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06/20/05 -06/26/05
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"Colorado State Flower", "Blue Columbine"
(Aquilegia caerulea James) 

Sunday, June 26th - Photo Of The Week... This week's photo features the "Colorado State Flower", the "Blue Columbine". This beautiful treasure is primarily found in the Northern Rocky Mountains and is native to Colorado. The growth habit of the Colorado blue columbine is found growing as a Forb/herb. The Colorado blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea James), is a Perennial plant which means it lives or continues more than two years, whether it retains its leaves in winter or not. The plant has divided (2 ternate), blue green leaves and bears outward facing or pendant, lavender blue flowers with a cream corolla and short spurs. Colorado Blue Columbine typically flowers in May through July. Columbines like a well drained but moist soil in full sun, but will tolerate some partial shade. Doesn't appreciate too much winter wetness. Storm Mountain News has put together a, "Wildflower Screensaver", that features spectacular photos of many of the wildflowers in our area. The screensaver is available for free download via the link below:

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Map showing location of the planets in the western sky at 8:15PM MDT on June 25th.

Saturday, June 25th - Venus, Saturn and Mercury Converge This Weekend... Stick up your thumb and hold it at arm's length. It doesn't seem very big, does it? But it is, big enough to hide three planets. This weekend Mercury, Venus and Saturn are going to crowd together in a patch of sky no bigger than your thumb. Astronomers call it a "conjunction" and it's going to be spectacular.

The show begins on Saturday evening, June 25th. Step outside and look west toward the glow of the setting sun. Venus appears first, a bright point of light not far above the horizon. As the sky darkens, Saturn and Mercury pop into view. The three planets form a eye-catching triangle about 1.5o long, easily hidden by your thumb.

It gets better on Sunday evening, June 26th. The triangle shrinks with Venus and Mercury only 0.5o apart. Now they fit behind your pinky! Monday evening, June 27th, is best of all. With Saturn nearby, Venus and Mercury converge. At closest approach, the two planets will be less than one-tenth of a degree apart. Such pairings of bright planets are literally spellbinding.

If you go outside to see the show, take someone along. Here are some fun facts you can share: The closest planet to the sun, Mercury, is not the hottest. Venus is. The surface temperature of Venus is 870 F (740 K), hot enough to melt lead. The planet's thick carbon dioxide atmosphere traps solar heat, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect. On Venus, global warming has run amok. 

Venus is so bright because the planet's clouds are wonderful reflectors of sunlight. Unlike clouds on Earth, which are made of water, clouds on Venus are made of sulfuric acid. They float atop an atmosphere where the pressure reaches 90 times the air pressure on Earth. If you went to Venus, you'd be crushed, smothered, dissolved and melted--not necessarily in that order. Don't go.

Mercury is only a little better. At noontime, the surface temperature reaches 800 F (700 K). If you turn your kitchen's oven to that setting, the pizza will burn to a smoking crisp. Radars on Earth have pinged Mercury and found icy reflections near the planet's poles. How can ice exist in such heat? "NASA's MESSENGER Spacecraft", is en route to Mercury now to investigate.

More sky maps: June 26, June 27, June 28.

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Friday, June 24th - Ft Collins & Larimer County Named Top Nature-Friendly Communities... Fort Collins and Larimer County, CO  - Fort Collins and Larimer County together were named one of the most nature-friendly areas in the United States, according to a book released today by Island Press. Titled Nature-Friendly Communities, the book highlights nineteen communities that lead the nation in safeguarding local landscapes, natural resources and wildlife. “Fort Collins and Larimer County are excellent examples of cooperation in different political situations to achieve the common goal of protecting open space,” said author Chris Duerksen. “Working together, these two jurisdictions have sought many opportunities over the years to protect the character of the West and safeguard the incredible vistas that define that area.”

Since the 1970s, both the county and the city have been interested in open space and habitat. In 1974, Fort Collins created its first Open Space Plan. Larimer County began purchasing sensitive lands in 1981. By the 1990s, both were conserving large amounts of land with the help of a sales tax voted for by city and county residents for this purpose. From 1992 to 2003, the Fort Collins Natural Areas Program conserved 9,700 acres and added over 24,000 in 2004. The city is planning to conserve an additional 20,000-30,000 critical land acres in the next 15 years. Through their program, the county has protected more than 38,000 acres.  Both jurisdictions are using mapping and geographic information system data to guide acquisitions, and both have a dedicated sales tax to ensure funding for more years to come. Larimer County and Fort Collins also cooperate in a successful Transferable Development Rights (TDR) program. 

Fort Collins and Larimer County join eighteen other areas identified by Nature-Friendly Communities that are setting a new, surprising trend.  According to Island Press , local governments are outpacing state and federal governments in efforts to protect open space and natural areas, creating a better quality of life for residents and reaping millions for their economies. “More and more local governments are finding that investing in natural resource protection pays off in big ways,” added Duerksen. “These communities are learning that protecting nature makes not just good sense but good dollars and cents.  And a growing number of them are joining the ranks in taking bold steps to invest in their natural assets.”

Nature-Friendly Communities provides a step-by-step guide to help government officials and planners protect open space and natural areas while promoting economic growth.  It shines a spotlight on the most successful approaches and the work happening in local communities across the country. “Americans have shown time and again they are willing to pay for nature protection,” added Duerksen.  “We consistently approve funding measures for land conservation whether our local economies are thriving or not.   This book shows that if citizens make the commitment they can easily transform their communities into nature-friendly areas.  The tools are there for all communities, regardless of size, political bent, or economic health” Other communities listed include: Austin, TX; Baltimore County, MD; Sanibel, FL; Dane County, WI; Pima County, AZ; Placer County, CA; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.  For more information on this book, visit www.naturefriendlytools.org.

