations one year after hallmark bullying

#forwomen™️ ?? ?️‍♀️ ? ?‍⚖️ ? ?

Colorado News

Emily Hargraves last year was certain she was going to close Backcountry Babes, her 22-year-old business. Backcountry.com was suing her in federal court because she had secured a trademark for her company, which offers tours, clinics and avalanche training for women. 

When news broke last November that the e-commerce giant had for several years been suing small businesses, like Hargrave’s, for registering and trademarking the word “backcountry,” the Utah-based company weathered blistering criticism. Eventually, Backcountry.com dropped its lawsuits, fired its trademark attorneys and launched a nationwide effort to make reparations. 

Then-chief executive Jonathan Nielsen reached out to Hargraves in November last year and asked what she needed — as he for many of the dozens of brands that were sued.

Hargraves said there were too few women qualified to teach and guide in avalanche terrain. Nielsen proposed a deal. Hargraves got to keep the name of her company and Backcountry.com would fund multi-year scholarships to Backcountry Babes guides to pursue instructor qualification with the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education and guide certification with the American Mountain Guides Association. 

Hargraves said 10 women are now going through the intensive, multi-year programs thanks to several thousand dollars in support from the e-tail behemoth, which is owned by private equity firm TSG Partners. 

“It ended up being a big financial commitment for Backcountry.com, and despite their CEO changing and COVID, we still pulled it off,” Hargraves said. “They wanted to make things right and they are sticking with it. It’s worked out really well.” 

The new year brought follow through by a new CEO

Nielsen is gone now. Melanie Cox, a retail veteran who served on the company’s board, stepped into the CEO role in June. She’s hired a new chief counsel and chief marketing officer. And Cox has followed through, mostly, on promises made by her predecessor as the company struggled to make amends for its tenacious pursuit of legal trademarks held by small companies.

Cox declined an interview but sent a statement saying the company would continue to honor commitments made to companies “impacted by the 2019 trademark action.” 

“We strive to be a dedicated, passionate and contributing member of the greater outdoor community, and this responsibility will continue to guide us into the future,” the statement reads, also noting the company is “bound by confidentiality agreements with these companies” that prohibit detailed comments on specific brands and deals. 

The cease-and-desist letter and explicit threats of a federal lawsuit last year from Backcountry.com’s aggressive trademark attorneys at ILPA Legal Advisors nearly broke Jenny Verocchi’s Backcountry Nitro coffee brand. A successful Kickstarter campaign in 2018 had launched her canned coffee company and business was booming when the e-tailer’s trademark law firm demanded she abandon the name or face a trial in federal court, even though she had secured a trademark for Backcountry Nitro. So she rebranded as Wild Barn Coffee and started over. 

Last November, Neislen flew out and visited with Verocchi and her business partner Alyssa Evans in Boulder. 

“He promised us a lot of stuff,” Verocchi said.

Like buying a bunch of special-roasted beans for sale on the e-tailer’s website. And serving Wild Barn coffee at the company’s nationwide Stoke Series events, which features athletes and speakers with registration dollars supporting charitable groups. And helping to advertise the new coffee brand. 

The Stoke Series events were canceled due to the pandemic. And the company has not placed another order for the Wild Barn coffee beans, which Verocchi and Evans made special for the company. 

“We would love to continue our relationship with Backcountry, but they are a very large corporation and we are little guys and we didn’t really expect them to wait on us hand and foot,” Verocchi said. “I think the whole company was really stressing out this time last year and maybe we got lost in the shuffle a bit. They didn’t follow through with everything they said they’d do, but they are doing the best they can and we are doing the best we can right now.” 

Leo Tsuo, the owner of Weston Backcountry in Minturn, could not believe the company that had celebrated the boutique maker of backcountry snowboards and skis was attacking him when he received a letter from its trademark attorneys last year. The letter and subsequent filings in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office were stern, making clear he needed to abandon the name backcountry if he wanted to stay in business. Backcountry .com in 2017 was one of the first companies to sell Weston’s wildly popular splitboards.

“They just constantly supported us when people barely knew who we were. That company has so many people who are just genuinely stoked on their outdoor sports,” Tsuo said. 

Nielsen came out and visited Tsuo in Colorado last November and while he declined to discuss the details of the arrangement, citing a legal deal, Tsuo said Nielsen was “genuinely sorry.” 

“They unleashed untrained pit bulls in the dog park who went after every dog in the park and they were sincere about trying to making it right,” said Tsuo, describing an encounter with a bunch of Backcountry.com “gearheads” — sales associates who promote brands and work with Backcountry.com customers — earlier this year, before the pandemic where “everyone was telling me ‘Wow that was so messed up’ and ‘I wish that never happened.’” 

“It was really nice to see. Those are the people I remember when I think about Backcountry.com, not the attorneys,” Tsuo said. “I think it’s good to have Backcountry.com back.” 

Tyson Stellrecht was forced to close one of his Backcountry Pursuit stores in Boise, Idaho, in 2017 after tangling with Backcountry.com’s trademark lawyers. He founded the company in 2012 to sell used gear on consignment and didn’t even have an online sales presence. He rebranded his 23-employee company as the Boise Gear Collective after a nearly two-year ordeal that he said cost him thousands of dollars and “lots of sleep.”  

In November last year Nielsen flew to Boise, alone, and spent five hours visiting with Stellrecht and his manager.

“I feel like he really did want to right the wrongs. He gave a genuine vibe,” Stellrecht said. “I think he might have known what was going on with those lawyers, at least more than he said he knew, but he wanted to fix it.”

