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  • Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: Education Issue 2017

This year marks Colorado Gardener’s 20th anniversary. We’ve published over 100 issues for our semi-arid climate with a focus on beauty, natural science, health, and environmentally sound practices, and included humor whenever possible. We have gratefully been supported by advertising from garden centers and nurseries, garden-related businesses, plant societies and garden clubs, and organizations like the Gardens on Spring Creek in Fort Collins and Denver Botanic Gardens, now one of the top botanic gardens in the world.

This issue includes articles on the benefits of native plants by Irene Shonle and on bird and insect intelligence by Gary Raham. Marcia Tatroe writes about growing native winter annuals, while Rod Haenni tells you about specialty nurseries that carry uncommon plants. Jennifer Loyd profiles Denver’s Welby Gardens and its Hardy Boy brand. Nitrous Oxide may seem like an unlikely gardening topic, but as Mikl Brawner explains, it’s a byproduct of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and a major “forgotten” greenhouse gas. For beginner gardeners, mountain food grower Penn Parmenter explains how to start your own plants in Seed Sowing 101. Kelly Grummons answers questions about succulents, low-water shrubs, and small gardens for pollinators.

During these 20 years we’ve seen sustainable, water-wise, and organic methods become mainstream. We’ve become aware of and embraced Xeriscape, Local Food, Permaculture (considered “way out there” 20 years ago), and now the crucial importance of native plants in our landscapes. The legalization of marijuana has surely increased the number of plant growers and gardeners in our state.

The plight of bees and other insects has been a difficult, troubling issue to cover, especially with the onslaught of Fake News. On one hand there’s a call for Science to prove harm without a doubt before any meaningful or preventative action is taken, and on the other, genuine, independent, peer-reviewed scientific findings are dismissed as hoaxes. It’s even more difficult to tell the difference between sound journalism and writers who are shills for industry in social media. Take honey bees for example. Some reports claim that bees are now rebounding, as if we have nothing to worry about, despite all the evidence to the contrary. It’s more important than ever to check writers’ bios and sources, and to “follow the money” to get close to the truth.

With the new administration, we’re seeing a culmination of disdain for the press, for conservation and the environment, and for science. The Endangered Species Act is in serious trouble. This morning the EPA was notified to freeze its grant program, which funds everything from scientific research to air quality monitoring, and to cease public communications. (I confirmed this with EPA employees.) This means scientists are being told they are not allowed to speak or publish.

As the Environmental Defense Fund put it, “His cabinet nominations reflect a dangerous imbalance in favor of oil and gas interests, with no one to speak up on behalf of human health or a healthy natural world.”

While the EPA Climate Change Web Page is still up today, it will likely disappear once the new EPA head is confirmed. The site contains links to scientific global warming research and detailed data on emissions.

It’s worth pointing out that some of the stated purposes of the EPA include ensuring that:

• Environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade

• All parts of society… have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks

• The U.S. plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment

Withholding funding from government agencies to circumvent laws and prevent regulatory enforcement isn’t new. But this gag order goes further. The EPA’s mission “to protect human health and the environment” was created in 1973 to address unhealthy levels of pollution. Imperfect as the agency may be, we’ve seen measurable success in cleaner air and water since then, and polls show that Americans continue to overwhelming support a healthy environment no matter whom they vote for. This is especially true in Colorado, but it looks as though we’ll need to fight harder for it in the days to come.

We publish again at the beginning of April, May, and June, and as always, welcome your suggestions.

Jane Shellenberger



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