Swan River Restoration Project – BRWG Call to Action – July 10th July 24th Summit County BOCC Hearing

Swan River. Photo credit: Summit Magazine

Update: from email from Jennifer Hopkins:

Good afternoon!

I wanted to let you know that a request has been made to the BOCC by staff and the permit applicant to continue the Mascot Placer hearing to a date certain of July 24, 2018, to allow staff time to further analyze the cumulative traffic impacts this applicant presents for the use of Tiger Road. This request would be granted at the discretion of the BOCC at the meeting on Tuesday the 10th. The opportunity for public comment on Tuesday would also be at the BOCC’s Discretion.

BRWG appreciates your support and we hope, instead of the meeting on the 10th, you can join us at the meeting on July 24th. It is at the same time and place, 1:30pm in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room in Breckenridge.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks,

Jennifer
Blue River Watershed Group

From email from the Blue River Watershed Group (Jennifer Hopkins):

The Blue River Watershed Group (BRWG) is reaching out to supporters and stakeholders of the Swan River Restoration Project to notify you of an upcoming Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) hearing that will have a significant impact on the project. As you know, the Swan River Restoration is a collaborative, multi-year effort to restore sections of the Swan River affected by historical dredge mining. The first section of the river has been restored on Summit County/Town of Breckenridge property. In order for restoration work to continue on additional reaches of the river, dredge rock tailings must be processed and removed from the sites.

The Board of County Commissioners is holding a hearing on July 10th to decide on a Conditional Use Permit that would allow Peak Materials to add a rock crushing operation at the Mascot Placer, located along the Swan River on privately owned land (comprising the third phase of the four-phase restoration project). Peak Materials has been operating a rock screening and sales operation at the site since 2003. BRWG supports the approval of the Conditional Use Permit as it will confer a number of public benefits and allow the Swan River Restoration Project to continue.

BRWG is asking supporters to attend the BOCC meeting on July 10th in support of the Swan River Restoration and approval of the Conditional Use Permit. Peak Materials is offering in-kind donations of significant crushed rock materials and other work at the site needed for the restoration (valued at approximately $1.5 million). Milling these materials on-site will decrease the amount of material taken off-site and reduce the need to import material for the restoration. The 5-year permit will expedite the removal of the dredge rock and preparation of the site for restoration activities. In addition, the private landowner has agreed to grant a public access easement covering a future stream and riparian corridor to perpetually ensure that the corridor remains undeveloped and available for public use. Without the permit, the restoration project would not receive these benefits and would likely not continue to move forward on this section of the river. At best, the restoration effort would need to find an additional $1.5M and at worst the project could be stopped entirely if the owner refuses to grant the easement if the crushing permit is denied.

It is crucial that we show community support for this permit. I would love the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further and to answer any questions you might have. Please let me know if there is a time we can chat before July 10th and I will be happy to call you. And please join us at the BOCC meeting. Here are the details:

Date: July 10th, 2018
Time: 1:30pm
Location: Commissioners’ Hearing Room, 208 E. Lincoln Ave., 3rd Floor, Breckenridge, CO 80424

Thank you for your continued support of this important project.

Three year Prewitt Reservoir project improves spring habitat conditions and hunting opportunities

Hunter in fog at Prewitt Reservoir via Colorado Open Lands

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate via The Fort Morgan Times:

Ducks Unlimited completed a three-year project on the Prewitt Reservoir State Wildlife Area in December, and officials are waiting to see whether the new concept works in the coming year.

Jason Roudebush, a water resource specialist with DU, briefed members of the South Platte Basin Roundtable on the project during the roundtable’s April meeting in Longmont on Tuesday.

Roudebush said DU installed a water-control structure on a marsh below the reservoir’s dam in 2016.

Last summer DU installed a series of terraces near the inlet to the reservoir. The terraces will allow Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers to control water levels and create more open water in the marsh, improving spring habitat conditions and hunting opportunities.

Jim Yahn, manager of the Prewitt, said after the presentation that the project doesn’t necessarily enhance the irrigation benefit of the reservoir, but it definitely improves the value as a recreation area. He said the Prewitt is now in a 25-year lease to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife as a state recreation area.

