Western Rivers

Rockies River News

Stay up to date with our latest news and newsletters on rivers.
Audubon Rockies Yampa River Trip Photo: Abby Burk
Western Rivers

Rockies River News

Stay up to date with our latest news and newsletters on rivers.

CO Western Water Newsletter JUNE 2018

Doing Right for Our Rivers - Now 

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Regional Program Manager | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

 

Yampa River, Colorado
Early peak and lower flows on the Yampa River May 2018. Photo: Abby Burk

Early river runoff, warm temperatures, wildfires, and deepening drought across southern and western Colorado confirms what we already know: the 2018 water year is one we will remember! Abnormal dryness or drought are currently affecting approximately 2,282,000 people in Colorado —about 45% of the state's population—according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.  

This year is one of the earliest peaks for the Colorado River and the fourth lowest river flow recorded in half a century at Glenwood Springs. Currently, the flow into Lake Powell is estimated to be approximately 39% of average, and Lake Powell is expected to drop to just 45% full by the end of 2018. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will close a stretch of the Yampa River to fishing near Stagecoach State Park due to low river flow and overheated waters that could endanger fish. Last weekend the stretch of the Colorado River east of Glenwood Canyon was declared “unboatable” due to low water levels. Other West Slope rivers may soon follow. 

This trend is important and concerning.  It’s an indication that there may not be much water in rivers later in the year, water that supports communities and agricultural, ecological, and recreational needs. Declining river flows threaten birds, other wildlife, and Colorado’s $9.6 billion outdoor recreation industry.

Low flows also remind us of the need for better protection of healthy flowing rivers and streams. What happens in Colorado, a headwater state, has a ripple effect throughout the Colorado River system. Colorado River water reaches all four corners of Colorado; this river connects us.

Rivers need us now.  Colorado and the Colorado River system cannot handle many years like this one. 2018 adds one more year to a stubborn drought now tallied at 19 years. What if it gets worse? Here are opportunities for you to become a champion for practices that support healthy flowing rivers this summer!

  • Let decision-makers know that water conservation and water-use efficiency must be at the core of Colorado's water future. Tell them to support state funding for healthy rivers (stream and watershed management plans) and that implementation of the State Water Plan must support environmental resiliency to preserve what makes Colorado so special: our rivers.
  • Attend one of the Interim Water Resources Review Committee meetings.
  • Meet with your legislators, gubernatorial candidates, or attend a legislative town hall and ask what their perspectives on water are. Ask them to prioritize funding and action to support river health.
  • Find out where your water comes from at “Do You Know Your Water, Colorado?” co-authored by American Rivers and Audubon Rockies.
  • Visit  http://coh2o.co/  to see Colorado’s drought response and enter your zip code for any water restrictions or water conservation programs available to you. Every water drop counts, whether you are in a drought-stricken area or not.
  • Check your email for Audubon’s Colorado River - Year of the Bird petition released on June 25th. Please sign the petition and circulate!  

CO Western Water Newsletter MAY 2018

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Manager | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

The River Brought Us Together

Photo: Pete Arnold

Maybe it’s an oversimplification to say that a river trip can change your life, but it can. We just returned from a transformative 8-day river trip through the Grand Canyon that galvanized 26 Audubon-ers and guide crew not only to each other, but also to the Colorado River. Time on the river with new and old friends stoked hearts and underscored our need to come together and protect it.  

Floating through the towering sun-lit canyon walls, Rockies staff presented on the steep issues that the Colorado River faces and the birds and people that depend on it. Rich conversations helped to break down the over-intellectualized conventions about the river and western water. Time on the river worked. It always does. Spending eight days immersed in the beauty, simplicity, and rhythms of the river sparked life-long friendships, connections to the river, and strong Colorado River champions. Throughout the trip, birds were our abundant companions. From river launch to take out we observed 55 species of birds while traveling 225 river miles (see below). Many bird species were lifetime first sightings.

It is difficult to put the shared adventure, heartfelt relationships, fantastic birding, and awe-inspiring river time into words. To grasp it, you will have to join us. Audubon Rockies is already planning a 2019 trip through Cataract Canyon and another Grand Canyon trip in 2020. We hope you will join us on one or both. Shared river time is an experience you will never forget. Enjoy photographer Dave Showalter’s account of our trip below. We’ll see you downstream.

The River brought us together. We came from Colorado, California, the UK, and points in between to experience the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, witness wild spaces, wild creatures, bird life, raucous rapids, and quiet moments in between. A funny thing happens when people gather like this, sharing tight spaces, sandy beaches, meals, moments…we all become part of the same tribe as our guide BJ put it, dirtbags of sorts, where status in the “unreal” world is stripped away and we can just be ourselves. Be The River.

Audubon Rockies has created something special with these river trips; mixing outreach, education, adventure, and yes, birding while traveling at the pace of a great river. At the outset, Alison Holloran, Executive Director, described Audubon’s mission of protecting habitat for birds and people on a landscape scale, all of it wrapped in good science – so why not have some fun with it too? This is conservation in community as it’s supposed to be: like-minded folks sharing experiences, knowledge and the rest, forging friendships where the river flows strongest. Together we share the excitement of a first American dipper or peregrine falcon siting, the laughter that follows a giant wave washing over all of us in the front of the boat, an impromptu birthday celebration, soulful folk songs ‘round the fire, and swimming a rapid with newfound conservation friends. Adventure is as much about the people on the journey as the adventure itself, and thanks to Audubon Rockies/Western Rivers Action Network, we’re all river keepers now.

