A fungus threatens survival of the only toads that live high in the Rocky Mountains — @ColoradoSun

A submerged Boreal toad. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Melissa Butynski

Here’s an in-depth recap of the first trek this summer to collect and treat boreal toads up near Buena Vista via Jennifer Brown writing for The Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole thing and for the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

Tim Korpita is wearing blue rubber gloves and thigh-high waders, but when someone shouts “Toad!” he lunges like a ninja.

He takes a giant step over the marsh grasses and is on his stomach at the edge of a slow-moving creek, clutching a tiny, speckled boreal toad between his thumb and index finger. He immediately turns the inch-long creature, checking for a green or pink spot on its inner thigh.

Nothing.

Korpita, a University of Colorado doctoral candidate, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists last summer captured 250 boreal toadlets — beyond tadpoles but not quite terrestrial toads — in a high-elevation wetland along Cottonwood Creek. They injected them with a spot of either pink or green dye, visible through amphibian skin when held up to the sunlight.

Biologists collect and record data at a field laboratory as they bathe 35 Boreal toads captured on South Cottonwood Creek, west of Buena Vista, on Sept. 6, 2018. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Pink was the control group, while the green-tagged toads received antifungal bacterial baths that scientists hoped would protect them from a pathogen killing off boreal toads throughout the Rocky Mountains. The disease is killing amphibians across the globe as biologists race to stop it before it’s too late.

Korpita, 29, and a parks and wildlife crew returned to the mountains above Buena Vista on a recent blue-sky day, hoping to find at least some of their study group.

By lunchtime on toad hunt day, after nearly two hours of peering along the edges of mountain ponds and in the mud-bottomed streams flowing through the bog, the team had found just six yearling toads. They spotted five more that afternoon, gently placing each one in a plastic bag with a clump of moss for moisture.

Of the 11, just two were tagged (one pink, one green), meaning there was little to say about whether a bath last summer in the lavender-tinted wash, dubbed “purple rain,” is saving their lives.

But this was biologists’ first trek of the summer. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and CU scientists plan to return every two weeks to the Chaffee County marsh to catch the black-and-gray toads and swab their skin for DNA before releasing them back to the pond. Each one, tagged or not, is showered with sterile water to rinse off the mud and placed in a large test tube for exactly one hour to collect a sample of the bacteria on their skin.

Meanwhile, on Korpita’s recent trip to the ponds, he sits under the shade of a pine tree in the middle of the forest and showered the first batch of captured toads. With a cotton swab, he strokes their clean skin for DNA samples. Back at the lab, Korpita will try to determine whether the toads carry the deadly chytrid fungus. And for the toads that received last summer’s fungus-fighting bacteria treatment, Korpita will try to see if it’s still active in their skin and protecting them from the disease.

The hope is that by summer’s end, Korpita will have captured enough toads that received his bacterial bath to know whether it works in the wild.

BUENA VISTA — Tim Korpita is wearing blue rubber gloves and thigh-high waders, but when someone shouts “Toad!” he lunges like a ninja.

He takes a giant step over the marsh grasses and is on his stomach at the edge of a slow-moving creek, clutching a tiny, speckled boreal toad between his thumb and index finger. He immediately turns the inch-long creature, checking for a green or pink spot on its inner thigh.

Nothing.

Korpita, a University of Colorado doctoral candidate, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists last summer captured 250 boreal toadlets — beyond tadpoles but not quite terrestrial toads — in a high-elevation wetland along Cottonwood Creek. They injected them with a spot of either pink or green dye, visible through amphibian skin when held up to the sunlight.

Pink was the control group, while the green-tagged toads received antifungal bacterial baths that scientists hoped would protect them from a pathogen killing off boreal toads throughout the Rocky Mountains. The disease is killing amphibians across the globe as biologists race to stop it before it’s too late.

Tim Korpita searches for boreal toads in thick marsh grasses in the Cottonwood Creek drainage above Buena Vista in late June. Korpita treated the toads with a bacterial wash last summer in an effort to protect them from a fungus that is killing amphibians worldwide. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)
Korpita, 29, and a parks and wildlife crew returned to the mountains above Buena Vista on a recent blue-sky day, hoping to find at least some of their study group.

By lunchtime on toad hunt day, after nearly two hours of peering along the edges of mountain ponds and in the mud-bottomed streams flowing through the bog, the team had found just six yearling toads. They spotted five more that afternoon, gently placing each one in a plastic bag with a clump of moss for moisture.

