@COParksWildlife: 2019 Colorado Outdoors Photography Issue Video

Images from the Colorado Outdoors annual photography issue…Colorado Outdoors is published six times a year by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. To order Colorado Outdoors call 1-800-417-8986.

#NewMexico hunters and anglers celebrate access win — @BackCountry_H_A

Here’s the release the Back Country Hunters (Katie McKalip):

Sportsmen and women are commending a decision yesterday by the New Mexico Game Commission to support public access to the state’s streams and waterways.

The commission’s action on [November 21, 2019] addresses a rule dating from 2017 that allows landowners to petition the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to have previously navigable streams bordering private property certified “non-navigable” and therefore closed to public access without the landowner’s consent. Following outspoken advocacy by a range of stakeholders, including hunters and anglers, the commissioners, with guidance from the State Attorney General Hector Balderas, agreed to amend or repeal the highly unpopular rule with final action expected in 2020. A majority of the commissioners made it clear Thursday that the rule passed by previous game commission is unenforceable in light of the AG’s finding. The commission’s decision follows a 90-day moratorium it issued in July on actions around the rule.

Since statehood in 1912, New Mexico sportsmen and women have had the constitutional right to fish, boat or otherwise recreate in any stream so long as they did not trespass across private land to get there. But past game commissions have ignored that right, even after the state attorney general in 2014 issued an opinion that all streams were public domain for recreational purposes. In late 2017, the commission adopted the rule that permitted declaring “navigable” waters as “non-navigable,” therefore allowing the adjacent landowner to prohibit public access to the stream. The first round of applications was approved in 2018.

The New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other conservation groups applauded the commission’s decision.

“This week our state game commission took an unprecedented step on behalf of New Mexico hunters, anglers and other public land users by starting to roll back stream access regulations that our attorney general deemed unconstitutional,” said New Mexico BHA Chair Joel Gay, who lives in Albuquerque. “This represents a tremendous victory in reestablishing the public’s right to access public waters, an ongoing battle across the West.

“New Mexico hunters and anglers should thank Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for appointing a forward-looking commission that’s dedicated to transparency and upholding public land rights and our state constitution,” Gay continued. “This was a joint effort between the New Mexico Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other sportsmen’s groups, thousands of sportsmen and women who made their voices heard, and a variety of industry partners who support our growing outdoor recreation economy. We thank the commissioners for recognizing the previous regulation was flawed and taking action to restore public access to New Mexico streams.”

“The American Fly Fishing Trade Association applauds the New Mexico Game Commission for its decision to reconsider the rule restricting stream access in the state,” said AFFTA President Ben Bulis. “It is important not only to sportsmen and women but also to an industry that relies on access to clean and healthy waters.”

New Mexico Game Commissioner Jeremy Vesbach stressed the importance of balancing public access with respect for property rights.

“As we move forward to honor the access rights of people fishing or boating,” stated Vesbach, “it’s also extremely important for us to work with all sides and find those areas of common agreement like habitat improvement work and enforcement to protect private property rights.”

“The commission’s decision to revisit the unfavorable stream access rule is a huge win for outdoor recreationists in the Land of Enchantment,” concluded Rob Parkins, BHA public waters access coordinator. “All too often the constitutional rights of sportsmen and women are ignored in favor of special interests. The support from the attorney general, commission, governor and the entire New Mexico congressional delegation proves that our voices are heard – and that together we can restore and increase our access to public waterways.”

Rio Grande River photo credit Wild Earth Guardians.

Social media and citizen scientists — North Forty News #CitizenScience

From the North Forty News (R. Gary Raham):

Social media can be intimidating for many of us in the white-haired set, but I was reminded recently that online platforms like Facebook and Twitter command a virtual army of potential citizen scientists armed with tools that were once only available to a handful of professionals. Nancy Averett reported in the November 2019 issue of Discover magazine that an amateur Colorado photographer named Sue Dickerson recently discovered a previously unknown example of tool use by an animal: a skunk was caught in the act of using a stone to poke a hole in the ice covering the surface of water in a dish to get a late night drink. Dickerson, a Colorado Springs resident, posted her photos on Twitter. A scientist ran across the post, and nine months later Dickerson became a co-author of a scientific paper that appeared in the journal Ecosphere.

Averett quoted an animal behaviorist named Christian Rutz who said, “We’re starting to see some of the first examples of people doing this, but I think there is much more to come.”