~Dave Showalter

 

Birds Observed During Audubon Rockies Grand Canyon River Trip: April 30-May 7, 2018

Raptors: Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, California Condor

Waterfowl & Shorebirds & Gulls: Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Canada Goose, Mallard, Spotted Sandpiper, Common Merganser, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, Western Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull

Swallows & Swifts: White-throated Swift, Violet-green Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Hummingbirds: Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Songbirds: Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Bushtit, Western Tanager, Summer Tanager, American Dipper, Common Raven, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Great-tailed Grackle, Bullock’s Oriole, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lucy’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Canyon Wren, Rock Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Western Bluebird, Western Wood-pewee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Southwest Willow Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Bell’s Vireo

 

CO Western Water Newsletter APR 2018

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Manager | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Audubon Rockies and WRV 2018 Restoration Projects

Native riparian and wetland vegetation is critical in supporting thriving bird populations, ecosystem services, and for providing clean drinking water for people. We have a way for you to help these essential habitats that we all depend upon! Building upon the great successes in 2016 and 2017, Audubon Rockies and Wildland Restoration Volunteers (WRV) are teaming up again in 2018 to enhance and restore streamside and wetland areas across Colorado. Project days are full of “how to” education, citizen science monitoring, community friendships, and “environmental therapy” for your heart. Sign up early for projects directly through the links provided. Early registration helps us to forecast volunteer meals and needed labor. We cannot do this without you! If you cannot donate your time, please consider a financial donation to Audubon Rockies to support these vital projects. Together, we are making a difference for birds and rivers!

May 12, 2018: Big Thompson

(40 volunteers needed)

The historic flood of September 2013 caused major damage throughout watersheds across Colorado’s Northern Front Range, and scoured much streamside vegetation that is so vital for wildlife, streambank stability, and water quality.  Since 2014, WRV has been working with local, state and federal land managers and watershed coalitions in many watersheds, including the South Platte River, St Vrain Creek, Left Hand Creek, James Creek, Little Thompson River, Big Thompson, and Poudre River, with the goal of re-establishing healthy riparian plant communities. 

WRV, partnering with Audubon Rockies, completed extensive revegetation in 2017.  Did you know that the north fork Big Thompson projects on National Forest lands have shown some of the highest seed emergence seen by WRV and forest botanists alike? In 2018, we will continue work spanning multiple watersheds.  Volunteers will spread pre-staged piles of compost, broadcast native seed that has been specially collected by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, apply engineered wood straw mulch, and plant native container-grown plants from WRV's own micro-nursery facility. Your efforts will help protect the water supply and improve wildlife habitat!

REGISTER here for Saturday May 12, 2018: Big Thompson

September 5-8, 2018: Uncompahgre Plateau Sage Grouse Habitat Restoration

(30 volunteers needed/day)

Wet meadows and riparian areas in sagebrush shrublands provide important brood-rearing habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse, listed as threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. These habitats are also important for numerous other species, including neo-tropical migratory birds, elk and mule deer, as well as to ranchers for livestock grazing.

In 2018, we're taking the success that WRV has had in Gunnison over the past 4 years and moving up to the Uncompaghre National Forest to replicate this work. We will be camped out for four days at a historic Civilian Conservation Corps camp (with showers!) and travelling from there to work sites each day. Food will be provided by talented volunteer cooks!

Volunteers will be constructing multiple rock structures on small streams and drainages in the watershed. We will apply the approach of restoration expert Bill Zeedyk, author of Let the Water do the Work: Induced Meandering, An Evolving Method for Restoring Incised Channels (2012). We will be using rock to build small scale erosion control structures which help to trap sediment, raise the water table over time, and sustain the plant community that the Gunnison Sage Grouse depends upon. This work helps make the ecosystem more resilient to the effects of climate change.

REGISTER here for September 5-8, 2018: Uncompahgre Plateau Sage Grouse Habitat Restoration  

September 10-11, 2018: Dolores River Restoration and Tamarisk Removal

                (30 volunteers needed/day)

Spend a few days camped out under the cottonwoods in the spectacular Gateway Canyon! 2018 is the fifth year of a collaborative effort with WRV, Rivers Edge West, the Dolores River Restoration Partnership, and Audubon Rockies to restore a priority native ecosystem inside the stunning Dolores River Canyon Wilderness Study Area. In 2018, volunteers will cut small tamarisk trees, or regrowth of previously cut larger trees, and may also cage cottonwoods to protect them from beavers.

This is a celebrated project, known far and wide for fabulous food, awe-inspiring scenery and intriguing local history. *Sign up for the Uncompahgre Plateau Sage Grouse Restoration Project from September 6-9th and make a whole week of it. Anyone who signs up for both projects can get to ride in the WRV carpool from Boulder and go on a special day-off adventure with us!

REGISTER here for September 10-11, 2018: Dolores River Restoration and Tamarisk Removal

October 10, 2018:  St Vrain Creek Tamarisk Removal

                (20 volunteers needed)

Tamarisk (Salt Cedar) grows aggressively, choking native vegetation which negatively impacts bird habitat. Following the September, 2013, flood, thousands of tamarisk have germinated along St Vrain Creek, east of Longmont. These tamarisk seedlings are intermixed with native cottonwoods, willows and other native seedlings that are naturally growing in response to the flood. Tamarisk pose a major threat to watershed health across the west, costing billions of dollars in degraded habitat and lost water.  

Come enjoy panoramic views of the Front Range as you continue work from 2016-2017, and help remove tamarisk through hand-pulling small seedlings, pulling with weed wrenches on the medium sized plants, and possible "cut and stump" treatment on the larger plants that cannot be pulled. This treatment involves sensible dabbing of a small quantity of herbicide to the stump.  You'll be rewarded for your efforts by likely seeing circling eagles as we work to remove tamarisk.

REGISTER here for Wednesday October 10, 2018: St Vrain Creek Tamarisk Removal

How long does a drought need to continue until it’s the new normal?

MAR 2018 CO Western Water Newsletter

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Snow must fall at over 400% across Colorado through early April to catch up to “normal.”  As of March 21st, the statewide average snow water equivalent is at only 69% of normal. This could be Colorado’s driest winter in 30 years. The snowpack is just over half of what it was last year, and water managers are watching. Low snowpack translates to low spring runoff for river flows. Low river flows affect all of us.

Drought in Colorado is not a passing occurrence. The Colorado River Basin has been in drought conditions for nearly 18 years. The weekly update of the U.S. Drought Monitor was released last week and it shows drought conditions continuing to expand across Colorado. The rate of warming in the last century alone was greater than in the last 1,000 years. So on average, snowmelt runoff is occurring earlier across most of the West. Peak streamflow is occurring earlier, too.  Snowmelt timing in Colorado has advanced by about two or more weeks since the late 1970’s. Studies have shown that even with Colorado’s high mountains and cold snowpack, we are seeing substantial shifts in snowmelt timing, and its runoff in rivers to earlier in the year.

