Elise Thatcher

Reporter

Elise Thatcher joined Aspen Public Radio in 2013. Previously she worked as a freelancer, covering Southwestern Colorado, as well as with Colorado Public Radio, National Public Radio, KBOO Portland, and KWCW Whitman College. Elise is an award-winning journalist who relishes digging deep into complex issues, as well as covering day to day stories. When away from the microphone, she enjoys rock climbing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, and other outdoor opportunities.

Ways to Connect

Mountain Edition - June 20th, 2013

Jun 20, 2013

The pipeline leak in Parachute several months ago has been repaired but the resulting spill is continuing to cause worries. On Sunday, levels of the chemical benzene went up. We ask officials why.

Our science reporter tells us about some heart irregularities that appear to be unique to high level snow skiers.

The Roaring Fork Valley has among the highest number of residents without health insurance in Colorado. As the rollout of Obamacare begins they may… or may not… get insured.

Some black bears seem to be choosing food from town again this year. We’ll talk with an expert about bear behavior and if coming to town is passed down to cubs.

All that and a conversation with painter Don Nice

Courtesy: Rebecca Schild

A world-class climbing area near Rifle may reopen today. The Rifle Mountain Park has been closed for five days because of the nearby Ward Gulch fire. Now, the town’s Parks and Recreation Department says people may be able to return... but it all depends on the weather. 

Rifle Mountain Park has some of the best rock climbing in the country, and climbers from all over the world test their skills there. Everyone was evacuated last Friday, when the Ward Gulch fire got perilously close.  Tom Whitmore is Parks Director for the Town of Rifle.

[Photo: Esther Godson]

For firefighters, each new blaze presents different challenges. Where to get water... the boundaries between private and public property.. access roads and other details can be crucial to getting control of a fire. To make that easier, the Forest Service and other agencies are building their own Google Earth program.

Mountain Edition - June 13th, 2013

Jun 13, 2013

There’s a Red Flag Warning for the lower part of the Roaring Fork Valley. That’s until 8pm  and it comes as much of Colorado is holding its breath - the state’s most devastating fire is burning near Colorado Springs. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed by flames.

A brand new air tanker is part of the firefighting fleet in Colorado Springs.. and a Colorado Senator is trying to beef up forces with repurposed military planes, too.

Gabrielle Petron / Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences

Some of Colorado’s top oil and gas promoters are worried that lawmakers... and residents... don’t understand the industry. In the coming months, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association plans to talk with both about the effects--and benefits--of drilling. The group hopes to, in their words, change the conversation about the industry... especially in Colorado’s legislature. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher recently spoke with Doug Flanders. He’s the Director of Policy & External Affairs for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. She asked Flanders why. 

Elise Thatcher

It’s coming down to the wire for the new Aspen Music Festival and School. Workers are cranking on finishing up construction and landscaping for the sixty-five million dollar project. It’s supposed to be mostly done by this Friday. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher toured the new digs last week has this report.

Alan Fletcher is President and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School. He carefully tip-toes his way across fresh dirt, pipelines and around a pond...finally he stops and points toward three striking buildings that overlook the water.

Mountain Edition - June 6th, 2013

Jun 6, 2013

Aspen has a new mayor-elect.  Steve Skadron will be sworn in next week.  His first order of business will be to replace himself on the city council.

After Skadron is sworn in, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland becomes citizen Ireland after almost twenty years in public office.

Aspen’s bike sharing program is up and running.  Organizers hope it will become a model for other mountain towns.

A West Slope doctor is indicted on charges related to prescription drugs and money laundering, among other things. He could end up facing life in prison.

The Forest Service isn’t hiring as many firefighters this year, compared to years past. That’s according to the agency’s top official. Tom Tidwell testified before Congress earlier this week. He said there will be five hundred fewer firefighters this year. That’s because of sequestration, or mandatory budget cuts. Bill Kight is with the White River National Forest. Aspen Public Radio asked whether those budget cuts will mean fewer firefighters for the Forest.