Of the 11, just two were tagged (one pink, one green), meaning there was little to say about whether a bath last summer in the lavender-tinted wash, dubbed “purple rain,” is saving their lives.

But this was biologists’ first trek of the summer. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and CU scientists plan to return every two weeks to the Chaffee County marsh to catch the black-and-gray toads and swab their skin for DNA before releasing them back to the pond. Each one, tagged or not, is showered with sterile water to rinse off the mud and placed in a large test tube for exactly one hour to collect a sample of the bacteria on their skin.

Meanwhile, on Korpita’s recent trip to the ponds, he sits under the shade of a pine tree in the middle of the forest and showered the first batch of captured toads. With a cotton swab, he strokes their clean skin for DNA samples. Back at the lab, Korpita will try to determine whether the toads carry the deadly chytrid fungus. And for the toads that received last summer’s fungus-fighting bacteria treatment, Korpita will try to see if it’s still active in their skin and protecting them from the disease.

The hope is that by summer’s end, Korpita will have captured enough toads that received his bacterial bath to know whether it works in the wild.

The tedious effort is one of many underway to save boreal toads, the only high-elevation toad in the Rockies. The slow-moving toads — listed as an endangered species in Colorado — can hibernate beneath the snow for six to eight months of the year, at elevations from 7,500 to 12,000 feet.

Boreal toads were so abundant, from the late 1800s and until the 1960s, that they would sit under Buena Vista lamp posts at night, gobbling up insects that swarmed to the light, according to historical articles reviewed by Parks and Wildlife. They live in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, Utah, Colorado and, until they died off there, New Mexico.

Northern Colorado bison herd flourishes — #Colorado State University

Here’s the release from Colorado State University:

On a recent sunny day in Northern Colorado, a team from Colorado State University and the City of Fort Collins released eight bison on the windswept plains of the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and the Red Mountain Open Space.
“It never gets old,” said CSU’s Jennifer Barfield as the majestic animals started to explore their new home, lumbering their way to join the rest of the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd.

The Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd was established with nine females and one male calf in November 2015. The bison had valuable genetics from the Yellowstone National Park Herd and — thanks to science implemented at CSU — the animals were also disease-free.

Not even four years later, there are now 76 bison. The success of this conservation effort astounds even those closest to the project, including Barfield, who serves as the scientific lead and is a reproductive physiologist.

“It is incredibly exciting and fulfilling to see the partnerships we’re forming, and the way we’re able to share our bison with tribal and conservation herds, which is really what we intended,” she said. “What’s really surprised me is how quickly we’ve gotten to this point, and part of that is due to how well the animals are doing. They’re reproducing well and they’re just healthy, in general.”

New partners sustain, honor bison

Over the last few years, the project’s partners — CSU, the City of Fort Collins and Larimer County — have contributed bison to conservation efforts across the U.S. This includes teaming up with the Minnesota Zoo, which is helping to restore bison to some of the state park systems in that state, and the Pueblo of Pojoaque tribe in New Mexico, which manages bison on the Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge, in partnership with the Denver Zoo.

Earlier this month, two bulls from the herd were delivered to the Oakland Zoo, where they will breed with female bison from the Blackfeet Nation, which partners with the zoo on its Iinnii Initiative, which aims to conserve traditional lands, protect Blackfeet culture and create a home for the buffalo. These female bison are from the Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, and are descendants from animals captured on the Blackfeet land in the late 1800s.

The calves that are produced will go back to the reservation and live on the natural landscape in Montana. The bulls will follow suit, after a few years of breeding at the zoo.

Teri Dahle, coordinator for the Iinnii Initiative, said that the return of the buffalo to native lands provides hope for members of the Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes the Blackfeet Nation-Amaskapi Piikuni-Montana, Kainai – Blood Tribe-Alberta, North Peigan- Piikani Nation-Alberta and Siksika Nation-Alberta.

“It’s so important for us to have these buffalo, for many reasons, but most importantly for our spirituality,” she said.

At one point, more than 30 million buffalo freely roamed the tribal lands, but populations neared extinction in the 1870s and 1880s due to the slaughter of wild buffalo by settlers.

“Our whole lifestyle changed at that moment,” Dahle said.

She hopes the partnership will also provide educational opportunities for tribal youth. “They can be exposed to what it might be like to be a veterinarian, conservationist or zoologist,” she said. “Our youth could see the connections and the scientific part of the project, too.”