“Any enhancement that we can make to make it a better recreation area, that makes it more valuable to Prewitt water users in the future,” he said. “And if we can get those improvements at no cost (to the reservoir company) then it makes it just that much more valuable for recreation and hunting.”

Yahn said the building of terraces in the reservoir is a new concept and it will take a season of irrigating to make sure the concept works.

“They’re underwater now, so we’ll see how they hold together after we start irrigating,” he said. “It seems like it will work, but it’s still new. If it works, it could be done in other places. It might not work everywhere, but it could be incorporated into any new reservoir that’s built.”

The project is in an area of the reservoir open to public hunting. According to Roudebush, the goal of the Prewitt project is to enhance more than 450 acres of habitat, including cattail-choked marshes below the reservoir’s dam and wetlands near its shore.

On the Ducks Unlimited web site, DU regional biologist Matt Reddy said the terracing helps put water where it’s most useful to wildlife.

“If you think of the reservoir as a big bath tub, you have to fill the bottom of the tub before the water can get up to the top where the best duck habitat is,” Reddy said. “We are putting the terraces in at the top of the reservoir so we don’t have to add as much water to flood habitat where wildlife can use it.”

The project is part of DU’s Prewitt Reservoir Partnership with a goal to restore all of the waterfowl habitats in reach of the reservoir. To date, the partnership has spent more than $1 million conserving nearly 5,000 acres of habitat associated with Prewitt. Partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the North American Wetlands Council, the Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Open Lands and the Prewitt Reservoir Company.

Watershed protection a focus of wildfire fighting efforts

Screen shot of the Inciweb Website (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov) July 6, 2018.

From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Damage to water supplies in reservoirs can be disruptive and cost millions in repairs down the line. To reduce that risk, Denver and its partners are spending $66 million for tree thinning and reforestation above critical watersheds.

Their work comes as a new report, by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, warns that wildfires spreading over the western United States already taint nearby streams with unhealthy sediments and organic materials, and may someday overwhelm municipal water supplies. It also comes as dry weather and high temperatures have sparked a spate of wildfires in the mountains, and as authorities brace for fires sparked by July 4 celebrations.

“A great number of drinking water utilities draw water from forested watersheds,” said Fernando Rosario-Ortiz, an associate professor at CU’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering. He is also the study’s lead author.

The study, funded by The Water Research Foundation and presented at CU last month, lists challenges posed by wildfires, including short- and long-term effects of the availability and quality of drinking-water sources used by major metropolitan areas such as Denver.

The report also points to possible solutions for utilities serving fire-prone regions and planning for worst-case scenarios. They include expanding water-shortage capacity, using pre-sedimentation basins and diversifying water sources.

“When these watersheds are impacted by wildfire, the impacts on source water quality can be severe, forcing utilities to respond in order to continue to provide safe drinking water to their customers,” Rosario-Ortiz said.

Colorado’s two largest cities say they are aware of the dangers and are pooling dollars and resources to ensure much of the Front Range’s drinking water is protected from the contamination spread by wildfires.

“Denver Water has seen not only a commitment financially but also a commitment in time and energy by us and our partners to keep our water safe,” said Christina Burri, Denver Water’s watershed scientist.

A 2010 agreement — among Denver Water, the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service and aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires — will continue at least through 2021 at a cost of $66 million. The work includes thinning trees and restoring forest on more than 40,000 acres of watershed deemed critical to downstream water supplies, Burri said.

Those areas provide clean drinking water to more than 1.4 million residents in the Denver area, Burri said.

Protecting watersheds has become a top priority on the Front Range, according to Mike Myers, chief of the Colorado Springs Wildland Fire Team, as major wildfires have become almost year-round events.

“We’re doing a better job at mitigating these fires than before, but we’ve had to,” Myers said. “The fires now are just so much bigger and stronger than before.”

The CU researchers said recent wildfires have increased in size and duration, which creates concerns that existing treatment resources could eventually be crippled.

The 2012 High Park fire burned sections of the Cache la Poudre watershed, which serves northern Colorado communities, including Fort Collins.

That same year, the Waldo Canyon fire burned through Pike National Forest, temporarily jeopardizing water supplies for Colorado Springs. The blaze contaminated reservoirs and caused about $10 million in damage to a pipeline in the Northfield reservoir system.

