Gunnison County: Trampe Ranch protection a done deal

Here’s the release from the Trust for Public Land:

Broad coalition protects more than 4,300 acres with help from the largest-ever GOCO grant

The Trust for Public Land today announced the final-stage closing in the protection of 4,377 acres of working ranchland in the scenic valleys of the Gunnison and East Rivers between Gunnison and Crested Butte. The protection effort, for land on the Trampe Ranch, was completed through three working-ranch conservation easements and with help from a $10 million grant from the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) funding program, the largest single transaction grant in the organization’s history.

The easements prevent subdivision and development of scenic ranchlands stretching for 30 miles in one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes. These lands are essential to agriculture, with Trampe Ranch generating 20 percent of Gunnison County’s agricultural economy. In addition, the conserved lands provide scenic views that attract tourists and visitors, include habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, and serve as research lands for scientists from the nearby Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.

“The lands and waters of the Trampe Ranch play such an important role in defining the character and sense of place of one of Colorado’s last, great mountain valleys,” said Jim Petterson, The Trust for Public Land’s Southwest and Colorado Director. “This project brought together a deep and broad partnership of individuals, governments and organizations, all allied around a shared commitment of helping local communities fulfill their visions for how they want to grow and what they want to preserve.”

Efforts to protect ranchlands and open space in the Gunnison Valley began in the 1980s in an alliance between local land trusts, national conservation groups, funders like GOCO, local governments, and agricultural landowners, including Trampe Ranch owner Bill Trampe, who has been a leader in encouraging ranchers to conserve their land with easements. With the completion of the most recent project, Trampe Ranch has more than 6,000 acres under easement.

“GOCO is proud to be one of the partners to help make this monumental land conservation effort possible, and our Board of Trustees and staff are eternally grateful to Bill Trampe for his vision, leadership, and generosity,” said GOCO Executive Director Chris Castilian. “Trampe Ranch received GOCO’s largest ever, single transaction grant award at $10 million, because conserving this iconic property means the protection of vital agricultural land and stunning scenic views for those who will recreate on beautiful, adjacent public lands for generations to come.”

“What this one very special place means to the Gunnison Valley and to our entire state cannot be overstated. Today we join our fellow Coloradans in celebrating Bill Trampe, his family, and all they have accomplished,” added Castilian.

In addition to the GOCO grant, funding for the project came from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, Gunnison County, The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Crested Butte Land Trust, and 1% for Open Space, a consortium of Gunnison County businesses that collects a voluntary donation of 1% of sales for its customers to fund open space conservation in Gunnison Valley. Additional private funding came from a multi-million dollar campaign. Trampe Ranch also donated a significant portion of the conservation easement value toward the project.

“This land has been the heart of our ranch for more than 100 years,” said Bill Trampe. “Conservation of our home place means this land is available forever for agriculture.”

Local partners cheered the completion of the conservation effort.

“We are very excited to see this critical step in the conservation of the East River Valley,” said Dr. Ian Billick, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. “Keeping the properties in ranching is one of the most important things we could do to leverage the nation’s large investment in the field research that helps us manage our water, air, and food.”

“Nothing is more important than the preservation of the natural state of Colorado and its heritage of ranching. Especially in this day and age when there seems to be a valid threat to open spaces throughout the West,” said Mayor Jim Schmidt from the Town of Crested Butte.

“We are very excited about the completion of this final conservation easement,” said Carlos Fernandez, Colorado State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “The Trampe Ranch is a spectacular property with some of the most outstanding scenery in Colorado. Conserving this iconic ranch leaves an amazing legacy for the Gunnison Valley, reminding us of Colorado’s history and landscape.”

From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

One of the most significant land preservation actions in Colorado concluded Tuesday, April 10 with the closing of the last parcel of the Trampe Ranch property in Gunnison County. The final closing puts thousands of acres of prime ranchland stretching from Gunnison to Gothic into a conservation easement that is meant to keep the property free of development and focused on agriculture in perpetuity.

This multimillion-dollar deal was broken up into three parts totaling 4,377 acres. The first step took place in February 2017 when the 1,447-acre Trampe Home Ranch was preserved. That parcel, located near Gunnison, resulted in Gunnison sage grouse habitat being protected.

“This land has been the heart of our ranch for more than 100 years,” said Bill Trampe at the time. “The meadows and pastures are the resource base for ranch production, and also provide habitat for Gunnison sage grouse and other wildlife species. Conservation of our home place means this land is available forever for agriculture and for the birds.”

