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KVNF Regional Newscast: January 3, 2024

This map shows snow totals as a percent of normal, and nearly every part of the Colorado River Basin has below-average snowpack data.
This map shows snow totals as a percent of normal, and nearly every part of the Colorado River Basin has below-average snowpack data.

As of Monday, Colorado has 17 new laws, most from the recent legislative session, according to Colorado Newsline. Among them, notable changes include the 'Right to Repair' law, granting farmers autonomy in fixing equipment and a law aiding incarcerated parents in maintaining contact with their children.

Another significant addition allows renters to join eviction court proceedings remotely. Additional laws cap pet-related fees in housing, mandate informed consent for intimate exams before sedation, and enforce a ban on single-use plastics in grocery stores and restaurants.

Across the Western region, the winter has kicked off with below-average snowfall, raising concerns about a "snow drought."

The Rocky Mountains, which are crucial for water supply, are showing lower-than-usual snow levels. This impacts the Colorado River, a significant water source for around 40 million people. The USDA reported recently that areas in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have snow levels at about 60-70% of their normal amounts for this time of year.

The crucial months of January and February will determine if these deficits can be recovered to maintain water reserves adequately. Last year's robust snowfall in the Rockies alleviated pressure on the Colorado River's reservoirs and eased negotiations over water distribution among stakeholders.

In Hotchkiss, trustees recently greenlit an ordinance overhaul, notably targeting pet ownership rules. The proposed changes involve mandatory rabies vaccinations and annual licensing for cats, sparking debate over the practicality of requiring collars for felines.

This move comes amidst community discussions on managing a sizable feral cat population and reported incidents involving these animals, says the North Fork Merchant Herald. The revised regulations would limit households to owning a maximum of two dogs and enforce leash requirements during walks.

The town has also formed a partnership with a local shelter to handle stray dogs without identifiable owners.

Our region’s local Audubon society recently wrapped a timeless Christmas tradition…bird counting.

Bird counters across the country started the annual tradition on December 14 and have until January 5 to tally their local birds. The Black Canyon Audubon Society, located in Delta, is one of 11 National Audubon Society chapters in Colorado.

The nonprofit focuses on the conservation of natural resources through birding, conservation and educational activities.

Bruce Ackerman, President of the Black Canyon Audubon Society, says the local nonprofit is part of a national tradition going back over 100 years.

"Bird counts are done at Christmas time and in many places around the United States, and some other countries, and they've been a steady force at Christmas time for over 100 years, so they attempt to do them the same way every year in the same place," Ackerman told KVNF.

Volunteers play a crucial role in this citizen science project, systematically counting birds in designated areas each year. Each year, the counters aim for accuracy, despite the uncertainty that accompanies winter weather.

"We do it at the same time each year and we pick a day in advance, but then we never really know if it will rain or snow or be warm or cold," said Ackerman. "So it's always kind of a surprise and we're looking to see all the different kinds of birds we could see. That would include very common ones and it might include very rare ones. So, we really never know what we're going to find."

The practice of bird counting has evolved over the years. Participants used to hunt the birds rather than find and count them. Today, volunteers take on designated “count circles,” focusing on specific areas in their regions for more efficient coverage.

In our region, Ackerman likes to look for a few of his personal favorites each year.

"One would be a Merlin, which is a small hawk that we see," said Ackerman. "Sometimes we see turkeys when we go. Near Hotchkiss, there's a kind of a woodpecker called the Lewis’ Woodpecker, named after Lewis and Clark, and it's kind of an unusual looking woodpecker."

For more information on our region’s annual bird count and local Audubon society, visit blackcanyonaudubon.org

Last month, the Colorado River Drought Task Force submitted a list of recommendations to the general assembly for consideration.

The group met ten times last year to discuss how Colorado can respond to prolonged drought in the river basin. For Rocky Mountain Community Radio, Caroline Llanes of Aspen Public Radio has more.

Denver saw more migrant arrivals from the US-Mexico border last year, per capita than any other US city. Capital Reporter Lucas Brady Woods says that Denver Mayor Mike Johnston wants the federal government to step in.

Last week, KVNF reported that Republican Lauren Boebert of Silt is running for Congress in Colorado’s fourth Congressional District next year, instead of the third district she currently represents. For Rocky Mountain Community Radio, Caroline Llanes of Aspen Public Radio returns with reactions from the remaining candidates running in C-D-3.

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Cassie moved to Montrose from Texas in April 2020, right before COVID changed the landscape of the world as we knew it. She brought her love of people and a degree in broadcast journalism to the Western Slope, where she built a strong foundation in local print news. She’s excited to join the KVNF family and grow as a reporter. For Cassie, her job as a journalist is to empower the community through knowledge and information. When she’s not researching and reporting, Cassie loves to spend time with her cat, Jasper, and paint something new.<br/><br/>