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Colorado Edition: Smooth Transition

Scott Franz
Capitol Coverage
The Delaney family in Hayden converted part of a century-old granary building into a cozy coffee shop.

Today on Colorado Edition: we look at the loss of coal jobs on the Western Slope. Plus, we’ll learn about what is in the state’s report on mysterious drone sightings. We will also discuss a potential nicotine tax to pay for education, learn about the management of public lands, and hear about how the desert tortoise is handling climate change.

Coal Jobs In Hayden

Credit Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage
Horses graze in a snowy field near Hayden, Colorado. Some residents are looking to the town's agricultural heritage as something that will help it survive in a future without coal.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced last week that it will shutter its Craig Station facility and nearby Colowyo coal mine by 2030. It comes as Tri-State and other energy providers turn to cleaner sources of energy.

The Western Slope plant generates electricity for thousands of homes and businesses across the state. It also supports nearly 500 jobs in the area.

About 15 miles east of Craig is the town of Hayden. Residents there are also dealing with the pending loss of coal jobs. One of their power plants is slated to close in the next decade. But even with time to plan, many are asking: what comes next?

In the first of two stories, KUNC’s Scott Franz looks at life after coal in Western Slope towns.

Drone Sightings

Since late November, parts of Northern and Eastern Colorado have been gripped by a mystery. What are those blinking lights in the night skies? Many say they are drones. This story has gone on for weeks without many answers. Until now — maybe. State officials say most of the sightings were not drones.

KUNC’s Michael de Yoanna has been digging into this story, and joins us to explore what we can learn from a new report.

Paying For Education

Credit Bradley Gordon / CC BY 2.0

Last week, backers of a potential new tax submitted versions of a ballot question that would fund free statewide preschool by way of a sin tax on tobacco and vaping products. This lines up well with Gov. Jared Polis’ interest in early childhood education and his promise to bring about free preschool, but it stands against a body of voters who historically haven’t been supportive of taxes to fund education.

Ann Schimke from Chalkbeat Colorado joins us to explain what’s going on.  

Public Lands Management

Credit Rocky Mountain National Park

In December, Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardener, along with Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse, introduced legislation to expand Rocky Mountain National Park. It would allow for 40 acres, donated by former astronaut Vance Brand, to be incorporated into the park. 

National parks like Rocky are one example of how public lands are used in our country, but as Christopher Ketcham writes in his new book, This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West, public lands are often used for private industry. We talk with him about his book, and how public lands are managed.

The Desert Tortoise

Credit Luke Runyon / KUNC

Few species are equipped to handle a hot and dry climate better than the desert tortoise. This ancient creature inhabits some of the harshest areas of the American Southwest. But with climate change making their home hotter and drier, how are they coping? To find out, Luke Runyon took a hike in the Mojave Desert.

Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music this week by Blue Dot Sessions:

  • "Highway 430" by Truck Stop

Colorado Edition is hosted by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1) and Henry Zimmerman (@HWZimmerman), and produced by Lily Tyson. The web was edited by digital editor Jackie Hai. Managing editor Brian Larson contributed to this episode.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a daily news magazine taking an in-depth look at the issues and culture of Northern Colorado. It's available on our website, as well as on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can hear the show on KUNC's air, Monday through Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

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Stories written by KUNC newsroom staff.