Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ute Ulay Mine Reclamation

6/6/2013Colorado Art Ranch, Executive Director, Grant Pound.
At the Ute Ulay Silver Mine, Lake City, Co.

Before the gold and silver discoveries in 1860’s and the rush in the 1880’s, mountain landscapes had minimal threat to them and flourished in a most natural state. Many hard rock discoveries brought a diverse array of people into some of the most remote yet breathtaking landscapes which normally wouldn't be inhabited. Now outdoorsy folk spend countless weekends in towns like Lake City CO, hiking 14ers, fly fishing, backcountry skiing, or prospecting mining history from the locals in still standing false front saloons. The mining legacy in Lake City left an exuberant past of mixed heritage including folklore, exploration, and unfortunately an environmental concern teetering on the edge of catastrophe. 
Three miles west of Lake City, the Ute Ulay mill site still stands respectfully along the tourist 4x4 favorite, The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. Adjacent to the site is the city’s water supply, Henson Creek, nestled in some of the most stunning glaciated landscapes in the state.   The mill was hydroelectrically powered by Henson Creek until the dam burst in 1973, causing a metallic soup to wash downstream resulting in a complete kill of all macro invertebrates and fish 14 miles downstream. After this cataclysm, the people of Lake City became more environmentally aware of how these mines can impact their livelihood. Only to remind them of this fact in the winter of 2011 Grant Pound, Executive Director of Colorado Art Ranch stumbled upon an avalanche which plugged up Henson Creek just above the mill site.  The avalanche blocked the river creating an ice dam which held back water up stream 35ft deep.  Talk about an environmental disaster waiting to happen and an eye widening moment for the town of Lake City. This avalanche became an immediate reminder of the Mill Dam failure that happened in 1973. Frightened at what this could do to the town and environment, city officials scurried to plan on what to do with the people of Lake City, and contacted specialist for advice so another 1973 event didn’t happen again. At risk the already super saturated tailing ponds, (mine waste) sat uneasily below the ice wall as people thought of using TNT to deal with the avalanche that threatened Lake City. Thankfully the town’s water supply elegantly bored a hole through the ice mass, and slowly leaked 35 feet of water that was backed up into a normal flow and the town, macro invertebrates, and fish were at ease. This taught the city that you cannot always plan for uncertainties, and showed everyone personally what potentially could have happened .This type of uncertainty is exactly what got the EPA’s attention and resulted in an emergency response remediation of the site that started on June 5th, 2013. The EPA hopes to be finished with remediation securing mine tailings by the end of summer 2013.
On June 6th, 2013 Lake City held the ceremony “Diggin’ In at the Ute Ulay”.  The Diggin’ ceremony brought a diverse group of people together who were involved with the remediation and the future of the Ute Ulay mine site. After enjoying local coffee and donuts, Hinsdale County Commissioner Stan Whinnery gave a speech addressing the importance of the remedial action by the EPA, and the unique partnerships of local government, private (publically-held) mining company, non-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, that worked together to secure the future of the mine and watershed. The EPA’s emergency response team became involved just in time when LKA Gold Incorporated donated the historic Ute-Ulay Town & Mill Sites to the County of Hinsdale. By transferring ownership of the 285 acre Ute Ulay allowed the county and town of Lake City to begin immediate restoration on Ute Ulay mining camps and initiated the EPA’s cleanup process involving the stabilization of the tailings ponds that are an extreme hazard to Henson Creek.
This type of complex remedial action  started with envisioning what the future uses for the Ute Ulay Mine and Town site could be, when Grant Pound and DIRT's Executive Director, Kristie Borchers began discussing how art and mining could possibly mesh about 5 years ago. In 2011 Colorado Art Ranch created a transdisciplinary collaboration that included 7 artists and 7 scientists that were selected for the Lake City Artposium & Artist Residency. This group of artists and scientists not only inspired the community of Lake City but gave them a sense of ownership for the future of the Ute Ulay mine. Since the Hardrock Revision, it seems the mine that made Lake City is on the road to recovery, and things are really moving along in a holistic manner.