They reached a deal that had Backcountry.com giving Stellrecht the company’s returned gear for sale at his shop. So far he’s picked up two loads from the company’s headquarters in Utah and was heading down this week to pick up another couple pallets of packs, skis, clothing and outdoor equipment. Nielsen also promised to arrange visits with Stellrecht and Backcountry.com executives to talk about business policies and strategies for managing his now 26-worker business. 

That hasn’t happened yet, largely due to limited access in the pandemic, but Stellrecht hopes that still works out. 

“I’m pretty happy with the way everything was handled,” he said. “I know I was in the first wave of that big PR tour and I don’t know if there was a second or third wave. I kind of wondered if they were going to make these deals with everybody.”

Some companies still are waiting for a call

Frank Hintz is still waiting. He settled with Backcountry.com when the company threatened his 27-year-old American Backcountry business in North Carolina with a lawsuit. 

Hintz, who started the company in 1993 selling custom T-shirt designs from the back of his car, didn’t want to settle and thought he had a good case to fight the e-tailer, which was founded in 1996 by a pair of beloved ski bums selling avalanche safety equipment online. 

“But I could’t hang on to this for a couple years and bleed a couple hundred thousand dollars,” he said. “They had big aspirations for what they were looking to do and it was well beyond the original intent of sales and marketing via a website. They wanted their own gear, their own apparel and their own brick-and-mortar and it became evident that’s what they were trying to protect. I don’t have any aspirations to make expedition equipment or any of that. I’m a T-shirt guy.”

Hintz said he reached an agreement with the company that allowed him to keep making T-shirts, but not much more and he promised he would never disparage the company. He said there are “a lot more people out there” who took the brunt of Backcountry.com’s trademark attacks and “lost a lot more than I did.”

“I saw the ‘kumbaya’ press release and heard them say how sorry they were. They had their moment in the frying pan and they had their ‘come -to-Jesus moment. I don’t know if it was all smoke and mirrors or if there was good faith for a weekend or two,” Hintz said. “I didn’t expect much and they never reached out to me. Maybe they just looked at us differently. But it left a sour taste, I’ll tell ya that.”

David Ollila is the protagonist in Backcountry.com trademark debacle. He was the businessman who declined to settle. He stood up to the bully of the backcountry. The e-commerce giant sued him in California’s U.S. District Court in San Diego — with a sheriff delivering legal papers to his home — in September 2019. The company said Ollilia, a serial entrepreneur who in 2010 started making short skis for climbing snowy hills around his home in Marquette, Michigan, and selling them on his website, marquette-backcountry.com, caused “irreparable harm” to the retailer and demanded damages totally three times all the profit he ever made selling Marquette Backcountry Skis.

Ollila was the head of innovation for a Michigan venture capital firm and created 100k IDeas, a Flint nonprofit that brings together students and entrepreneurs to test innovations and develop new ideas. Ollila’s mission is to help garage tinkerers realize ideas and find financial freedom. And he wasn’t about to let a big company stomp his dream. 

“I am obligated to fight. Morally, ethically and professionally,” he told The Colorado Sun last November in a story that first exposed Backcountry.com’s trademark lawsuits. 

Making up with Ollila was a high priority in Nielsen’s apology tour. Backcountry.com sells Marquette skis on the company’s website. The company donated money to nonprofits Ollila supports that help innovators bring new ideas to market. And Nielsen enlisted Ollila as a consultant to help the company champion more small businesses in the outdoor industry. 

Ollila said the company has been “genuine in their approach.” 

“Pragmatically, did I expect them to hit everything out of the park? Of course not,” he said. “I think it would be really tough to satisfy everyone from a business perspective.”

But as the outdoor industry explodes during the pandemic, with record sales of bikes, boats, RVs, motorcycles and backcountry ski equipment, the new approach to championing small business at Backcountry.com is opening doors for start-up and innovators, Ollila said. 

And the backlash galvanized a passionate community that is rallying around smaller brands right now, Ollila said. That support has drawn the eye of investors who now see outdoor businesses as worthy investments. 

“There is a real opening right now for large companies to start investing in not just the overall outdoor recreation market, but the start-ups and small businesses,” Ollila said. “That is because of the passion of the outdoor community. And that passion was on stage last year during the Backcountry.com fight. I think it was a tough situation that turned positive and that’s a win in my book.”

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via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/11/23/backcountry-com-delivering-on-reparations-year-after-trademark-bullying/



Woodland Service OKs accessibility roadway to Eagle Region community bordered by public land. Yet not the one programmers desired.

#theend? ?‍? ? ❄️ ? ? ?

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EDWARDS — The path up from the interstate is steep and muddy. In the winter, it’s closed to all visitors so elk and deer can hunker unbothered. At the end of the path lies an oasis where Florida investors Petr Lukes and Jana Sobotova want to build a luxury community.

The developers have spent the past decade fighting to connect their 680-acre island of aspens in a sea of federal land to the valley floor. Their proposed community of 19 luxury homes needs a road. 

The investors, who bought the property in 2008 for $9.5 million, won approval for an access road a couple months ago. But as they say in a Nov. 9 objection, it’s the wrong road.  

Scott Fitzwilliams, the supervisor of the 2.2 million-acre White River National Forest, in September begrudgingly granted the developers approval for year-round, paved access to the proposed Berlaimont Estates community. Fitzwilliams’ approval cited vehement opposition and myriad ecological and wildlife concerns. But allowing a paved connector followed the 1980 Alaska National Interest Conservation Act, or ANILCA, which directs federal land managers to provide “adequate access” to allow owners of private parcels surrounded by public land “reasonable use and enjoyment” of their property.