The new project has additional ties to Fort Collins. Dr. Joel Parrott, a veterinarian and CSU DVM program alumnus, is the president and CEO of Oakland Zoo.

“I am excited to partner with my alma mater to bring Yellowstone Park ancestry to Oakland Zoo’s California Trail,” he said, referring to a 56-acre park in the zoo dedicated to iconic species, including bison. “Introducing these two bulls to our female herd will bring a more diverse and strong genetic line to the animals we release to be free-ranging on Blackfeet tribal land and U.S. and Canadian national parks through the Iinnii Initiative.”

Meegan Flenniken, division manager of Land Conservation, Planning & Resource with Larimer County, said her team is thrilled that the conservation goals of the Laramie Foothills herd continue to be realized.

“The proven success of this project is not only to re-introduce bison to northern Colorado at Red Mountain Open Space and Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, but ultimately for animals from that herd to help establish herds elsewhere,” she added.

Jennifer Barfield, assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says the growth of the herd has allowed them to share bison with tribal and conservation groups. Photos by William A. Cotton

Barfield said that the two bulls who recently left the herd are quite special since they were among the first group of calves born on the prairie in Northern Colorado.

“They’re our first generation of babies that are now going out and contributing to other herds,” she said. “We watched these guys grow from tiny little red calves and now, they’re big bulls, ready to go out and start contributing their genetics to the herd and to other herds outside ours. It’s rewarding but it’s always sad to see them go.”

Zoe Shark, public engagement manager for the City of Fort Collins natural areas, noted that the herd has had a major impact in the region and beyond, through social media.

“We’ve all been able to see how the community has been engaged, and really care about these animals and where they go, and how they’re contributing to conservation not only here, but outside of Colorado,” she said. “We have a lot of people who are interested in the bison and in learning more about them, their history and role in the ecosystem.”

Efforts to clean up Fountain Creek and leverage it for recreation are building in #ColoradoSprings

From The Colorado Sun (Jesse Paul):

A will, but not a way — quite yet

While the interest in cleaning up Fountain Creek through downtown Colorado Springs is building, the coalitions and money needed to do it are lagging.

Trout Unlimited, the nationwide organization known for advocating for water quality improvements to bolster recreation, has not been involved. The local chapter’s president, in an interview with The Colorado Sun, cast doubt on the possibility of a sustainable trout population in the stretch, but he said he would be interested in learning more.

There are cleanups of the area around the stream, but any visitor can clearly see that they aren’t solving the problem.

“We’re absolutely talking about it,” City Council President Richard Skorman said. “But, no, there’s not, like, $10 million in a fund today that’s involved in it.”

State Sen. Owen Hill, the Republican lawmaker Peak ventured into the creek with, said he is working to build support among nongovernmental organizations to complete a cleanup. Hill declined to identify the groups because he’s still in the early stages of talks to get them aboard.

“It is a little sketchy, but we aren’t going to change that without building the awareness,” Hill said, noting that he has returned many times to fish the creek. “When you look at our grandparents’ generation, they used to picnic down there and swim in the creek. And now we’re afraid to go down there without waterproof clothing on.”

Colorado Springs’ City Council recently passed ordinances increasing fines for littering and prohibiting camping within 100 feet of a public stream to help improve water quality in Fountain Creek. The latter, which adds to the city’s existing camping ban, has drawn pushback from advocates who say transients are being unfairly blamed for a bigger problem.

Skorman says homeless displacement is a concern of his, but that the city is working toward solutions. He said he envisions that one day the confluence of Monument and Fountain creeks downtown could be like Confluence Park in central Denver, where people swim, kayak and fish.

“We’re probably a good 10 years behind other communities,” Skorman said. “I dream about this at night. It’s my big passion. And I think we’re going to do it here. I think we’re going to do something special.”

As for Peak, he’s going to continue working to raise awareness of Fountain Creek’s potential.

“This isn’t something that the current city council or government did, but it is something that they have to deal with,” Peak said. “What to do? That’s the million dollar question.”

Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013

Five Years Later, Effects Of #ColoradoRiver Pulse Flow Still Linger — KUNC

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

From inside a small airplane, tracing the Colorado River along the Arizona-California border, it’s easy to see how it happened.

As the river bends and weaves through the American Southwest, its contents are slowly drained. Concrete canals send water to millions of people in Phoenix and Tucson, Los Angeles and San Diego. Farms, ribbons of green contrasted against the desert’s shades of brown, line the waterway.

