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The unemployment rate in Colorado rose slightly in May to 8.1%, up from 7.9% in the month of April. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the change was caused by an increase in the number of people active in the labor force, without an increase in the number of people claiming that they were employed. Specifically, Colorado gained about 2,000 non-farm payroll jobs from April to May, for a total of 2.3 million jobs. The national unemployment rate increased one-tenth of one percent over the same period to 8.2%. The largest gains were in financial services and leisure and hospitality.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, the owner of the largest ranch in Colorado, announced on Friday his intention to donate a 90,000-acre conservation easement to the federal government, that will protect three 14,000-foot peaks in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and an important wildlife corridor. Bacon hopes that the donation of the easement might serve as an example for other landowners and secure an important area for both wildlife and the public. No estimate was available last week for the value of the easement, however interior department officials said that because the easement was donated, it would not require funding from congress. The announcement also gave some momentum to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who has proposed a program of easements with willing landowners that would put over 500,000 acres under easement in the San Luis Valley and in a small part of New Mexico. The easement includes three 14,000-foot peaks – Blanca Peak, Mount Lindsey and Little Bear Peak. It will also protect a migration corridor for wildlife coming to and from the wet mountain valley and the front range.

Even though Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has the support of the San Luis Valley’s largest landowner for his proposal to create 530,000 acres of conservation easements, Salazar does not have the support of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. In a letter to Salazar last week, the district argued that Salazar’s proposed San Luis Valley Conservation Area runs counter to local efforts to move surface water to offset the impact of groundwater pumping. The five-page letter says in part: “This proposal aims to interfere with the efforts of the district and the valley’s farm community to achieve a sustainable water system”. The letter continues that “it is not an acceptable position for a federal agency to adopt.” In the draft-study of the easement program backed by Salazar, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said a goal of the conservation area was to protect the integrity of habitat by preventing the off-parcel sale of surface water. When asked if the federal easements would interfere with local efforts to use surface water to offset groundwater pumping on Friday, Salazar said “absolutely not”.

Lex A. Bridgeman, 45, of Pueblo, was seriously injured in a single-car rollover that shut down Interstate 25 in both directions near the Pueblo County/El Paso County line about 1pm on Saturday afternoon. Bridgeman was reportedly driving southbound south of Fountain when the right rear tire of his 1995 Nissan Pathfinder malfunctioned, causing the car to hit the median. The SUV rolled counter clockwise across the southbound lanes and came to rest on the northbound side. The entire highway was shut down for 45 minutes while a helicopter landed to transport Bridgeman to Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs.

The Neenan Company has been working to fix potentially life-threatening problems at the Sargent Junior/Senior High School since the school district set out on summer break. During the past school year, a 3rd-party structural review discovered at least 27 building errors in the Sargent Junior/Senior High School. The new school was built as part of a $17.6 million Neenan Company “Building Excellent Schools Today” project that has been occupied since 2010. The summer construction includes foundation reinforcement, support beam welding, and a massive brick installation on the school’s northern wall. Additional construction work was performed in the school’s old and new gyms. The entire project is scheduled for completion on August 1st.