Colorado Springs, however, was able to draw on two smaller reservoirs to provide safe drinking water for residents, Myers said. “We’ve worked hard to have a diverse group of reservoirs we can call on in emergencies, and in this case, it worked well,” he said.

While ecologists and land managers have studied wildfires extensively, the scope of post-wildfire effects on drinking water remains uncertain, researchers said. Data show that fires degrade surface water quality through erosion, ash deposits and increased sediment loads. Nutrient runoff — including nitrogen and phosphorus — can spur algal blooms, which can lead to environmental and health problems and force cities to cut water to residents.

The CU researchers simulated the effects of a medium-temperature wildfire, and the resulting materials were leached into tap water and treated using conventional processes.

The results showed the heated materials increased the turbidity of the water, a key measure of water quality, and responded poorly to chemical coagulants, leading to downstream filtration problems, the CU researchers said.

“Our work has shown that source waters impacted by wildfires can be difficult to treat, resulting in additional costs in the form of more chemical coagulants and the potential need for capital improvements,” Rosario-Ortiz said.

Forest management work helps to prevent soil from eroding and releasing sediment into streams, reservoirs and rivers, Denver Water’s Burri said.

Tree-thinning and other mitigation work around Denver Water’s Cheesman Reservoir paid off in 2002 during the Hayman fire, which scorched 138,114 acres. A key water source for the Denver area, Burri said, Cheesman’s water stayed relatively untainted by the fire.

“It shows that the work we do now,” she said, “can help much later.”

From The Taos News (Cody Hooks):

Human-caused Sardinas Canyon Fire growing slowly, disastrous Colorado fire near Ft. Garland blows up

Rather than being an unbroken block of flames, the Sardinas Canyon Fire is a patchwork, or “mosaic,” of different burn intensities; areas of the interior of the fire are largely unburned with only isolated heat spots.

Though the fire sent up a dramatic smoke plume over Taos last week and at times filled the valley with a hard-to-breathe haze, it has been a relatively easygoing fire. Unlike the Ute Park Fire, which had the potential to burn homes, businesses and infrastructure in Cimarron, Ute Park and Eagle Nest — all three communities evacuated for at least a couple days — the Sardinas Canyon Fire has threatened no structures.

Firefighters did install a sprinkler system to protect the La Junta Summer Homes at the intersection of Forest Roads 75 and 76, but those homes are about 2 miles from the perimeter of the fire, according to public information officers. Two archeological sites are being monitored and protected.

Furthermore, the Ute Park Fire was easy for firefighters to get to, meaning they attacked it more head-on with ground crews. That’s not the case for the fire in Taos County.

Firefighters are clearing debris from forest roads and old logging roads to create a fire line to contain the blaze. They’re also using bulldozers in areas where there are no roads.

The wildfire is currently within containment lines and will be allowed to burn up to them. Until then, it is not contained.

About 170 people are involved with the fire. Most of the upper management charged with keeping the fire in check are from national forests in Northern New Mexico, though some of the firefighters, helicopter pilots and hand crews are from as far away as Arizona, Montana and Oregon. The fire department with the village of Angel Fire has also helped out on the fire.

The law enforcement branch of the U.S. Forest Service is investigating the cause of the fire, but have said it was human caused.

The Carson National Forest is closed to the public. Only the Jicarilla Ranger District remains open, but under fire restrictions…

A far more worrisome wildfire [Spring Fire] is burning north of the New Mexico-Colorado state line.

The blaze started Wednesday (June 27) and has blown up, tearing through tens of thousands of acres of private, state and federal land in Costilla and Huefano counties. At least 104 homes have burned in Costilla County and potentially more in other counties, according to county and fire officials. The fire was more than 50,000 acres as of Monday (July 2) and had grown by nearly 30,000 acres as of Tuesday (July 3).

The fire is burning between Fort Garland and La Veta, primarily on private land, and evacuation centers are set up in Walsenburg and Fort Garland. A Type 2 incident management team (a level above the sort of team that’s handling the Sardinas fire) is in command of the blaze. La Veta Pass between Fort Garland and La Veta is closed to traffic.