Further downstream, near Yuma, Arizona, the river splits into threads, like a frayed piece of yarn.

A massive multi-state plumbing system sends its water to irrigate the hundreds of thousands of farm acres in southern California and Arizona, hubs for winter vegetables, alfalfa, cotton and cattle.

When it hits the final dam, located on the U.S.-Mexico border, every drop has been claimed and put to use. In a typical year, what’s left of the river’s flow — promised to Mexico in a 75-year-old treaty — is sent to farm fields in the Mexicali Valley, and then on to the Mexican cities of Tijuana, Mexicali and Tecate.

All this reliance on an overallocated river has left its final hundred miles as the ultimate collateral damage. Since the early 1960s, when Glen Canyon Dam impounded the river near Page, Arizona, it has rarely reached the Pacific Ocean. The thread is frayed beyond recognition, leaving no water for the river itself.

“About 90 percent of the water is retained on the U.S. side and it’s used and diverted,” said Karl Flessa, a researcher at the University of Arizona. He studies the Colorado River Delta.

“In effect, one of the things we’ve done historically — not meaning to especially — what we’ve done is export some of the environmental consequences of water diversions,” Flessa said. “We’ve exported them to Mexico.”

The Colorado River’s inability to complete its journey from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez has become one of its defining characteristics. Its historic delta, a haven for birds and mammals in the Sonoran desert, is a husk of its former self.

From the air, in a flight arranged by non-profit group LightHawk, the Colorado River Delta transitions from a jigsaw of farms to a staggering sprawl of muddy salt flats. (LightHawk receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation, which also funds KUNC’s Colorado River coverage.) The river’s historic channel in most parts through Mexico is nothing more than a sandy bed, scattered with saltcedar.

Where the river used to meet the ocean, tidal pools and drainages carve the sand and soil into organic patterns, like the cross-section of a lung.

Within the last twelve years, both the U.S. and Mexico have acknowledged the delta’s problems, signing agreements to commit both water and funding to restoring it to some semblance of its former self.

The splashiest of those efforts took place five years ago this spring, and left a lasting imprint on those who witnessed it.

The pulse flow

Around 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning in March 2014, water began spilling through Morelos Dam on the U.S.-Mexico border. The release was a culmination of years of negotiation between the U.S., Mexico and environmental organizations.

It was known as the pulse flow — flujo pulso in Spanish.

“You think of it as this wall of water that’s going to come down, but really it was this creeping tongue of water across the sand,” said Jennifer Pitt, who worked for the Environmental Defense Fund at the time, and now directs the Colorado River program for the National Audubon Society. Both groups receive Walton Family Foundation funding. Pitt was a key negotiator to make the pulse flow possible…

It took a few days after the dam opened for the water to arrive at the bridge, where Pitt and her colleagues gathered to wait. About 70 people in garden chairs sat in anticipation. A community clean-up a few days prior left the riverbed scrubbed of trash and debris.

For many young people, it was the first time they had ever seen water flowing in this stretch of the Colorado River. For older residents, it had been decades since they saw this much water here.

“They started getting up just one by one, people coming over to the water and getting down on their hands and knees and just touching it,” she said. “It was like the arrival. The great arrival of the river.”

A spontaneous festival started, complete with music, food vendors, horses and boats.

“I’ve spent 20 years thinking about how we can restore the Colorado River from where it dries out to where it reaches the sea,” Pitt said, “And in all of that thinking have never imagined that this site could bring so many people in as a magnet for people to enjoy something.”

Within weeks the flow was soaked up by depleted soils, though it did eventually reach the Pacific Ocean. From where Pitt and I are standing at the bridge in early December 2018, you’d never know the West’s mightiest river was supposed to flow here.

The pulse flow was about 105,000 acre-feet of water, enough to turn the channel again into a river for a few weeks. One acre-foot generally provides enough water for two average American households for a year. Historically more than 12 million acre-feet flowed into the delta each year…

Combined, that amount of water led to a green up along the river corridor, and sustained more than 275,000 new trees, according to a December 2018 report from the International Boundary and Water Commission.

The pulse flow’s biggest effects were short-lived. Both the green up and increases in certain species dropped again after the water stopped flowing.

The pulse flow’s biggest effects were short-lived. Both the green up and increases in certain species dropped again after the water stopped flowing.

