Links and tweets and headlines
Reads from around the Web and the West
When the Biden administration restored the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, conservationists rightfully celebrated victory. But, as Stephen Trimble and Carolyn Z. Shelton point out in this Los Angeles Times op-ed, the work to save and protect these lands is not yet done. The very important work of developing management plans for both monuments remains, and it has some big hurdles to overcome.
Those hindrances at Grand Staircase-Escalante—the authors’ focus because they are board members of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners—include inadequate staffing and resources and a Bureau of Land Management culture contaminated by remnants of the agency’s “Bureau of Logging and Mining” era. Plus, visitation and its impacts are increasing and land managers still must deal with damage from off-road vehicles and feral cattle.
On March 28, 1979, a reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear station in Pennsylvania partially melted down, resulting in the release of about 32,000 gallons of reactor coolant and 15 curies of iodine-131. The event received international attention, galvanized anti-nuclear sentiment and is often credited with bringing down the industry. It continues to live in infamy to this day.
About three and a half months later, a uranium mill tailings dam near Church Rock on the Navajo Nation was breached, sending 94 million gallons of radioactive, acidic, toxic metal-laden sludge, containing more than a ton of uranium and 46 curies of alpha contaminants into the Puerco River. The plume of contaminants continued downstream for miles, contaminating groundwater and countless wells. And yet, the Church Rock spill received very little media attention and remains in obscurity today, despite the fact it was arguably far more damaging and its effects longer-lasting than Three Mile Island.
As University of Chicago researcher and filmmaker Teresa Montoya points out in this Twitter thread, however, the survivors of the event continue to commemorate the event each year to bring attention—and further mitigation efforts—to the tragedy. As the nuclear power and domestic uranium mining industry plot a comeback, it’s as important as ever to remember the legacy the industry left on the land, water, and people of the Navajo Nation and the Colorado Plateau.
As though the dust on the snow, which reduces albedo and melts the stuff that much faster, was not bad enough, now comes news that the dust is filled with microplastics. Arggh. Jonathan Romeo with the Durango Telegraph has the scoop:
Here’s some good news!
Umm, so, the New York Times just found out there’s a housing crisis in the innards of the nation, not just the coasts. So, umm, I guess we finally exist?
Okay, okay, maybe I’m not being totally fair here. This is talking specifically about a shortage of housing, which is not necessarily the same as the shortage of affordable housing, which has been a problem in big swaths of the West for years. The story has a cool interactive map that shows how many places have gone from having a housing surplus, to a shortage, in just seven years.
Thing is, the data they use is from 2012 and 2019. The 2012 data is going to be skewed because most of the areas they focus on overbuilt housing during the early 2000s, which became apparent during the financial crisis that began in 2008 (actually, earlier than that in housing-boom areas like Phoenix). And the 2019 data doesn’t account for the COVID/Zoom-related real estate boom.
On that note, a friend recently sent me a report on Colorado housing rental rates and vacancy rates. I’ll delve into it more deeply and report back to y’all soon, but for now I’ll just give you this graph showing median rental rates for the first quarter of this year. Keep in mind these are the rates renters are paying now. You gotta figure that if you’re trying to get into a new rental in these places you’ll pay a lot more. If you can find something, that is. Vacancy rates in most of these places are also pretty darned low.
It ain’t cheap to live around here, folks.
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