Critical fire weather — hot temperatures, low relative humidity and erratic winds — have pushed the fire into new territory…

The Morris Creek Fire was reported Friday (June 29) on private land around the Philmont Scout Ranch in Colfax County. The fire has now spread onto the scout ranch, where crews have constructed fireline around the western edge of Carson Meadows. The fire was estimated to be about 400 acres as of Sunday (July 1) and over 1,000 as of Monday (July 2). No structures are threatened, according to Wendy Mason, a public affairs officer with State Forestry. The Philmont fire crews initially responded, and a Type 2 incident management team is taking over control of suppression efforts today (July 3). “Resources from multiple agencies are fighting this fire on the ground with additional support from aircraft,” according to a recent update…

This wildfire [Emily Fire] began Thursday (June 28) and as of Tuesday (July 3), the Gila Las Cruces Type 3 team had taken management of the fire. They are developing a plan to protect the Turkey Mountains Repeater Site, which houses five emergency communications towers as well as commercial facilities and major power transmission lines in the area. A total of 149 people are tackling the blaze, including five firefighting crews, one engine and two helicopters…

The Heron Fire started Thursday (June 28) afternoon in the Fort Heron Subdivision, where it was threatening about 30 structures. It was located off of State Road 95 and was estimated to be 10 acres. State Forestry and local firefighting crews continuing to mop up the fire and mitigate multiple hazard trees within the fire perimeter over the weekend. Approximately. It was completely contained as of Monday (July 2). The cause is under investigation.

San Antonio Fire (Valles Caldera National Preserve)

The lightning-caused fire grew to about 416 acres and was 75 percent contained as of Monday (July 1). There was no significant growth over the weekend. A local unit for the preserve is handling it. “It’s all burning internally, so there’s lots of trees and stumps smoldering,” said the preserve’s Kimberly DeVall.

Organ Fire (White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County)

The fire is estimated at 4,727 acres, including 194 acres of state land, and is 25 percent contained as of Saturday (June 30). The fire is burning on the White Sands Missile Range in Doña Ana County. It started June 24 off of State Road 70 near San Augustine Pass, 10 miles northeast of Las Cruces. It’s within reach of two archeological sites and the missile range.r

Blanco Fire (Kiowa National Grassland, Cibola National Forest)

The Blanco Fire has grown to 2,100 acres as of Monday (July 2). It is located approximately 5.5 miles west of Roy. It is roughly 75 percent contained. A Type 3 team, similar to the team handling the Sardinas Canyon Fire, is stationed on the Blanco Fire.

@CWCB_DNR and Southwest Basin Roundtable award $220,000 for wetlands near Navajo Lake

One of the existing wetlands at Sambrito that is in need of repair. Photo credit: Southwest Wetland Focus Area Committee

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

Although wetlands account for only a small portion of the landscape, it is estimated that 75 percent of all wildlife in the state depend on the thriving ecosystems, according to the Colorado Wetland Information Center.

However, because of development and other human impacts, researchers say that number has been effectively cut in half.

In recent years, wetland scientists and conservationists have undertaken the task of restoring and creating wetlands where possible, in the hopes of bringing back the instrumental ecosystems.

Earlier this month, the Southwest Basin Roundtable and the Colorado Water Conservation Board awarded $50,000 and $170,000, respectively, to fund efforts to restore an estimated 100 acres of wetlands near Navajo Lake.

“The project will greatly enhance waterfowl and hundreds of other wetland species,” said Tom Brossia, former state chairman for Ducks Unlimited. “It will provide both watchable wildlife and hunting opportunity.”

When Navajo Dam was built in the 1960s to provide water and flood control for the growing town of Farmington and surrounding communities, more than 15,600 acres across the Colorado-New Mexico state line were inundated.

On the Colorado side, in the southwestern corner of Archuleta County, several agencies, including the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, restored about 80 acres of wetland.

The area is called the Sambrito Wetlands Complex, which has public access, a few hiking trails and a parking lot at the end of County Road 988, a dirt road off Highway 151, just outside of the unincorporated community of Allison.

Around 2012, those interested in expanding the complex, through the Southwest Wetland Focus Area Committee, started planning a project that would add another 100 acres of wetlands.

But that effort was abruptly derailed when the New Mexico jumping mouse was listed as an endangered species in 2014. Because Sambrito is considered critical habitat for the mouse, plans to alter the landscape must not adversely affect the species.

