Years of work culminated this week in the opening of a new Wildlife Refuge in Colorado. This one is unusual because the site used to be a nuclear weapons plant. I know. I was a Cold War Warrior there (honestly, that’s what the USA Congress called us) and later an environmental engineer turning the plant over to wildlife.
One odd side-effect of the weapons complex has been protection of plants and animals. Rocky Flats is home to an endangered mouse, and the State of Colorado wanted to place state-endangered birds on the property. Grazing and development around the plant left Rocky Flats as the best habitat in the area.
There was always wildlife in the buffer zone around the plant’s industrial core. I remember once a white fawn was born and the guard force tracked it daily from their towers and vehicles and reported to interested employees.
Once, a railroad car overturned and the recovery efforts were brought to a standstill by an angry rattlesnake coiled under the car.
I no longer live close enough to enjoy the new trails, which is a shame. A dear friend and colleague of mine will also miss out – he died earlier this year. He would have loved it.
The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge sits on more than 5,000 acres of trees, wetlands and pristine rolling prairie about 16 miles northwest of Denver. It hosts 239 migratory and resident species, from falcons and elk to the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.
The actual site of the former buildings will remain fenced off forever. It’s the land that used to serve as a buffer around Rocky Flats that’s reopening this weekend. NPR