Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mission: Wolf A safehaven in Southern Colorado

During the late 1800’s fur trappers dominated the landscape of the west. Seeking their fortunes by killing fur bearing animals like beavers, coyotes, foxes, bears, buffalo and wolves. As the beaver, buffalo, and fox populations in the west fell the hunters turned their guns and traps to wolves. Anti-wolf sentiment grew across the US, as wolves were portrayed as being malicious hunters intentionally stalking and killing farmers and ranchers livestock, while simultaneously killing off the deer and elk populations in the west. Former President and conservationist Theodore Roosevelt was quoted from a book he published in 1902 as saying "The wolf is the arch type of ravin, the beast of waste and desolation. It is still found scattered thinly throughout all the wilder portions of the United States, but has everywhere retreated from the advance of civilization." The US government endorsed the eradication of wolves from the US and by the 1960’s wolves were almost completely extirpated from the lower 48 states, with only about 300 wolves seeking refuge in the heavily wooded areas of northern Michigan and Wisconsin. In 1974 the Grey Wolf was placed on the endangered species list and received federal protection from being hunted and killed and re-population efforts of the wolves was started, which brings us to current day, southern Colorado.

  Nestled comfortably between the Great Sand Dunes and Colorado City, in the Wet Mountains sits one of southern Colorado’s hidden gems, Mission: Wolf. Mission: Wolf is a sanctuary for
Garden, greenhouse, and tipi at Mission:Wolf
wolves and wolf-dogs. Mission: Wolf was founded by Kent Webber in 1984 as a means to save wolves and educate people about them. Kent opened the sanctuary with just a couple of wolves and when he reached 52 he realized that the problem of people owning wolves and wolf hybrids was much larger than expected and that he can not save them all. Before becoming a full-time wolf conservationist Kent was an architect. While being an architect may not seem relevant or related it goes hand in hand with Mission: Wolf. Mission: Wolf is completely self-sustaining; solar panels provide electricity, a well provides water, the staff grows their own food, a truck was converted to run off of vegetable oil, the food for the wolves comes
A staff member greets visitors before a tour.
from road kill and local farmers and ranchers that have donated dead livestock or horses. The staff at Mission: Wolf are all volunteers that give up a minimum of six weeks to work at the refuge. When asked about paying the staff Kent said “We don’t have the resources for that. People work here because they want to make a difference for theses animals. As an all-volunteer force, the staff is more willing to help each other, and there is not much completion between individuals, it is all about the animals." Mission: Wolf has very limited housing for its volunteers, most volunteers sleep in one of the tipi's provided or in their own tents in the small camp area.

Mission: Wolf is free and open to the public 365 days a year from 9am-4pm. There is no fee to visit the wolves but a donation is always welcomed. Camping is allowed at Mission: Wolf, free of
Staff members lead volunteers to feed.
charge but they would like a some help working on a small project from campers in exchange for using the camping area. During a visit to Mission: Wolf guest will be given a tour by one of the volunteers, that shows the wolf enclosures, tells you about the wolves, shows the green houses and gift shop. Wednesday’s and Saturday's are the “big feed” days, on these days large amounts of livestock are chopped up, put in buckets carried to the enclosures and fed to the wolves.  The highlight to a visit at Mission: Wolf is when all the guests sit around Kent and listen to him talk about the wolves, their behavior, and how human behavior is vital to changing the relationship we have with wolves. After sitting with Kent and hearing his instructions the guests are taken inside an enclosure to meet the three ambassador wolves, Magpie, Abraham and Zeab. It is here in this enclosure that people see a wolf, touch a wolf and are greeted by a wolf licking inside their mouths while staring them in the eyes, at that moment a connection is made. The wolves do this day in and day out, it's the humans that make a connection and have experience that can not be replicated in a book, watching a video or found on-line, it is real and it is yours, it can be told and retold but until it is experienced it will not be understood. As Kent said all the wolves want to do is live. After all the exhaustive efforts humans have done to eradicate them the least we can do is dismiss these old notions that all wolves do is hurt ecosystems, and target peoples livestock and pets and embrace them as the beautiful creatures they are and leave them be in the wild.

