Habitat exchange scheme eyed as key component in efforts to protect dwindling western birds
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is ordering state agencies to boost greater sage-grouse conservation efforts. Photo courtesy USFWS.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling for an all-out state effort to protect greater sage-grouse by stepping up coordination among state agencies, improving habitat on state-controlled lands, and boosting the role of the state’s oil and gas commission.
The new conservation push, announced in a May 15 executive order, also outlines a market-based habitat exchange program that would let ranchers and other landowners buy and sell conservation credits to developers, including the oil and gas industry with the goal of mitigating “residual impacts” to sage-grouse habitat.
The South Platte River at Cheesman Canyon was flowing at more than twice its normal median cubic feet per second. The South Platte River in Commerce City was flowing at 566 percent of its median cfs. Monument Creek in El Paso County was at 566 percent, and the Big Thompson River in Loveland was at 988 percent, according to the USGS.
Before Saturday, Denver has recorded more than twice its normal rainfall so far this month, with 2.63 inches of precipitation, when 0.99 is normal. The city’s weather station at Denver International Airport recorded rain on 12 of the first 15 days of the month. In April, the city received 2.65 inches of precipitation, which was nearly an inch above average for the month.
If you are looking for wild and scenic, that would be northern Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River, a Front Range jewel that offers Class II to Class V whitewater slicing through granite corridors.
Rafting on the state’s only federally designated Wild and Scenic River is typically divided into two sections: the lower, easier runs and the upper, more difficult sections. Outfitters on the lower half — check out A Wanderlust Adventure (4120 W. County Road 54G, Laporte, 800-745-7238, awanderlustadventure.com) — can float kids as young as 7 through Class II and Class III rapids. Trips on the upper section are rowdier, with adrenaline-churning drops and waterfalls that cut through some of Colorado’s most scenic gorges…
The Arkansas River from Granite to Cañon City is the most trafficked stretch of whitewater in the country. For good reason. The river, which hosted more than 190,000 rafters last year, can thrill every type of whitewater fan, from the most grizzled kayaker to the novice rubber rider. The Arkansas River is truly one-stop shopping for every river lover.
Above Buena Vista, the Arkansas tumbles through a ravine bisected by the boat-eating Pine Creek Rapid. Anyone venturing through this Class-V stretch best be prepared. A swim in Pine Creek is never pretty. Downstream, the Arkansas meanders through seven distinct rapids, known as The Numbers. Kayakers love this stretch year-round as the current allows passage through granite boulders even in winter. The rafting options grow as the river enters Buena Vista, where the town’s river play park is a hive of paddling action.
I believe conserving water in our gardens is the right thing to do for several reasons, and also that there are no good reasons to waste water.
It is not difficult to plan a water-wise garden. There are many books by Southwest authors that will inspire and educate you. There are also local resources like the demonstration gardens at the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District near the Pueblo Airport and the Garden at Cattail Crossing in Pueblo West.
My favorite reasons for growing water-wise gardens are straight forward.
One of the rewards of a water-wise garden that incorporates many native plants is that it supports many native pollinators, birds and other wildlife. Native plants are soul food for native insects, and native insects are the primary source of food that almost all birds need to feed their young.
There are approximately 160 kinds of butterflies that can be found in Pueblo County, as well as over 60 kinds of moths and most of the 600-plus native bees found in Colorado.
Of water used inside the home, about 95 percent is treated at a wastewater plant and quickly returned to the river system. Of water used to irrigate lawns, about 30 percent returns, and only after many months, he said.
Harris also has been active politically. In 2014 he helped state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, create Senate Bill 17, which originally would have limited the size of lawns in new suburban developments. That idea tweaked a few people on the Front Range, so Roberts rewrote it to only call for a study of water conservation. It failed.
This year Roberts and other co-sponsors were able to pass Senate Bill 8, which will create training programs to help government planners implement water conservation programs. It passed.
Former state Sen. Bruce Whitehead was among about a dozen who stood in Harris’ and Carrasco’s lawn and dug a shovel into the soil. His personalized shovel was a remnant of his failed run against Roberts in 2010, but it was symbolic. His wife, Becca Conrad-Whitehead, had decorated it for the campaign and hand-painted “Working for Colorado’s future.”
Efficiency measures, such as sprinklers that direct flow more accurately, are helpful, he said. But the key is to reduce consumption.
“As far as savings, until you take away the consumption you really haven’t saved anything,” said Whitehead, executive director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District and a roundtable member.
From the Ouray County Plain Dealer (Sheridan Block):
Making an effort to be prepared for the state’s uncertain water future, Ouray County water users are taking necessary measures to protect their supply.
In a joint discussion on the state of local waters last month, local water user groups left with a general consensus of pursuing a water engineering analysis, which would analyze data for the Upper Uncompahgre Basin and ultimately provide options for solutions to future water needs.
The analysis is estimated to cost about $50,000, and last week county attorney and representative on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, Marti Whitmore, submitted a grant application for a joint project to the Roundtable.
“In talking with other people in the region, including people in the Colorado River District, everyone is supportive of such a widely supported and cooperative effort among many water users in Ouray County,” Whitmore told the Plaindealer. “This cooperative effort will benefit everybody. It’s a positive step in a positive direction and I’ve gotten a lot of favorable feedback.”
According to the grant application, the county (which for the project will also include the City of Ouray, Town of Ridgway, Ouray County Water Users Association and various Log Hill water user entities) is requesting $25,000 from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable and $25,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
From Colorado Corn via the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal:
Colorado Corn representatives sent a letter to state officials recently, weighing in on the current draft of the Colorado Water Plan to help make sure agriculture is appropriately represented in this critical conversation.
In its letter to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Corn endorsed the recent input of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance.
In a six-page document sent to the CWCB back on March 31, CAWA leaders asked that the Colorado Water Plan emphasize to the general public the critical role ag plays in the economy and overall well-being of the state, and delineate what’s at stake in terms of lost food and energy production, wildlife habitat and other forfeited environmental benefits if production dwindles due to water shortages.
Like others, CAWA and Colorado Corn representatives want to make sure the common Coloradan realizes that ag is a $40 billion industry in our state, and that we’re also on pace to see as many as 700,000 acres of irrigated farm ground dry up by 2050.
Altogether, CAWA leaders—consisting of representatives from about 20 ag organizations across the state—made 18 specific recommendations in their letter, covering an array of topics that are critical in preserving Colorado’s ag industry, including water-storage projects, groundwater and aging infrastructure, among others.
Colorado Corn board member and Merino-area farmer Charlie Bartlett serves as president of CAWA. Colorado Corn Executive Director Mark Sponsler is also heavily involved in CAWA, and, like Bartlett, helped draft CAWA’s recent input regarding the Colorado Water Plan.
In a separate letter, Colorado Corn representatives attempted to bring added attention to CAWA’s recommendations.
A second draft of the Colorado Water Plan is expected to be complete by July 15, with a final version due to the governor in December.