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Southwestern bird populations in steep decline

Report shows that even many common species are dwindling

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Global warming threatens ptarmigan habitat in the mountains of the West.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Bird populations are dwindling all over North America, especially in the Southwest, where some species have declined by as much as 48 percent since the late 1960s, according to the 2014 State of the Birds report released last week.

In Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, habitat loss and fragmentation due to development are the largest threats. These are also significant threats in the nation’s grasslands, where breeding birds like the eastern meadowlark and the bobolink have declined by 40 percent since 1968, with the steepest declines coming before 1990, when stakeholders started investing in grassland bird conservation.

And experts say it’s not just rare birds that are vanishing. The report includes a list of 33 common species in steep decline, losing ore than half their global populations over the past four decades — a clear warning sign that birds can undergo a massive population collapse with surprising rapidity. For example, passenger pigeon populations crashed from 2 to 3 billion birds to none in the wild in just 40 years. Continue reading

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Environment: Pesticide pollution rising in urban streams

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About half the nation’s streams are polluted by pesticides at a level of concern for aquatic life.

90 percent of urban streams show signs of contamination

Staff Report

FRISCO — A huge number of rivers and streams around the country are still polluted with pesticides that can kill bugs and other aquatic organisms at the base of the food chain.

Streams in agricultural areas are polluted at about the same level as they were 1990s, but pesticide pollution is increasing in urban streams, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study spanning about 20 years. Continue reading

Thanks for supporting independent journalism!

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Enjoying dinner and supporting independent journalism at the Sunshine Cafe in Dillon, Colorado.

I’ll be discussing global warming in the Rocky Mountains live on the KGNU program, “A Public Affair” Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 8:30 a.m. You can listen streaming on the web by going to www.kgnu.org and clicking on the “Tune In Online” button (left sidebar)

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Ever since I waded knee-deep into the mucky water of Cucumber Gulch 15 years ago to write about vanishing boreal toads, I had this crazy idea that good environmental journalism — and good journalism in general — should be a core community value. The feedback I got on countless stories about critters, forests, water, snow and ski areas — especially ski area expansions — over the years helped reinforce that feeling.

I’ve always known that Summit County readers are smart, engaged and interested in what happens in the world around them. That enthusiasm manifested last Friday evening at the Sunshine Cafe, where about 25 people enjoyed a fabulous menu, a slide show about the Climate Ranger environmental reporting project and a silent auction. The dinner was an incredibly generous gift from cafe owners Mike and Tenley Spry and their gracious and welcoming staff.

We brainstormed about local environment stories, and as always, water is always a key topic — not surprisingly, since a new state report released in August projects that global warming will cut river flows in our state in a big way by 2050, and the impacts by the end of the century could be overwhelming if greenhouse gas emissions continue apace.

We’ll devote some of the money raised at the dinner to writing a couple of in-depth local natural resource stories, and I look forward to hearing more from readers about what you’d like to see covered. With sustainable funding, I can deliver solid and truly newsworthy environmental stories from the local area, but I can’t do it without your support and I can’t do it for free — this is not a hobby.

Doing good journalism takes resources and time, and I’ve already invested more than 15 years in learning about public land and water policy, forest health, climate change, endangered species and other topics I write about.

You can be a grassroots supporter of independent journalism by making a contribution to Summit Voice:

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If you’d like to become a business supporter, have a look at the link sponsorship ads in the sidebar. I would love to work with you and feature you as an ongoing supporter of independent reporting. Please contact me at bberwyn@comcast.net.

If you would specifically like to support the Climate Ranger project, reporting on global warming in the Rocky Mountains, please visit our Beacon Reader page, where your contribution will also give you access to a wealth of diverse independent reporting from around the world.

 

Report claims Florida’s fast-track permitting for boat launches ignores impacts to manatees

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Florida manatees. bberwyn photo.

Feds consider changing manatee status from endangered to threatened

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gentle, slow-moving manatees are still facing serious threats from motorboats in Florida waterways and should continue be be listed as endangered, according to conservation advocates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering down-listing manatees, but the move doesn’t make sense, considering that boat collisions are still the leading cause of death, as detailed in a new report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The conservation group charges that federal and state officials have issued permits for thousands of new docks, boat ramps and piers without considering the cumulative effects on the marine mammals who favor the same near-shore waters used by Florida’s recreational boaters. Continue reading

Study tracks big drop in Pacific walrus numbers

PHOTO: U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren't adapted. Scientists say they've documented several cases of young calves being trampled in stampedes.

 Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren’t adapted. Photo courtesy USGS.

Melting sea ice likely a factor in population decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — With a 2017 endangered species listing deadline looming, federal researchers are trying to pinpoint Pacific walrus population numbers. In the newest study, the U.S. Geological Survey said the population dropped by about half between 1981 and 1999, but scientists aren’t sure if the numbers have stabilized since then.

in 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that the species was under pressure from sea ice loss and over-harvesting, but didn’t formally add the Pacific walrus to the endangered species list. A federal court said the agency must make a final determination by 2017. Continue reading

Climate: Too hot for Florida’s coral reefs?

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Observations around the Florida Keys show a big jump in the average late-summer water temperature, leading to increased coral reef die-offs.

New USGS study documents dramatic increase in ocean temperatures around the Florida Keys

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even without a big ocean-warming El Niño event, coral reefs around the Florida Keys are being stressed by warmer water. Scientists say the number of bleaching events is going up as average sea surface temperatures in the region increase.

Just in the past few decades, average late-summer water temperatures near the Florida Keys were warmer by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit compared to a century earlier, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Continue reading

Just a few tickets left for the Sunshine Cafe Climate Ranger fundraising dinner!

ss2b&wflowers3Dear Summit Voice Readers,

We’re so grateful to the Sunshine Cafe for offering to host what is going to be a fun and unique chance to enjoy a good meal and learn about global warming in the Rocky Mountains this week.

For one night only Sept. 12), the Sunshine Cafe (once again crowned as Summit County’s favorite breakfast spot, will open at 6 p.m. for a fundraising dinner. Tickets are just $50 per person, and there will also be a silent auction with some Rocky Mountain photography and a few other quirky items.

Proceeds from the dinner will benefit local environmental journalism by Summit Voice, and we’ll take input on story ideas at the dinner. We’ll also give a short presentation from our Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger Project, a series of road trips aimed at learning how climate change is affecting our beloved mountains.

If you are a Summit County or Colorado reader, please consider attending the dinner to show your support for Summit County environmental journalism. You can buy tickets at the PayPal link below, or contact Bob Berwyn via email or at 970-331-5996.

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