Magpie greets a guest during a visit.
A staff member (right) explains how the greenhouse works to visitors.
A group of Boy Scouts waits to be separated into groups for a tour.

Raw meat that has been chopped and is waiting to be fed to the wolves.
Staff members wait before grabbing the feeding buckets and heading to feed the wolves.
Visitors toss raw meat to the wolves.
A staff member feeds a wolf inside its enclosure.
A wolf carries off some food.
A staff member (right) and volunteers clean the feeding buckets.
A volunteer places the clean buckets on the drying rack.

Kent talks to visitors before they are allowed to meet the wolves.
Visitors are all smiles as Magpie, Abraham and Zeab greet them.
Magpie receives attention from a guest.
Magpie moves from visitor to visitor as a staff member watches.
Magpie gives a visitor a true wolf greeting.

An almost full moonrise over the camping area at Mission:Wolf.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Yellowcake, Arsenic, and Lead....Oh My!!!

Entrance to the Cotter Mill from CR 68.
When we think of Canon City and Pueblo, uranium, arsenic, and lead are not the first things to come to mind, but they should not be the last things either. 
Sign on the fence outside of the Cotter Mill.
The Cotter Mill just south of Canon City began processing Uranium for nuclear weapons and fuel in 1958. For twenty years the Cotter Mill was releasing radioactive waste into unlined ponds on their grounds. In 1982 Cotter began using lined ponds until the mill shut down all operations in 2011. In 1984, testing of some of the wells in Canon City was performed by government officials and it was discovered that there was contamination of the water, leading the government to declare it a Superfund site. Cleanup for the Superfund site began after the study in 1984 and continues through today. The Superfund includes the 2,600 acre area which includes the 640 acre mill and the nearby Lincoln Park neighborhood.  There is concern by some residents of Pueblo, like Pueblo County Commissioner Buffie McFayden that contamination from Cotter has reached Pueblo. McFayden was recently quoted by KOAA saying, “I do believe it's time for Pueblo to get involved and work with the citizens of Fremont County to not only demand a remediation plan that's realistic to cleanup the site, but also to demand testing along the Arkansas in the sediment and in Pueblo Reservoir.” While there is not a definitive answer as to how much contamination there is or isn’t in the reservoir it is feasible to believe there could be some.
Click the link for updated clean-up information: Info
Drainage culvert from Cotter Mill.
A look onto the Cotter Mill site.

Billboard encouraging residents in Bessemer and Eiler to contact the EPA.

Just over forty miles downstream from the Cotter Mill in Pueblo sits the old Eiler’s Smelter another Superfund site. The Eiler’s Mill was known by several names since it began operating in 1883. The smelters were used to smelt extracted silver-lead from the Madonna Mine in Monarch.  The area of the old smelting plant and the Bessemer and Eiler’s neighborhoods were
Slag pile visible from Sante Fe Ave.
declared a Superfund site after an inspection of the Sante Fe Bridge Culvert in the 1990’s revealed a slag pile. Slag is by-product of the smelting process, which contains both arsenic and lead.
When travelling south on Santa Fe Avenue shortly after crossing the bridge part of the 700,000 sqaure-foot slag pile is still visible. The Eiler’s Smelter (under another name at the time) closed in 1908, and soon thereafter the dismantling of the smelter began. In 1924, bricks from the smoke stack were used to build the St. Mary school which is still standing today. People in the Eiler’s and Bessemer neighborhoods are being encouraged to sign up with the EPA to have their homes and property tested for lead and arsenic poisoning. 
Click the link for a map of the Superfund site: MAP
 Click the link for updated clean-up information: Info
St. Mary School built from the bricks of the old smoke stack.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hot Pursuit!!

