Hey there, Boulder! 👋 Ready for another week? Your Monday edition of BRL Today is here to help you get rolling.

Today’s top story from climate reporter Tim Drugan takes a look at city-managed cattle grazing to help control invasive plant species in our open space — which isn’t as simple as letting hungry critters loose. He talks to Andy Pelster, agriculture and water senior manager for the City of Boulder, who breaks down the many factors determining where, how and why the city puts livestock to work on the landscape.

Plus: Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett announces a surprise run for state representative, a scheduled vote on gun reforms from the Board of County Commissioners, debris removal and the future of the Superior Historical Museum, this weekend’s Boulder Taco Fest and a whole lot more.

See you back here bright and early on Wednesday!

– Jezy, managing editor

Boulder Opera’s Opera in the Park 2022 at the Boulder Bandshell on July 30. Credit: Stacy Feldman

Quickly

🌤️ Mostly sunny and warmer: Expect highs in the low-90s today under plenty of sunshine. Similar conditions should be in store for Tuesday, before a slight cool-down into the mid-80s on Wednesday.

🆕 Mayor Brockett running for state rep: Aaron Brockett is planning a run for state representative in the Nov. 8, 2022 general election, according to a Sunday night tweet. “Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the big issues facing our state,” he said. “More info coming soon!” The tweet came after Rep. Edie Hooton, a Democrat from Boulder, announced via her newsletter this weekend she will not be running for reelection to House District 10. 

➡️ More on Hooton’s withdrawal from the race: Hooton was running for reelection to serve what would have been her fourth and final term. She ran unopposed in the June 28, 2022 Democratic primary. “When I decided to withdraw from the race, the primary ballots were already in the mail with my name on them,” she wrote, adding: “My husband Jim retired three years ago, and I want to spend more time with him and my adult children and pursue personal interests. The role of a legislator is incredibly rewarding but also all-consuming.” Hooton said the Boulder County Democratic Party will convene a vacancy committee within 30 days to select her replacement. The deadline for names to appear on the general election ballot is Sept. 9.

🗳️ Gun vote scheduled: On Tuesday, Aug. 2, Boulder County commissioners are scheduled to vote on a package of gun violence prevention measures, including a prohibition on the sale and purchase of assault-style weapons, large capacity magazines and trigger activators. The hearing comes after a federal judge temporarily blocked Superior from enforcing similar measures after a conservative pro-gun rights group sued the town. Register here for the public hearing. (Read our coverage of gun measures across Boulder County.)

📉 Boulder’s largest shelter urges caution on homelessness numbers: We reported here last week that a recent survey by the Metro Denver Homelessness Initiative which conducts annual counts of the number of homeless people across the metro region indicated homelessness has decreased in Boulder County nearly 34% from pre-pandemic levels. The Boulder Shelter for the Homeless is urging caution when drawing conclusions from this “point-in-time” data: “We are the only county in the greater Denver metro area, among Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties, to note this downturn,” it said in a news release on Friday. “While we are pleased to report a decline in nighttime homelessness from 689 to 457 individuals, we caution that a decrease this year is not indicative of an overall downward trajectory in homelessness in Boulder County.”

👨‍💼 Climate director appointed: Jonathan Koehn has been promoted to Director of Climate Initiatives from his interim director role. He has worked on the city’s climate team since 2006. “Jonathan has a strong vision to address the climate change crisis, and he has demonstrated the ability to lead staff teams effectively and compassionately through significant change,” City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said in a press release. “Our community is poised to take the next step in this work with bold solutions, and I can think of no better person than Jonathan to lead our efforts.”

🏗️ Debris removal at Superior Historical Museum: In a recent newsletter update from the Superior Historical Society, chair Larry Dorsey shared news that debris removal is underway at the Superior Historical Museum, which was destroyed in the Marshall Fire. Some items recovered during the process will be incorporated into an exhibition of relics from the Dec. 30 disaster. Once approved by the town, an interim historical museum will be established in the Grasso Park bungalow at 100 E. William St.

🏘️ Feedback on accessory dwellings: The Board of County Commissioners hosts a public hearing at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4, regarding the possible expansion of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in unincorporated areas of Boulder County as part of Marshall Fire recovery efforts. Learn more about the proposed Land Use Code text amendments and register to participate in the hearing here.

📚 Library branch closed today: Via the Boulder Public Library “Due to a lack of available staffing, NoBo Corner Library is closed today, Monday, August 1. All other locations will continue holding regular hours.”

Top Story

Grazing livestock can help fight invasive species and encourage native plant growth in Boulder’s open space. But management is key.

By Tim Drugan

The act of grazing animals isn’t as simple as letting them loose on a patch of land and encouraging them to eat their fill. When the health of the landscape is also a priority — whether to reduce wildfire risk or fight invasive species— monitoring the many-bellied is necessary to ensure what can be helpful does not tumble into destructive: overgrazing and introducing unwanted species.

In Boulder, Andy Pelster heads this monitoring. As the city’s agriculture and water senior manager, he leads efforts to use cattle in ways that can be beneficial to all parties involved. Pelster said that with proper and consistent management, grazing can be used to “to shift vegetation communities from one set of species to another”:lessening the dominance of one species to encourage growth of another.