Lukes and Sobotova are arguing the road alignment Fitzwilliams approved will have greater impacts to wildlife and increase wildfire hazards. They also don’t like that the approved road enters the community on the eastern end instead of the middle of the horseshoe-shaped parcel. Or that it requires as many as seven switchbacks as it climbs 2,000 vertical feet to the plateau where homes are planned. They are asking his boss — the forester for the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region — to overturn the decision, warning that “a federal court will not uphold” Fitzwilliams’ choice of road alignments. 

“We are just kind of scratching our heads at the final decision,” said Andy Hensler, the former assistant general counsel for Vail Resorts whose Huperetes Advisors is consulting on the project. “The rationale for the decision is not supported by the analysis.”

Hensler and the Berlaimont team never refer to Lukes and Sobotova by name, saying that their clients are “very private” and would not want to be interviewed.

Across the state’s mountain communities, the number of unrealized luxury real estate projects that have failed far exceeds the few that are healthy. But that could be changing during the pandemic as resort destinations and luxury communities across the West post record sales.

Still, like many undeveloped mountain luxury projects, especially those proposed inside public lands, the Berlaimont plan has drawn impassioned resistance. 

Berlaimont is one of the few new luxury housing projects currently proposed in Colorado’s resort communities, where focus in recent years has been on developing higher-density, workforce-friendly communities closer to downtowns and transportation hubs. In the Vail Valley, Florida developer Bobby Ginn’s plans for a high-end golf community up Battle Mountain Pass foundered after a decade. St. Louis developer Fred Kummer spent more than 40 years trying to build a golf and ski community up Brush Creek Valley before selling his Adam’s Rib project for pennies on the dollar. The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, the opulent anchor of the Cordillera golf community, has been converted to a high-end drug rehabilitation facility. 

Farther south, Texas nonagenarian billionaire Red McCombs — who once owned the Denver Nuggets — has spent more than 30 years trying to develop a high-end ski village with as many as 10,000 homes atop Wolf Creek Pass, using the same ANILCA law in an ongoing fight for a road into his property. 

In the past four years, the chorus of criticism of the proposed Berlaimont development and its access road has grown to include Democratic state leaders like Rep. Dylan Roberts and Sen. Kerry Donovan, Eagle County’s commissioners, conservation groups and local residents.  

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse in June 2019 sent Fitzwilliams a letter echoing local concerns about how an access road would impact wildlife.

“It is imperative that the Forest Service fully consider this local input and valid concerns,” reads the letter from the three Democrats, “which suggest that the proposal may not be reasonable.”

Planning since 2008

Lukes and Sobotova are Czech real-estate magnates whose Cimex Invest and Cimex Group develop and manage commercial and hotel real estate in Europe and the U.S. They are the third owners since the early 2000s who have tried to develop the property above Edwards, which is zoned “resource,” which is meant to “maintain the open, rural character” of Eagle County by limiting development to only one home per 35 acres.   

The two developers live part time in Vail. Town of Vail planning documents show Cimex Invest company last year built an 8,800 square-foot ultra-modern home on Vail’s slopeside Forest Road; it hit the market this summer for $45 million. (The Czech investors bought the dormant Ski Rio ski area in 2007 for $6.5 million, which was last operated by Texas investor John Lau, who closed the ski area in 2000 along with Cuchara ski area in southern Colorado. Lukes and Sobotova rebranded the resort in Amalia, New Mexico, as Endless Blue, a 3,000-acre private snowcat ski area offering group retreats with cabin rentals and potential for a 90-home subdivision.)

In 2008, Lukes and Sobotova began working with the Forest Service on an access road that would climb 2,000 feet above Interstate 70 to 19 homesites. The investors delayed the Forest Service process in 2009 while they sought county approval for variances allowing technical road improvements and certain alignments, which the county approved in 2014 after environmental review. Since the project divided homesites into 35 acres, it was exempt from county review of larger impacts that are required for more dense subdivisions. (If the developers seek county approval to run water and sewer infrastructure along a newly constructed road, the county could have another chance to consider the project as part of a 1041 permitting process.)

The Forest Service began studying the requested access road again in 2016. The proposed road crosses an area that is closed from Dec. 1 through May every year to protect elk and deer. The Forest Service prohibits motorized use in the winter on the lands around the Berlaimont property except for Forest Service Road 774, which stretches from Wolcott to Vail. 

The proposed road accessing Berlaimont Estates would climb Forest Service Road 780, which was originally built to reach power lines. (Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun)

The Forest Service’s 301-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement, issued in January 2018, outlined four alternatives for accessing the property, including an option that would leave the Berlaimont developers using existing dirt roads to access the property. 

  • The no-action alternative was ultimately dismissed, partly because motorized traffic on existing roads leading to the property is prohibited in winter to protect deer and elk herds. 
  • The second alternative for a road maximizes use of existing Forest Service roads and minimizes the distance traveled on forest land but requires seven switchbacks up a steep hillside on the private property. Alternative 2 calls for 2.5 miles of new road on federal land and impacts about 33 acres of federal land, with 3.1 miles of new road on 37 acres of private land. 
  • Alternative 3 reduces visibility of the road from the valley by tucking it into a drainage and cuts the need for switchbacks while limiting potential drainage and erosion issues. The Alternative 3 road requires 4.2 miles of new road impacting 54 acres of Forest Service land, while 1.1 miles of new road is on 11 acres of private land. 
  • A fourth alternative puts 4.3 miles of new road on federal lands, impacting 50 acres with 1.5 miles of new road impacting 18 acres of private land. Wildlife biologists suggest the Alternative 4 route would have less impact on deer and elk.
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams studied four possible routes climbing up from Edwards and Interstate 70 so developers could have “adequate access” to 19 proposed homes on a private parcel surrounded by public land. The developers are objecting to Fitzwilliams’ decision. (White River National Forest)

The Forest Service’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement identified Alternative 3 as the agency’s preferred route to access the private inholding. The agency’s Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued in September 2020, along with Fitzwilliams’ Draft Record of Decision that selected Alternative 2. 