In the interim, the infrastructure around the wetlands, as well as ditches and embankments, fell into disrepair, said Catherine Ortega, a wildlife biologist and ornithologist who used to teach at Fort Lewis College.

But in recent months, the project regained steam, and with the formal announcement of the grants totaling $220,000, plans to restore the wetland are set to begin either in fall 2018 or early next year.

Now, not only will the project be a benefit to the jumping mouse, it will also provide more habitat for the diverse range of wildlife that depend on the ecosystem, as well as other imperiled species, such as the southwestern willow flycatcher and the yellow-billed cuckoo.

Brossia said there’s an estimated 980 species that can be found in Sambrito.

#ClimateChange is making it harder to revive damaged land — @HighCountryNews #ActOnCimate

King Cup Cactus via American Southwest

From The High Country News (Maya L. Kapoor):

Carianne Campbell remembers the exact moment she fell in love with the Sonoran Desert. As a botany major in college, she joined a class field trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the southern border of Arizona, arriving and setting up camp in the dark. Emerging from her tent the next morning, Campbell, who grew up on the East Coast, caught her first glimpse of enormous saguaros, clustered organ pipes and bright desert wildflowers. She knew immediately that she wanted to work in this kind of landscape.

Today, Campbell is the restoration director for Sky Island Alliance, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona. She leads efforts to re-establish native plant communities in “sky islands” — isolated, ecologically rich mountain ranges that dot southeastern Arizona and New Mexico and northern Sonora, Mexico, and serve as home to some 7,000 species of plants and animals. Under Campbell’s guidance, Sky Island Alliance restores riparian habitat that’s been overrun by invasive species, such as fountaingrass, which crowds out local species and transforms the desert into fire-prone grassland.

The point of Campbell’s job used to be relatively straightforward: She attempted to conserve local biodiversity by re-establishing the wild spaces where native plant and animal species once lived. But given the planet’s rapid climate shifts, the connections between wild organisms and their ecosystems are fraying, forcing restoration biologists, including Campbell, to rethink the purpose of their work. It no longer helps to remember what a site looked like 20 years ago. “We need to be thinking about what it’s going to be like 20 years into the future,” she said.

In the early 1980s, ecological restoration was much like cleaning up after a rowdy house party: trying to return a degraded habitat to its former pristine condition. Project managers focused on returning the right numbers and species of plants — and by extension, animals — to places that had been logged, mined, invaded by nonnative species or otherwise altered by people. “I’ve always been taught that restoration is about taking a degraded site and restoring it back to what it was before the disturbance,” Campbell said.

But increasingly, scientists who study ecosystems, as well as land managers who do restoration work, are questioning that model of ecological restoration, which relies on the idea of a stable “climax community,” even though many ecosystems are always changing.

The West’s forests, for one, are much more dynamic than many people realize. Notwithstanding individual tree outliers, such as millennia-old redwoods and bristlecone pines, most North American forest ecosystems are, at most, 400 or 500 years old, according to Don Falk, a forest ecologist at the University of Arizona. Reasons vary, from a severe drought in the late 1500s, to 1800s tree harvesting by Euro-Americans. Today, forests continue to undergo constant change. “Many of the forests we look at are in post-fire recovery, we just don’t see it,” Falk said. Outbreaks of insects such as bark beetles, which can decimate forests, add to the constant change. “We want to think of the primeval old-growth forest as having this stable characteristic, until we come along and introduce disturbance … but the idea of forests in equilibrium is probably wrong.” Indeed, events ranging from volcanic eruptions to the Pleistocene ice age have left their mark on the West’s forests.

But with climate change, landscape-level transformations are happening faster and becoming more extreme. As the West becomes warmer and drier, the idea of “recovery” becomes increasingly unrealistic. Instead, ecosystems transform, such as in northern New Mexico, where Gambel oaks may replace pine forest after a fire. “This is really a vexing problem for the field of restoration ecology, because our first instinct — and it’s not wrong — is always to want to put it back to the way it was before we screwed things up,” Falk said.

