Environment: Wild bees are critical to pollination

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Wild bees need love, too. @bberwyn photo.

‘protecting a wide variety of our wild bees is crucial …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new bee tracking study shows that protecting wild bees may be just as important as tackling the decline of domesticated honeybee colonies.

After tracking bees around the world, researchers concluded that only two percent of wild bee species pollinate 80 percent of bee-pollinated crops worldwide.

That means there’s a powerful economic rationale for conserving wild bees. It calculates the value of wild bee pollination to the global food system at $3,000 per hectare of insect-pollinated agricultural land, amounting to billions of dollars globally. Continue reading

Opinion: Climate, drought and the political Bizarro-land of the House Natural Resources Committee

Right-wingers frame drought as battle between environment and people; Colorado could avoid similar showdown with good planning

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Delta smelt, via USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Apparently, the lack of water in California has hindered the ability of some of the state’s elected officials to think straight.

Completely ignoring the facts that California’s precipitation has been well below average for four years in a row, and that the state’s temperatures have running at or near record highs, some Republican congressmen are calling the Golden State’s current dry spell a “man-made drought.” Continue reading

Climate: CO2 hinders plants’ nitrogen uptake

Wheat field in Upper Austria

Wheat ripens under a summer sun. @bberwyn photo.

Study suggests that greenhouse gas pollution will have a fundamental impact on plant-nutrient cycles and food production

Staff Report

FRISCO — Increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide is hindering some plants from absorbing nitrogen, the nutrient governing crop growth in most terrestrial ecosystems.

Concentrations of nitrogen in plant tissue is lower in air with high levels of carbon dioxide, regardless of whether or not the plants’ growth is stimulated, University of Gothenburg (Sweden) researchers found in a new study, published in the journal Global Change Biology.

The study examined various types of ecosystems, including crops, grasslands and forests, and involves large-scale field experiments conducted in eight countries on four continents. Continue reading

May precipitation breaks records in southern Colorado

Wet spring boosts streamflow forecasts

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Miracle May?

Staff ReportFRISCO — Statewide precipitation was more than twice the average, federal water watchers said in their June update. The rain and snow, along with cool temperatures at higher elevations, delayed the onset of runoff and boosted streamflow forecasts for the summer. “This substantial addition of moisture, both in the form of snow and rain have notably increased water supply forecasts across the state from a month ago,” said Brian Domonkos, the Colorado snow survey supervisor for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading

Colorado steps up sage grouse conservation

Habitat exchange scheme eyed as key component in efforts to protect dwindling western birds

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is ordering state agencies to boost greater sage-grouse conservation efforts. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling for an all-out state effort to protect greater sage-grouse by stepping up coordination among state agencies, improving habitat on state-controlled lands, and boosting the role of the state’s oil and gas commission.

The new conservation push, announced in a May 15 executive order, also outlines a market-based habitat exchange program that would let ranchers and other landowners buy and sell conservation credits to developers, including the oil and gas industry with the goal of mitigating “residual impacts” to sage-grouse habitat. Continue reading

Environment: Honeybees take another big hit

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off.

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off. @bberwyn photo.

Annual survey shows disturbing rise in summer bee colony losses

Staff Report

FRISCO — Commercial beekeepers took another big hit last summer, reporting that they lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the past year. Summer losses were higher than winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies, according to University of Maryland scientists. Continue reading

Drought disaster declared in northwest Colorado

USDA declaration opens door for emergency aid

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Staff Report

FRISCO — While spring snow and rain have slightly eased Colorado water woes, the situation is more serious in the northwestern part of the state, where three large rural counties have been designated as a contiguous disaster areas due to drought.

Senator Michael Bennet announced the designation today, saying that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declaration makes farm operators in thise counties eligible to be considered for federal assistance, including Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

“Producers on Colorado’s western slope have faced drought conditions that are damaging their goods and hurting local economies,” Bennet said. “These disaster designations will allow farmers and ranchers to access critical assistance to help them deal with any losses to crops or livestock.”

Producers in counties designated as primary or contiguous disaster areas are eligible to be considered for FSA emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for assistance. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers and ranchers with additional information.

The drought declaration came after a winter of well-below normal snowfall and near-record warmth in the region.

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