Timing of runoff in river systems fed primarily by snowmelt is very important to ecological processes, river recreation of all forms, and Colorado water management. For example, runoff timing, duration, and magnitude determine the success of establishing new riparian (streamside) shrubs and trees like cottonwoods and willows – which are critical for bird, and other wildlife habitat.

Two primary climate factors determine runoff timing: spring-time temperature; and, the April 1st snow water equivalent – basically, snowpack level.  Another key factor that plays out in May is the changing of the sun angle on high elevation snowfields.  May’s strong sun will bring down the snow.  Dust on snow events, like Colorado experienced in February, combined with the increased solar warming caused by dust-darkened snow – also accelerate snowmelt runoff.

With little chance of reaching normal snowpack peak, water managers will look to reservoirs to supplement streamflows. Reservoir storage is at 116 percent of average, statewide.

Drought is the new normal. We must adapt water use and management accordingly, as we are now living in chronic semi-drought conditions. Conservation, efficiency, and reuse are key for ensuring we have enough water to go around for people, and to lessen the burden on our rivers and the environment.  

As we adapt to chronic semi-drought conditions in Colorado, THANK YOU to the 1,260 Colorado Western Rivers Action Network members who signed Audubon’s Safeguard Colorado's Sustainable Water Future Petition. Audubon Rockies staff are in full swing meeting with 20 key legislators delivering your support.  We all depend upon healthy freshwater systems -particularly in our arid West.

Owning Audubon’s Colorado Water Story

FEB 2018 CO Western Water Newsletter

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

After two years, Colorado is gradually seeing improvement in management for healthier rivers.

Did you know that you, as a part of Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN), play a starring role in that story? After the first draft of the Colorado Water Plan was released, Audubon Rockies seized the opportunity to expand a fledgling definition of environmental resilience into a staunch, stream ecology, science-based delineation for environmental resilience. An ecosystem’s resilience is a measure of its ability to absorb changes and return to similar levels after disturbance. Rockies’ staff, with the backing of WRAN and chapters, met with Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) leadership to show the value of this language for all water uses.

In the end, Audubon’s definition for environmental resilience was accepted into the final Colorado Water Plan – because of you! *See below for the environmental resilience language.

Audubon looked at the problems facing Colorado’s rivers and asked, “What’s the most far-reaching solution for birds and people?” The definition of environmental resilience is a strong framework for better understanding and managing the health of our rivers. From this foundation, the Colorado Water Plan contains two measurable objectives to tangibly support healthy rivers and the clean reliable drinking water they provide to communities. These objectives are to cover 80 percent of the locally prioritized lists of rivers with stream management plans, and 80 percent of critical watersheds with watershed protection plans, all by 2030. As the Water Plan moves forward into implementation, environmental resilience is a forethought in the development of stream and watershed management plans, rather than an afterthought. Too much is at stake for Colorado if healthy flowing rivers and watersheds are not prioritized.

Have you signed Audubon’s Safeguard Colorado's Sustainable Water Future Petition? We need your signature to show water decision-makers in March that you care about our rivers.

We all depend upon healthy freshwater systems -particularly in the arid West. To date, the CWCB has approved six Stream Management Plan grants in 2016 and 2017. Two plans are in the initial assessment phase (San Miguel Management Plan and the Upper Gunnison Management Plan), and four plans (North Fork Gunnison Management Plan, Steamboat Springs Yampa Management Plan, Crystal River Management Plan, and Chatfield Reallocation Environmental Pool Management Plan) protect 88 stream miles collectively. Current watershed planning efforts cover 48% of the state's sub-basins (HUC-8). We still have a long way to go to restore Colorado’s healthy freshwater systems, but working towards environmental resilience is a strong start for establishing “shock absorbers” for streams, watersheds, wildlife, and our water supply.

Section 6.6 Environmental and Recreational Projects and Methods. Page 6-158  

An ecosystem’s resilience is a measure of its ability to absorb changes and return to similar levels after disturbance.(423) According to Principle 7 of the IBCC Draft Conceptual Agreement, resilience of a stream or watershed can be measured as an ecosystem’s ability to recover functionality after an acute or chronic disturbance. Resilient river systems require seasonal flow fluctuations and provide complex and connected aquatic and riparian habitats in order to sustain stable, diverse, abundant, and reproducing populations of aquatic and riparian species.(424) To determine resiliency levels, it is necessary to identify the baseline status of these characteristics and to monitor stream ecological functions and watershed processes on an ongoing basis.(425) To promote environmental resiliency, planned projects and methods should incorporate the potential stressors of drought and climate change, including decreased supply, changes in water temperature, and changes in runoff magnitude, duration, frequency, rate of change, and timing.(426)

More mentions: Chapter 1: Introduction 1-9, Chapter 8: Interbasin Projects and Agreements.

*Remember - migratory bird count in May across the Colorado River Basin and other riparian focal areas. Details to come soon!

Water in Colorado is Getting ‘Real’

JAN 2018 CO Western Water Newsletter

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Colorado enters 2018 with significant water hurdles that could pose real challenges for rivers, birds and people. So far, Colorado has one of the lowest snowpack levels in history leaving spring river runoff forecasts dismal. Additionally, revenue from the state’s funding source for improving water management, Severance Tax, is dangerously low threatening funding for stream management plans, urban water conservation, innovative water sharing abilities and more. Colorado’s rivers need your help! What better time to roll up our sleeves and get to work because 2018 Is the Year of the Bird where we will be celebrating birds while raising awareness about their troubles.  Read on for more details. 

Snowpack. The Natural Resources Conservation Service released its January snowpack report and indicates this water year is one of the driest on record for Colorado. As of January 16, 2018, the statewide SNOTEL snow water equivalent average is just 59 percent. Basins in southwest Colorado are at only 33 percent! (The snow water equivalent percent of normal represents snow water equivalent found at SNOTEL sites in the basin(s) compared to the average value for those sites on this day.)

Every basin in Colorado, and most throughout the Colorado River watershed, are in some severity of drought. Federal agencies have calculated that even if we receive a big late snow, it may not make up for the lag. Runoff in the Colorado River basin this spring might be only 55 percent of average. That said, there are no streams in the State of Colorado forecasted to have above average streamflow volumes at this time. That’s tough news for streamside riparian habitats that depend on high flows for sustainability. Everyone get out there and do your very best snowdance!