Restoration ecologists, in other words, no longer know how to define success. “The dilemma for the field of restoration is, it’s almost damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Falk said. “If you try to go back to 1850, it’s just going to be a nonstarter, because the climate has moved on, and lots of other things have moved on. But if you’re not restoring to a reference condition, then are you just sort of playing God and inventing new landscapes?”

This identity crisis is global: This year, at conferences from Iceland to Washington state, the Society for Ecological Restoration is grappling with the question of restoration during climate change.

Instead of trying to re-establish a checklist of plants and animals, as they might have in the past, some restoration practitioners are now focusing on ecosystem functions. For Campbell, that means worrying about pollinators, including birds, bats and insects, in the sky islands. Across the West, spring is thawing earlier and broiling into summer faster, and the region is getting hotter and drier overall, creating a mismatch between periods when pollinators need flowers and the times and places where those flowers are available. “How can I use various plant species in ways to ease that?” Campbell said.

Campbell keeps climate change and pollinators in mind when she’s selecting native vegetation to plant. A low-elevation site might have red, tubular flowers in the spring, for example, and then again in September, but none during the hottest summer months. “I could plug in a species like desert honeysuckle, which would be blooming in that interim time, and providing a more constant source of nectar,” she said.

Research on the timing of flowers and pollinator arrivals supports Campbell’s concerns, although scientists don’t yet know the consequences of these mismatches. Nicole Rafferty, a University of California, Riverside ecologist, studied the flowering schedule of manzanita, a mountain shrub with wine-red stems and glossy leaves, in the sky islands. The timing of the winter rains determines the appearance of manzanita blossoms, which are among the first mountain flowers each spring. But with winter rains arriving later, manzanitas are not flowering in time to feed the earliest native bees. Those later-flowering manzanitas also end up growing less fruit, which mule deer, black bears and other animals eat. Most plants have a wide enough variety of pollinators so that they won’t disappear entirely, Rafferty says, but the fate of those pollinators is harder to predict.

Overall, Campbell’s goal is still to conserve as much biodiversity as possible in the sky islands, where each mountain range has its own unique combination of plants and animals. But she knows she can’t simply reassemble historic plant communities. “Certainly now, we (take) a forward view,” Campbell said. “How is this (species) going to be durable into an uncertain future, where there’s going to be larger, more intense wildfires, and more erosion, flooding, drought, all of those things?”

She’s had to adapt how she uses native species, because of the changing rainfall patterns. For many years, Sky Island Alliance planted native vegetation in the spring, following the winter rains. But two years ago, Campbell noticed that most of the plants died. With spring arriving earlier and becoming hotter, “there’s not enough time for those new plants to become established, and then be able to go dormant to make it through to monsoon season, and become good members of their vegetation society,” Campbell said. She has stopped spring planting altogether at restoration sites, waiting instead until after the summer monsoon rains.

The new focus of ecological restoration is “less about identifying the particular species, and more about the traits,” Elise Gornish, a cooperative extension specialist at the University of Arizona, said. Gornish surveyed almost 200 California managers, including master gardeners, ranchers, nonprofits, federal employees and others, about nonnative species. Close to half of her respondents, including most of the federal employees she interviewed, already used nonnative plants in restoration projects, often for erosion control. One reason was that they were less expensive. But almost 40 percent of the managers also contemplated using nonnatives because of climate change.

“It’s clear that folks are really, really concerned about climate change and restoration,” she said. “A lot of folks wouldn’t use the term ‘climate change’ to describe their challenges; they would say things like ‘drought,’ ‘changing environmental conditions.’ ” But the bottom line is the same: “Practices people have been using historically, and probably pretty successfully, and things that are now policies among the federal agencies … are not successful anymore,” she said.

Some plant populations, for example, are responding to climate change by moving up in elevation and in latitude. “What this suggests is that if you’re in your site that needs restoration, the plants from that area are probably no longer well-adapted to the new conditions of that area,” Gornish said. This raises prickly questions about whether or not to start using plants from farther south and lower elevations, or even from entirely different regions. “People get extremely nervous, and with good reason, when you start talking about moving plants around,” Gornish said. The U.S. has not had a good track record with introduced species. “Some of our most noxious invasives, like tamarisk or buffelgrass, are things we planted 80 years ago,” she said.