My Monitoring Visit 6.26.13

Today I walked a property for the CB Land Trust and it was an absolutely amazing piece of land. A little over 200 acres, the monitoring visit took four hours, they usually take two. A lot of these preserved properties don’t have trails so it’s a lot of bush whacking. The under-story of this aspen forest was stunning made up of ferns, lupines, yarrow, sneeze-weed. grasses, and fallen trees. As we climbed higher in elevation the flora changed to sagebrush, Crimson paintbrush, lupine, sunflower, and other alpine flowers. We saw a herd of deer that looked like they frequented an open meadow, and why wouldn't they, people aren't supposed to hike this area. This habitat is rich, the scenery is stunning, and it wouldn't be there without the Land Trust. These nonprofits I can really get behind, support your local land trust.


This weekend I spent 16 hours working two events for ORE. The first was the River Festival and the second was Alpenglow. I found that people really love free stuff and that usually they don’t really care what it is and who it represents. This is a problem because it’s called collateral for a reason. Your organization buys stuff, put its name on it, in hope for free marketing and inquiries. Now, I’m not sure if the 10 odd high school kids are going to go home and google Energy Smart or not, but hey its better than nothing I guess. It’s also frustrating because collateral isn’t usually a one time use or something that is thrown away, this frustrates me because I wanted to steal American Spirits idea where they have wildflower seeds on a compostable piece of cardboard that you put in the ground and plant. Genius idea I loved it. Perfect for a nonprofit environmental group, however, it was shut down because of the fear of spending money on something that people won’t remember or constantly be reminded of the person/group who gave it to them. Bummer, but there are always more genius ideas to steal to get your name out there.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Greenhouse Aquaponics

Many people have seen what happens above ground in an aquaponics unit, but a few get a glimpse of what is happening in the fish tank. Until now here is some footage of the 60 or so  fresh water tilapia that we have in our tank. They are still pretty small but they are bigger since the last time Kyle Brookens and I cleaned the tank. Over the next year or two they will get bigger and be ready to eat. Currently these fish are helping grow tomatoes, cucumbers and some tiny strawberries (see pictures below). The tomatoes and cucumbers are kicking butt and looking great. The strawberries are growing but slowly I am pretty sure it is from the lack of light from the upper table. Currently looking into restructuring these beds to allow for light without the use of a external light source. Overall it is amazing that these little fish are able to help fertilize and grow such amazing looking plants. 

Picture of cucumbers 

 This bed has some strawberries. The two small plants in the front 

These are our gorgeous tomatoes they are about to touch the ceiling

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Steps to Acquiring Land for a Land Trust Property

Steps to Acquiring Land for a Land Trust Property

Land Trusts of every type usually do two things, they buy land and preserve it (this is called an Acquisition) and they monitor a conservation easement. Whether or not it’s one of these two things both must go through a series of documents to establish a property in the Land Trusts name. First, someone from the Land Trust does a site inspection and site inspection form. This information derived from the property is then present to the board members for approval. Once the board has approved, they then analyze if the property in question will benefit the public and fits the Land Trusts mission. This analysis is written in a project selection criteria document.  Once they've decided that the property is suitable for them they appraise it. If any mineral sightings or environmental issues of large caliber are found this is where an Environmental Impact Statement might have to be written. If there are no major environmental impacts to this land purchase then a Baseline Documentation Report can be written.
A Baseline Documentation Report includes the ins and outs of the property. Things like location, summary of the property’s conservation values, the physical characteristics of the property (geology, soil, hydrology, vegetation), current and historic land management practices, habitats that the land provides, agriculture resource, public benefit, and maps of all types. When this is completed, the Land Trust purchases the land or monitors the conservation easement from this point on.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WSCU Greenhouse

Hi everyone my name is Kyle Hill and I am an Intern with mountain roots who is taking care of the Western State Colorado University campus greenhouse. WSCU has been working incredibly hard in establishing an agricultural system here on campus. With the help of the university and the surrounding communities, many volunteers and interns are putting in a lot of hard work into to make these gardens to make them a success. 

It has been over a month since school has ended and the gardens are thriving in the summer sun. The first month after school had ended the greenhouse we had an explosion of lettuce. We had planted the lettuce for the ENVS Spring Symposium or the Gunnison Farm to Table Conference for the night of April 8th. After harvesting enough for the conference dinner there was enough for the Arbor Day Celebration on April 26th and the lettuce continued to grow. We finally harvested and cleared the main beds around May 20th, in the final harvest we pulled in around twenty pounds of lettuce. We delivered the lettuce to different people that are working this summer in Taylor and in the university center on campus.