Water Funding Woes.  Severance tax revenues are dangerously low and the state is working hard on finding solutions to this funding shortfall. These revenues may not recover for a long time. Why is this important to rivers? Great question. Severance tax revenues are used to fund the majority of water projects, including Water Plan implementation, across the state. Without sufficient funding, Water Plan implementation stalls.  This means projects like stream and watershed health management plans, agricultural improvements, and small urban conservation, efficiency and reuse projects have no other significant funding option. Storage projects, like reservoirs and water delivery infrastructure, often have a paying constituency to fund them. Rivers and streams do not.   

We need you! Rivers are at risk from overuse, low snowpack and significant funding gaps. Watch your email on January 31st to sign Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network petition asking the state to support funding for critical and unfunded projects including stream and watershed health projects that protect rivers, birds and other wildlife. Audubon Rockies staff and partners will take your signatures directly to legislators, and key water decision-makers during our Rivers Day at the Capitol.

*Sneak peek:  Migratory bird count in May across the Colorado River Basin and other riparian focal areas. Details to come soon!

 

 

 

 

 

December 2017 CO Western Water Newsletter

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

2017 Successes to Inspire Action in 2018

As 2017 comes to a close, it is time again to reflect and plan our way forward. Looking back, 2017 proved to be a challenging year. However, challenges are what fuel us and make our work even more pressing and rewarding. We would not be celebrating the freshwater habitat policy and on-the-ground achievements the Audubon network made across Colorado – without you!

With more than 10,800 activated members, Audubon’s Colorado Western Rivers Action Network (CO WRAN) remained an effective lever for balanced water solutions at both the state and federal levels. CO WRAN played a key role in raising the profile of public support for positive state water legislation, and moving forward environmental priorities of Colorado Water Plan implementation. Audubon policy experts took WRAN petitions, actions and Colorado Audubon chapter sign-on letters to strategic in-person state and federal decision-maker meetings. Engagement by Audubon and our deep grassroots base, including many experts, continues to be key in securing support for water conservation and habitat restoration programs at the state and federal levels. In FY 2017, CO WRAN took more than 4,700 actions on behalf of Colorado’s rivers, streams and the birds that depend upon them.  

You are an amazing network of vibrant, informed, and activated members. In 2017, Audubon Rockies’ partnership with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers continued to thrive. Audubon sponsored riparian and wetland restoration projects along Colorado’s northern Front Range and West Slope, where volunteers conducted science-based riparian and wetland restoration projects that benefit birds and people. More than 470 volunteers learned about and implemented state-of-the-science restoration practices; restored 15,447 feet of streamside habitat; seeded and installed erosion control products on more than 103,620 square feet; treated or removed 1.2 acres of tamarisk; and planted nearly 16,000 native plants.

As we pause to reflect on the highlights of 2017, we stand on this foundation to step forward into 2018. In 2018, Audubon Rockies will be engaged at even greater levels with: chapters; CO WRAN water leaders; state and federal leadership; Colorado Water Plan implementation; habitat restoration projects; and, the agricultural community. Again, we need you to engage and to propel conservation-driven partnerships, actions, and successes. Thank you for your steadfast support.

Audubon Rockies wishes you a joyous Holiday Season and a wonderful New Year.

November 2017

CO Western Water Newsletter

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Giving Thanks and Holding Leaders Accountable

It’s tough to balance the actions of our elected leaders on a wide-range of policy decisions that impact birds and wildlife, particularly around water issues in the West.  Rather than blindly giving thank you’s to officials for a good action, we weigh our options and the full-range of decisions these public officials make that impact our natural world.  When is it appropriate to give thanks to our leaders and to also hold them accountable for actions that may be counter to the protection of western habitats for birds and wildlife?] 

Giving Thanks to CO Leaders & our Network

By Jen Boulton & Abby Burk

While there are a plethora of bills every year for which we owe thanks to individual legislators for their support of habitat and sustainability issues, there are a few who deserve more systemic thanks for their efforts above and beyond the call-of-duty. As we approach Thanksgiving, here are a few of the policy makers for whom we are truly grateful.

            Representative KC Becker, House majority leader. Water issues are never simple, and Rep. Becker jumped in with both feet in her very first year. It took several years, but she finally brokered a compromise on the “Ski Rights” issue, that both preserved a critical tool for river and riparian habitat protection (bypass flows), and sufficiently curbed perceived federal overreach against water rights held in private ownership. This issue continues to simmer in Washington, and we hope that Congressional representatives will follow Rep. Becker’s lead in protecting our river and wetland habitats. Since then, Rep. Becker has also championed adequate funding for environmental water needs, and, as majority leader, has been at the forefront of every sustainability issue in the past year.

            Senator Matt Jones. Sen. Jones has been an environmental champion for decades. From his first terms in the House over twenty years ago, through his re-election to the House and subsequent election to the Senate, he has carried bills to increase conservation,  prevent dewatering of critical river segments,  improve water quality, and decrease polluting discharges into lakes and streams. It is rare that an individual so dedicated to conservation and sustainability returns to the legislature for a second series of terms following a ten-year hiatus.

            Senator Kerry Donovan. Sen. Donovan is a rising star for environmental water policy. As a native of the Colorado high country, Sen. Donovan is a strident defender of keeping water in its original location to protect our rivers. She also has carried a number of bills to improve water sharing, and flexibility. Sen. Donovan also champions protection of our wildlands and open-space heritage. Her efforts were critical to making Colorado the first state in the nation to recognize that heritage with a Public Lands Day state holiday that was celebrated for the first time this year!

            Becky Mitchell, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) Executive Director. Director Mitchell is still fairly new in her position, but has already shown that she is deeply concerned with the sustainability of our natural environment. The CWCB is the state agency responsible for implementation of water policy in Colorado. For generations, this was controlled by commercial interests, to which aquatic ecosystems were, at best, an afterthought. Over the past ten years, the culture at CWCB has shifted, and Director Mitchell is continuing the change by prioritizing funding for environmental and recreational water needs. She works diligently every day to ensure that the water policy of our state is balanced, and includes all water interests, needs, and uses; not just those that were deemed historically profitable.

