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New insect pest hits Colorado’s beleaguered forests


Pine needle scale directly affects the needles of conifers. Photo courtesy Oregon State University.

Outbreak on pine needle scale  reported in Grand County, ground zero for the pine beetle infestation

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado forest health experts say there’s a new pest on the loose in one of the areas hardest hit by mountain pine beetles.

Pine needle scale is affecting patches of trees in Grand County, where residents have reported ailing lodgepole pines in recent months.

The tiny bug latches on to pine needles and sucks them dry. They can affect any age tree and generally don’t cause trees to die, although a heavy infestation can lead to mortality, according to Ryan McNertney, assistant district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service Granby District. Continue reading

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Colorado: Moose incident prompts warning


A moose cow and calves grazing near Berthoud Pass, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

A moose cow and calves grazing near Berthoud Pass, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Getting to close to wild animals is never a good idea, especially when the critters stand eight feet tall and weighs more than 1,000 pounds. Colorado wildlife officials are once again warning of the dangers getting too close to moose, after an incident in Grand Lake.

Tuesday afternoon, a cow moose injured a 60 year-old woman as she walked her dog in a neighborhood southwest of Grand Lake, along County Road 4721.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for the victim in this case, and we hope she has a quick recovery,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “This is a reminder that approaching these large animals can in certain situations be dangerous.” Continue reading

Colorado: State wildlife experts support grassroots push to improve wildlife safety along Highway 9


Wildlife underpasses could help improve safety along Colorado Highway 9 between Green Mountain Reservoir and Kremmling.

Improvements would reduce costly and deadly vehicle-wildlife collisions

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado wildlife officials say they’re supporting a grassroots drive to raise money for wildlife overpasses and underpasses along Highway 9, near Kremmling. The goal is to reduce the number of vehicle-wildlife collisions on a 10.6-mile stretch of the highway between Green Mountain Reservoir and the Colorado River near Kremmling.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, wildlife collisions in this area have led to nearly 600 vehicular accidents in the last 20 years, including 16 human fatalities and almost 200 injuries. About 35 percent of the collisions were wildlife related. In addition, there have been nearly 450 animals killed — mostly mule deer — in the last eight years. Continue reading

Colorado: Summit, Grand counties sign deal with Denver Water

Dillon Reservoir, Denver Water

Denver Water will try to maintain water levels for marina operation on Dillon Reservoir under a historic Colorado water agreement.

Historic agreement hailed as start of a new collaborative era

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A major water agreement aimed at ending decades of feuding and litigation between the Front Range and the West Slope moved one step closer to completion this week, as Denver Water, Summit County and Grand County representatives inked the deal at a ceremony in Hot Sulphur Springs.

Along with being hailed as a model of collaboration by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the deal also gives all the parties some certainties as to the future management and disposition of the state’s most precious resource.

Against a backdrop of an intensifying mountain drought, Hickenlooper said this year’s dry conditions magnify the need for cooperative solutions and highlight the fragility of the state’s rivers in the face of possible climate change impacts and increasing demand from a growing population.

“Some of our watersheds are reporting the driest conditions in our recorded history … this puts Colorado on a better footing, with more secure water sources both for headwaters counties and Denver,” Hickenlooper said. Continue reading

Colorado: Fraser River gets a boost

New settling pond will help improve water quality in Grand County stream

Construction of a new settling pond along the Fraser River will help protect water quality. PHOTO COURTESY DENVER WATER.

Removing highway traction sand from the Fraser River will help protect water quality and the fishery in the river.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With its flows reduced by upstream tributary diversions, and its river-bottom cobbles choked by highway traction sand, the Fraser River has long been a symbol of the imbalance between resource protection and other uses of water in Colorado.

But the Grand County stream will soon get partial relief, as various agencies from both sides of the Continental Divide teamed up to construct a settling pond near the entrance to the Mary Jane ski area in a project tha symbolizes an emerging spirit of tran-smountain cooperation.

Better maintenance and capture of highway sand can help reduce impacts to tiny aquatic organisms that form the base of the food chain in the river, helping to sustain healthy fisheries. The larvae of the aquatic insects need a coarse bed of rocks at the bottom of the stream to thrive. When the sand fills in all the gaps between the rocks, the bugs have nowhere to go.

The settling pond will also protect municipal and resort water infrastructure and equipment.

Continue reading

Colorado: Proposed water deal could end decades of fighting

Denver Water, West Slope find common ground

As part of a Front Range-West Slope deal, Denver Water commits to maintaining certain levels in Dillon Reservoir.