[…]

Being at the right place at the right time—or having a motion-activated camera that you check regularly like Dickerson—can result in important scientific discoveries…

Other opportunities abound at the national level. A program called Nature’s Notebook enlists citizens to track changes in the seasonal appearances of various plants and animals. This provides valuable information about animal and plant distribution during a time of shifting climate. (See https://www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook)

Also check out a citizen science home page at https://www.citizenscience.org/. The U.S. government also provides links to various projects nationwide that need citizen input: https://www.citizenscience.gov/#

Happy Thanksgiving

It only takes one voice, at the right pitch, to start an avalanche ~Dianna Hardy (Wolf Conservation Center)

This year I am thankful for so much but especially the young people (particularly Greta Thunberg) that are calling out climate deniers and the folks that are dragging their feet about the climate crisis. It’s your future and it’s about damn time for the world to listen.

From Cool Green Science (Joe Fargione):

This time of year always reminds me that we have so much to be thankful for. But we also have a lot to be concerned about. Climate change, for example.

Climate change can be difficult to talk about, especially with family and friends. In fact researchers have found that roughly 6 in 10 Americans rarely, if ever talk about climate change with their friends or family. And it can be hard to know where to start. Thankfully, The Nature Conservancy has developed a set of resources, including a handy guide that you can download with tips for how to approach the conversation for best results.

In addition to arming yourself with the right approach to the conversation, it helps to have good information. Here are the four essential things that everyone should know about climate change. And they’re simple enough that you can explain them while you’re passing the gravy, even if your little niece or nephew is throwing peas at you from across the table.

It’s Warming.

The Earth has already warmed by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.98 degrees C), continuing the warming trend we’ve seen since the industrial revolution. It is now warmer than it has been in the past 125,000 years.

It’s Us.

In theory, things other than human emissions of greenhouse gases could have caused changes in the temperature of the planet. Scientists have already studied all of these things. The conclusion is clear: only greenhouse gas emissions — mostly carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels — can explain the warming that we see, even after taking into account the effect of volcanoes, sun spots, Earth’s orbit, ozone, and aerosols. (Check out this cool interactive graph that shows the effects of all these things independently and combined.)

It’s Bad.

We have already seen significant impacts from climate change. Increased flooding, fires, and heat waves are all linked to climate change. Natural disasters are already a big problem — they displaced 17 million people in 2018 and they cause $100 billion in damages every year in the United States alone. With so many people already in harm’s way, we can little afford the significant increases in natural disasters that unchecked climate change would bring.

If we keep burning fossil fuels at a reckless pace, the Earth will warm by 5 to 9 degrees F by the year 2100 (2.6 to 4.8 degrees C). This may not sound like much, but note that when it was only 7 degrees F colder than it is now, we were in the last ice age.

A 5 or 9 degree warmer planet would be a completely different world than the one we currently live in, with more flooding, crop failures, hurricanes, and sea level rise than we’ve ever seen. We would lose coral reefs, as bleaching events become more intense and frequent, leaving reefs no time to recover. And one in six species would be threatened with extinction due to climate change.

The impacts on human societies are less certain. Can society afford to pay for the economic damages from more floods, droughts, fires, and heat waves without breaking down? The sea level is projected to rise by 1 to 2 feet (11 to 22 inches) by 2050, and up to 5 feet by 2100 if melting causes ice sheets collapse the way some scientists think they will.

Just 1 to 3 feet of sea level rise will cause the dislocation of 250 million people. Could our societies withstand this disruption?

For my children’s sake, I hope we never find out the answer to these questions. It’s not too late to make some the investments needed to insure against the worst impacts of climate. But we have to act decisively. Now.

Comasche Solar Farm near Pueblo April 6, 2016. Photo credit: Reuters via The Climate Reality Project

We Can Fix It.

The future will be powered by wind and solar with electric vehicles, and it will be much more efficient. Not only will these technologies help solve climate change, they will eliminate the more than 600,00 premature deaths per year that occur globally due to our current polluting forms of land transportation and power generation. These gains will make our whole society more productive and wealthier.

We will also need to invest more in natural climate solutions — protecting nature, planting trees, and building healthy soil — to help remove carbon from the atmosphere. A common worry is that it would cost too much to solve climate change. But most people don’t realize how affordable wind and solar, energy storage, electric cars, and even electric airplanes have already become.

The only question is whether we will transition to this better world in time to avoid the most damaging and destabilizing effects of climate change.

Wildlife refuges suffer under budget cuts and staff shortages — @HighCountryNews

From The High Country News (Helen Santoro):

The key mission of the Refuge System — to protect and restore wildlife habitat — may be falling by the wayside.

Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains loom over the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. While the refuge used to have 13 people on staff to manage the reserve, they now have just three full-timers. Photo credit: Roger Peterson/U.S. Forest Service via The High Country News

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is nestled between the boggy wetlands and glistening ponds of Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Inside, near a cluttered display of taxidermy birds — a tall American white pelican with a bright orange beak and an osprey caught in midflight — Frances “Wa” Correia greets visitors. The 92-year-old has been volunteering here for 15 years, fielding questions, answering the phone and keeping the kiosk outside filled up with pamphlets. It’s work she enjoys doing. Still, as the number of full-time professional staff dwindles, volunteers like Correia are forced to take on even more tasks, while other important projects are left undone.

The refuge once employed 13 people to manage and study its land. Now, it has only three full-time staffers and one seasonal worker. Consequently, key jobs — such as bird migration surveys, weed management and prescribed wildfires — are being left unfinished. This is a problem plaguing the entire National Wildlife Refuge System, which has suffered from a string of budget cuts and a shrinking staff for the last decade or more.

That means that refuges nationwide have fewer scientists, reduced law enforcement and a lack of habitat restoration. As a result, one of the system’s central responsibilities — to protect and restore wildlife habitat — is falling by the wayside.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, a branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, protects more than 850 million acres of land and water. From the marshy Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to arid landscapes like the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, the Refuge System is home to nearly every species of bird, fish, reptile and amphibian in the U.S., making it the world’s largest collection of habitats set aside for wildlife conservation. Around 50 million people visit the nation’s refuges each year.

But funding has not kept up with the system’s needs. Accounting for inflation, the overall Refuge System budget has decreased by almost 18% since 2010. As a result, the number of staff is currently around 2,600, which is an almost 20% drop from 2013. Additionally, as of 2015, there were only 318 refuge officers, down 65% from 1990, according to the 2015 annual report. Fewer officers mean higher chances of damaged property and hunting violations, a matter of particular concern since the Trump administration is opening up additional refuge acreage to hunting and fishing.

On a sunny, early-October afternoon, a cacophony of birdsong — the staccato chirp of the Song Sparrow against the loud whistle of the European Starling — could be heard throughout the 2,800-acre Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. A group of visitors sat on descending rows of stairs, shaped like an open-air theater, as they watched trumpeter swans glide across the shimmering pond.

While budget and staff cuts may not diminish this experience, they do dampen scientists’ understanding of the local avian population, which includes some 240 species of migratory birds. Deborah Goslin, the refuge’s former biological technician, used to spend her days surveying the migrations of waterfowl, raptor and shorebirds and studying their responses to floods, wildfire burns and other environmental changes.

Goslin was let go, however, and now no one is doing that work. These days, the refuge leans heavily on volunteers, especially for less specialized tasks, such as running the environmental education program or staffing the visitor center. But even with that help, the visitor center is closed many days due to insufficient staffing. “There’s so much information right behind that door,” said volunteer Richard Davis, “and it’s not even available.”

The Trump administration’s budget cuts are hitting all the public-land agencies. But the National Wildlife Refuge System has been struggling for years, never receiving the funding and recognition that it needs, said Geoff Haskett, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, a nonprofit based in D.C. “I don’t think it’s a Democrat or Republican thing,” he said. He suspects that some of the Refuge System’s woes stem from its lack of visibility compared to, say, national parks. But despite these challenges, said Haskett, keeping refuges working remains crucial. Not only do they protect some of the country’s most iconic ecosystems and wildlife, refuges allow the public to connect with the nature around them.

That’s the part that keeps Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge Manager Tom Reed going. A few years ago, a family traveled all the way from Hong Kong to the refuge just to go birding, Reed recalled. “Seeing the joy on the face of what they just observed, it humbles me,” he said. “It makes me realize how lucky I am to look out at this refuge each day.”

Note: This story has been updated to include current National Wildlife Refuge System staff numbers.

Helen Santoro is an editorial intern at High Country News. Email her at helensantoro@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor.

Brian Werner 38 Years With Northern Water, A Celebration at the Source and Heart of Western Water Education! — Greg Hobbs

Eric Wilkinson, left, and Brian Werner, on the job. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Brian Werner 38 Years With Northern Water,
A Celebration at the Source and Heart
of Western Water Education!

When we look to the future
it’s no more fortuitous

than finding each other
on the journey of the great

surveys of our lives.

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