“Uh no, not really, we’re in good shape this year. We’re about the same number of folks we had last year.”

Farther down valley, the Basalt Police Department is still trying to reach someone who may have been one of the last people to see a man who died in Basalt last month. Daniel Perez Mejia was found in late May in a ditch near Big O Tires in Basalt. Police say Mejia got off a bus operated by the Roaring Fork Transit Authority late in the evening on Saturday, May 25th. There was another man who got off the bus at the same time.

Marci Krivonen

Water managers, users, and other decision makers from across Colorado are meeting today in Keystone. It’s part of ongoing efforts to make sure water’s being used in a smart way across the state. And now officials are starting to put together a statewide water plan, as ordered by Governor John Hickenlooper. John Stulp is the governor’s water advisor--and he’s overseeing Wednesday's meeting.

Courtesy Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife

There are new restrictions for food and related items in all developed recreation sites on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. The Forest Service announced what it calls a food storage order yesterday. It requires that all food and refuse be kept in bear-resistant containers. Bill Kight is with the White River National Forest.

Elise Thatcher

The fire season is underway, with evacuations near Denver for what’s being called the Bluebell Fire. The blaze started yesterday in the Evergreen area, just west of Denver.

Two much smaller fires were reported in the Roaring Fork Valley this weekend. One was up Thompson Creek, near Carbondale. The other was in Aspen City limits, next to Aspen Mountain. Right now, fire danger varies a little along the Roaring Fork Valley. In the Carbondale area it’s moderate, it is low in Aspen.  Ron Leach is Chief of the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District.  Leach is advising caution.

Elise Thatcher

There were about 4400 more jobs last November than previously thought. That’s according to the latest numbers from Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment. Chief Economist Alexandra Hall says the update doesn’t increase the overall average number of jobs during the fourth quarter of 2012. But the update does show Colorado's job numbers appear to be accurately reflecting the state's economy.

Courtesy University of Colorado Boulder

The FAA is expected to decide whether to allow people to fly drones in certain parts of Colorado. That would be in a proposed FAA test site in this state... and it’s part of a larger effort to better understand whether the remote controlled, unmanned planes can be safely used in the airspace above communities - like airplanes or other aircraft.

Courtesy Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority

In Aspen, the city council has approved more flexibility for retirees who own affordable housing units. Starting June 30th, residents can leave for six months at a time--and they can rent out their homes while they’re gone.

At a council meeting on Tuesday night, the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority recommended the change for retirees. Tom McCabe is Executive Director.

Elise Thatcher

Memorial Day weekend brought luscious green views for drivers along Independence Pass. And there was an extra dash of color along Highway 82. Less than ten miles east of Aspen, large yarn creations appeared in a grove of Aspen trees.... looking like giant socks or leg warmers, wrapped around the tree trunks.

On Monday, two women were among several who pulled over to look more closely.

“At first we were really confused about what they were because we had never seen them before. But we knew we had to stop and check them out.”

Jesse Lujan

Colorado is one of nearly twenty states putting together a kind of cooperative health care purchasing program. It’s called an exchange, and it’s starting under the recent health care overhaul often called "Obamacare". Enrollment starts in October and it could mean big changes for Native Americans in Colorado. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher recently spoke with Ernest House Junior. He’s Executive Director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs. House started by explaining what health care options Native Americans have now.

Elise Thatcher

The City of Aspen wants to know what “environmental sustainability” means to people here. Does it mean cleaner air or making sure there’s enough water to go around? Or maybe there’s another description It’s part of Aspen’s new effort to find out exactly how well the city is meeting its own sustainability goals.  Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher filed this report.

Courtesy Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife

The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife is still searching for who killed and dumped a female adult bear earlier this month. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher checked on the latest in the investigation.

EcoFlight

The Aspen Skiing Company has given a combined fifty thousand dollars to organizations working to prevent oil and gas drilling in the Thompson Divide. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher has more.

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