* More information, including maps and documents: Colorado River Water Conservation District.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Community leaders and water managers from both sides of the Continental Divide said Thursday that a proposed new water agreement should end decades of hostility and litigation over Colorado River diversions from the West Slope to the Front Range.

The deal was reached after five years of mediated negotiations and commits Denver Water to capping its service area and boosting water conservation and recycling efforts. Additionally, the utility will pay millions of dollars for stream improvements on the Colorado and its tributaries, and promises not to initiate any new West Slope water development projects without approval from the source area.

Key parts of the agreement, including changes in operations at Green Mountain Reservoir, and water use related to operation of the Shoshone power plant, still require buy-in from entities not party to the current agreement.

Though hailed as a “global” solution, the deal also would sanction an additional 15,000 acre-feet of diversions from the Colorado River headwaters to the Front Range, exacerbating an entirely different set of issues farther downstream — in the Grand Canyon, for example, where a recent report concluded that existing diversions are already damaging natural resources.

It covers existing diversions and projects, but conservation advocates were careful to point out that the agreement does not encompass the effects of two large Grand County projects currently under review — the expansion of the Moffat Tunnel collection system and the Windy Gap firming project, along the upper Colorado. Click here to read the full legal version of the deal.

“We have an obligation to the rest of Colorado … to develop, manage and use our water supplies responsibly and act with integrity,” said Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead. “We have taken responsibility for our impacts to the West Slope,” he added, acknowledging that decades of diversions have degraded aquatic habitat in numerous rivers and streams. Continue reading

Colorado: Mitigation plans for new water diversions due

Existing diversions in Grand County have already reduced flows in some streams to a trickle.

Technical meeting held to discuss ways to reduce environmental impacts from proposed new diversions in Grand County

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Some impacts to Grand County streams from new diversions could be at least partially addressed by making channels deeper, managing stream-side vegetation to provide more shade and carefully timing reservoir releases to mimic natural flows, according to discussions at technical workshop held last week in Winter Park.

The workshop featured wide-ranging discussions addressing issues related to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy’s Windy Gap Firming proposal and Denver Water‘s Moffat Collection System proposal. Both utilities intend to capture more of the water for which they have decreed water rights and divert it to the East Slope to “firm up” their ability to supply existing and new customers along the Front Range, even in times of drought. Continue reading

Rob Firth to head Trout Unlimited’s Colorado River projects

Long-time Colorado Division of Wildlife resource manager Rob Firth is the new Upper Colorado project manager for Trout Unlimited. Firth will help the group try and protect the fishery from further impacts as Front Range entities plan further diversions, and also work on river restoration and habitat projects.

Former top Colorado Division of Wildlife officials takes on new role with coldwater fisheries conservation group

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Trout Unlimited is bringing some heavyweight clout to the battle to protect the over-tapped upper Colorado River from additional impacts, as Front Range water providers plan for increased diversions from headwaters tributaries in Grand and Summit counties.

The coldwater fisheries conservation group announced Thursday that former Colorado Division of Wildlife chief of law enforcement Rob Firth will work for TU as the project coordinator for the Upper Colorado River Basin in Grand and Summit counties.

Firth is recognized as a trusted voice on resource issues in the state, and his professional relationships and ability to collaborate will help with what will be intense negotiations over how to avoid, or at least mitigate impacts from the proposed Windy Gap and Moffat Tunnel firming projects. Continue reading

Conservation easement protects Snow Mountain Ranch

The YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch includes habitat for rare Colorado animals and a network of popular hiking trails. Click on the image for a larger view.

Preservation deal eliminates development potential, ensures continued operations at popular retreat center in Grand County

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — At a time when youth camps around the country are closing or being sold and nonprofits are facing a challenging fund raising climate, state, federal and local officials came up with a creative solution to ensuring continued operations of the YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch in Grand County.

Using $5 million from the Forest Legacy program, $1 million from the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund and $3.4 million donated land value, the partners retired potential development rights on about 2,800 acres at the Snow Mountain Ranch with a conservation easement that eliminates any potential subdivision and development on the Snow Mountain Ranch’s 2,786-acre backcountry. Continue reading

The mighty Colorado: A river no more?

Experts say increased diversions are an adventure into the unknown

Video by Jenney Coberly

SUMMIT COUNTY — A proposal to divert yet more water from Colorado River headwaters streams in Grand County could push the system to a tipping point, with an uncertain outlook for recovery, fisheries experts said this week during a tour of Denver Water’s collection system around Winter Park and Fraser.

Read more about the plans — and the reactions of Grand County residents — here.

Our special series on the Upper Colorado River is made possible with support from the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Contact Summit Voice for other sponsorship opportunities and click on the banner to visit the river district online.


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