“All but a few” of 1,000 comments were in “strong opposition.” 

Fitzwilliams, in his decision, said the agency had received about 1,000 comment letters on the project and “all but a few” were in “strong opposition to the project.” In the draft final decision, he said he chose Alternative 2 “because it has the least amount of impact and disturbance” to national forest lands and avoids winter habitat for elk. 

“One of the major concerns of the public and in our analysis was how this access road will adversely impact wildlife in the area,” Fitzwilliams wrote. “Avoiding these winter concentration areas provides for additional protections for wildlife that are adversely impacted by this project. My goal in choosing this alternative is to create fewer impacts to NFS lands, resources, and wildlife. In comparison to the other action alternatives, this route does that.”

Fitzwilliams described “reasonable use and enjoyment” and “adequate access” as “nebulous” definitions, but he concluded the proposed use at Berlaimont is reasonable, citing its consistency with local zoning and state regulations. (The objection filed by the developers refers to ANILCA’s “reasonable use” and “adequate access” as “unambiguous text.”) 

Fitzwilliams concluded that 2.4 miles of paved road across national forest land is adequate to meet the needs of the proposed community.

Fitzwilliams acknowledged the route he supported would have a larger visual impact and would be more expensive for the landowner to build. Even with the paved road, access in the winter will be limited to only homeowners and guests to limit effects on wildlife.

He pointed to the 640-acre Lichen Ranch, an inholding in the Routt National Forest that was subdivided into 18 homesites, all 35 acres or larger, and granted an easement for a road on public land access by the Forest Service. The Forest Service in the 1980s did not use ANILCA to grant that easement to access private property around the ranch’s Lake Agnes, which had been used for decades as a corporate retreat for an energy company. Today, most of the parcels at Lichen Ranch, which surround the 110-acre Lake Agnes, are valued at more than $1 million with homes selling for much more. 

“It is practically an identical land use to the Berlaimont proposal, thereby demonstrating that the Berlaimont proposal is not unprecedented,” Fitzwilliams wrote. “I cannot ignore this case. Laws and regulations require me to take a much more in-depth look at this project.”

He said the agency tried to pursue a land exchange with Lukes and Sobotova, but they declined. 

“The Forest Service cannot force such a process on a private entity, so a land exchange was not a viable possibility,” Fitzwilliams wrote. 

“Our clients ultimately are business people but the huge drive for them in this is they intend to build a home here. This is where they want their home to be and they said ‘We have friends we think would want to live here, too,’” Hensler said.  

Wildlife “on the ropes”

Dominic Mauriello, a former town planner for Vail whose Mauriello Planning Group has worked on dozens of public and private projects and communities in the Vail Valley, said the owners of Berlaimont own other properties in Eagle County and are big mountain bikers. He said the investors want to help develop mountain bike trails on the Berlaimont property to offset any loss of hiking trails that might come with the development of homes above Edwards.

Both Hensler and Mauriello said Lukes and Sobotova never really planned for such fierce opposition to their plan. They studied the ANICLA process and didn’t think access would be a big issue, said Mauriello, who is helping plan the project.  

“I don’t think when they bought it they thought they would be where they are today. Whether it was being naive or simply relying on what they thought was the law, they have tried to do something that is light on the land and tried to work collaboratively so it would all go smoothly,” Mauriello said. 

Conservation groups and wildlife biologists warn of impacts to wintering elk and deer from a paved road accessing 680 acres of private land where Florida developers are planning to build 19 luxury homes above Edwards. (Bruce Gordon / Ecoflight, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Peter Hart, a staff attorney for Carbondale’s Wilderness Workshop, wrote his first opposition argument against Berlaimont in 2009. He’s recruited a team of former wildlife managers to defend the elk and deer that winter in habitat bisected by all the road proposals. 

And those herds of elk and deer need that habitat, Hart said, as their populations dwindle under pressure from development and backcountry recreation. The herds are down by as much as 50% in the past 20 years, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife aerial surveys and research by wildlife group Rocky Mountain Wild.

Hart bristles at the objection that one road is better for wildlife than another. 

“All of these alternatives are going to be detrimental to the wildlife population, which, frankly, is on the ropes,” said Hart, pointing to Forest Service estimates of 160 to 215 car trips a day in an area that now prohibits all winter travel. “And when the Forest Service noted that there are so many communities in critical winter habitat in the Vail Valley, they used that as a reason to consider yet another.

 ‘We have made a lot of crappy decisions that put our wildlife on the ropes and those crappy decisions mean we should make more? That does not make any sense,” he said. 

Hart’s list of issues is long. When Lukes and Sobotova offer to increase the number of bike trails, he points to impacts from backcountry travel already stressing wildlife in the Eagle River Valley. When the developers outline very aggressive wildfire mitigation plans — which include fire-resistant construction and ponds capable of supporting helicopter drops — he questions the wisdom of building deeper into the wilderness-urban interface. Sixty miles north, the East Troublesome fire destroyed more than 300 homes — including many multimillion-dollar mansions — built deep in the forest. 

