Fish Creek Road runs along the eastern edge of Estes Park, Colorado – or at least it used to. The recent record rainfall of September 2013 flooded Fish Creek proper, washing away entire segments of the roadway that runs alongside it – more than three miles of roadway, according to
The U.S. has been stockpiling confiscated ivory — from tusks to idols to bangles and bracelets — for over 20 years. Until now, the bulk of this ivory was stored in the repository at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.
But on November 14, officials from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lugged the six tons of ivory out of the warehouse and into a rock crusher. While many other countries have burned their stockpiles, this is the first time the U.S. has destroyed its ivory — and the first time ivory has been mashed into pebble-sized pieces.
The advantage to crushing, officials explained, was that the resulting bits and pieces could be turned into some sort of memorial for the elephants. Additionally, there were concerns from some environmentalists about the CO2 released into the atmosphere from burns.
After attending a reception the night before the crush and touching base with some of our interviewees for a mini-doc for OnEarth, an online environmental magazine, fellow graduate student Caitlin Rockett, CEJ associate director Michael Kodas and I headed out to the beige plains of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.
When we arrived workers were hanging a large mural representing the 30,000 elephants that were killed last year. U.S. Fish & Wildlife staff carefully assembled tusks into a pyramid-shaped funeral pyre, and ivory idols were lined neatly on tables.
The craftsmanship of many of the pieces was impressive. Exceedingly intricate images of elephants and deities were carved into tusks, while other tusks were carefully shaved down to make elaborate statues. Yet behind the artistry and artisanship was, for me, a profound sense of sadness and loss.
After a set of rousing speeches and celebrity appearances later that afternoon, the ivory was loaded into bulldozers and carted away to the rock crusher.
Shards of ivory spewed into the air, with rows of cameras capturing each burst.
It’s not every day you get to see six tons of ground up ivory shoot through the air. As young journalists, being able to witness a historical event like the U.S. ivory crush – and, more importantly, tell its story – is something that both Caitlin and I will remember for years to come.
To see our OnEarth mini-doc, click here.
On November 14, 2013, the Boulder Stand’s contributing co-editor Caitlin Rockett and contributing writer Gloria Dickie reported from the ivory crush at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, CO.
The crush represented a prominent move by the U.S. government to send a strong signal to the international community: the illegal ivory trade will not be tolerated.
Dickie and Rockett worked with reporter Michael Kodas, assistant director of the CU Boulder Center for Environmental Journalism, to produce a film on the ivory crush for OnEarth. You can watch the powerful film here.
Dickie’s photos from the crush are featured in the video slideshow above.
One year ago today, a wildfire ignited near the Fern Lake trail head in Rocky Mountain National Park when careless hikers failed to extinguish their illegal campfire. Although October generally falls outside of the “fire season” in Colorado, 2012 had already been a record year for drought and wildfire, and the landscape was exceedingly dry and vulnerable to a spark. This autumn fire set off alarm bells for fire managers and climatologists, burning into the winter, growing by three miles in 35 minutes in December and smoldering under the snow long into the springtime. Finally, on June 25, 2013 officials declared the fire out, but warned that if conditions did not change, Coloradans could expect more anomalous, overwintering, long-burning, smoldering wildfires.