Volcanoes and Volcanic Activity

Volcanoes in Colorado?

While we don't have volcanoes in Colorado today, volcanoes certainly played a role in the geological formation of the area.  Evidence of volcanoes can be found as close to Denver as Dinosaur Ridge.  In the Colorado Geological Survey's Dinosaurs in Our Backyard:  A Dynamic Visit to Dinosaur Ridge, Fossil Trace and Red Rocks - Interactive CD-Rom and Audio Tour, available for checkout from our library, the narrator describes the evidence of volcanoes at this prehistory-rich site just west of Denver:

During the deposition of the Dakota formation, volcanoes north and west of here were spewing ash into the Colorado sky.  A layer of white ash from one of these volcanic eruptions is visible at this site.  This ash contained radioactive uranium elements, which slowly changed to lead over time.  By comparing the ratio of radioactive uranium to lead today, scientists from the United States Geological Survey were able to determine the age of the ash and the surrounding rock layers to be 106 million years old.

The San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado also show evidence of volcanic activity.  This is described in a chapter of the University Press of Colorado book The Western San Juan Mountains:  Their Geology, Ecology, and Human History, also available for checkout from our library.  "The San Juan volcanic field is part of a much larger volcanic region that was active throughout the Southern Rocky Mountains from about 40 million to 18 million years ago.  The volcanic activity...produced lavas and pyroclastic debris that covered all of south-central Colorado and the north-central part of New Mexico," according to the book.

Colorado's neighboring states have even more significant associations with volcanic activity.  New Mexico is home to the large Valles Caldera, which you can read about in the Colorado Geological Survey's Field Trip Guide to the Quaternary Valles Caldera and Pliocene Cerros del Rio Volcanic FieldThe most likely place for a volcano to occur in the future near Colorado, however, is to the north of us, in Yellowstone National Park which is known for its geothermal activity. 


Time Machine Tuesday: Winter Wildlife

In 1989, the Colorado Division of Wildlife issued a publication entitled Tales of Winter as part of their "Colorado's Wildlife Company" series.  Taking a look at the survival of wildlife during the winter season, especially in regards to their relationship with humans, the publication starts with the question "is there a future for wildlife in Colorado?"  The publication references an 1987 report, Wildlife 21:  A Report to the Governor, the Legislature, and the People of Colorado on the Future of Wildlife into the 21st Century, which is available in print from our library.  Tales of Winter sums up the report in addition to discussing winter adaptations, feeding, identifying tracks in snow, and more.

Ermine, from Tales of Winter
More than a quarter century later, we can say that yes, Colorado wildlife continues to thrive.  Numerous publications from the Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) are available to tell the story of wildlife in Colorado.  Check our library's web catalog for more wildlife publications.


HOA Information and Resource Center

Many Coloradans live in properties controlled by homeowner associations (HOAs).  Properties can include single-family homes, townhouses, or condominiums.  Each HOA has its own rules and bylaws, but they all must comply with certain state and federal laws.  The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies has created a website, the HOA Information and Resource Center, to help consumers understand their rights when living in HOAs.  Resources on the website include links to HOA laws; publications and presentations; helpful links; board member information; registering an HOA with the state; and more.  The site also includes information about HOA forums that homeowners can attend; an HOA homeowner survey; and a place to file a complaint about an HOA.  If you are a member of a homeowner association, be sure to check this helpful website for information that may benefit you.


The Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion

The Colorado governor's mansion, officially named the Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion, is the "White House" of Colorado.  It is the official residence for Colorado governors as well as the site of many official state functions.  (Where it differs from the White House, however, is that the governor does not have his office there -- his office is in the State Capitol).

The 1907-08 mansion is a showplace filled with furnishings and artifacts relating to Colorado and to the Boettcher family, who offered the mansion to the State in 1959.  That year, the Legislature split on whether to accept the mansion, and the gift was initially rejected and would have been torn down if Governor Stephen L.R. McNichols hadn't stepped in at the last minute to accept the gift from the Boettcher Foundation.  The McNichols family moved into the mansion in 1961.