“Is this a decision we should be making right now given all that we know about climate change and wildfire?” Hart said. 

Hart’s argument, which is shared by a large contingent of conservation groups, is that the Forest Service never should have concluded that Berlaimont is a “reasonable use” of the land. He would like to have seen an alternative between “no action” and a 26-foot wide paved road. 

Hart wonders if owners of other inholdings will see Fitzwilliams’ decision and decide they want a paved road. What if other owners in, say, Fulford or Piney, two communities inside the White River National Forest that are only accessible by snow machines in the winter, decide they want year-round access, too? Hart wondered. 

“We have an opportunity here,” Hart said. “The Forest Service has discretion to determine if this is a reasonable use or not. The Forest Service could set a precedent here not just in the White River but all over the country.”

Lukes and Sobotova also did not anticipate the reaction from conservation and environmental groups, Hensler said. They want to protect open space and wildlife on the property, he said, describing a long-standing playbook where developers come in with huge plans and then appear to make concessions as they adjust downward to accommodate locals and land managers. 

“Our clients’ approach has been to be to plan something reasonable and find something doable and something that will work and then ask for that,” said Hensler, describing how the project leaves 95% of the parcel undeveloped. 

They are asking the Forest Service for access, which the agency is required to provide to owners of inholdings of private land per the 1980 Alaska National Interest Conservation Act, or ANILCA. That law directs federal land managers to provide “adequate access” to allow a landowner “reasonable use and enjoyment” of their property.  

The owners’ 74-page objection to the road alignment argues Alternative 2 does not connect to the developable portion of the Berlaimont property, requires “substantial blasting and earthwork,” forces seven switchbacks with retaining walls and guardrail that could be barriers for wildlife. The objection also raises concerns that the approved route could hinder emergency services and evacuation in the event of fire. 

“The aggregate deficiencies of the access in Alternative 2 will functionally prevent Berlaimont from making any use of the property,” reads the objection, which was filed with Fitzwilliams’ boss, Tricia O’Connor, the Rocky Mountain Region acting regional forester.

The objection asks O’Connor to direct Fitzwilliams to select Alternative 3. It includes a Nov. 6 memo from the Eagle River Fire Protection District expressing concern for added travel time to reach homes on the Alternative 2 alignments. The Alternative 3 alignment takes into consideration the FireWise Community concepts designed to enhance resiliency to wildfire, reads the memo from Fire Chief Karl Bauer.

Bauer also noted the steepness, switchbacks and fewer pullouts of the Alternative 2 road alignments increased chances of accidents on the road.

Colorado State Sen. Kerry Donovan disagreed with Fitzwilliams’ decision to give them a road at all. She said access should not be created to accommodate a luxury development when the area is more suitable for seasonal cabins. 

Donovan points to Eagle County’s Fulford community as an example. The former mining camp is surrounded by public land in Eagle County and has a couple dozen homes that are accessed by four-wheel drive on a Forest Service road in the summer and snow machine in the winter. 

As Colorado resort communities grapple with affordable housing, wildfire mitigation and the impacts of growth and recreation on wildlife, Donovan said, “this kind of limited occupancy, resource-intensive development just seems incredibly out of touch.

“There is a very strong agreement that this type of development is kind of the last straw in the valley and doesn’t provide any real clear benefit to the community and seems to only take away from the community,” said Donovan, who submitted a letter with Rep. Dylan Roberts to the Forest Service opposing the project. “The developer seems to not want to listen to that community voice and appears to feel very entitled to building homes on that mountain.”

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  • Backcountry.com mostly delivering on reparations one year after trademark bullying
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  • Silverman: Our greatest generation succeeded despite setbacks. Let’s hope our kids can do the same.

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Did you miss our previous article…
https://danpabon.com/littwin-just-just-how-dangerous-is-trumps-sure-to-fail-tried-successful-stroke/

Littwin: Just just how dangerous is Trumps sure-to-fail tried successful stroke?

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I can’t decide — and I don’t think I’m alone here — how seriously to take Donald Trump’s attempted coup, in which he’ll try virtually anything to overturn the plainly clear results of the 2020 presidential election.

Does it portend an end to American democracy, which has not been so thoroughly assaulted since the Civil War?

Or is it simply the inevitable ending of the worst presidency in American history and one more Herculean task we have to complete to rid ourselves finally of Trump? The obvious task for America would be cleaning the Augean stables.

My guess is that Trump can’t prevail, which is not to say his effort is not dangerous. You have to ask yourself — and this isn’t original with me — what if a competent would-be authoritarian were to be elected president someday? If Trump, who could not be less qualified for the job, can get 73 million Americans to vote to re-elect him, it’s hard to say what isn’t possible.

Mike Littwin

Still, as I watched Rudy Giuliani flop-sweat his way through the Trump crack legal team’s explanations as to how Democrats rigged the election — in brief, it’s either the work of George Soros or Hugo Chavez (dead since 2013) or Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or antifa or the Chinese or all of them in concert with hundreds of ordinary poll workers across the country — I figured this was Marx Brothers-level comedy without, you know, the humor. When Rudy went all My Cousin Vinny on us, that’s when I nearly lost it.

Could anyone in his/her right mind buy any of it? Sadly, that’s a rhetorical question. 

Fortunately the judges, including at least one appointed by Trump, who have heard parts of Rudy’s presentation have rejected the evidence-free charges when they come to court. Reading the court rulings is instructive. The word “delusional” keeps coming up.