            John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor to the Governor for Water, and Chairman of Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC). Dr. Stulp is an icon in Colorado’s agricultural and water issues. Not only is Dr. Stulp a dryland wheat and cattle farmer, and former Commissioner of Agriculture, he plays a large role in Colorado’s water future. Dr. Stulp’s engagement played a key role in the unprecedented collaboration that helped shape Colorado’s Water Plan. On a daily basis, Dr. Stulp, along with the CWCB, are charged with bringing together a mix of ideas and pathways that continue to shape the implementation of the Water Plan, and to balance Colorado's future water needs. Hear Fay Augustyn - American Rivers, Drew Beckwith - Western Resources Advocates, and Audubon Rockies’ own Abby Burk discuss:  The Big Picture of Colorado’s Water Plan

            Together, we are turning a new page on Colorado’s occasionally adversarial water history, and setting a new course toward a more balanced water future. We give thanks to you, our Audubon network, for propelling this needed change. Your actions show our leaders how we can move forward, together, to ensure balanced water solutions for our environment, quality of life, and our economies.  Thank you for your dedication and support for our hardworking rivers, and the freshwater habitats that we all depend upon. 

October 2017 CO Western Water Newsletter

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Collaboration is key to finding water for birds and people.

Water is at the heart of sustainable ecosystems, economies, and our quality of life. As the demand for water in Colorado grows larger every day, teamwork is key to finding enough water to support our environment and people. We can find enough water for birds and people while supporting our common water values – but, it takes collaboration. By working together, Colorado’s water can go farther. River and watershed health and resilience are critical to delivering Colorado’s clean, reliable drinking water for communities, agriculture, birds, and other wildlife. Healthy rivers critically support Colorado. Audubon Rockies is proud to forward collaborative water solutions that have: improved Colorado’s Water Plan; rehabilitated riparian and wetland habitats; support chapters in accomplishing restoration projects; and linked arms with partners to leverage shared water goals.

From Grand Valley Audubon Society in Grand Junction, CO –

The Grand Valley Audubon Society is a local chapter on the Western Slope of Colorado. We are a relatively small and almost entirely volunteer-run chapter, with only one very part-time employee to help with administrative tasks. We are fortunate enough to own property- almost 60 acres along the Colorado River adjoining a state park. Our goal for this site, known as the Audubon Nature Preserve, is to make it the best riparian bird habitat possible. However, with limited resources and staff time it was hard for our chapter to “get the ball rolling” towards that goal.

In 2016, Abby Burk, the Western Rivers Program Lead for Audubon Rockies, visited the Audubon Nature Preserve and was excited by its potential. The Preserve is a prime riparian site, easily accessible to the public, and contiguous with state park land making it part of a larger habitat patch. Abby suggested that we apply for a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Program Grant. She took the lead on writing the grant and guided us through the application process.

The Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Program is a highly competitive nationwide grant program. While our proposal was the top-rated application in Colorado, we ultimately did not receive the grant. However, the grant application process forced us to better define our goals for the property, identify and engage with potential partners in our area and pull together all the information needed for future grants.

Abby’s initiative to apply for the Five Star Grant gave us the ground work and momentum to apply for other grants. We were recently awarded a $33,000 Wetlands for Wildlife Grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife that we will use to make the gravel-pit ponds on our property more productive wetlands. Abby also applied for and received a $5,000 grant from Patagonia that will fund a volunteer habitat restoration event at the Preserve this spring. The help we received from Abby, WRAN and Audubon Rockies was the spark our chapter needed to start making the Audubon Nature Preserve prime riparian bird habitat- we look forward to continuing our partnership in the future.

We need your help to tell the story of our sustainable water future. Here are some opportunities to pitch-in and learn more.

Last Call for 2017 Audubon Rockies Restoration Projects! 

Oct 28 – St Vrain Creek Tamarisk Removal – Peschel Open Space. Tamarisk (Salt Cedar) grows aggressively, choking out native vegetation. In the aftermath of the September, 2013, flood many thousands of tamarisk have germinated along St Vrain Creek, east of Longmont. These tamarisk seedlings are intermixed with many cottonwoods, willows and other native seedlings that are naturally growing in response to the flood.  Come enjoy panoramic views of the Front Range while rehabilitating bird habitat, and help us remove tamarisk.  Tamarisk will be removed by hand-pulling small seedlings, using weed wrenches on the medium sized plants, and possible "cut and stump" treatment on the larger plants that can't be pulled.  You'll be rewarded for your efforts with access to one of the premier birding and wildlife locations near Longmont, normally closed to the public, and we will likely see circling eagles as we work!

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2163

November 1-2 Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum in Grand Junction. Don’t miss the 2017 Water Forum by Colorado Mesa University. This year’s Forum will highlight keynote speakers: John Fleck, Director of the University of New Mexico's Water Resources Program and author of Water is for Fighting Over and Other Myths about Water in the West; and, Brian Richter, President, Sustainable Waters and global leader in water science and conservation. The Forum will showcase stories that explain the challenges and complexities involved in trying to understand Upper Colorado River Basin water issues and manage water in new ways. For more information and registration visit here.

 

September 2017 CO Western Water Newsletter

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Celebrate National Public Lands Day - Join Audubon Rockies and Wildlands Restoration Volunteers September 30th!

Celebrate something we all share: our public lands. September 30th is a day to give back to our rivers, landscapes, and habitats that we all depend on. Join a community of volunteers in enhancing riparian habitat for birds and people. Audubon Rockies and Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) formed a flourishing partnership in 2016 to provide opportunities for people to come together, learn about environmental stewardship, and take direct action to restore and care for our rivers and landscapes.

Audubon Rockies is sponsoring two projects on National Public Lands Day, one on the Front Range and one on the Dolores River. Join us to celebrate WRV’s 1000th project on National Public Lands Day!

Sep 30 - National Forest Flood Restoration

WRV and Audubon Rockies volunteers are helping to restore our flood damaged watersheds.  So popular is the quality of WRV brand volunteerism, that more agencies than ever have requested WRV’s special brand of ecological restoration. As a result, WRV is preparing the largest slate ever of river restoration projects. Join us on the Little Thompson, near the junction of US Hwy 36 and CR 47, 10 miles Northwest of Lyons. Your efforts will help protect our water supply by revegetating scoured stream banks, and make a difference for birds, river otters, greenback cutthroat trout and the Preble's meadow jumping mouse. Activities will include: native seeding, diverse plantings of native trees and shrubs, applying soil amendments and mulch application.

