Morning Photo: Sunday set

Meltdown continues in Colorado

FRISCO — Watching the ice melt from along the shoreline of local ponds, creeks and reservoirs is one of the best things about early spring. It takes a while here in the high country to transition from winter to summer. Even once the snow melts, the plants don’t respond immediately, so even when the snow is gone, we don’t get a quick green-up. There’s likely still more snow ahead, and certainly, more sub-freezing nighttime temperatures, so the wildflowers aren’t in a big hurry to appear. But the dynamic changes of the ice cover during the melt season more than makes up for it, at least in terms of photography! If you get a chance, take a stroll around some of the coves and inlets along Dillon Reservoir or your local beaver ponds and wetlands, and check out the changes of the season. For daily photography updates, follow our Instagram feed, and visit our online gallery for an amazing selection of prints and greeting cards.

Environment: Nitrogen pollution reduces plant diversity

Swiss study shows widespread effect of air pollution

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Alpine wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. @bobberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Scientists in Switzerland say they’ve measured a startling decline in plant diversity linked with high human atmospheric nitrogen emissions. Their study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, shows the loss in traditionally measured plant species richness at 5 percent, while the loss in phylogenetic plant diversity due to human-induced nitrogen deposition is 19 percent. Continue reading

Spring warmth ups fire danger in Rockies

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A dwindling snowpack means increased fire danger. This low spring snowpack in 2012 was followed by a severe wildfire season in Colorado.

‘The next several weeks are going to be critical in terms of precipitation’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Early snowmelt and above-average temperatures have upped the fire danger across parts of the Rocky Mountain and high plains region, federal officials said this week, forecasting a more active wildfire season than last year.

“This year we are expecting an average to above-average fire season,” said Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center fire meteorologist Tim Mathewson. “A repeat of a 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2012 historic fire season is unlikely at this time; however, the next several weeks are going to be critical in terms of precipitation.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Elements

Got color?

FRISCO —Yes, I know, it’s spring, and these shots were taken two seasons ago, during autumn, but that’s part of the magic of photography, right? You can bring back memories and transport yourself to another time and place, in this case to some of the most intense light of the past six months. Rocks, rivers, trees, sky and water, some of the basic stuff that’s all around us, but usually taken for granted. For daily photography updates, follow our Instagram feed, and visit our online gallery for an amazing selection of prints and greeting card

Colorado GOP launches preemptive strike on EPA’s Clean Power Plan

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Clean Power Plan under attack in Colorado.

Proposed bill up for a committee hearing today

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Backed by the fossil fuel industry, Republican Colorado lawmakers are launching a preemptive effort to block or delay the state from implementing the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing emissions from power plants. The plan has not been finalized yet, but that apparently won’t stop the misguided effort in the Colorado Senate.

Senate Bill 15-258, misnamed as the “Colorado Electric Consumer’s Protection Act.” would require the state to undertake burdensome and costly reviews of any Clean Power Plan rules adopted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Quality Control Division — including a full evidentiary hearing before the Public Utilities Commission to evaluate impacts to electricity rates. Continue reading

Colorado Supreme Court ruling bolsters stream protection

The San Miguel River near its headwaters in Telluride, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

The San Miguel River near its headwaters in Telluride, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Challenge to instream flow rejected by state’s top judges

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Colorado Supreme Court this week rejected a legal challenge to a state program designed to protect rivers and streams.

The ruling makes it clear that the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s instream flow program furthers state policy of preserving the natural environment for the people of Colorado.

At issue is in the case is an instream flow right in the wild and remote San Miguel River, flowing out of the high San Juans near Telluride to its confluence with the Dolores River in Montrose County. The San Miguel is one of the last relatively free-flowing rivers in Colorado. As such, water experts say it still has some water that could be developed in the future. The instream flow right will help ensure that any future diversions won’t harm the river’s animals and plants. Continue reading

Climate: Early meltdown for Colorado snowpack

April 1 snowpack the 3d-lowest in 30 years; state preps for low runoff and summer streamflows

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Colorado snowpack started to decline in March, a month ahead of schedule.

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Colorado experienced widespread warmth in March.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado water users need to prepare for below-average spring and summer runoff and streamflow based on the all-important April 1 snow survey, which showed a startling drop in the state’s snowpack since early March.

After tallying readings from automated SNOTEL sites and manual snow surveys, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service said the water content of the snowpack is just 64 percent of average, down from 89 percent at the beginning of March.

“This is showtime when it comes to hydrological cycle in Colorado,” said state climatologist Nolan Doesken, referring to the fact that the state’s snowpack usually increases significantly in March and April. Continue reading

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