The Greenhouse has had a lot more than lettuce we have habanero peppers, cayenne peppers, tiny red-hot Thai peppers, and tomatoes. The aquaponics unit has made tomatoes explode, the plants have almost touched the ceiling, and we finally have cucumbers growing on the aquaponics beds as well. I will soon post some pictures of what is growing in the greenhouse currently. 

Overall, I just wanted to introduce myself to the community and let everyone know that the Greenhouse is still up and running. I will be posting again here very soon with some pictures of the greenhouse currently.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Today is our last day at the farm. We woke up and helped with the animals. We helped with the chickens today. We feed and cleaned the chickens. They have peeps, pullets and adult hens.  The chickens are all free range and run around the farm as they with.  Seeing the chickens on the farm had me relating how i raise my chickens and the differences and similarities that we have.  After morning chores we decided to do another culture activity since we were parting ways. We gathered dried mud from the river to make mud masks.  We proceeded to grate the mud and mix it with a bit of warm water, once we got the mixture to a thick mud we spread it on our faces. We left the mud masks on for 30 minutes and removed it. Next we applied fresh cut aloe on our faces and our skin felt AMAZING! this was a great way to end our adventure at the farm.

Today we looked at plant families. We had class for a good part of the morning talking about what plants belong to what families and why.  I enjoyed this part of the class, it is good to know what plants are similar and should not be planted in large amounts.  We also talked about plant nutrition. Macro and micro nutrition. These are the nutrients which are found in plants.  We went over plant deficiency and what problems to look for and how we would go about fixing them. We can add more of one nutrient  to solve the problem. we also talked about the pH scale and where we need the soil to be for specific plants. Some plants prefer alkaline and some like tomatoes like acidic soil.  We learned what materials give the soil more acid and what gives more alkaline. sulfur and gypsum gives acidity to the soil and ash and lime gives alkaline.

We woke up to rain today. For almost all of our visit to Ecuador the weather has been great. In the morning we had class and we talked about crop association. We walked through the garden and saw all of the associated plants. There is a viney plant for ground cover, this helps keep moisture in and weeds out. at the farm they used peanut plants as ground coverage and  okra was planted in-between. Later in the afternoon we decided to do a cultural activity due to all of the rain. We would be making Tagua pendants. Tagua is a also referred to as vegetable ivory. The material is a palm nut. it is quite hard and has an ivory look to it. The nuts are harvested from the cattle yard after they have been passes through the cows system.  The nuts can be sliced into thick slabs which vary from 2 to 4 inches. We sanded the outer shell off to reveal the white inner part. once sanded until smooth we drilled a hole for attachment and finally polished them. I enjoyed this activity, it was nice to see how a raw material can be changed into something that many of the locals sell to tourists.  I was also surprised to learn that the plan that produces tagua also produces the thatching for all of the roofs, and in WWI they made buttons out of tagua.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Funding Woe's

June 7th I attended a contractors meeting hosted by ORE. Reminder-- ORE (Office for Resource Efficiency) is a nonprofit, so funding can get complicated. ORE has had a about a year of funding from Energy Smart. Energy Smart launched their green initiative only a little while ago and they did this in a number of ways. One way was to fund nonprofits like ORE to encourage contractors to not only do home energy audits, but obviously, to promote energy smart appliances. This is a pretty great idea if I must say. The downside of this is that funding stops. ORE’s funding will end in August. Energy Smart is one of two main programs they support the other is Local Farms First. So what does that mean for ORE?  
ORE’s original mission was to build a community of sustainable building professionals, so support for green building workshops and referrals to homeowners for energy audits will prevail. Is there something to worry about without the Energy Smart logo?  I say yes. If you live in Gunnison County it’s very likely that you know someone with this green white Energy Smart hat. The logo and ORE’s representation with that logo is synonymous. That’s good marketing. You see one logo and remember two companies. ORE managers do not seem worried, but they know more of what’s going on than I. ORE is not the bosses of the contractors or vice versa. They are a network. They help each other. For example, right now, if you wanted a energy audit for your home through ORE-- ORE because of Energy Smarts grant pays $200 of that audit and the homeowner pays $100. Not bad. When Energy Smart money is gone, most likely that deal will be too. Let’s say you as a homeowner who has now finished the audit wants to make some home improvements based off of that findings within that audit ORE or your auditor connects you to a contractor who can do it. It’s really a good system because I believe that the people on this network are not trying to screw you. They have no incentive and if they do, and a complaint is filed with ORE the contractors out of the loop, thus the contractor looses money. So the future is unclear and that’s the way the cookie crumbles for nonprofits, but the trust is there for the “customer”, and that’s the business I intend on being in on; win for the environment, win for the customer, win for the intern.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Love the Lower Loop (and the rest of CB trails)