The second phase of the overall effort took place in October 2017 when 284 acres were preserved in the corridor between Gunnison and Crested Butte near Jack’s Cabin. And Tuesday’s 2,647-acre closing put land primarily located in the Upper East River Valley near Crested Butte into the conservation easement.

The Nature Conservancy is the holder of the Trampe Ranch conservation easement and the Trust for Pubic Land facilitated the transactions and led the public and private fundraising campaign…

While 4,377 acres were protected in these latest three closings, in sum total, the Trampe Ranch will have close to 6,000 protected acres from prior projects near Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery.

Drug waste clogs rivers around the world, scientists say: “We need a substantial reduction in consumption” — Francesco Bregoli

The White-Rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) is an Old World vulture native to South and Southeast Asia. It has been listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2000, as the population severely declined. White-rumped vultures die of renal failure caused by diclofenac poisoning. In the 1980s, the global population was estimated at several million individuals, and it was thought to be “the most abundant large bird of prey in the world”. As of 2016, the global population was estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals. Photo credit: Wikimedia

From The Guardian:

Large numbers of pharmaceuticals found at levels dangerous for wildlife and the environment

River systems around the world are coursing with over-the-counter and prescription drugs waste which harms the environment, researchers have found.

If trends persist, the amount of pharmaceutical effluence leaching into waterways could increase by two-thirds before 2050, scientists told the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna on Tuesday.

“A large part of the freshwater ecosystems is potentially endangered by the high concentration of pharmaceuticals,” said Francesco Bregoli, a researcher at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, and leader of an international team that developed a method for tracking drug pollution “hotspots”.

A large number of drugs – analgesics, antibiotics, anti-platelet agents, hormones, psychiatric drugs, antihistamines – have been found at levels dangerous for wildlife.

Endocrine disruptors, for example, have induced sex changes in fish and amphibians.

Bregoli and his team used a common anti-inflammation drug, diclofenac, as a proxy to estimate the presence and spread of other medications in freshwater ecosystems.

Both the European Union and the US Environmental Protection Agency have identified diclofenac as an environmental threat. Veterinary use of it has driven a sub-species of vultures on the Indian subcontinent to the brink of extinction.

More than 10,000km of rivers around the world have concentrations of diclofenac above the EU “watch list” limit of 100 nanograms a litre, the new research found.

“Diclofenac emissions are similar to any of thousands of pharmaceuticals and personal care products,” said Bregoli.

Global consumption of diclofenac tops 2,400 tonnes a year. Several hundred tonnes remain in human waste, and only a small fraction – about 7% – of that is filtered out by treatment plants.

Another 20% is absorbed by ecosystems, and the rest go into oceans.

Bregoli and his team developed a computer model to predict current and future pharma pollution based on criteria such as population densities, sewage systems and drugs sales.

They compared the results to data gathered from 1,400 spot measurements of diclofenac toxicity taken from around the world. Most of the data points were in Europe and North America.

Pollution levels are likely to be substantially higher in much of Latin America, Africa and Asia where less than a quarter of waste water is treated, and with technology unable to filter out most pharmaceuticals.

Technology alone cannot solve the problem, said Bregoli.

“We need a substantial reduction in consumption,” he said.

In other research presented at the conference, scientists found that the rapid expansion of sewage systems in large urban areas has sharply raised river pollution because much of it is not adequately treated.

“In 2000, sewage was a source of pollution in about 50% of the rivers in the world,” said Maryna Strokal, a scientist at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.

“By 2010, sewage was a source of pollution in almost all rivers worldwide.”

Antibiotics and chemicals waste is also driving the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria, UN Environment warned in a study in December.

Between 70% and 80% of all antibiotics consumed by humans and farm animals – thousands of tonnes – find their way into natural environments, it said.

#ColoradoRiver: Humpback chub populations stabilizing #COriver

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

In a recent analysis, scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say the chub’s five distinct populations throughout the Colorado River watershed in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona are stable enough to reclassify the fish as threatened rather than endangered.

Humpback chubs all but disappeared as large dams began filling the Colorado River’s tight canyons, controlling flows and changing water temperature. The fish thrives in rapid, turbulent flows, which were tamed as dams went up throughout the watershed since the 1930s…

[Tom] Chart says efforts to better manage dams, releasing water to mimic seasonal high and low flows, have provided more habitat. The agency also attempts to control and kill non-native fish like small mouth bass that feast on the humpback chub…

The largest population of humpback chub, found at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers in the Grand Canyon of Arizona, is a stable group of about 12,000 adults according to USFWS estimates. Another 3,500 are in the Colorado River’s Westwater Canyon in Utah, plus 500 in Black Rocks in Western Colorado, near the Utah border. Other populations are found in Utah’s Cataract Canyon and Desolation and Gray Canyons. A previously documented group in Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument haven’t been seen there since 2004.

