Morning photo: Sunday set

Got color?

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Summit sunset.

FRISCO — After a snowy start to April, winter finally relaxed its grip late in the month, with warmer days and at least a handful of clear mornings and evenings. Nothing against plentiful snow — I love it — but after months of shooting gleaming white snowscapes, it’s nice to get some color back in the scene, and it feels good to hike around on bare ground. Plus, the first wildflowers are starting to show (pasque flowers along the Ptarmigan Trail), and even though the early displays are modest, all the winter moisture should translate into a brilliant display of blooms the next few months. Click on the photos to see them full size, and check our online gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County nature and landscape photos. Continue reading

Colorado wetlands to regain federal protection

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High alpine wetlands that aren’t directly connected with larger rivers will regain more protection under a proposed new federal rule. bberwyn photo.

New rule aims to clear up regulatory limbo for seasonal streams and isolated wetlands

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A proposed federal rule would restore protection to hundreds of Colorado streams and big swaths of wetlands, including beloved alpine creeks and the sandy washes of the Front Range that only hold water seasonally.

The seasonal streams and disconnected wetlands long were covered under the Clean Water Act, but a pair of complex U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 opened some loopholes the regulations. At the least, the legal limbo caused headaches for scientists and regulators trying to assess impacts of housing developments and new roads. In some cases, they weren’t sure if they even had authority to regulate filling or draining of some wetlands. Continue reading

Rate of coastal wetlands losses speeds up

Sea level rise, development squeezes wetlands from both sides

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Rising sea level is encroaching on coastal wetlands. bberwyn photo.

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Critical coastal wetlands are being lost at the rate of 80,000 acres per year. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With sea level encroaching on wetlands from the seaward side, and development taking chunks from landward, the U.S. coastal wetlands are being squeezed into an ever-smaller coastal fringe.

Overall, coastal wetlands are being lost at an unsustainable rate of about 80,000 acres per year, according to a new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Those wetlands improve water quality and protect coastal communities from the effects of severe storms. They’re also crucial to the survival of fish, birds and other wildlife species, and help sustain the country’s multi-billion-dollar coastal fisheries and outdoor recreation industries. Read the full report here. Continue reading

Morning photo: Lagoon

Local landscape

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Full sunlight on the Meadow Creek lagoon in Frisco, Colorado.

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The pond where most of the photos in this post were taken is visible near the center of this Google Maps iPhone screen grab.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — I think they named our townhome complex Lagoon because of the small pond that was built as part of the development, right behind our house, where Meadow Creek comes out of a concrete culvert from beneath Frisco’s commercial/light industrial zone.

To me, the “real” lagoon is just a little farther downstream, where our residential neighborhood ends and the the stream flows into the flatlands on the edge of Dillon Reservoir. It’s only about a five minute walk from our house, but it seems like a world apart.After passing through this highly altered environment (highways, shopping malls, parking lots and dense townhomes), the little creek that starts high in the Gore Range suddenly gets a chance to find its true nature again, spreading out into the willow wetlands in a complex swirl of channels. I’ve taken scores, if not hundreds of pictures right down at the end of our little lane, including the images in this post. Continue reading

Morning photo: Potpourri

Skiing, sunsets and … a beaver?

I headed to the preview of the U.S. Ski Team Speed Training Center with the goal of getting at least one good ski action shot and I was pretty satisfied when I opened this image on the monitor. I worked hard to get this one, looking for some good half light and a background that would add some interest. This is former U.S. Ski Team Racer Doug Lewis.

FRISCO — Just a few shots from around the county from the past couple of days … Shooting the speed course at Copper was fun change-of-pace, and now I feel ready to go out and get some more good action shots when the rest of the team starts training next week. I was also amazed by the wetlands sunset capture with the iPhone camera. I shot the same scene with the Nikon D80, and it didn’t look nearly as crisp. Continue reading

House GOP votes to gut Clean Water Act

The Obama administration is proposing more protection for streams and wetlands; the GOP, backed by coal, gas and oil interests, are trying to block new guidance for the EPA and the Corps of Engineers.

Streams and wetlands protection at issue in political battle

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A long-running battle over Clean Water Act policies took another turn this week, as the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to block the Obama administration from implementing new policy guidance that would reinstate protections removed by the Bush administration.

The vote has implications for the Colorado high country, as the new guidelines would offer more protection for headwaters streams and wetlands that aren’t directly connected to navigable waterways.

Conservation groups said the oil and gas industry lobbied their GOP allies in Congress intensively to get the appropriations rider passed.

“They’ve never liked the Clean Water Act,” said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel with Earthjustice, a conservation and watchdog group that’s been tracking the rule. Continue reading

Morning photo: Dawn

Some early morning light …

Wetlands melting in the afternoon and freezing at night ...

Summit County — It’s either the best time of the day, or just too darn early, depending on your point of view. But this time of year, sunrise is at about 7 a.m. so you don’t really have to be an early bird to get out and enjoy the sunrise now and then. And there is always something magical about those first rays of light. Continue reading

Study: Wetlands restoration rarely effective

Natural wetlands are hard to replace, a new UC Berkeley study finds.

Wetlands carbon-storage function increasingly important in the face of climate change

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — For years, land managers and elected officials have permitted the destruction of ecologically valuable wetlands under the assumption that those areas can be replaced somewhere else with artificially created wetlands.

That development model has created a billion-dollar-per-year wetlands restoration industry, but a recent study suggests that restored wetlands rarely reach the quality of a natural wetland.

“Once you degrade a wetland, it doesn’t recover its normal assemblage of plants or its rich stores of organic soil carbon, which both affect natural cycles of water and nutrients, for many years,” said David Moreno-Mateos, a University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow. “Even after 100 years, the restored wetland is still different from what was there before, and it may never recover.” Continue reading

Environment: Chesapeake Bay shows signs of recovery

Chesapeake Bay in a Landsat photo.

Collaborative stakeholder effort pays off

By Summit Voice

Reducing the flow of fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay appears to be reducing the size of summer dead zones in America’s largest estuary.

Researchers found that dead zones stopped growing in the 1980s, when Chesapeake Bay stakeholders launched a concerted effort to slow the flow of contaminants. The dead zones have been shrinking since then, according to a study by scientists with Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. NOAA tracks the health of the bay at this website.

“I was really excited by these results because they point to improvement in the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” said lead author Rebecca R. Murphy, a doctoral student in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins. “We now have evidence that cutting back on the nutrient pollutants pouring into the bay can make a difference. I think that’s really significant.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Wetlands

October moods

Meadow Creek wetlands, Frisco, Colorado.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Even once the bright aspen leaves are gone, the autumn season reveals a rich palette of warm hues. One of my favorite places to watch the changing seasons and changing light is just a five minute walk from my home, along the Meadow Creek wetlands in Frisco. A couple of nights ago, Leigh and strolled there with the dogs, thinking that we’d missed the brightest colors of the evening, but at low-light settings the Nikon managed to capture some exquisite shadings and tones. Continue reading

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