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garywockner.com

Colorado Water Plan Has Become 'Colorado Dam Plan'

You'd have thought the earth moved exactly two years ago with all the ballyhoo at the State Capitol when Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled the final Colorado Water Plan. I stood in the west foyer of the Capitol as every TV camera in the city pointed at Hickenlooper and his then-Colorado Water Conservation Board director, James Eklund. Bold promises were made that the plan was going to save our rivers, farms, cities, and the whole state from the coming catastrophe of population growth.

I was deeply involved in the Colorado Water Plan process, and at the time I issued a big word of caution in the form of a newspaper column that was printed in seven outlets across the state.

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Corn farms in Elgin Nebraska, on the eastern edge of the Ogallala aquifer. Spirit of America / Flickr

Why These 8 States Could Soon Form the 'Great American Desert'

One of the world's largest underground bodies of fresh water—the Ogallala aquifer—is quickly shrinking, threatening the livelihoods of farmers in eight U.S. states.

Farmers in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and South Dakota are overexploiting the aquifer beneath an American breadbasket, threatening an estimated $35 billion in annual crops. Agricultural wells are pulling out water faster than rainfall can recharge it—federal data shows the aquifer shrank twice as fast in the past six years as compared to the previous 60.

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Where Have All the Salmon Gone?

By Heather Smith

To get to the largest surviving population of wild Spring Chinook salmon on the Klamath River, I drive farther north than I've ever been in California, then turn right. Gradually, the highways disappear, and the roads narrow. Commerce becomes more improvisational. Grocery stores and restaurants disappear and in their place there is a farm stand staffed by Gandalf in overalls and a naked baby cooing to itself and scooting along on a tricycle.

The roads become more improvisational too, and begin to curve and twist until they nearly double back on themselves, until my rental car is trundling along a single lane of dirt and gravel carved into the edge of a cliff. It becomes clear to me that if I meet another car going in the opposite direction that one of us is going to die, probably me. But when I do round a corner and see another car it does a set of maneuvers that seem to bend space-time, and somehow we pass by each other smoothly, and continue on our way.

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A logger climbs down a mountainside while working on Admiralty Island in the Tongass National Forest. Michael Penn

National Forests, Endangered Species Under Attack as House Republicans Pass Reckless Logging Bill

In a partisan vote, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would devastate national forests by gutting endangered species protections and rubber-stamping huge logging projects. The final vote was 232 to 188.

HR 2936, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), also limits public comment and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Under the guise of reducing forest fires, the bill would increase unfettered logging across national forests and public lands, increase fire risk and harm forest health, while doing nothing to protect communities.

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Food
Less oxygen dissolved in the water is often referred to as a "dead zone" (in red above) because most marine life either dies, or, if they are mobile such as fish, leave the area. Habitats that would normally be teeming with life become, essentially, biological deserts. NOAA

Tyson Foods Linked to Largest Toxic Dead Zone in U.S. History

By Shana Gallagher

What comes to mind when you think of Tyson Foods? A chicken nugget? A big red logo?

How about the largest toxic dead zone in U.S. history? It turns out the meat industry—and corporate giants like Tyson Foods—are directly linked to this environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, and many others.

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Kem Soth casts his net in the Mekong River. Savann Oeurm / Oxfam

Planned Mega-Dam Threatens Fish Populations and Food Security in Cambodia

By Sabrina Gyorvary

Auntie Punleu has spent most of her life on Koh Dambang, an island set in the middle of the Mekong River in Cambodia. A small, grandmotherly woman, she paints an idyllic picture of life there.

"We catch fish as our main food every day. We eat fish nearly six days a week," she said. With her gentle strength and keen knowledge of community affairs, people on the island look to her as a natural leader. "My children and grandchildren have enough food to eat every day and they are healthy. We do not need to spend money to buy fish. We do not need to beg people for them. They come naturally from the river."

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Climate
A simulated view of the Mountain Valley Pipeline from Giles High School in Pearisburg, Virginia. Hill Studio for Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition

Major East Coast Pipelines Approved by FERC Despite Strong Opposition

Federal regulators approved plans for two controversial new natural gas pipelines along the East Coast Friday.

In a divided 2-1 vote, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the green light to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects, which would carry shale gas through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, the only dissenting vote, expressed concerns in her written dissent on the redundancy of the collective 900 miles of pipeline, the potential environmental impacts and the relatively small accounted demand for the Mountain Valley project.

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The Little Missouri River at the Little Missouri National Grasslands, North Dakota. Zero_MSN / Flickr

For Native Americans, a River Is Sacred

By Rosalyn R. LaPier

The environmental group Deep Green Resistance recently filed a first-of-its-kind legal suit against the state of Colorado asking for personhood rights for the Colorado River.

If successful, it would mean lawsuits can brought on behalf of the river for any harm done to it, as if it were a person.

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Animals
Starfish at low tide on Sanibel Island. Frank Kovalchek / Wikimedia Commons

Scientist Warns of Mass Marine Extinction

By Tim Radford

Mass marine extinction may be inevitable. If humans go on burning fossil fuels under the notorious "business as usual" scenario, then by 2100 they will have added so much carbon to the world's oceans that a sixth mass extinction of marine species will follow, inexorably.

And even if the 197 nations that agreed in Paris in 2015 to take steps to limit global warming in fact do so, then by 2100 humans will have added 300 billion tons of carbon to the seas. And a U.S. scientist has calculated that the critical threshold for mass extinction stands at 310 billion tons.

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