Navigating Drought, Uncertainty in Kit Carson County

A recent trip to Kit Carson County explored how agricultural communities prepare for and respond to drought, and highlighted collaborative work done by leaders in public health, nonprofit work, education, and the faith community to support residents and promote opportunity in a rural setting.

Community leaders emphasized that drought exacerbates challenges already facing rural communities, and that drought resilience is deeply intertwined with the work it will take to keep their towns thriving and competitive. Drought conditions have dominated the region’s past seven years, and many small-scale farmers have struggled to remain financially solvent. Drought-related stress has increased rates of anxiety and depression, and created an overall “down” atmosphere. Small businesses have had to deal with reduced foot traffic, as farming families look to reduce expenses.

Yet, bettering access to mental health services, providing opportunity for local business growth, and preserving the viability of small-scale farming are priorities for the county even in wetter years. For example, Communities that Care, a program run in conjunction with the Department of Public Health, is working to better access to early childhood care in the county—a key resource allowing families to seek dual sources of income. Concurrent enrollment through Morgan Community College allowed two Flagler students and five Burlington students to graduate high school this year with associate’s degrees. The Department of Public Health has integrated mental health check-ins into routine visits, in an effort to destigmatize mental illness and encourage community members to seek support when they need it. The Prairie Family Center, a local nonprofit, fosters community “togetherness”, offering financial assistance for families in short-term emergencies as well as classes on cooking, nutrition, and parenting. This year, they partnered with the Arriba-Flagler school district to bring a class called “all about being a teen” to fifth graders, providing important resources for navigating challenging teenage years.

Dawn James, director of the county’s Department of Public Health and Environment, put it this way: “drought is absolutely devastating to an agricultural community. In so many ways, not just financially, but it’s social, emotional, physical — the whole nine yards. And so, our role in public health is to have prevention services in place to be able to address all of those medical, physical manifestations that come from the effect of long-term drought.”

Leaders reiterated that the community derives strength from the engagement and involvement of local residents. Deena Ziegler, Executive Director of the Prairie Family Center, recalls: “It’s been thirty-something years since I graduated. One of our county commissioners graduated in my class. He left, and came back to raise his children here. The superintendent of Burlington schools graduated in my class, and came back to raise his children here. My husband and I left for twelve years, and we came back to raise our children here… Parents and grandparents know the beauty of it. So we’re giving back and volunteering.”

Polis: Poll Confirms Support for Conservation Agenda


By Eric Galatas

February 4, 2019

DENVER – Voters in Colorado and other western states continue to support conservation policies for publicly owned lands, putting them at odds with the Trump administration’s energy dominance agenda, according to the ninth annual Conservation in the West Poll from Colorado College.

Gov. Jared Polis says the poll’s results show a clear mandate to keep public lands accessible for outdoor recreation, which he sees as a vital part of the Colorado way of life.

“That’s really one of the reasons that people choose to live here, why people move here, why people visit our state,” Polis says. “Over 500,000 people work in outdoor recreation and tourism that puts food on the table for their families.”  Read more

Fisher’s Peak in Trinidad will open to the public, thanks to land purchase


By Faith Miller

March 5, 2019

Just east of Interstate 25, a few miles north of the New Mexico border, 9,600-foot-tall Fisher’s Peak is a hidden gem in plain sight.

The Trinidad landmark has long been closed to the public. But thanks to a land purchase completed Feb. 28, the peak and the ranch it sits on will open for as-yet-undefined public use within a few years.

The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, two nonprofit organizations focused on conservation and land access, bought Crazy French Ranch and will spend the next two years or so working with the city of Trinidad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Trinidad State Junior College to develop a management plan for the peak-containing property. That could include opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and education, says Matthew Moorhead, director of business development and strategic partnerships for The Nature Conservancy.  Read more.

Outdoors a bright spot for New Mexico


By Lori Weigel and Dave Metz

March 4, 2019

There is good news for New Mexicans who may be feeling like the last kid picked for the team during this economic turnaround.

