Dear Santa: The Environment Tops My List

By Gary Wockner
December 11, 2006

Dear Santa,

You sleighed into Fort Collins a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been honing my Christmas list ever since. I’ve tried to be nice this year (not naughty), and now I’m sitting on your lap to give it a go.

My visit coincides with the Dec. 15 deadline for our newly elected state senators and representatives to submit their bills for the 2007 Colorado legislative session. As an environmentalist, I can think of no better Christmas gift than if five new bills get introduced and make it all the way to the governor’s desk next May.

Please, Santa, consider these gifts for both the people of Colorado and for our beautiful Colorado landscape:

1. Instream flow rights. Believe it or not, we need to change state law to make it possible to keep water in our rivers. There are people, organizations, cities, and even farmers who want to donate water to our rivers, but our convoluted water laws keep it from happening. The law now says we have to “use it or lose it.” We need to change the law to allow our rivers to flow freely again.

2. Wolf reintroduction. Imagine the howl of wolves roaming Colorado. Imagine Colorado elk being chased by wolves. There are wolves in the states around us - Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana - and the Colorado Division of Wildlife has already changed its policy to allow for wolves. It’s time now to reintroduce these critters into our wild landscapes. A bill in the legislature could make it so.

3. Plug-in hybrid cars. Never mind those old 2004 Prius gas-guzzlers. These new-generation Prius cars plug right into your electrical outlets, and they get up to 200 miles per gallon! To make it possible, we need tax credits or the redirection of other transportation money - let’s quit paying for gas to fund Osama bin Laden and his pals in the Middle East, and let’s get some meaningful hybrid-car funding mechanisms passed through the state legislature.

4. Solar panels on our roofs. Jimmy Carter did it 30 years ago on the White House roof, and we still haven’t done it here in Colorado. We’re poised to spend tens of billions of dollars on new power plants in the next decade, but only a fraction of that on renewable solar energy. Imagine if we passed a bill to reinvest a portion of that power plant money and put it in household solar panels. Colorado citizens could spin their electric meters backward and we’d save billions on electricity and curtail millions of pounds of air pollution.

5. Water conservation. Water districts around Colorado are preparing to spend more than $5 billion on new dams and reservoirs, but the state still has no water conservation standards or incentive programs. Let’s require that water districts and cities have aggressive conservation programs, and then let’s teach them how to reinvest 20 percent of that $5 billion and put it into water conservation for homes and farms. We’d never have to build another dam, and we’d save our rivers, save water, and save lots of money.

Now, Santa, I know I shouldn’t ask for more, but I have two additional requests. First, all my environmental friends have been beat down, trammeled, ransacked, pillaged, and burned over the last decade by the state and federal administrations. To be honest, my friends act like an abused spouse who has learned helplessness and has become psychologically paralyzed.

For them, I ask that you give renewed hope. With hope, I believe they can find the passion and energy to continue working hard to preserve our state’s environment.

And second, there’s lots of folks in the state legislature who are feeling nervous about supporting strong environmental values. They believe in protecting the environment, but they don’t want to stick their necks out for fear of losing the next election.

For them, I ask that you give courage. It is courage that will support their voice so they can stand up at the state Capitol to protect our environment.

And Santa, I smell a little cognac on your breath, so I wonder if I might request one more little gift: Can you ask Al Gore to run for president?

Sincerely yours,

Gary Wockner

Gary Wockner, Ph.D. is a writer and ecologist. He is a resident of Fort Collins. Reach him at