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2146

Sep 29-Oct 1 – Dolores River Riparian Restoration and Tamarisk Removal

Take a volunteer vacation near Gateway Colorado with WRV and Audubon Rockies! Join us for this rare opportunity to camp-out with your Audubon Rockies and WRV community and work in this truly historic area. This is WRV’s third year working to restore a native ecosystems along the spectacular red canyons lining the Dolores River. Volunteers will remove small invasive Tamarisk trees, install beaver cages around native Cottonwoods, and seed and plant native vegetation in "resource islands" throughout the area. New - this year we'll be conducting river crossings to the work site by boat! This is a rare opportunity to camp (and float) with your WRV community and work in this truly scenic and historic area. We'll be working with the Tamarisk Coalition and the Dolores River Restoration Partnership on this one, and we can't wait!

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2063

 

 

 

CO Western Water Newsletter AUGUST 2017

Enhancing Communities and the Value of Water - Stream Management Plans

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Water shows just how connected we are rather than separated, particularly in the West. Water from Colorado’s rivers supports nature, people, towns, economies, and our remarkable quality of life.  However, rivers across Colorado are often strained in trying to provide water for a multitude of growing demands. Audubon’s Water and Birds in the Arid West: Habitats in Decline Report takes a closer look at the undeniable connection between western water management, birds, habitats and suggestions for a more balanced water future. In the West, there’s not enough water for all needs at all times. So, what is at risk? What are possible collaborative solutions for Colorado’s rivers?

Coloradans know the value of water, and spoke out in an unmatched way for improved, flexible, and river supportive water management that is found in Colorado’s Water Plan. River and watershed health and resilience are critical parts of Colorado’s water infrastructure, and for communities, agriculture and wildlife. Colorado’s Water Plan sets a measurable objective to cover 80 percent of the locally prioritized lists of rivers with stream management plans, and 80 percent of critical watersheds with watershed protection plans, all by 2030. Stream and watershed management plans tend to melt together. What happens on the land uphill affects rivers, and each stream and river affects the health of the downstream watershed.

Stream management plans are driven by local stakeholders that collaborate and galvanize new relationships from different groups that get people out of their “silos” and find the intersections of common water values.  These cooperative and collaborative groups figure out how to adapt to ever-changing situations and find water solutions that help create resilience for communities and the environment. Put simply, people discover local solutions that are beneficial for both their community and river.

Here are a few examples:

  • The Crystal River Management Plan, 2016, was one of the first stream management planning efforts in Colorado. The management plan for the Crystal River addresses irrigated agriculture shortages, municipal supply and river impairment issues.
  • Steamboat Springs is currently working on a stream management plan for the Yampa River to help remedy temperature issues.
  • And, there are additional stream management planning efforts on the San Miguel and Gunnison Rivers as well as in the South Platte basin.

Goals for successful stream and watershed management plans shift from basin to basin to fit local community needs and point back to each basin’s priorities stated in the Water Plan. Plans could be either for protection or restoration of freshwater attributes.  

River and watershed health, and economic prosperity are closely tied. Colorado’s river-based recreation economy contributes nearly $9 billion annually. In Colorado, it is estimated that 90 percent of the state’s 800 species of birds, fish and wildlife depend on riparian habitat, even though these areas comprise less than two percent of the state. Specifically, more than 90 percent of Colorado’s bird species rely critically on riparian habitats throughout some portion of their lifecycle. Outdoor recreation (including hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and many other types of outdoor activities) contribute nearly $34.5 billion to Colorado’s economy annually. Healthy resilient rivers, riparian habitats, wildlife, and economies depend on dynamic environmental river flows.

In 2017, the Colorado State Legislature approved $5 million dollars for stream and watershed management planning. If you have interest in applying for stream management or watershed management funds  the deadline to apply to the Colorado Water Conservation Board is November 3, 2017.  A few communities have started meaningful planning efforts to collaboratively improve or protect the health of their river. We must keep rivers, and the birds and wildlife they support, thriving. Rivers are not only the water in the channel, but also why and how we decide to use them. How do we collaborate to preserve rivers and all that depends on them?  Get involved with your local basin roundtable, watershed group and community. Audubon Rockies is partnering with other organizations to promote science-based, collaborative, and meaningful stream management plans. Contact Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead for Audubon Rockies, to learn more.

Watch recordings of Audubon Rockies’ stream management webinar series from March 2017:

  • Colorado Stream Health Assessment Framework | A holistic health assessment tool for stream management and restoration planning (Part 1) https://youtu.be/GacLhpeH3es
  • Stream Management Planning – Merging science and stakeholder involvement to support river health and community needs (Part 2) https://youtu.be/aE0LXp3W7O0

 

 

CO WRAN Newsletter

JULY 2017  

Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

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Get Active - Water Actions This Summer

When did your river advocacy begin? Was it while birdwatching along your favorite river? Or, floating cool, clear waters with your friends and family? When you spend time on or around rivers you soon begin to understand the connection between clean water, healthy flows, a healthy ecosystem, and more birds. There are big issues affecting our western rivers today, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the environmental and policy issues. To get up to speed quickly on how water management has impacted western water ecosystems, and solutions for a more balanced water future, check out AUDUBON’S NEW REPORT ON CREATING A SUSTAINABLE WATER FUTURE FOR BIRDS AND PEOPLE IN THE AMERICAN WEST: WATER AND BIRDS IN THE ARID WEST: HABITATS IN DECLINE.

Colorado legislators need to understand the information contained in Audubon’s report, and that you care about a balanced water future supporting birds, rivers, and people. We need our members to inform legislators about key findings and solutions contained within Water and Birds in the Arid West: Habitats in Decline report. Starting August 2nd, Colorado legislators will hold water resource meetings open to public comment. The Water Resources Review Committee meetings study the conservation, use, development, and financing of Colorado’s water resources, and review and propose water resources legislation.