Meanwhile Kris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, tweeted: “That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest.”

Krebs, you’ll remember, was fired by Trump for saying that the election was safe and secure. So, of course, he fired him.

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And then there’s the matter of the black dye running down Giuliani’s face, which is now seen as a metaphor, I guess, for the Republican Party meltdown. As many as 90 percent of top Republican elected officials, via Max Boot, still refuse to say that Biden has won the election.

That includes all of Colorado’s top Republicans, by the way, even outgoing Sen. Cory Gardner, despite the fact that he was pummeled in his re-election bid in large part because of his embrace of Donald Trump. If he’s planning to run for either governor or senator in Colorado in 2022, you’d think this would be the time to begin to inch away from his hug buddy. When Gardner was asked whether he thinks Biden has won the election, he complained of “gotcha questions” and said he was tired of them. I bet he’s tired. Even Gardner, the master, must get tired by his nonstop evasion of questions.

And then there’s Scott Tipton, who lost a shocking primary to Lauren Boebert, who will soon join the House crazy caucus. What does Tipton have to lose by calling out this lunacy?

READ: More columns by Mike Littwin.

If you hadn’t yet, you should read Jesse Paul’s revealing interview with Ken Buck, the Colorado congressman who moonlights as state party chair. The rumor is that Buck is out as chair, which should be good news for Colorado Republicans. In his conversation with Paul, he says that he hasn’t time to think about it. Not everyone believes that.

The bad news is that if Buck is gone — as he should be — that Scott Gessler seems to be the clear choice to replace him. It was Gessler, during his tenure as Colorado Secretary of State, who claimed to have evidence of widespread voter fraud. He didn’t, of course. And he is now defending Trump’s ugly coup attempt, defending the flimsy court cases, even defending Trump’s decision to bring in leading Michigan state legislators in an attempt to lobby them to undermine the election by having the legislature vote to name their own electors. As I write this Friday, they were on the way to the White House.

Let’s just say that to go to court, you have to have a case. And when in court, the case that Giuliani makes is to not call it “fraud” because that would be, well, fraudulent. 

Gessler, meanwhile, brags that he was a campaign attorney for Trump in 2016, when most Colorado Republicans were running as far from Trump as possible. Does anyone imagine that tying the Colorado GOP even more closely to Trump, after the soon-to-be former president lost by 13 points in the state, is the way to rescue the party from its lowest point in modern history?

Historians tell us there has been nothing to match Trump’s attempt to overturn the election since the 1876 election that put Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House, but only after four months of turmoil and only after he promised to end Reconstruction.

I’m not sure what Trump can do in his last two months. We may be better off if he continues his farcical fight to stay in office. As you know, there are two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 that will decide which party controls the Senate. The Democrats need to win both, which may be a long shot. But their best shot is for Trump to continue to say that elections, like those in Georgia, were rigged against him. 

Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, said that if Trump had not railed against mail-in voting, he might have won the state. “He would have won by 10,000 votes,” Raffensperger said. “He actually depressed, suppressed his own voting base.”

And now Senate Democrats and Georgia Democrats are hoping Trump, with an assist from Rudy, can do it all over again — and boost the democracy he keeps trying to wreck.


Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.

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Toppled Civil Battle statue at Colorado Capitol to be replaced sculpture of Indigenous American woman

#nativeamerican? ? ? ? ? ?

Colorado News

The Civil War statue toppled by protesters outside the Colorado state Capitol over the summer will be replaced by a sculpture of a Native American woman mourning the atrocities of the Sand Creek Massacre.

The Capitol Building Advisory Committee voted 7-2 Friday in favor of the new sculpture after hearing from representatives of the tribes that suffered at Sand Creek 156 years ago, Colorado Public Radio reported.

“They were wiped out,” Otto Braided Hair, of the Northern Cheyenne and a descendant of Sand Creek survivors, told the committee. “Their voices are no longer heard. Their wishes and concerns were no longer heard. Those are the people we speak for.”

The state Legislature now must determine how big the monument and its pedestal will be and how it will get to Colorado from Oklahoma, where a 7-inch-high (18-centimeter-high) prototype has already been approved.

Monuments related to the Civil War have been targets for removal following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. His death prompted protests across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.

MORE: History Colorado unveils the toppled Union soldier statue with an exhibit that seeks to tell its story. Its whole story.

According to the state’s website, the statue at the state Capitol was originally meant to honor Colorado soldiers who fought and died for the Union in the Civil War. First Colorado Cavalry member Cpt. Jack Howland designed the statue, and the state and Pioneers’ Association paid for it.

However, members of the First Colorado Cavalry unit also took part in the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.

A 2017 petition to remove the Civil War statue falsely claimed it depicted Col. John Chivington, who orchestrated the massacre that left 230 people dead in November 1864. Chivington’s name is on the memorial, and the plaque on the statue also calls the Sand Creek Massacre a battle. That was corrected in another plaque.

The statue, which was erected in 1909, was toppled June 25. It is now housed at the History Colorado museum.

The Union soldier statue that had been removed from the state Capitol last June is now on display at History Colorado Center in Denver, October 14, 2020. The Capitol Building Advisory Committee approved the loan of the controversial statue to the museum for a one-year period. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Harvey Pratt, a Sand Creek descendant who was commissioned to create the replacement statue, said the idea to depict a grieving Native American mother came to him in a dream.