A call came across the radio stating there were two dogs blocking traffic on Thatcher Ave and assistance from animal control was needed. Colorado State Trooper, Steve Ortiz, was on scene and
ushered the dogs off the road and onto the golf course. Shortly there after  Colorado Department of Wildlife Park Ranger, Chris Hand, arrived to assist in the wrangling of the dogs until animal control arrived. The dogs on the other hand decided it was time to take a walk and wandered off the golf course and into a residential neighborhood off of Linda Vista causing both officers to give chase. The dogs led the officers down Linda Vista to Airlane. It wasn't until the corner of Airlane and Rice  that the officers had their first shot at capturing at least one of the dogs. Trooper Ortiz was able to get one of the two dogs away from the other and was close to slipping the capture noose around the dogs head but was unable to do so. After chasing the dogs down several more streets, Trooper Ortiz and Park Ranger Hand relinquished the chase to animal control, who was able to continue chasing the dogs in their vehicle. Eventually animal control was able to capture the white dog but the brown one is still on the loose.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Helping Hand

The serving window at the Pueblo Community Soup Kitchen.

It is no secret that people in need of assistance has been on the rise in Pueblo over the last few years. People are making their way to Pueblo for multiple reasons , with the booming marijuana industry, legal recreational and medical pot, or what ever the reason may be, it can not be denied that people are choosing to move to the Steel City. With an influx of people and a lack of employment opportunities for those people, the need for services for people in need have risen drastically. The local programs that use federal, state and county funds for people in need are being pushed to their limits and people need help. POSADA is one of those organizations and on their website they state that right now, they are at their limit for helping and they are helping Pueblo people and families before they can help outsiders. POSADA also makes a suggestion that if you do not have enough money saved to cover a deposit (first and last month’s rent) and a $500 deposit for electricity, then people should reconsider moving to Pueblo.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A "Bright" Spot for Pueblo

Matt Albright is the Program Coordinator for the Center For American Values but more importantly he is a champion of Pueblo.

Over the last few months Pueblo has seen it’s reputation tarnished in the national and local media.  With all the reports of crime rates increasing, an abundant amount of heroin on the streets and gangs on the rise it can sometimes be hard to see all the people and organizations making good things happen around us, one of the people trying to promote the good in Pueblo and its people is Matt Albright. Matt is the Program Coordinator for the Center For AmericanValues located downtown along the Riverwalk. The Center’s objectives and programs include use of its gallery and conferencing space for organizations in need of meeting facilities specific to promoting character and leadership development curriculum's, educational training seminars, executive study groups, conferences, special events, ceremonial activities, educational outreach opportunities, and public tours. The three values the Center focuses on are Honor, Integrity and Patriotism.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


This series of photos were done as a project for a class. I have lived in Colorado for almost nine years and have done very little photography of the land. While much of Southern Colorado is high prairie it can still be beautiful. A short drive from Pueblo, Colorado can put you in the foothills and into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I was hoping to capture the beauty of Southern Colorado in Black and White, as a kind of homage to the great Ansel Adams.

Pueblo Nature Center, Pueblo, Colorado.
Arkansas River outside of Salida, Colorado.

Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Mount Herard, Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Blanca Peak, outside of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
Pueblo Nature Center, Pueblo, Colorado
Arkansas River. Pueblo, Colorado
Cliffs at the Pueblo Nature Center. Pueblo, Colorado
Sun set at Liberty Point. Pueblo, West, Colorado
The open prairie of southern Colorado. Pueblo West, Colorado
Pikes Peak across the prairie. Pueblo West, Colorado
Looking out from Liberty Point. Pueblo West, Colorado
Lake Isabel. San Isabel National Forrest, Colorado
Lake Isabel. San Isabel National Forrest, Colorado
Abandoned farm houses in the San Isabel National Forrest, Colorado.
View of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the Silver Cliff Cemetery. Silver Cliff, Colorado
View of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from outside of Silver Cliff, Colorado
View of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the Assumption Cemetery. Silver Cliff, Colorado
Spanish Peaks from outside of Colorado City, Colorado.
Abandoned farm house. Eden Colorado.