It takes teamwork to be successful. If you are interested in attending or presenting comments at one of the Water Resources Review Committee meetings please contact Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead for Audubon Rockies, for helpful information and comment tips.

Audubon Rockies wishes you a beautiful and active summer!

 

CO Western Water Newsletter

JUNE 2017

For more information contact:

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

River-time Memories and Champions: Green River Gates of Lodore Trip with Audubon Rockies

Spending time on rivers instills a deep appreciation for just how vital rivers are in sustaining birds, other wildlife and people. Audubon Rockies began offering multiday river trips in 2016 to offer the extraordinary chance to join staff and immerse in the beauty, connection, and ecology of western rivers.  These trips cultivate lasting connections between friends and rivers that will not soon be forgotten. When people know, understand and appreciate rivers, they will readily take action to sustain them.

In mid-June, 24 Audubon-ers enjoyed a remarkable adventure, together, on the Green River through the Gates of Lodore. Nearly 40 bird species were observed during the four day trip in and around the river. Spring fed waterfalls, rapids, starry skies, towering canyon walls, ancient petroglyphs and the vast landscape served as the backdrop for new friendships, birding, and engagement.  Western rivers are under pressure like never before. Solutions for water reliability for rivers, wildlife and people will take all of us. And now, Audubon Rockies has 24 more river champions ready to help.

Photo: Peter Arnold

By Pete Arnold

Cheyenne Wyoming

Audubon Rockies Board Member and Photographer

June 12-15, 2017, my wife Ruth and I joined the Audubon Rockies-sponsored raft trip down the Green River through the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument (DNM). Twenty-four of us, most with an interest in Audubon spent four glorious days and three pleasant nights visiting and keeping a sharp eye out for birds and other wildlife. Notably, we saw Mergansers, Canyon Wrens, Lazuli Buntings, Osprey, Golden Eagles, Hawks, Spotted Towhees, Ravens and a couple of Bighorn Sheep.

The trip was hosted by O.A.R.S., a professional raft/guide company out of Vernal, Utah.  This part of the Green runs through Utah and Colorado.  The runoff was at its peak. The river was flowing at 8,600 Cfs, which is high, since the average runs around 6,100 Cfs.

We are familiar with the Green as Ruth grew up about 50 miles from the Green’s headwaters, Green River Lakes near Pinedale, Wyoming.  I have spent many happy hours fly-fishing for Browns and Rainbows on the Upper Green near Pinedale where it is small compared to its size in DNM, particularly after the Yampa River joins it

While the Green is subject to impoundment in the Fontenelle Reservoir in Wyoming and the Flaming Gorge Reservoir mostly in Wyoming, below Flaming Gorge it is as wild as a river can get. Ruth and I have enjoyed camping beside streams and rivers for many years and enjoy wild country, but the country through which we rafted was transcendental in the sense that we could readily imagine the challenges faced by John Wesley Powell when he floated down the Green and Colorado in 1869. 

Periodically there have been discussions about constructing more dams on the Green such as the Echo Park Dam proposed in the 1950’s, which did not come to pass.  That would have been a tragedy if it had.  Anyone floating past the majesty of Steamboat Rock near Echo Park and the confluence of the Yampa and the Green would condemn such a proposal.  The walls of Steamboat Rock rise almost vertically several thousand feet above the river.  The dam would have had the same impact Glen Canyon Dam has had on the Colorado River.

Several evenings during our trip John Kloster-Prew, the Deputy Executive Director of Audubon Rockies and Abby Burk the Western Rivers Program Lead for Audubon Rockies gave us information about Audubon Rockies and it’s various programs.  Both spoke with passion and knowledge about the efforts Audubon Rockies is making in Wyoming and Colorado to support Audubon’s river conservation work.  Without their efforts, our rivers and streams are at risk.  

Ruth and I have committed to supporting their efforts both by signing up for the Grand Canyon trip coming up in April, 2018 and by making donations of our time and money to keep these essential efforts afloat!

CO Western Water Newsletter MAY 2017

For more information contact:

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Does Your Advocacy Really Make a Difference? Yes!

By - Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead, Audubon Rockies.

Your action for Audubon Rockies makes a critical difference for birds and the freshwater habitats we all need. Audubon Rockies activated twice, through a petition and an action alert, during the 2017 legislative session – and your action made the difference.

Audubon Rockies linked arms with partners to collect petition signatures to support stream and watershed management plans and Water Plan implementation. We took 800 of your signatures to 17 in-person legislator meetings and ultimately gained $5M for stream and watershed management plans in the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Projects Bill. Again, Audubon Rockies activated on the expansion of an agricultural water sharing pilot program. With over 930 alerts submitted, Audubon Rockies was pivotal to help expand flexible agricultural water sharing. Flexible water sharing agreements can help sustain Colorado’s agricultural heritage, valuable bird habitat, and help meet the Water Plan agricultural conservation goal.

Within the next week, Audubon Rockies staff will take 1,024 petition signatures showing support for state and federal water initiatives to Governor Hickenlooper’s water advisors, and Senator Gardner’s office for in-person meetings. Your support shows backing for water conservation and efficiency, wildlife and stream management plans, and your desire for a better water future for our rivers and streams. We bring the strength and support of our network to each meeting –representing you their constituent. Your engagement is critical for Audubon’s success. Not that we need to remind you, but together we are making a positive difference for birds, rivers, and people. Thank you for standing with us.

Colorado 2017 Legislative Session - Atmosphere, Challenges, and Wins for Water.  

By - Jen Boulton, Principal, Boulton Environmental Policy Advocates

The story of the 2017 legislative session is a story of the first time Washington style obstructionism really appeared in Colorado. Historically, despite agonizing gridlock in Congress, Colorado generally ignored national politics, and worked fairly collaboratively to get things done. While that still occurred in some cases, it became much more common for each chamber to view things through a partisan lens. Even things as benign as resolutions commemorating Earth Day were caught in the crossfire. In an unusually partisan atmosphere it is unsurprising that even water, historically a largely nonpartisan issue, was a victim of the session. Despite passing the State House, there were a number of good bills which failed to pass a single committee in the Senate, even in significantly weaker than ideal fashion. HB1273 initially strengthened existing law by making water conservation a mandatory element of new development applications. Even after making the language permissive, so the bill merely listed types of conservation measures that should be included IF local governments chose to include them, the bill was killed on a party line vote in the Senate State Affairs committee. A similar fate met HB1364 which would have allowed local governments to beef up the water conservation portion of their master plans, and to make those plans enforceable.