You can read about the history of the mansion (and see some wonderful photographs) in the book Queen of the Hill:  The Private Life of the Colorado Governor's Mansion, available for checkout from our library.  I also posted some basic history on the mansion in a 2007 posting; since then, the official website of the mansion has changed.  The new site contains a virtual tour of the home along with information on event scheduling and a link to the Governor's Residence Preservation Fund site, which contains more information about the mansion and how Coloradans can get involved.   


Time Machine Tuesday: The Electric Power Industry in Colorado

Back in 1938 the Colorado State Planning Commission and the Works Progress Administration undertook a study of the Development of the Electric Power Industry in Colorado 1916-1936, in order to "forecast the future" of the industry in Colorado, and because the use of hydropower was greatly expanding at this time, particularly as Colorado worked to recover from the effects of the Great Depression.  "There is no question that the state is going to enjoy in the near future, a program of irrigation development of tremendous magnitude.  Already one great project -- the Colorado-Big Thompson -- is under way.  Others will follow, some dealing with transmountain diversion and others with intrabasin development," the authors wrote. This detailed document provides statistical data, graphs and charts, and other information on the development of hydroelectricity in Colorado, and provides a framework for the industry's early development efforts. 


The Legislative Process

The General Assembly is back in session.  You can find information including calendars, bills, committees, audio and video broadcasts, and even how to sign up to testify, at the Legislature's official website.  The website also includes a number of resources on the legislative process in Colorado.  How a Bill Becomes Colorado Law is an illustrated chart of the process broken down by House and Senate, with arrows to make the graphics easy to understand.  Public Participation in the Legislative Process and Guide to Public Hearings are documents designed to help the general public who wish to get involved.  The Colorado Legislative Council, the General Assembly's non-partisan research agency, also has put together a helpful document on The Legislative Process.


Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Community Air Service Assessment

In 1984 the Colorado Department of Local Affairs' Division of Local Government convened a committee to discuss problems facing airports and the airline industry in Colorado.  They published the results of their study in a booklet entitled The Colorado Community Air Service AssessmentThis report studied air travel in various communities around the state, not just the state's then-major airport, Stapleton International.  After an introduction to the assessment, the booklet offers "A Historic Overview of the Air Transportation Industry and its Impact Upon the State of Colorado."  This history traces the development of air service in regions around the state.  Next, the booklet covers how Coloradans perceive air service in their state; the airline industry perceptions of conditions in Colorado; and what external forces might influence the airline industry in the coming years.  This analysis refers to the problem of congestion at Stapleton, which of course was replaced by the new Denver International Airport a decade after this publication was produced.  This document is a helpful resource for anyone researching the history of air travel in Colorado.


Save Money by Reducing Energy Use

The Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) has just released 10 tips on how you can save money by reducing energy use in your home, reprinted here:

No Cost:
1. Start by setting your thermostat to 68°.  Your heating system will operate less and use less energy. Turn your thermostat down 5° at night or when leaving your home for an hour or more to save up to $70 on energy costs each year.  For a small investment, consider purchasing a programmable thermostat to adjust your home's temperature settings automatically when you're sleeping or away.
2. Set your water heater to 120°. It’s simple.  Your water heater won’t have to work so hard if it’s set at a lower temperature. The temperature control settings on water heaters either indicate “low, medium, and high” or actual temperature settings. Simply consider turning down your water heater to a slightly cooler setting to reduce the amount of energy used to heat the water while still keeping the water warm enough for home use.  In fact, each time you lower the temperature by 10°F you’ll save 3 to 5% on your water heating costs. That’s a savings of $6 to $10 a year.  For a small investment, about $20, consider adding a water heater blanket to your water heater tank to insulate the tank and reduce the amount of energy used to maintain warm water in the water heater tank. Be sure to follow your manufacturer’s recommendations.
3. In the winter, make the most of Mother Nature’s sunlight by opening window coverings on south-facing windows to warm your home.  The solar heat gain from the sun during the day can conserve valuable energy.  Also, consider closing window coverings in rooms that receive no direct sunlight to insulate from cold window drafts. At night, close window coverings to retain heat. Up to 15% of your heat can escape through unprotected windows. 
4. If you have a clothes washing machine, use cold water.  According to ENERGY STAR, washing clothes in cold water will save you about $40 a year with an electric water heater and about $30 a year with a gas water heater3.   
Low Cost:
5. Replace your furnace or heat pump filter regularly. Dirty filters reduce airflow, making your equipment work harder and use more energy. Replace your furnace filter monthly (unless it is a high efficiency filter designed to last several months) during the heating season to reduce heating costs by up to 5% or about $35 a year. 
6. Install water-efficient showerheads and faucets. It really helps! 1.8 gallon per minute showerheads can reduce your hot water consumption by as much as 10%.  You’ll see savings up to $6 per year for a sink faucet aerator and $20 per year for a showerhead. 
7. Switch to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They may cost a little more, but you can save about $40 over the life of just one bulb. 
8. Weatherize your home and save up to 10% of your heating and cooling costs. A handy homeowner can seal up holes to the outside by weather-stripping doors and sealing windows and gaps along the home’s foundation. 
Go Big:
9. Insulate your home!  The easiest and most cost-effective way to insulate your home is to add insulation in the attic. Other effective places to add insulation include unfinished basement walls and crawlspaces. Insulating walls can be more complex, so check with a contractor for advice.  When insulation is correctly installed AND the home is totally weatherized, the average home can see annual savings of up to 20% of your heating and cooling costs.  
10. Purchase ENERGY STAR® appliances. A smart choice. ENERGY STAR is a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.  http://www.energystar.gov/  Appliances and electronics really contribute to your energy bill. When it is time to replace, remember items like refrigerators, washers, dryers, furnaces, TVs and computers have two price tags--purchase price and lifetime energy cost.  According to ENERGY STAR4, the average homeowner spends about $2,000 on energy bills every year. Change to appliances that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating, and you can save $75 a year in energy costs, while saving the environment.

For more tips from the OCC, see their consumer advisories webpage, which includes tips on various topics from when to take the holiday lights down to how to insure drones, and much more. 


SAT and ACT Tests

Recently the Colorado Department of Education announced that Colorado would be switching from the ACT to the SAT for 10th and 11th grade testing.  This is in response to HB15-1323 "concerning assessments in public schools."  The bill "codif[ies] the consensus recommendations of the Standards and Assessments Task Force," which you can find more information about here.  This information also includes a link to the Task Force's final report.  For Colorado ACT data and results click here.


Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Environmental Commission

Governor John Love and the Colorado General Assembly created the Colorado Environmental Commission in 1970 to study the state's environmental quality and identify action needed to improve or preserve Colorado's environment.  The non-partisan committee met over the course of two years and in 1972 submitted its final report to the governor.  Entitled Colorado:  Options for the Future, the report discusses various environmental concerns including land use, population, transportation, water, health, and more.  It then issues thirty-two recommendations for the future.  Now, with forty years hindsight, readers of this document can determine whether these recommendations were carried through over time.  This document is also an important resource for those researching the history of the state's environmental policy.


Don't Release Non-Native Species into the Wild

Have you ever seen a tropical bird flying around Denver, or caught a strange-looking fish in a mountain stream?  It happens -- but it shouldn't.  Sometimes people think releasing an animal back into the wild is a kind way of letting it go free -- but this is far from the truth.  In fact, when you release a pet or laboratory specimen into the wild, it generally is either not adapted for Colorado's climate, or never learned the necessary skills to fend for itself, or both.  Further, non-native species can harm the ecosystem in a variety of ways, from spreading foreign parasites and diseases to altering native species' gene pools.  Therefore, if you have an unwanted animal, consider donating it to a shelter (if a pet animal) or see about donating it to a classroom or a local museum or aquarium.  You can find out more information about the hazards of releasing non-native species into the wild by visiting the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Don't Turn it Loose webpage.  You can also search our library's web catalog for further information on non-native and invasive species and their effects.

The bullfrog is an example of a non-native species that has been introduced into Colorado.  It preys on other frogs and has reduced populations of Colorado's native leopard frog.  (Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.)

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