The fish is not completely out of the woods just yet, Chart cautions. A full recovery of the humpback chub in the Colorado River will require more population monitoring, continued flow management from dams and coordinated kills of nonnative fish.

$60k grant from NFWF means more greenback cutthroats in Colorado waters — #Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Greenback cutthroat trout photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

More greenback cutthroats are headed to a creek near you, thanks to a $60k grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s “Bring Back the Natives” (BBN) program.

This project to restore native greenback cutthroat trout to 14 miles of stream in George and Cornelius Creeks in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Poudre River, reached a major funding milestone with the award of the $60k grant. The BBN grant will go toward the design and construction of a temporary barrier to upstream fish migration in Cornelius Creek, enabling systematic eradication of non-native brook trout, brown trout, and whirling disease from the watershed.

“George Creek holds great promise for recovering Greenback cutthroat trout, but our conservation success depends on broad support from many partners,” said Canyon Lakes District Ranger Katie Donahue. “Receiving a national funding award from NFWF is a great step along our path.”

The grant is the direct result of continued support for the project from Colorado Trout Unlimited. In addition to this grant “The Greenbacks,” a chapter of CTU, previously leveraged funds from a crowd sourced fundraising effort to secure a grant from Patagonia’s World Trout Initiative, resulting in the contribution of $17k toward a permanent barrier at the downstream end of the project. This barrier will exclude non-native trout from the watershed in perpetuity.

“We’re proud of how our volunteers have risen to meet the call,” said David Nickum, Executive Director for Colorado Trout Unlimited. “From backpacking fish into high-mountain restoration sites and releasing them back into their native range, to helping install fish barriers to protect native recovery areas, TU members have been hardworking, enthusiastic partners in recovery.”

This recent BBN grant brings the total amount of funding raised from grant sources and other public fundraising activities to $162k for the project.

About the George Creek Multi-phase greenback recovery project

The George Creek greenback restoration project has been in the works for three years and consists of three phases: (1) eradicate nonnative trout from upper George Creek [Summer 2018], (2) eradicate trout from upper Cornelius Creek, (3) eradicate non-native trout in lower reaches of George Creek down to a permanent barrier near the confluence with Sheep Creek. The BBN grant will help fund phase 2.

Native greenback cutthroat trout will be re-stocked into the streams when it has been confirmed that all non-native trout and whirling disease have been completely eradicated, in the year 2025 at the earliest.

The George Creek restoration project will ultimately restore native greenbacks to 14 miles of quality trout stream habitat, more than tripling the number of stream miles currently occupied by greenbacks in their native range, the South Platte Basin.

“Our work has been benefitted greatly from our strong partnerships with Colorado Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service,” said Boyd Wright, Native Aquatic Species Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “It is gratifying to work together to ensure that future generations will enjoy Colorado’s greenback cutthroat trout for years to come.”

For more information on the native greenback cutthroat story, visit: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ResearchGreenbackCutthroatTrout.aspx

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

Walleye from #LakePowell new threat to endangered #Colorado pikeminnow

Danielle Tremblay of Colorado Parks and Wildlife holding a Colorado pikeminnow collected on the Colorado River in Grand Junction. An apex predator in the Colorado, pikeminnows used to be found up to six feet long and weighing 100 pounds.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon) via The Aspen Times:

the endangered Colorado pikeminnow faces a new threat, a predator that eagerly scarfs down young pikeminnow, taking a jagged bite out of the species’ overall numbers.

Unfamiliar predation on the pikeminnow comes from a species of fish that’s native to the flatwaters of Canada and the northern tier of the United States. Walleye is a prized food fish, but its voracious appetite for pikeminnow is proving to be a setback to expectations that the pikeminnow could be removed from the endangered species list.

“Walleye have gone gangbusters in Lake Powell,” said Tom Chart, a fisheries biologist who heads the Upper Colorado River Endangered Species Recovery Program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It’s likely that walleye found their way up the Colorado from Lake Powell, Chart said. It’s also possible that the hungry newcomers could have swum down from Rifle Gap and Elkhead reservoirs in Colorado and from two reservoirs in Utah, Red Fleet and Starvation, both near Vernal, said Henry Maddux, director of Utah’s species recovery programs.

On a barely encouraging note, “We haven’t seen walleye reproduce in the rivers,” Chart said. “Yet.”

