Oil & Gas Industry: $11.79M Spent on Statewide Offices in 2014 Campaign -- and That's Not All

Colorado Ethics Watch
The industry upped its stake in Colorado elections to a slick $11.8 million in 2014.
The oil and gas industry raised a massive war chest last year in anticipation of a showdown over anti-fracking ballot initiatives that failed to materialize -- and then spent freely on advertising, contributions to PACs and candidate committees, as well as general promotion of the industry's issues and causes across a wide spectrum of Colorado state races, according to a new report by Colorado Ethics Watch.

How significant is the industry's investment in fracking in Colorado? CEW's analysis pegs the overall oil-and-gas spending on statewide offices in 2014 at $11.79 million, compared to around $400,000 in each of the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. The figures don't include United States Senate or congressional elections.

See also: How Colorado became ground zero in America's energy wars

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The Year in Fracking: Quakes, Spills and Backroom Deals

The battle over fracking in Colorado continued to attract national media attention in 2014, and with good reason. The use of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas, and the attendant debate over economic benefits versus possible health and environmental risks, has been playing out here with more twists and turns than the bedsheets of an insomniac with night sweats. Here's a brief recap of some of the more earth-shaking moments in one of the most divisive political struggles of the past year.

See also: How Colorado Became Ground Zero in America's Energy Wars

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Colorado's Worst Poaching Case and the Decline of Hunting

Nicholaus Rogers (l), Christopher Loncarich and his daughters Andie and Caitlin, with unidentified hunter and mountain lion.
A few weeks ago a 56-year-old hunting guide on the Western Slope was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for violations of the Lacey Act. Christopher Loncarich's crime consisted of going to absurd lengths to insure that the slaughter of mountain lions and bobcats in Utah and Colorado would be a profitable and painless procedure -- profitable for the guide and painless for the so-called hunters, that is, not the cats.

The details of Loncarich's operation are disgusting. One Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer called it one of the worst poaching cases he's seen in forty years on the job. Yet the case has received little media attention -- even though it says something truly disturbing about the perverse, debased direction trophy hunting across the West seems to be headed in the twenty-first century.

See also: Photos of the Day: Massive Ivory Crush Intended to Raise Awareness of Elephant Poaching

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Mark Udall's Last Senate Campaign: Save Browns Canyon

Jeffry Mitton
Browns Canyon is one of Colorado's most popular whitewater destinations.
He lost a tough, key race to rising Republican media darling Cory Gardner, but Mark Udall still has some unfinished business before giving up his U.S. Senate seat in a few weeks. And at the top of the list is Udall's push for passage of S. 1794, his bill to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument -- or finagle some executive action in its stead.

A rugged mix of granite cliffs, forests and meadows flanking the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Salida, Browns Canyon is rich in wildlife, including bighorn sheep, black bears and mountain lions -- and a place of solace, recreation and opportunity for hikers, anglers, outfitters, hunters and local tourism. Udall's bill would preserve historic uses while protecting the area from new roads and the incursion of mining interests.

See also: Video: Save Browns Canyon Campaign Launches With Civic Center Light Show

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Roan Plateau Compromise Hailed as "The Colorado Way"

Six years after the drill-baby-drill crusaders of the Bush administration targeted one of Colorado's most ecologically unique places for widespread energy leases, a surprisingly reasonable compromise has been hammered out over the fate of the Roan Plateau. The deal is being praised by state and federal officials as well as environmental and sportsmen groups -- and at least tolerated by oil-and-gas interests as a viable alternative to what had become a protracted and seemingly hopeless legal deadlock.

The lesson here? Fiats from Washington that fail to take into account community concerns about long-term economic and environmental impacts are bound to breed lawsuits and impasse. It takes some local buy-in to get to what Governor John Hickenlooper describes as "a productive path forward.... It really is the Colorado way."