In the recent Conservation in the West Poll of voters in eight Mountain West states, New Mexico voters expressed economic angst far higher than their neighbors in the region around issues like low wages, unemployment and slow growth.

Amid the economic uncertainty, there is a bright spot. An overwhelming majority in New Mexico — 84 percent — believe the outdoor economy is important to the economic future of their state. In fact, a majority say that this segment of the economy — which was defined as not only people coming to hunt, fish, camp and recreate in the state, but also those who manufacture and sell equipment for those activities — is “very important.”

Read more.

Climate change in Nevada can be stopped with our help



By C. Moon Reed

March 1, 2019


Polar bears are invading Russian villages because melting arctic ice pushes them toward civilization.

That’s just the latest story in a string of disasters, ominous warnings and strange happenings brought on by global climate change.

While we may be distant from polar vortexes and sea-level rise, Southern Nevada faces its own existential challenges because of climate change. The American Southwest is at risk of rising temperatures, drought, flooding and declining ecosystem integrity, according to the Trump administration’s fourth National Climate Assessment, which was released in November. The report predicts that these changes could strain water resources, hamper food and hydropower energy production, hurt human health and harm indigenous peoples.  Read more.

February, in brief

What you may have missed and need to know


By Andre F. Miller

February 28, 2019


  • According to the Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll, the number of Western voters who are concerned about climate change is on the rise. Across the West, the percent of voters who say climate change is a “very serious” or “extremely serious” problem has gone up from 61 to 69 percent in three years.  Read more


Letter: Bill an effort to celebrate state public lands


February 27, 2019

To the editor:

Public lands in Wyoming and the West are, by definition, for everybody. These lands have been managed for multiple use by the people of our state, country and world for more than 50 years.

A simple effort to create a day of recognition of the diverse recreational benefits of all public lands has met resistance at the Wyoming Legislative session again this year.

Other states use annual Public Lands Day events to get people outside to participate in service projects and give something back to the natural resources they utilize throughout the year.  Read more.

Most Arizonans Are Concerned About Climate Change According To Poll


By Lauren Gilger

February 19, 2019

Updated: February 20, 2019

More Arizonans today — nearly two-thirds in fact — are concerned about climate change and view it as a serious problem. That’s one of the main findings from the latest Conservation in the West Poll.

Every year for the last nine years, the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project has conducted this poll and, over that time, seen people in Western states shift their attitudes towards climate change, the environment and public lands.

But there has been one constant for them over that time — the importance of the natural environment.

The Show spoke about this with Dave Metz, a partner with FM3 Research, one of two firms that conducted the survey of 32,000 people in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.  Read more.

Letters to the editor


February 20, 2019

Celebrate public lands

Public lands in Wyoming and the West, are, by definition for everybody. These lands have been managed for multiple use by the people of our state, country and the world for more than 50 years.

A simple effort to create a day of recognition of the diverse recreational benefits of all public lands has met resistance at the Wyoming Legislative session again this year.

Other states use annual Public Lands Day events to get people outside to participate in service projects and give something back to the natural resources they utilize throughout the year.

A proposal to include multiple use in the title of the bill, and the official name of the annual day, ended up preventing the bill from advancing last year.  Read more

Western US Voters Say Climate More Important Than Energy

Voters in Western US States Are Really Concerned About Climate Change. But Does This Change What They Do? It’s Interesting.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Western voters care more about climate than ‘energy dominance’ on Feb 10, 2019.


The Western US has seen a lot  of climate-change-caused extreme events such as fire and drought. That might explain why this year, a new survey shows that voters there are more worried about climate change now than they were 2 years ago.

A majority of voters in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming rated climate change a serious problem – even in traditionally “red” states.

Normally, most people vote about the economy – wages and unemployment. Instead, respondents said they were more concerned about low river and stream levels, water quality, and insufficient water supplies.  Read more