Walleye nonetheless have taken up residence in waters where they don’t belong, feasting on the young pikeminnow that hatched in the critical 15-mile reach of the Colorado River through the Grand Valley and washed downriver into the slower waters where for eons they have grown to become the apex predators on the river.

The tiny power plant that shapes the Colorado River — merely by existing — @HighCountyNews

From The High Country News (Emily Benson):

Head east from Glenwood Springs in western Colorado today, and you’ll encounter an isolated stretch of I-70 hugging the curves of the Colorado River. But 110 years ago, you would’ve hit “a thriving little city” of hundreds of people living in tents, nestled there between the high walls of the river canyon so its residents could build a hydroelectric plant.

That facility, the Shoshone power plant, still adds energy to the grid, but its true importance lies elsewhere: Shoshone is a cornerstone of the elaborate complex of water rights, laws, agreements and relationships that shape the management of the upper Colorado River. Because of the water rights it holds — and because it returns the water it uses to the river channel — the diminutive plant dictates how the river is managed in Colorado. “It’s an interesting historic relic with huge implications for the ecological health of the river,” says Brent Uilenberg, a manager in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Region, “and (for) providing a reliable water supply for East and West Slope human uses.”

Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant back in the days before I-70 via Aspen Journalism

The water system Shoshone has shaped irrigates crops, supports endangered fish and keeps a nearly $8 million rafting industry afloat. Merely by existing, the plant helps keep the demands of Denver and other thirsty cities in check.

In what has long been a source of conflict and compromise among Colorado’s water managers, most of the state’s precipitation falls west of the continental divide, on the Western Slope, separated from the majority of the population by the Rocky Mountains. Since the early 1900s, a series of tunnels and ditches have addressed that mismatch by ferrying water out of the Colorado River basin, supplying cities and irrigating fields east of the Rockies. “The Shoshone power plant has played a dominant role on the river since it first came online,” says John Currier, chief engineer at the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

But Shoshone, because it predates those diversions, keeps some water that might otherwise cross the backbone of the continent in western Colorado. In the world of Western water, older rights get first dibs: So Shoshone gets priority, even if that means managers must let water flow past their tunnel intakes. Less water for eastern Colorado means the river keeps rushing downstream toward Shoshone, and people and ecosystems that depend on it.

Downstream communities draw drinking water from the Colorado, and growers near Palisade and Grand Junction use it to irrigate peaches and other crops. Keeping water in the river has also been fundamental to a collaborative program to recover four species of endangered fish in the Colorado River. “It comes back to, fish need water,” says Tom Chart, the director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

Downstream of Shoshone, just above where the Gunnison River empties into the Colorado, there’s a stretch of river where endangered Colorado pikeminnow lay their eggs after spring floods have cleared the cobbles of silt. But human demands on the river tax it so much that during drought, it can get close to drying up. To prevent that, water users and managers work within a tangled web of agreements and rules, looking for ways to keep the river wet. The flows that come down from Shoshone anchor that effort. “I always view Shoshone as our first line of protection,” Reclamation’s Uilenberg says.

But that protection hasn’t always been assured: If the power plant needs maintenance or shuts down, it wouldn’t be allowed to exercise its water rights, because water must be put to “beneficial use” under Western water law. To preserve Shoshone’s influence on the Colorado River — to protect the wildlife, farms and economies that depend on it — water districts from both sides of the continental divide formalized a plan in 2012. They agreed upon a protocol for releasing water from upstream reservoirs that would mimic the Shoshone flows should the power plant go offline, effectively preserving the plant’s influence for the long term. Short shutdowns at the aging facility aren’t uncommon, and “hav(ing) that protocol in place to bridge those gaps is key,” Chart says.

A separate deal, however, allows reductions in the Shoshone flows. Xcel Energy, the owner of the plant, has agreed to allow more water to go to Denver during dry periods by running just one turbine — cutting the plant’s water needs in half — when certain conditions are met. But crucially, that “relaxation” of Shoshone’s water rights is typically limited to the season when it would be least impactful to others: mid-March through mid-May, when the Colorado is beginning to run high with snowmelt but irrigation and rafting seasons have yet to begin.

For its part, Xcel says their interests lie simply in running the plant, not in negotiating battles over water, according to Richard Belt, a water resources senior analyst for Xcel based in Denver. “Shoshone has sort of been a neutral third party there, kind of minding its own business,” he says, a role it has played for decades, through deluges and droughts, major repairs and evolutions in water management — and one which the tiny, century-old plant will likely hold for years to come.