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Upper Arkansas gets gold medal fishery status

Fishing for brookies at Officers Gulch Pond, in Summit County, Colorado.

Colorado gets new Gold Medal trout fishery.

Restoration efforts yield big gains in Colorado

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Restoration efforts along the Arkansas River have paid sweet dividends for trouts and anglers, as state officials last week designated a 102-mile stretch of the river as a Gold Medal fishery.

The designation has been 20 years in the making, and although anglers have enjoyed the improved conditions for years, it is an official acknowledgement of the myriad efforts undertaken by state and federal agencies to turn an impaired river into one of the most popular fishing destinations in Colorado.

With the addition of the Arkansas River, total Gold Medal stream miles in Colorado increases by 50 percent to 322 total miles. It will also be the longest reach of Gold Medal water in the State. Continue reading

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Colorado: Sen. Udall hosts session on Browns Canyon plan

Cherished stretch of river lands up for better protection

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If you have questions about the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness proposal, head over the Nathrop Saturday, April 13, when Sen. Mark Udall will host a listening session to get community feedback that will help fine-tune the plan.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Residents of central Colorado will get a chance to offer some input on a proposed new wilderness area along the Arkansas River this weekend (Saturday, April 13), when Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) holds a listening session in Nathrop. The session is set for 10 a.m. at Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting Company, 23910 U.S. Highway 285 in Nathrop.

Udall’s draft proposal for the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Area is based on more than a year’s worth of community input. It would cover 22,000 acres between Salida and Buena Vista on the Arkansas River, including 10,500 acres of new wilderness. Continue reading

Environment: Tamarisk biocontrol may work after all

Imported leaf-eating beetles slowly adapting to local ecosystems

Tamarisk along the Colorado River near Moab. Photo courtesy Tom Dudley.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Efforts to control invasive tamarisk plants along the Arkansas River are looking up, thanks to a boost from some unexpected evolutionary adaptations. A small imported but that eats and kills the water-sucking plants has been expanding its range and reproducing more efficiently after adapting to regional cycles of darkness and light.

“This is one of the clearest cases of rapid evolution,” said Tom Dudley, who has been involved in the tamarisk control efforts at UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute Riparian Invasive Research Laboratory.

The tamarisk leaf beetle has managed to delay its entry into hibernation to adapt to the shorter days of the southern region of the United States. That adaptation enables the beetle to survive until spring and prolongs the time it has to reproduce. Continue reading

Colorado: Hunting for whitewater flows in a drought

Collaborative planning helps sustain boating on the Arkansas River

Resource managers are cobbling together a plan to sustain flows for whitewater boating on the Arkansas River. PHOTO COURTESY BUREAU OF RECLAMATION.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite an emerging wave of publicity about the early stages of a major Colorado drought, stakeholders on the Arkansas River say a long-standing collaborative management effort should help salvage a decent boating season on one of the state’s most popular rivers.

“We’re working with the Bureau of Reclamation to figure it out,” said Rob White, park manager at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. “We have a few different ideas … we’re going to meet May 22 and discuss more details,” he said. Continue reading

Colorado: New life for the Arkansas River

Major restoration project set for the summer

Historic smelting activity around Leadville helped build Colorado’s wealth but destroyed precious natural resources. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

Acid mine drainage in the Upper Arkansas River Basin. PHOTO COURTESY EPA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Decades of industrial-scale mining left parts of the Upper Arkansas around Leadville mostly lifeless, but restoration efforts at the California Gulch Superfund Site, along with treatment of contaminated water, should help boost some aquatic life to one of Colorado’s big rivers.

This summer’s project is a key part of the federal and state effort to restore an 18-square mile area where mining led to the discharge of heavy metals and acid at the headwaters of the Arkansas, making the river in that area unable to sustain healthy fish populations. The river currently supports a good trout population because of earlier mine cleanup efforts and will be further enhanced by the upcoming habitat improvements. Continue reading

Sen. Udall sets wilderness info meeting in Avon

Gore Range, Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.

Public comments wanted

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sen. Mark Udall’s staff this month will start taking public input to help shape a possible wilderness bill that could encompass many parcels of land previously included in the grassroots, citizen-driven Hidden Gems wilderness campaign, as well as a House bill introduced by Rep. Jared Polis.

The first meeting is set for March 14 at the Avon library (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.). Another meeting is planned for later in the month in Summit County, where there has already been an extensive collaborative stakeholder process to discuss potential wilderness additions and other specially designated recreation and conservation areas.

Udall has said his wilderness effort will be a community-driven process that could also result in designation of the Arkansas River Canyon as a national monument and Browns Canyon as a new wilderness area.

Udall met with business community leaders in Eagle County this week to get some additional input. He has touted the wilderness and monument designations as a benefit to the state’s recreation economy.

Draft maps and other information on the proposals are online at Udall’s website.

Colorado: Native minnows return to the Arkansas River

10 years of research by state biologists helps set stage for restoration

The plains minnow hasn't been seen in its native Arkansas River habitat since the 1960s.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with restoring charismatic megafauna like lynx, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists have also focused attention on the state’s aquatic habitats. In one of the most recent success stories, they’ve been able to bolster populations of rare, native minnows in the Arkansas River, after some pioneering research by the John Mumma Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility in Alamosa.

Plains minnows (Hybognathus placitus) and suckermouth minnows (Phenacobius mirabilis) are on the Colorado threatened and endangered list.The plains minnow hasn’t been seen in the Arkansas River since the 1960s. Continue reading

Colorado: Over The River plan breeds bad blood

State Lands board approves leases before feds make final decision

Art or intrusion into nature?

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Controversy continues to swirl around the proposed Over The River installation proposed by artists Christo and Jean Claude for the Arkansas River Valley.

This week, the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners  approved two leases necessary for the installation — even before the Bureau of Land Management has made a final decision on the project, and as local opponents sue to prevent what they call a devastating public lands disaster.

“It’s a tragedy that they’ve totally caved in to Christo,” said Dan Ainsworth, head of an opposition group called Rags Over the Arkansas River. “Public officials are ignoring their responsibility as stewards of public lands,” he said.

Over The River has been pitched as a temporary art project that would build and display 5.9 miles of fabric panels suspended above the Arkansas River along a 42-mile stretch of the waterway between Salida and Canon City. The fabric would remain for two weeks in August of 2014 at the earliest and then be removed. Continue reading

Colo. Wildlife Commission opposes Over the River project

A rendering of what the finished art project might look like. From the Over the River website. Click on the image to visit Over the River online.

Impacts to bighorn sheep a concern for state wildlife biologists, other conservation groups concerned about aquatic habitat

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Citing concerns about impacts to wildlife, especially bighorn sheep, the Colorado Wildlife Commission will oppose the Over the River landscape art project, proposed for the Arkansas River.

The commissioners decided at their meeting last week to send a letter of opposition to the Bureau of Land Management, the federal permitting agency for the project. Click here to visit the BLM website for the project. Continue reading

Colorado rafting industry rides high in 2010

Whitewater outfitters report second-best year on record

Whitewafter rafting on the Arkansas River is fun, and it's also a big economic factor, valued at about $62 million in 2010. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO STATE PARKS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s rafting industry bounced back from a down year in 2009 to near-record levels, hosting more than a half-million user days between April and September, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

The trade group recently held its annual meeting in Grand Junction, releasing a report that valued the economic impact of rafting at about $150 in 2010, up about 4.9 percent from the previous year. That was the second-highest total since CROA began tracking these statistics in 1988, trailing only the banner year of 2007 (544,000 rafters). Continue reading

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