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Report: Everglades restoration is lagging

Major landscape types in the Everglades before human action. USGS map.

Major landscape types in the Everglades before human action. USGS map.

More money, less red tape would help, experts say

Staff Report

FRISCO — Critical restoration work in the Florida Everglades is lagging well behind where it should be, with government red tape chronic funding shortages blocking the implementation of plans that are already on the books.

A new report says that local, state and federal entities working on long-term restoration of the Everglades ecosystem timely green lights for projects, enough money and some creative policy making to make it all happen. The impacts of climate change — especially sea-level rise — provide a stimulus to accelerate restoration efforts, the report adds.

The report is a congressionally mandated update to the 2011  Central Everglades Planning Project, which outlines ways to renew needed flows in the central Everglades. Continue reading

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Scientists face endangered species conundrum

Bay Area marsh bird at nexus of endangered and invasive species

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A clapper rain along the shore of San Francisco Bay. Photo via USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation biologists in the San Francisco bay area say they’re facing a conundrum, as they try to remove an invasive salt marsh grass while recovering an endangered bird that has come to rely on the non-native plant.

In a study published last month in the journal Science, researchers at the University of California, Davis said that an all-out push to eradicate the marsh cordgrass could hamper efforts to recover the clapper rail, a bird on the brink because of urban development and loss of wetlands.

Their results showed that, rather than moving as fast as possible with eradication and restoration, the best approach is to slow down the eradication of the invasive species until restoration or natural recovery of the system provides appropriate habitat for the endangered species.

Scientists in the southwestern U.S. have faced similar issues as they try to remove invasive tamarisk, which has come to provide habitat for rare southwestern willow flycatchers. Continue reading

Climate: Wetlands seen as key source of methane

New study shows need for better monitoring

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Can you see the methane bubbling up? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wetlands have been pinpointed as one of the largest sources of global methane emissions and new research shows that much more of the potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas will be pumped into the atmosphere as northern wetlands thaw and tropical ones warm, according to a new international study led by a University of Guelph researcher.

The study, published in Global Change Biology, is based on one of the largest-ever analyses of global methane emissions, with more than 20,000 field data measurements collected from 70 sites across arctic, temperate and tropical regions.

The results show the need for improved monitoring of wetlands and human changes to those ecosystems – a timely topic as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to examine land use impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, according to Prof. Merritt Turetsky, lead author of the new study. Continue reading

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

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