A study from U.S. Geological Survey scientists confirmed that. It found that the amount of water in the pulse flow was too small to change the channel in a significant way, or scrub the riverbed, which would’ve happened during a more natural spring flood when flows would be much higher.

Because of the delta’s low water table, a lot of water seeped into the ground before it could do any good on the surface to help establish new wildlife habitat in expanded restoration areas. It was an experiment, said University of Arizona researcher Karl Flessa. Scientists experiment all the time, chart the results and move on.

Does he think the delta will ever see another pulse flow on the scale and magnitude of the one seen in 2014?

“Probably not,” he said. “Because you can get the water to do more restoration work by delivering it in smaller doses as it were, and delivering it to the right places where the vegetation can really take advantage of it.

“I think restoration, like any other activity with water, we’re really obliged as a society to be as water efficient as possible.”

What the #AnimasRiver can learn from the #ArkansasRiver — Trout Unlimited

Headwaters of the Arkansas River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journlaism

From Trout Unlimited (Kara Armano):

Let’s take a minute to daydream. Close your eyes and envision beautiful mountain scenery and cold, clean water drifting through the valley floor, bugs flitting through the clear, blue sky, and the possibility of sighting wildlife around every bend. Listen to the birds chirping and the sound of water running over the backs of logs and rocks. Now picture over 100 miles of this river stacked with browns and rainbows. This is not a dream. This is the Arkansas River in central Colorado.

At one point in history, not too long ago, this was not the Arkansas we now know. It was severely contaminated from hardrock mining to the degree of needing a Superfund designation to clean it up. But clean it up they did. After years of remediation work, the Arkansas has rebounded better than imagined, becoming the Gold Medal river we know today.

Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt said, “When I first began fishing the Arkansas in 1985, one could catch a lot of fish, but they were small and in poor condition due to water quality issues. With the successful effort to improve that, we began to see fish live much longer and healthier lives, and the diversity of our aquatic entomology really flourished. While a Superfund project is not a quick nor easy process, the payoff for the fishery, and for anglers, local businesses, residents, and visitors has been phenomenal.”

This is also the hope for the Animas River just a few hundred miles to the southwest. Named a Superfund cleanup site in 2016, the Animas headwaters have a similar storied past of hardrock mining. Since the mining boom of the 1880s, the Upper Animas has seen massive heavy metal loads flowing through a wilderness section and into the town of Durango. Luckily, the metals dissolve significantly to leave the lower reaches valuable for anglers with its four miles of Gold Medal designation through Durango. But just imagine what could happen with the remainder of the river after the Superfund cleanup is complete.

We’ve already seen glimpses of rehabilitation on the Animas River. During a brief period when a wastewater treatment plant was in place at the headwaters, trout numbers in the upper reaches were about 400 fish per mile. Once that treatment plant was removed in 2004, numbers dropped to 100 fish per mile in 2010 and a dismal 73 fish per mile last year. The same is true for macroinvertebrates. The celebrated pale morning dun was once a character of the river landscape, but since the closure of the plant, they have been nonexistent. Clearly, remediation of any level is beneficial to trout and trout food.

If the Animas River Valley, its citizens and businesses, anglers and recreationists can learn anything from the Arkansas River success story, it’s this: hope is not lost. It will take time, but the Animas River will return to a healthy habitat for our beloved trout.

On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

“If we let this world die — if we let it be slaughtered by the shockingly small number of villains who have lied to us for decades — then we become complicit” — Emily Johnston #ActOnClimate

Rivers of meltwater and a mantle of soot, dust, and microbes darken the surface and speed melting. Surface melting has now surpassed the discharge of icebergs into the ocean as a major cause of ice loss. Photo credit Marco Tedesco/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Poignant call to arms to restore nature from Emily Johnston, “Loving a vanishing world.” Here’s an excerpt:

The truth is that the ocean that looks so beautiful and unchanging is well on its way to becoming a vast garbage dump full of plastic and of heavy metals, where little survives but jellyfish. It will not smell the same. Its colors will change. And most sea-birds, of course, will die with it.

So I want to ask you the same question I ask myself every time I’m entranced by the beauty of this world: what does it mean to love this place? What does it mean to love anyone or anything, in a world whose vanishing is accelerating, perhaps beyond our capacity to save the things that we love most?

