2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • El Paso County downgraded to “moderate” drought

    Thu, August 29, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    El Paso County has been downgraded to “moderate” drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday. Of course, a drought is still a drought, regardless of how severe.

    And although the July and August monsoon season relieved much of the severe drought throughout Colorado, on Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded disaster designations for seven more Colorado counties where drought has seriously impacted farmers. A primary disaster declaration was awarded to Eagle County, which makes nearby counties eligible for federal aid. Farmers in Lake,  and Summitt counties are now eligible for for assistance from the Farm Service Agency.

    Farmers have eight months from the date of declaration to apply for an assistance loan. Local FSA offices can provide more information.

    The counties join several others which have already been declared primary or contiguous drought disaster zones.

    Primary counties: Alamosa, Conejos, Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Jackson, Jefferson, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose, Rio Blanco, Rio Grande, Eagle, Routt and Saguache.

    Contiguous counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Archuleta, Boulder, Broomfield, Chaffee, Clear Creek, Costilla, Custer, Denver, Douglas, Fremont, Gilpin, Grand, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Larimer, Mineral, Ouray, Park, Pitkin, San Miguel and Teller.

    Click here to take a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor.



    Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for assistance. Local FSA offices can provide farmers and ranchers with additional information.



    Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Eagle County as a primary natural disaster area due to recent drought conditions. The designation also triggered contiguous disaster designations for Garfield, Grand, Lake, Pitkin, Routt, and Summit counties. USDA disaster designations make farmers and ranchers eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency.


    “Colorado’s farmers and ranchers continue to face one of the worst droughts in decades,” Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said. “These disaster designations will provide critical assistance to producers to help offset their losses and continue to weather the dry conditions. It also serves as a stark reminder that Congress cannot wait any longer to pass a long-term Farm Bill that continue to make this type of aid available to producers and allow farmers and ranchers to plan for the future.”


    Producers in counties designated as primary or contiguous disaster areas are eligible to be considered for FSA emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for assistance. Local FSA offices can provide farmers and ranchers with additional information.


  • Government report says USFS has some homework to do

    Wed, August 21, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    A Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday found that the U.S. Forest Service has failed to justify its need for more firefighting aircraft, because it hasn’t researched the efficiency of its planes and what they do.

    For more on the report, read this article I wrote in today’s paper.

    Click here to read the actual GAO report.

  • Black Forest lessons learned meeting on Thursday

    Wed, August 21, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    El Paso County will be a hosting a public lessons learned meeting on Thursday evening to discuss the Black Forest fire and its aftermath.

    The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. at The Tent, New Life Church, 11035 Voyager Parkway.

    The meeting will be for community feedback on the fire and the comments will eventually be compiled into the county’s “Lessons Learned after-action report on the Black Forest fire.”




  • Mountain Shadows Community Association to build contact database

    Wed, August 21, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    As Colorado Springs Together, the fire recovery non-profit founded after the Waldo Canyon fire, winds down this fall, Mountain Shadows residents are being asked to give their contact information to a different community group.

    The Mountain Shadows Community Association will be taking charge of many of the community efforts that used to fall under the purview of CST. One of those is sending out informational eBlasts to residents, and the association is asking residents to register on their website to receive emails. CST will be sending eBlasts until December, when its website will freeze and the group will officially shut down.

    Sign up for the eBlasts by visiting this site.

  • Reuters video of the Waldo Canyon fire

    Wed, August 21, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Reuters photographer Rick Wilking put together a retrospective of the Waldo Canyon fire using radio calls, his own photography, and interviews with residents.

    It addresses some of the concerns that emerged from the fire’s start–the search for the fire on June 23, and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher who failed to pass on some potentially vital information–and talks to residents about the night their homes burned.

    Watch the video and read his blog post.

    Wilking explains his project in the post, and he has an interesting (and different) perspective as a national reporter who lives in the area. He brings up an interesting point–big disasters like the Waldo Canyon fire attract media attention from all over the globe. As the fire became more serious, I remember seeing more and more photographers and reporters thronging the media briefings. The drama lasts for a few more days, or weeks, then dies away–and the reporters dissipate as well.

    I have often wondered, do residents feel preyed upon by the media during a disaster? Yes, I think some do. The question is: Do people find it valuable when we stick around to tell their stories?




  • That smoke in the air!

    Fri, August 16, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    We thought fire season was done (mostly) but really it has just moved north. The season typically starts in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, and by mid-season or late summer has moved up into the Pacific northwest or Montana.

    Now, fires from those areas are hazing the Colorado horizon. Take a look at the latest smoke map to see where the smoke is drifting from:

    Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 9.21.43 PM


    The purple splotches indicate where the smoke is the heaviest.

    To check daily smoke updates, visit this link. 

  • Volunteer flood clean-up day in Black Forest

    Fri, August 9, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Outdoor Colorado is hosting a volunteer clean-up even in Black Forest Regional Park on Saturday, Aug. 10. More than 100 volunteers are already planning to help with a repair and restoration project to stabilize a drainage basin in the park. The project is designed to minimize erosion and the flow of debris from the burn scar into other areas of the park.

    Sleep Giant Industries has donated 50 pallets of mulch to the project, and will be working with volunteers on Saturday as well. The project will cover three acres. The park is at 4800 Shoup Road, and has 427 acres including grassy area, tennis courts, a playground and picnic grounds. All of the parks facilities survived the Black Forest fire but now face flash flood danger.

    There will also be a Saturday seminar on rebuilding and repairing damaged homes with a focus on energy and water efficiency. The Saturday seminar, hosted by Colorado Renewable Energy Society, will be the first of two–the second is on Oct. 5.

    Saturday’s seminar will be at Edith Woldford Elementary School, 13710 Black Forest Road, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The seminar is an expanded version of talks given to Mountain Shadows homeowners last summer; it will address the basics of home energy and water efficiency and energy efficient heating and cooling, among others.  The talks will include specific information about efficient energy initiatives from Black Hills Energy and Mountain View Electric Association.

    For more information contact Jim Riggins, 719-313-6171. Information can also be found at secres.org/events/blackforest.html