Not that long ago, the inclusion of nonnative plants species in restoration projects “was heretical,” Falk agreed. Now, however, those species may be the best-adapted flora for a region’s changing climate. But for Falk, managing for functions more than for species is still ecological restoration. It’s always been true that, ultimately, “you’re trying to maintain the ability of a system to adapt,” he said.

For her part, Campbell is learning to reconsider the role of exotic species on the landscape. For example, she sometimes spares bird-of-paradise, an evergreen shrub in the pea family that is native to Uruguay and Argentina, in her restoration planning. A fast-growing ornamental with feathery leaves and bright red and orange flowers, bird-of-paradise thrives in the Southwest’s disturbed landscapes, where it can crowd out native species. But removing the plant now may actually rob hummingbirds and other pollinators of meals. “It flowers opportunistically with rain,” Campbell said, “so in summer months, it can be the only flowers available.”

Maya L. Kapoor is an associate editor at High Country News. Follow @Kapoor_ML.

This article was first published on June 29, 2018 by The High Country News

Creede State Wildlife Area receives nearly $20,000 GOCO grant

Creede circa 1920

From Great Outdoors Colorado via The Monte Vista Journal:

The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded an $18,683 grant last Thursday to Creede State Wildlife Area to convert overgrown ponds to a youth-only fishing pond.

The grant is part of GOCO’s CPW Director’s Innovation Fund (DIF), a partnership between GOCO and CPW to create a funding source for one-time, innovative projects that would not otherwise receive funding from either organization. CPW receives half of GOCO’s funding each year for statewide programs, wildlife, and state parks through an annual investment proposal, however many innovative, small-dollar projects fall outside current funding parameters.

The nearest public fishing lake is more than 20 miles away, and the newly funded project at the state wildlife area will build a kid-friendly pond within walking distance of the local public school. In addition to being more convenient for families, creating a youth-only pond will give local kids an opportunity to learn to fish in a less competitive environment than the tourist-packed areas on the Upper Rio Grande.

Mineral County Road and Bridge has already donated a significant amount of heavy equipment and operator time for preliminary site preparation work. Mineral County re-contoured the pond, placed large boulders in it to improve fish habitat, and removed overgrown vegetation.
GOCO funding will help CPW rehabilitate a well that has not been used for at least 30 years. The agency owns water rights to the well, but it needs a new pump and water supply line to become operational again.

Fishing clinics will be scheduled through Creede Public Schools and other community organizations like the Creede Elks Club, which has also donated funding to the project. The pond will also host angler education events and fishing derbies for local kids.
The state wildlife area will begin removing sediment and rehabbing the well this spring, with construction on the pond wrapping up by the end of summer. The pond should be open to the public by fall 2018.

To date, GOCO has invested $5.5 million in projects in Mineral County and has conserved more than 4,200 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported Creede’s Basham Park, San Luis Valley Inspire, and the Creede skate park, among other projects.
GOCO

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,000 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

#AnimasRiver: @EPA requests comments for interim plan for SW #Colorado mine clean up

The Animas River in Durango, in Apri, 2018. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

The interim plan concentrates on controlling or removing contaminants at 26 sites including campgrounds, mine waste piles, ponds and rivers. It will cost about $10 million and take up to five years, the agency said.

Five of the locations are recreation sites where people could be exposed to arsenic or lead, the agency said.

“EPA is interested in expediting cleanup so that we can show improvements in water quality wherever possible,” said Christina Progess, manager of the Superfund project…

The Gold King is not on the list of 26 sites chosen for interim work. The EPA said that’s because a temporary treatment plant was installed two months after the spill and is cleaning up wastewater from the mine.

The Superfund cleanup will eventually cover 48 mining sites, but the EPA said it chose 26 for interim work to reduce human and environmental risks while a long-term solution is studied.

The EPA said the 26 sites have elevated levels of aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead or zinc.

Two of the recreation sites on the list are campgrounds and three are parking areas or locations where people meet for tours, the EPA said. The plan calls for covering mine waste piles and contaminated soil with gravel or plant growth to reduce human exposure and keep the contaminants from being kicked into the air.

The other work includes dredging contaminated sediment from streams and from ponds near mine openings, and digging ditches and berms to keep water from flushing contaminants out of waste piles and into streams.

The EPA is seeking public comment on the plan. The deadline for comments is July 16.