Chris Duerksen is a nationally recognized land use planning consultant who has worked extensively with local governments nationwide.   He is Managing Director of Clarion Associates and a cofounder of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute.  He has authored many books and articles on land use and conservation issues.  

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Thursday, June 23rd - Clean-Up Of Road Could Potentially Cost Millions... With the presence of hazardous chemicals now confirmed along FDR 128 in Roosevelt National Forest, the next issue at hand is who will be responsible for the clean-up and how much will it cost. A review of similar situations indicated a potential clean-up cost of up to 20 million dollars per mile of affected road. Based on these figures, clean-up of 2.4 miles of FDR 128 and adjacent land could approach $50,000,000. Where will funding for this clean-up come from? That is a very good question indeed. Should the road maintenance corporations be held solely responsible for the cost, it could be devastating to homeowners. With an estimated 350 properties under the corporations' rule, the clean-up cost could equate to over $140,000 per parcel of land. This is not a reasonable option in our opinion, with monies from a "Superfund Account" being a much more viable and preferred funding method. We at SMN, would strongly oppose imposing the burden of any clean-up costs onto the homeowners. This, in our firm opinion, would be extremely unfair as the majority of homeowners are innocent of any wrongdoing, with some being victims of the contamination as well.  Please note that these figures are estimates based on similar situations and not confirmed costs for this particular situation. In either case, clean-up will inevitably be the next step in resolving the chemical contamination issue along FDR 128.

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Wednesday, June 22nd - Golden Eagle Release Rescheduled For Friday... Larimer County and the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program (RMRP) invite you to celebrate a second chance at freedom for a golden eagle.  On June 24, at 11 a.m. the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program will release a rehabilitated golden eagle at Larimer County's Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space, located approximately 1/2-mile west of I-25 and Carpenter Road (CR32) across from Eagle Ranch Estates.  Visitors should plan to arrive by 10:45am.

The golden eagle, which suffered massive wing damage due to a gunshot wound, has been rehabilitated over the last year by the Raptor Program. "This bird was shot from the air and left to die," said Judy Scherpelz, Director of the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.  During his rehabilitation time this adult male was also a foster parent to a young golden eagle, serving as a critical role model to this impressionable young bird.   "After what he'd been through, he was still willing to foster the young eagle.  We owe him a second chance at freedom, that's what we do," Scherpelz added.

The Larimer County Open Lands Program is thrilled to have the eagle released at the open space.  "This land was protected for its importance to resident and migratory birds," said Travis Rollins, Park Manager at Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space.  "It is exciting that this golden eagle's next chance at freedom will start at our open space".  Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space was protected through a partnership between Larimer County, City of Fort Collins and the North Poudre Irrigation Company. 

The golden eagle will be the third rehabilitated bird released at Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space since it's opening last October.  The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program released an American kestrel as part of the grand opening ceremony in October and a bald eagle earlier this year.  As many as 400 people attended the January release.

On Saturday, June 25, at 7 p.m. the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program will present their “Raptor Tools” module at the South Bay Group Use area of Horsetooth Reservoir.  The Raptor Program will answer your questions about these magnificent birds, their natural history, and what we can do to help protect them. Donations to help the Raptor Program will be accepted. A $7 park entrance permit is required for each vehicle and is good until noon the next day.

The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program is a grassroots, community effort dedicated to providing raptor rehabilitation and education.  They care for more than 200 injured birds of prey per year, releasing up to 60% of them.  One hundred and fifty volunteers come from all walks of life, and contribute their caring, compassion, and hard work to provide daily care for their feathered patients.  Education programs feature live birds in the classroom to inspire the leaders of tomorrow to care about wildlife in our world.  The RMRP operates on an annual budget of about $200,000, which is generated through merchandise sales, speaking fees, and donations from caring individuals.

To volunteer or donate funds to the raptor program, contact:

Rocky Mountain Raptor Program
Colorado State University
1620 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO  80523

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Rainbow at sunset this evening near Palisade Mountain.

Tuesday, June 21st - Full Strawberry Moon Tonight... This month's full Moon is known as the Strawberry Moon. This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also, because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June, so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry. This will also be the lowest hanging full Moon in 18 years. Step outside any evening at sunset and look around. You'll see a giant moon rising in the east. It looks like Earth's moon, round and cratered; the Man in the Moon is in his usual place. But something's wrong. This full moon is strangely inflated. It's huge! You've just experienced the "Summer Moon Illusion". Sky watchers have known this for thousands of years, or moons hanging low in the sky look unnaturally big. Cameras don't see it, but our eyes do. It's a real illusion. The full Moon will occur at 10:14PM MDT tonight.

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Summer Has Officially Arrived... This year summer arrived in the early morning hours with the "Summer Solstice" occurring at 12:46AM MDT today. That makes today the longest day of 2005. With the continued warm temperatures and dry weather, it indeed feels very summer-like across the area. Warm dry conditions are also starting to raise concerns about fire danger. Abundant moisture in the spring has allowed grasses to grow exceptionally tall. Once dry, this could set the stage for a dangerous fire season and present a major problem to firefighters. Residents and visitors are advised to use caution with any open fire and to strictly adhere to, "Local Burn Regulations".

Disclaimer: Stories and other content are submitted by independent sources and do not represent the opinions or views of Storm Mountain Net, nor it's employees... All stories are posted without bias to their content... While every attempt is made to be concise in our reporting, Storm Mountain Net is not responsible for any incorrect information...



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Last modified: October 11, 2005