This week with the Land Trust I took a four hour bike ride with the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Assoc, Adaptive Sports, BLM, and Land Trust. We started at the Woods Walk trail on Kebbler Pass. From there we biked the Upper Upper Loop, the Lower Loop, the Bud Trail, and the KD trail. We scouted places for trail maintenance for the upcoming volunteer day Love the Lower Loop this Saturday June 8th. I was exhausted. I'm not a great mountain biker and I don't have a great mountain bike, but I survived. The scenery was beautiful. I couldn't believe that I had lived here for two years and I hadn't been on these trails... oh ya, I'm not a great mountain biker.
 Our priorities were to make it safe for beginners on beginners trails we call these "greens". Some of the greens were "double blacks" in areas- not exactly a good thing for tourists. Another priority was to make the trails wider for more trail for adaptive sports people. And lastly, prevent erosion and allow for drainage. This was a very helpful field day for me, and I am looking forward to Saturday's back-breaking work. 
I encourage everyone to join. Like my uncle says, "if you ride trails you better help fix one."  

My name is Michele Parenti and I am an intern for the Crested Butte Land Trust. The Crested Butte Land Trust is a nonprofit accredited land trust. Their mission is to preserve Crested Butte Lands that fit one of four of their goals. The CB Land Trust believes that lands should be preserved for scenery, education and recreation, ecosystem benefits, and agricultural use. They do this in two ways, they either purchase the land and they call this an acquisition, or they encourage landowners to enroll in a conservation easement. The lands that are purchased are ideally the best route for the land trust because they can manage and maintain it. A conservation easement requires the landowner to have minimal to no further building on the property and the landowner is to maintain that land is a beneficial way. The landowner gets tax credits for having an easement and has to follow federal laws regarding the easement. The land must be monitored every year to maintain the easement- this is what I will do as an intern. I will visit both acquisition lands and conservation easements, write a report, take pictures, and report my findings to my superiors. The things I look for are in the previous years report, noxious weeds, habitat health, and overall land condition.

Week 1
My name is Michele Parenti and I am an intern for The Office for Resource Efficiency out of Gunnison, CO. The Office for Resource Efficiency (ORE) is a nonprofit organization whose main object is to empower Gunnison County to be more sustainable. ORE does this through energy programs, outreach and education, and Local Farms First an online farmers market. ORE has helped 10% of Gunnison County households, over 70 local businesses and over 30 local contractors to reduce energy usage through Energy Smart programs. Energy smart focuses on renewable energies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Local Farms First serves over 50 local farmers with one contingency- the food must be fresh and chemical free. Local foods is one of Gunnison Valleys greatest challenges; Gunnison has an average of a 52 day growing season which makes it so challenging to produce food for an entire community especially year round. Local Farms First connects farmers from other mountain towns that have longer growing seasons, places such as Grand Junction, Salida, and Paonia.
My position as an intern is to help the communications director with public outreach. Thus far I have signed ORE up to 12 local events this summer to set up a booth to spread the word about ORE and increase their member size. Non-profits rely heavily on grants, gifts, and members. There are twelve board members for ORE, 4 managers, and a number of energy advisors who assist the homeowner with information, rebates, and financing programs. I think that OREs two main projects are essential for building a sustainable local culture. If I were to add anything to this organization it would to inform the public more about water conservation in the Gunnison Valley and maybe make a Water Smart program included in the house assessment with energy.