Environment: Danube plastic pollution out of control, scientists say after intensive sampling effort

At times, there’s more plastic than baby fish in Europe’s second-largest river

Sunrise along the Danube in Linz, Austria.

Sunrise along the Danube in Linz, Austria. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —The Danube River has long been a source of inspiration for songs, fairytales and dreams. But in recent decades, those dreams have morphed into plastic nightmare of sorts, as the mighty European stream sends at least 1,500 tons of plastic debris surging into the Black Sea each year.

So much plastic is being washed into the Danube that, at times, the debris outweighs the amount of fish larvae drifting down Europe’s second-largest river, a team of Austrian scientists found after two years of intensive sampling.

Most of the plastic (about 80 percent) is from pre-consumer industrial sources — in other words, from the factories that make the tiny plastic pellets and flakes that, in turn, are used to make everything from toothbrushes to kids toys, says Aaron Lechner, a researcher with the University of Vienna who teamed up with other scientists to take a close look at the problem. Continue reading

Colorado: Water sharing a good deal for rivers

State water board, conservation group team up to create innovative new water rights agreement

By Bob Berwyn

Photos courtesy Colorado Water Trust

* Tools like the Little Cimarron agreement could be used to improve environmental conditions in many of the state’s rivers, and the evolving Colorado Water Plan can help identify places where deals like this could be used. Read more about the Colorado Water plan here.

FRISCO —For thousands of years, the Little Cimarron River trickled out of the snowfields of the San Juan Mountains, coursing unimpeded through steep alpine canyons and rolling sagebrush foothills before merging with the Gunnison River.

That changed when European settlers arrived in the region. Eager to tame the rugged land, ranchers and farmers took to the hills with shovels and picks, diverting part of the river’s flow to water hayfields and pastures. The back-breaking work brought the imprint of civilization to the area, but just as surely wrought huge changes to natural systems that had been self-regulating themselves since the end of the last ice age.

Like nearly every other river in Colorado, the Little Cimarron was free-flowing no more. 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

Morning photo: River’s edge

Ice magic!


FRISCO — Cruising along the edge of local waterways on these frosty winter mornings always yields a few surprises, like the incredibly delicate latticeworks of ice frost on display in this set. A steady source of moisture, combined with sudden changes in temperature and sunshine, create dynamic landscapes that can change from day to day, and even hour to hour, and if you happen to be in the right place at the right time with camera in hand, it can be pure magic. For daily photography updates, follow our Instagram feed, and visit our online gallery for an amazing selection of prints and greeting cards.

Biodiversity: Will the rain crow sing again?

Feds map critical habitat for yellow-billed cuckoo

Yellow-billed cuckoos have nearly been extirpated from the western U.S. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

Yellow-billed cuckoos have nearly been extirpated from the western U.S. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

Will yellow-billed cuckoos make a comeback in Colorado?

Will yellow-billed cuckoos make a comeback in Colorado?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The long endangered species odyssey of the yellow-billed cuckoo may be one step closer to resolution, as federal wildlife officials this week proposed designating more than half a million acres of critical habitat for the birds, sometimes known as rain crows for their habit of singing before a storm.

The bird was once common along most rivers and streams in the West, but the decline of the species, eyed for protection since 1986, shows how much human activities have degraded riparian riverside habitat. Yellow-billed cuckoos are neotropical migrants that winter in South America and nest along rivers and streams in western North America. Continue reading

Recreation: Park Service eyes river access issues

Early morning kayaking near Frisco, Colorado.

Early morning kayaking near Frisco, Colorado.

New handbook to help guide management and development of launch sites

Staff Report

FRISCO — Hoping to stay ahead of the growing and diversifying demand for boating opportunities, the National Park Service is partnering with the River Management Society to help develop guidelines for new launch sites and access points.

Under the collaboration, the park service announced publication of Prepare to Launch as a resource to help river managers, planners, boaters and water trail leaders plan for and build access to waterways.

“‘Prepare to Launch!’ will help water resource managers provide safe and sustainable launches that strengthen connections to the nation’s waterways,” said National Park Service river programs manager Joan Harn. “By collaborating with the River Management Society and our state, local and national partners, we can expand everyone’s capacity to access and enjoy America’s rivers and waterways.” Continue reading

Environment: USGS study measures success of abandoned mine cleanups in Montana

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Abandoned mine cleanups can help clean up polluted streams, a new USGS study in Montana finds. 

Water quality improving in Upper Clark Fork Basin

Staff Report

FRISCO — There are hopeful signs that the ongoing cleanup of abandoned mines around the West will pay off.

The U.S. Geological Survey, reported decreased levels  of toxic heavy metals in the streams of Montana’s Upper Clark Fork Basin that have been targeted by remediation efforts. Continue reading

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