“It’s really about the women. The women carry the men in the tribes on their backs. I wanted to depict a woman,” he said. “She’s in mourning and she’s kneeling, just sitting down. She’s lost her baby and maybe her grandparents. She’s got cuts on her legs and she’s cut her finger off.”

The woman bears an empty cradleboard symbolizing the loss of her child, and she is reaching north with one arm, symbolizing the direction of the tribes’ retreat.

“She’s not asking to be spared,” Pratt explained. “She’s saying ‘Remember us. don’t forget us. I’ve lost my whole family.’”

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Nicolais: Thanksgiving begins with a little sacrifice

#nativeamerican? ? ?? ?‍♀️ ? ? ? ? ? ⚱

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Historically, Thanksgiving celebrates the generosity and assistance Native American tribes provided to English colonists from the Mayflower. The colonists’ fall feast represented gratitude for help without which most would likely have died.

Almost exactly 400 years later, our country finds itself in a parallel circumstance.

Health care workers have spent every day since early March demonstrating remarkable generosity, assistance and selflessness. By and large Americans have voiced their thanks and support.

Mario Nicolais

Yet as the holiday season approaches, it is time to do more than thank those workers. It is time to recognize their sacrifice with some of our own, starting with smaller Thanksgiving celebrations and limited holiday travel.

Large gatherings pose a significant risk of spreading COVID-19, even among family members. That is particularly true when family or friends have recently traveled to attend.

With cases spiking across Colorado and the nation, the best way to thank health care workers is to avoid overwhelming them with an influx of Thanksgiving-driven cases.

Last spring we all became accustomed to the graphical representation of “Flattening the Curve” – two curves, one steep and narrow, the other flat and wide. The first, narrow curve represents how the COVID-19 pandemic would spread without protective measures such as masks and social distancing; the second shows the hopeful outcome if those measures were implemented. 

The constant always remained the dotted health care system capacity line running horizontally across the graph. But now that line is dropping in Colorado and across the country.

Just as the rest of the population shows increased rates of infection, so do medical personnel. Doctors, nurses, administrators and staff have been reporting ill in record numbers. Consequently, even as hospitalization rates climb, the number of people who can provide care is plummeting.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Creating additional hospital beds will do little to help sick patients if health care workers aren’t available to staff them.  

The problem has become so dire in North Dakota that their governor recently announced that COVID-19 positive health care professionals would be allowed to continue working in units dedicated to pandemic patients. 

Colorado could be on the way to similar measures.

It is against that backdrop that sacrifices to our Turkey Day traditions should be measured. While the importance of spending time with loved ones is not lost on me – my family remains thankful for the blessing we had to spend last Thanksgiving with someone we lost during the pandemic – it should not come at high risk to their health. And it should not come at the cost of over-filled, under-staffed intensive care units.

Instead we would all be better off, as individual families and a community as a whole, making changes to our traditions for at least one year. But that doesn’t mean losing out on the connections at the heart of the holiday.

For example, while I usually host a large dinner with extended family, this year will likely be only me, my wife and potentially her mother and my father. Neither would have come if my step-daughter had traveled back from Idaho or my brother from Boston.

However, I am sure that we will spend plenty of time on telephone and Zoom calls with both this coming Thursday. They will still be a part of our Thanksgiving, if not in person this year so that they may be next year.

We hope those precautions will keep each of us healthy. We hope that our little sacrifice will also bring a little respite for a health care team that may otherwise need to care for us. And we hope that if enough other families do the same, we can help keep the curve flat enough to remain below a sinking health care capacity line.

In the most abnormal year in memory, Thanksgiving will not be any different. But if we sow the seeds of health this year, hopefully we will be as fortunate as the pilgrims to share a much larger feast next year.


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com. 

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Wilson: What white America was really claiming in the 2020 political election

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Donald Trump’s presidency declared open season on Black people, and 57% of white voters didn’t care. That’s the fundamental message one could glean from the election demographics if so inclined.  

The data is clear: Racists felt emboldened under Trump and acted accordingly. In fact, an unprecedented 54 court cases cite Trump as the inspiration for an act of violence, with Barack Obama and George W. Bush having no such incidents attributed to them. 

Even with Trump winning an increased margin of Black voters in 2020, the fear is palpable in our community.  It still took an overwhelming Black voter turnout in key battleground states to win the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 

Theo Wilson

Admittedly, this is a sharply reductionist view of nearly 74 million people’s decision to support a second term for the first reality TV star to have nuclear launch codes. Most Trump voters would likely mention economic concerns, distrust in the Democrats or the general nihilism that most Americans feel about the overall corruption of the system.  

Yet, I can’t get past the fact that Obama wouldn’t have been able to get away with an iota of Trump’s dysfunction. The fact that his sheer incompetence, dangerous narcissism, racist dog whistles and denial of the threat of COVID-19 wasn’t enough to turn off every voter in America is baffling.

I can only wonder if on some level, Obama was “too good” of a president for white America to accept.  He’s an embodiment of what my mother calls “The Black Tax.” This means that African-Americans have to be twice as good to get just as much, and the 44th president knew exactly what was at stake for him. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, “We Were Eight Years In Power,” states that the only thing whites feared worse than bad Black governance … was good Black governance. The fact that a Black person would be competent at such an important job flies in the face of the very notion of white supremacy.  

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Trump’s presidency will be inextricably tied to Obama’s in the eyes of history. I believe future scholars will see only one major factor at the root of what caused the Trump era, and that’s white America’s violently adverse reaction to the first Black president.  

It’s not like Obama was the first Black man qualified to be president. He does not mark an advancement in Black America in terms of the quality of leaders we produce. Rather, Obama marks white America’s progress through the wall of its own collective insanity.  