See also: Roan Plateau Rethinking: Drilling Delay Prompts Pouting, Applause

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Pinon Canyon: Army Slates Public Comment on Ramp-Up at Not-So-Public Time and Place

The PiƱon Canyon region contains one of the richest deposits of prehistoric sites in the West. Coming soon: Explosions.
After years of battling the Pentagon's plans to expand the 367-square-mile Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, ranchers and other residents of southeastern Colorado thought they'd finally achieved peace with honor last fall, when a top Army official formally announced that the military was abandoning any land acquisition plans for PCMS. But the latest proposal for increased use of the site in training Fort Carson troops -- an intense ramp-up of operations, heavy on the use of electronic warfare technologies, lasers, explosives, drones, restrictions on public air space, and more -- doesn't strike the expansion opponents as too neighborly.

See also: Leaked Documents Show Army's Bold Plan to Acquire 10,000 Square Miles of Colorado

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Video: Save Browns Canyon Campaign Launches With Civic Center Light Show

A gun-and-reel crowd turned out for a light show on the facade of the McNichols Building.
Between Buena Vista and Salida, the Arkansas River sweeps through Browns Canyon, an area of granite cliffs and rugged backcountry that's popular with elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and black bears -- not to mention hunters, anglers, rafters, hikers and campers. But this quintessential slice of Colorado wilderness is also attracting increasing interest from mining companies, and that's prompted a sportsmen's group to embark on an unusual campaign, featuring billboards and a recent flashy light show downtown, to get Browns Canyon designated as a national monument.

See also: Water Wars: Deal Reached on Upper Colorado Diversion Project

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Seidel's Suckhole Death Not Fault of Rafting Company, Judge Rules

Categories: Environment, News

A screen capture of a video showing rafters navigating Seidel's Suck Hole. Additional clips and more below.
No one denies that the vividly named Seidel's Suckhole offers challenges aplenty to rafters navigating the Arkansas River, as witnessed by the tragic death of Sue Ann Apolinar, who'd booked a journey with a company called Arkansas Valley Adventures.

Jesus Espinoza, Jr., Apolinar's son, subsequently sued AVA, maintaining that the firm had failed to properly divulge the risks at Seidel's. But a U.S. District Court judge has now rejected that claim. Videos, the ruling and more below.

See also: Photos: Woman's Drowning Death in Poudre River Third Since Memorial Day, published June 5

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Casey Nocket's Latest Alleged Graffiti Target: Colorado National Monument

Categories: Environment, News

Recent Facebook photos of Casey Nocket. More images below.
Our Adam Roy recently told you about Casey Nocket, who he described as "a graffiti artist...suspected of leaving her mark on one of the state's most-visited slices of wilderness, Rocky Mountain National Park."

Now, Nocket is thought to have done likewise on another beautiful part of our state: Colorado National Monument.

See also: Photos: Casey Nocket, Accused Vandal, May Have Tagged Rocky Mountain National Park

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Photos: Casey Nocket, Accused Vandal, May Have Tagged Rocky Mountain National Park

Categories: Crime, Environment

Courtesy of Modern Hiker
Creepytings' graffiti at Crater Lake National Park.
Update: Rocky Mountain National Park may not have been the only site in Colorado tagged by accused vandal Casey Nocket. The National Park Service announced in a memo on October 29 that it was investigating Nocket for allegedly defacing Colorado National Monument, as well as RMNP and seven other national parks across the western United States. According to the agency, the graffiti in Rocky Mountain was reported and cleaned up in September.

Original post: New Yorker Casey Nocket allegedly defaced rock formations in as many as ten national parks around the U.S., painting faces and other designs using permanent acrylics and broadcasting the results on social media. Here in Colorado, the graffiti artist is suspected of leaving her mark on one of the state's most-visited slices of wilderness, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Now, thanks to some crowdsourced detective work from the National Park Service and Reddit, her days of using America's public lands as her canvas may be coming to an end.

See also: Rocky Mountain National Park Lightning Kills Gregory Cardwell, Becky Telheit in Two Days

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