On Shanahan Ridge, for example, the city is hoping cattle will help them combat Tall oatgrass, an invasive species that has been encroaching on the territory of native big blue stem, switchgrass and yellow Indiangrasses. 

Tall oatgrass matures faster than those other species, allowing it to commandeer territory and resources (water, soil nutrients, sunlight) that would otherwise be utilized by natives. But if cattle are put on the land when oatgrass is sending up shoots and the native species are still germinating, the invaders will be chewed back, providing an opening to slower growers.

The second half of the equation is getting cattle off the land when the native grasses start to come up in early summer. This allows these natives to enjoy a full lifecycle undisturbed, and have “good reserves going into the winter” so they’re “ready to grow again the next spring.”

According to Pelster, it seems to be working.

“We’ve been able to reduce the cover of the tall oatgrass and we’re starting to see some nice response from the native grass,” he said.

Learn how your business can become a BRL sponsor.

TOGETHER WITH Comprise
A BRL Community Leader sponsor

By combining the messaging with the math, we’re multiplying our clients’ media coverage through an integrated fusion of PR, content, social media, SEO, web design and creative. Learn more at Comprise.

BRL Picks

💃 Aerial Dance Festival: The 24th annual Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Festival is running in Boulder through Aug. 12. Featuring classes, workshops, panels and performances, this high-flying fest is great for anyone who wants to scale new heights in the performance art of aerial body movement. Check out the schedule and get your tickets here.

🎨 NoBo First Friday: Looking for a fun way to celebrate local artists and creative businesses in North Boulder? Turn out for NoBo First Friday from 6–9 p.m. on Aug. 5 for an evening of studio tours, food trucks, live music, libations and more. Revolving exhibits are on display in the arts district’s many galleries all year long, so there’s always something to see.

🌮 Boulder Taco Fest: The city’s tastiest festival returns to Boulder Creek on Saturday, Aug. 6., 12–7 p.m. Enjoy tacos from Boulder County vendors, offerings from craft breweries and a tequila tasting, along with high-flying Luchadores, plenty of live music and kids activities. But grab your tickets now, because this can’t-miss event of the summer has sold out two years running.

Covid-19 Updates: Aug. 1, 2022

  • 175 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 46% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 13 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from a high of 15 last week.
  • 32% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 68% since July 2020.
  • Note: Stazio Ball Fields in Boulder is now the only free community testing site in Boulder County. It’s open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What We’re Reading

📖 Transit tips for RTD’s fare-free August: “RTD’s own history suggests that free transit won’t be a cure-all for the region’s dirty air, [but] backers of the initiative hope free fares will attract new riders like David Bledsoe of Denver’s Central Park neighborhood. He recently started a new job that’s a 45-minute drive away in the south metro and plans on taking the R Line to the office next week. … Climate and accessibility advocates hope there are enough people like Bledsoe to build more goodwill in the community toward RTD — and, eventually, more state funding and more robust service.  If you’re one of those new riders, or you haven’t been on transit in a while, we’ve collected some tips and tricks from Coloradans to make your trip as smooth as possible.” [CPR]

📖 Microplastics in Colorado’s snowpack: “An invisible layer of microplastic blankets the Rocky Mountains, polluting our snowpack and our water in yet undefined ways. ‘It seems to be everywhere…and there’s a lot of it,'” said Richard Reynolds, a retired U.S. Geological Survey researcher and coauthor of a new study of the microplastics detected throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin. [Colorado Sun]

ICYMI from BRL

👮 After early growing pains and high turnover, Boulder’s volunteer-led police oversight panel releases its first findings. The eight-member panel summarized 58 complaints of alleged misconduct and how the Boulder Police Department responded. Its recommendations on use-of-force are expected to prompt some reform.

🏊 Museum of Boulder exhibition dives deep on the life and legacy of Rose Lueras, who fought to integrate the Lafayette Swimming Pool in 1934. Running through Aug. 14, the collaborative local history show in the museum’s Lodge Gallery tells the story of the trailblazing Boulder County resident who led a group of Latino families in a civil rights case that went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.

💡 Boulder considers acquiring public streetlights owned by Xcel to reduce consumption and gain more autonomy over its energy infrastructureThe conversion to smart LED lights would lower the city’s electric bill, provide more responsive maintenance and reduce light pollution, according to a city staff memo.

One Quick Favor to Ask…

Will you share our newsletter with a friend (or five😉)? We’re so proud of the reporting we’ve been doing, and we can’t help but think, What if even more Boulder locals were getting our journalism straight to their inbox?  Spreading the word is one of the easiest (and no-cost) ways you can help us grow into a bigger newsroom able to cover every aspect of our community. If you’re benefiting from our work, please send this signup link to at least one friend, family member, colleague or neighbor, or share this link to our signup page!

Thanks for reading!

Our journalism depends on you.
Have a story tip for us?
Send us your ideas at tips@boulderreportinglab.org.

– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.