Let’s call it what it is: Racism is mass mental illness. The thought that our melanin prohibited us from any human capacity is literally crazy. But, socially reinforced hysteria is as dangerous as any force of nature. By the very nature of it being social, each human being under that hysteria’s influence provides a checkpoint for the delusion. Therefore, an alternate reality is created within the agreements of shared hallucination.  

At the time of my writing this, Trump has not conceded the election to Joe Biden. MAGA supporters flooded the streets of the capital, claiming to protest a supposedly stolen election.  Even with Trump’s own election-security officials saying this was the most secure election in history, they refuse to quit the narrative.  

Clashes with counterprotesters followed as visions of Charlottesville haunt onlookers, globally.  The delusion indeed threatens the very foundation of the country, and a peaceful transition of power grows more dubious by the day.  

This dangerous situation is fueled by right-wing media, relentlessly parroting Trump’s baseless narrative of election fraud.  

If someone is injured or killed in the coming weeks, some of that blood is on their hands. The propaganda that drove the protesters into the streets was propagated by them, and it will have consequences. 

The cognitive dissonance from Trump supporters reminds me of the dissonance faced by the Little Rock Nine in the civil rights movement. Angry white mobs violently rebelling against objective reality caused Carlotta Walls LaNier and her friends to need National Guard troops to protect them in class.  

Think about that for a minute. Mobs were basically fighting against … proximity to human pigment, and the meanings they assigned to it. They actually  thought they were on the right side of history, and were willing to be photographed in acts of bigotry, frozen for all posterity.  

As an African-American looking at this through the lens of history, it’s especially disheartening.  My literal safety in this country partially relies on white people overcoming this particular delusion. However, it seems they’re locked onto it like a pitbull to a bone, and 57% voted to at least passively keep the insanity going.

It reminds me of that infamous moment when Charlton Heston spoke before the NRA. Rifle in hand, he screamed to the liberals who opposed the gun lobbyists: “From my cold dead hands.”  

This phallic symbol of manhood was the difference in dispossessing Native Americans from their land, enslaving Africans and dominating the world, militarily.  

That’s an all-in commitment that unless you’ve taken a human life, you simply don’t grasp.  This commitment is ingrained in a culture of people who’ve inherited the spoils of these conquests for generations on end.  

When the right evokes Americanism in their rhetoric, I believe this cultural commitment is what they’re referring to, and MAGA is its latest rallying cry.   

Alas, objective reality asserts itself in time. Seeing the impending doom of this movement is like watching a slow-motion car crash; somebody’s gonna get hurt. With the amount of combustible material onboard, the blast radius is going to be huge. Let’s just hope our democracy can survive the wreckage. 


Theo Wilson of Denver is a poet, speaker, author and activist. 


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com. 

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Colorado resorts are struggling to make it through coronavirus

#growinglist? ? ? ?‍? ? ?

more news https://northdenvernews.com

By Ben Markus, CPR News

Add hotels to the growing list of business sectors fighting for survival as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its eighth month.

“I say to people, ‘I’m in a hotel and restaurant business in the middle of a pandemic, so that’s how I’m doing,’” said Walter Isenberg, president of Sage Hospitality. His line of hotels includes the Oxford and the Crawford in downtown Denver.

Denver-area hotels were less than half full in October. Occupancy was 47.7 percent, down from 78.6 percent in October of last year, according to data from STR, a hotel analytics firm.

The city of Denver has contracted for 882 rooms at seven hotels and motels to provide shelter for homeless people during the pandemic, but that’s a small fraction of the 52,000 rooms in the metro area.

Hotel traffic hit a new low in April in Denver, with only 21.2 percent of rooms filled in the Denver area. Bookings rose steadily since then but have settled in the mid 40 percent range over the last four months. Revenue per available room in metro Denver was down 64 percent.

In normal times, when the Kansas City Chiefs come to Denver to play it would be a great weekend for downtown hotels. “That typically would have been a massive sellout downtown with Chiefs fans, at premium rates,” said Isenberg.

But when the Chiefs traveled to play Denver on Oct. 25 there were no fans filling hotel rooms. Only about 5,000 fans are allowed in the stadium.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

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The hotel business is reliant on three key traveling sectors, leisure, business and convention. Isenberg calls them the three legs of the stool. “ And right now, “we only have one leg on the stool.”

Leisure travel is more than “well over 90 percent” of his business, mostly car trip staycations.

The hotel industry cheered news recent news from Pfizer, that the drug maker had developed an effective vaccine, though it has not been approved yet for distribution. Until then air travel will be limited, which impacts business bookings

“Business demand won’t return at a substantial level until caseloads are better contained, and in the meantime, recovery is going to be primarily driven by lower-tier hotels in the leisure-driven markets with outdoor offerings,” said Amanda Hite, president of STR.

Isenberg said some mountain hotels in Colorado even exceeded their typical summer business because of the outdoor element.

Still, STR estimates that the industry as a whole won’t return to normalcy until 2024.

“Their projection is realistic,” said Isenberg, but he noted that Denver is less reliant on international travel which he believes will take longer to rebound.

“I think places like Denver will recover faster,” said Isenberg.

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  • Colorado hotels are struggling to survive coronavirus
  • Opinion: Coloradans voted to keep all of us healthy, safe and thriving

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via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/11/22/colorado-hotels-struggling-coronavirus/



Did you miss our previous article…
https://danpabon.com/pro-mask-or-anti-mask-your-ethical-ideas-probably-predict-your-position/