Knowledge is responsibility, isn’t it? If we let this world die — if we let it be slaughtered by the shockingly small number of villains who have lied to us for decades — then we become complicit, because we are the only ones with the leverage to help it live again; those who come after us will have far less ability to do so, as we have far less ability than our parents would have (had they known the truth to the degree that we do). For better and for worse, we are the ones at the intersection of knowledge and agency. So how do we best use that leverage, and how do we find the heart to keep going when the realities of loss overwhelm us?

The stakes are unnervingly clear if we look at the Earth’s five previous extinctions, particularly the end-Permian, in which as much as 90% of life on Earth was wiped out. In all of them, greenhouse gases from volcanic activity, and the ensuing temperature rise, were triggers of destabilization. All of them happened extremely suddenly in geologic terms — but with temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations that were rising hundreds or thousands of times more slowly than we’re causing them to now.

So it’s not just our grandkids; it’s not just low-lying or hot/dry places; it’s not just humans; it’s not just orcas or the Great Barrier Reef or monarch butterflies; it’s not even “just” the oceans (upon which so many species, and people, depend). What’s at risk now, as best we can tell, is life on Earth. Possibly all of it: scientists now know that runaway greenhouse gas scenarios can turn a pleasant, habitable, water-filled planet….into Venus.

The potential loss of all life is clarifying, because there is only one medicine for any of it — for any of us — and that is the restoration of a thriving natural world, beginning with the near-term end of fossil fuel use. If we’re making real progress towards those goals, we can almost certainly tip the balance for some individuals and species — at least for awhile. And that’s surely a good thing: to help some people live longer lives with some stability is much better than not to do so, even if it doesn’t last for millennia, and to save some species is far better than to save none. What could be a more meaningful way to spend our lives?

Montrose County shuts down mechanized streambed mining in the San Miguel River near Uravan

Manhattan Project 1944, Uravan. Photo credit: Uravan.com

From The Montrose Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

t’s been about 35 years since the mill at Uravan closed and about 33 since the former West End town was designated a Superfund site, eventually to be bulldozed, burned and buried. But roughly 2 miles away is the Ballpark at Historic Uravan, Colorado, which was never contaminated by uranium and vanadium mining — and the one place people who grew up there still have to gather and remember.

The ballpark, with its primitive camping, has also attracted its share of hobbyist gold miners who access the San Miguel River from there. But when some began showing up with machinery, locals sounded the alarm and on Thursday, Montrose County passed an ordinance prohibiting unauthorized, mechanized mining along the river acreage it owns there. The ordinance can go into effect May 28…

A problem reared its head, though, when she discovered a video on the Facebook page of a hobbyist prospecting group. Thompson said the video showed compressors and a hose that was pumping the river — plus the site was promoting the location to other hobbyists, as was a prospecting book, which has since delisted the location.

“There was a big group that was going to come. They were all going to bring their machinery and have a big weekend there. We decided we probably better let the county know what was happening,” Thompson said.

Although it’s one thing to pan for gold in the river, or put up a small sluice box — that’s still allowed under the new ordinance — mechanized mining imperils the river and the habitat it provides.

“We contacted the group and told them … it belongs to the county. We lease it to the historical society. They have spent many countless hours down there and have turned that into a beautiful little park we encourage people to use. We don’t want it destroyed,” said Montrose County Commissioner Roger Rash, a former Uravan resident.

The county also put up a sign barring machinery in the river.

“But we needed to have some teeth,” Rash said. “We don’t want mechanized mining going on in our park.”

The new ordinance allows panning within the river channel, as long as it occurs at least 2 feet from the bank. Among other provisions, the ordinance prohibits motorized mining activities, including motorized suction dredging.

It also bars activity that undercuts or excavates banks and the ordinance further restricts access to the channel to existing roads and trails.

People cannot disturb more than 1 cubic yard of soil per day and anything that cannot be removed by hand must remain undisturbed.

All digging has to be filled in and the work area must be cleaned up before departure.

Violations are treated as a petty offense, which carry fines between $100 on first occurrence and up to $1,000 for repeat offenses.

If the county property, river or surrounding area sustains damages in excess of $100, violators can be charged with a class-2 misdemeanor punishable by stiffer fines and up to a year in county jail.

Thompson said she and other Rimrockers didn’t understand why anyone would be mining the river with machinery to begin with. The park is open to the public — although it relies upon donations to sustain the picnic structures and fire pits former residents paid for — and has had only minor vandalism issues prior to the mechanized mining.