Big surprise, folks: It’s another beautiful day in Boulder. ⛰️ But be mindful of heightened fire conditions out there. High winds and low humidity leave us under a Red Flag Warning until 7 p.m. today. We’ve got the latest from the National Weather Service in our Quickly section below. 👇

And speaking of fire: For today’s top story, reporter Tim Drugan talked to OSMP Vegetation Stewardship Senior Manager Chris Wanner about squaring forest health with fire mitigation needs. You’ll see more of Tim’s byline starting mid-May. He’s joining us a local correspondent covering climate science and solutions, with an immediate focus on wildfires.

Also in today’s newsletter: the latest on a possible package of new gun regulations via Boulder City Council, a bike maintenance and repair series from Community Cycles, OSMP volunteer opportunities and more.

– Jezy, managing editor

A swimmer in Boulder Creek at Eben G. Fine Park on May 8, 2022. Credit: John Herrick

Quickly

🌤️ Mostly sunny and warm: Expect plenty of sun today with highs in the low-70s. Wind gusts could reach 38 mph.

👀 Red Flag Warning: The gusty winds and low humidity leave Boulder County under a Red Flag Warning from 11 a.m. through 7 p.m., per the National Weather Service. You know the drill: Avoid burning or any outdoor activities that might cause a spark, and have a “go kit” ready in the event of a fast-moving wildfire.

✍️ Possible new gun control measures: The Boulder City Council has scheduled its first hearing on a package of gun control measures for May 10. The measures, which can be found here, include banning assault weapons, after-market rapid-fire trigger activators, including bump stocks, and “ghost guns” that lack serial numbers.

There’s more: The proposed regulations would also increase the age to possess a firearm to 21, prohibit open carry across much of the city and impose a 10-day waiting period after the gun dealer starts a background check and when the buyer can take home the gun. City councilmembers are hoping other local governments in the region will pass similar measures around the same time to expand the regulations more widely and buffer against anticipated pushback from pro-gun activists.

🦠 Covid hits council: At least two councilmembers have tested positive for Covid-19, Mayor Aaron Brockett and Matt Benjamin. Their announcements over Twitter came after the Boulder City Council has had two in-person meetings. The city is planning to move to in-person hybrid council meetings beginning May 17.

🤝 In-person council meetings: That means starting next Tuesday, May 17, Boulder community members can attend city council meetings either in-person or virtually. Councilmembers and key staff will attend meetings in-person in the council chambers. 

🌳 Tree removal on Pearl Street: A contractor with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will remove a large cottonwood tree on Pearl Street between 6th and 7th streets on Thursday, May 12, due to safety concerns.

🛣️ Open road: Starting this evening, Baseline Road will reopen to traffic between 55th Street and Cherryvale Road. For more on what the reopening will mean for traffic surrounding the project, visit the City of Boulder website.

Top Story

‘These areas are made to burn’: When it comes to the health of the forests surrounding Boulder, there is no replacement for fire

Since the end of the 19th century, there has been a divide in how humans see nature. John Muir (naturalist, essayist, and founder of the Sierra Club) was one of the early adopters of a biocentric view: that humans are not more important than the world around them. Muir believed large swaths of nature should be left alone to evolve and change without human manipulation.

“None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild,” Muir wrote in 1901.

Conversely, Gifford Pinchot (first chief of the U.S. Forest Service and close collaborator with Theodore Roosevelt in the president’s conservation efforts) saw nature through an anthropocentric lens: that nature’s value depends on its utility to humans.

“Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men,” Gifford wrote in 1947.

Today, many people recognize validities within both these arguments. Marrying the two, however, requires squaring that pesky, proverbial circle. How do we get what we want from nature while also giving nature what it needs? Forest management around Boulder does not escape this paradox. 

“A prescription for forest health may look different than one purely for [reduced] fire risk,” said Chris Wanner, Boulder’s vegetation stewardship senior manager. 

Wanner works for the Open Space and Mountain Parks division of the city, which collaborates with the Boulder Fire-Rescue Department to assess, and address, fire risk around town. But while the fire department’s priority is protecting human homes, Wanner’s job is to advocate for the ecosystems and animals that can’t advocate for themselves. 

“These are fire-adapted ecosystems,” Wanner said of the 45,000 acres of city-owned open space around Boulder. “Over the millennia there have been regular return intervals of fire. Over the past 100-150 years we’ve gotten really good at putting fires out, taking that natural piece out of the ecosystem.”

BRL Picks

🛠️ Bike Mechanic Series: Community Cycles has limited availability for July and August in its series of classes on bike maintenance and repair. Sign up for Maintenance 101 ($20), Fix-a-Flat ($10) or drop by its free Gender Equality Mechanics (GEM) workshops on the last Monday of the month.

🧱 Bands on the Bricks: Boulder County’s premier outdoor concert series returns to Pearl Street Mall, June 15–August 3. Sign up to volunteer here, check out photos from last year’s festivities here and read all about this year’s lineup of local musicians here.

 🌲 Volunteer with OSMP this summer: Give back to the land we all love. OSMP provides programs, projects, and events to community members and organizations year-round. Learn more here.

👩‍🌾 Radical roots: Boulder County Farmers Market presents the 2022 Radish Festival on Wednesday, May 11 on 13th street in Boulder between Arapahoe and Canyon, 4–8 p.m. #RepTheRadish by bringing your own T-shirt, tote bag, tea towel or other printable material to get it emblazoned with the 2022 Radish Festival logo.

Covid-19 Updates: May 9, 2022

  • 106 daily new cases (7-day avg.) Down 8% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 0 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from avg. of 40 since July 2020.
  • 51% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 71% since July 2020.

What We’re Reading

📖 Are Colorado campfires a thing of the past? “The days of explorers ambling into Colorado’s backcountry, gathering kindling and sparking a fire for some supper and perhaps a s’more or two are gone. Long gone, experts say. The state’s too dry. Too warm. Wildfire risk is too high and the season lasts all year now. The danger of a camper accidentally sparking a devastating wildfire is too serious. So the windows when campers face no fire restrictions – imposed by county or federal officials – are starting to shrink.” [Denver Post]

ICYMI from BRL

🚨 Boulder Police Department ramps up patrols in certain areas of the city. The shift in strategy comes as cities across the nation are responding to rising crime rates and struggling to hire police officers.

💰 Plans for the remaining cash in the Boulder County Wildfire Fund are coming into view. What will it mean for survivors? During the second public meeting regarding the dispersal of $28.5 million in earmarked Marshall Fire disaster relief, Community Foundation Boulder County CEO Tatiana Hernandez laid out details surrounding a formula for determining how funds will be divided among households.

🏠 In a possible first for Colorado, City of Boulder may expand its affordable housing program countywide to jointly address the regional crisis. The idea comes as part of a recommendation for spending federal stimulus money to ease the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on low-income families.

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– 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.