Still, the session wasn’t all bad. As noted, water tends to be a particularly nonpartisan issue, and there were several bills which passed, and will promote good environmental stewardship. HB1248, the annual funding bill for the Colorado Water Conservation board includes funding for implementation of the water plan, continuation of stream management planning, and watershed health. HB1219 extends and expands an existing lease/fallow program for agricultural water rights owners to rent part or their rights for other uses. This concept provides additional cash flow to struggling farmers, while also helping to protect rivers from additional diversions for municipal or industrial use. Similarly, HB1233 broadened existing protections for owners of agricultural water rights who loan some of their right to the State for in-stream protections. Also, HB1306 passed to provide some funding for cash strapped rural school districts to test lead levels in their drinking water supply. Not poisoning children is ALWAYS a good idea.

Gridlock isn’t always a bad thing, as bad ideas are just as vulnerable as good ones. In some cases, the divisions between the House and Senate made bad environmental bills a little easier to stop.  Particularly in the public lands arena, the House was an excellent backstop for some of the worst ideas, such as HB1124 which would have made it a felony to interfere in any way with the rights, or perceived rights of grazing lease holders. Similarly SB35 would have made it a felony to interfere in any way with oil and gas collection activities. Both of these dangerous bills were summarily killed in House committees. Again, however, water often stays largely immune from partisanship, and bad ideas die because they are bad ideas. SB235 would have allowed seaplanes to land in reservoirs at state parks. This idea puts our water quality at risk from invasive species, as adequately inspecting aircraft is difficult. Additionally, however, this idea threatens the recreation value of our State Parks by eliminating large corridors within our reservoirs from access to boating, swimming, or fishing, in order to create takeoff and landing lanes for a few wealthy folks to land expensive toys. SB235 was killed on a significant bipartisan vote in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.

 

 

CO Western Water Newsletter APR 2017

For more information contact:

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

As Snow Turns to Rivers – We Need You!  

Spring is the time to engage! Advocacy for birds and the habitats we all need can take many effective forms. Audubon Rockies offers several ways for you to dig in and help birds and their habitats. Whether you are clicking through an action alert, signing a petition, or volunteering for a restoration project we are making a positive difference for birds and our environment - together.

Webinar April 26th + Action For Rivers April 27th

Colorado Western Rivers Action Network (CO WRAN) is gearing up to support bold financing for state and federal water initiatives. Birds, other wildlife, and people depend on healthy flowing rivers. The state and federal government have unique and significant opportunities in supporting the sustainability of Colorado’s rivers. The state and federal government are at a pivotal point in determining Colorado’s water future. Wednesday April 26th from noon-1PM MDT join Audubon’s frontline water and policy specialists to learn more about Colorado’s state and federal water funding challenges and opportunities. The Colorado Water Funding for Birds and People – State and Federal Opportunities webinar will lay a foundation of importance for an upcoming Colorado petition. Our economies, environments, wildlife, and water supply depend on everyone working together. Register here.  

Watch your email on April 27th for a CO WRAN petition. To show support for bold state and federal water funding for the environment and people, we will be collecting signatures to hand deliver to state and congressional elected officials.  

Also, if you missed the Colorado Western Water Advocacy training on 4/17/2017, or would like to take a deeper look at successful advocacy practices, you can review the recording here.  

Audubon Rockies Sponsored Restoration Projects: May 6th X2!

Please attend one of these spring project days, our next restoration projects will not be until the fall. Audubon Rockies and Wildland Restoration Volunteers (WRV) are partnering in 2017 to enhance and restore riparian and wetland areas across Colorado. Project days are full of “how to” education, community friendships, and environmental therapy for the soul. Sign up early for projects directly through the links provided. We cannot do this without you. If you cannot donate your time, please consider a financial donation to Audubon Rockies to support these vital projects. Together we are making a difference!

May 6 – Campbell Valley Restoration

Just 20 miles north of Fort Collins exists one of the most important mountains-to-plains ecological transition zones in the Front Range-The Laramie Foothills Conservation Area. However, in the early 1900's, Campbell Creek was used to transport irrigation water while the North Poudre Irrigation Canal was being completed. The elevation of the creek bottom was down cut by approximately 40 feet, causing the elevation of the valley's tributaries to drop commensurately.  This massive change in the watershed caused significant head-cutting and down-cutting of every tributary in the valley, resulting in a loss of an estimated 120,000,000 cubic feet of sediment. Now, erosion gullies range from 5 to 30 feet deep and run up to 1,000 feet across the land and ever increasing leakage from the canal continues to threaten the valley's stability.

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2095

May 6 – Estes Valley Flood Restoration

Join us on the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park as we work to restore the scenic Fall River! We'll be heading up to Estes Park and working alongside the river to restore riparian vegetation that was ripped out during the 2013 Flood. This site is located just outside of the Fall River entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Volunteers can expect a full day of planting and reseeding native plants along the river's edge. We will also be installing erosion matting, adding soil amendment, and applying mulch to protect seedlings and seeds.

TO REGISTER,

Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2056

CO Western Water Newsletter MAR 2017

For more information contact:

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Audubon Rockies and WRV 2017 Restoration Projects 

Native riparian and wetland vegetation is critical in supporting thriving bird populations, ecosystem services, and for sustaining people. Built off of overwhelming success in 2016, Audubon Rockies and Wildland Restoration Volunteers (WRV) are teaming up again in 2017 to enhance and restore riparian and wetland areas across Colorado. Project days are full of “how to” education, community friendships, and environmental therapy for the soul. Sign up early for projects directly through the links provided. Early registration helps us to forecast volunteer meals and needed labor. We cannot do this without you. If you cannot donate your time, please consider a financial donation to Audubon Rockies to support these vital projects. Together we are making a difference!

Mar 25 & Apr 15 – St Vrain Flood Restoration at Button Rock Preserve

Please join us as we begin work on North St Vrain Creek near Button Rock Reservoir. Your efforts will help protect the water supply for Lyons and Longmont by revegetating scoured stream banks, and restore riparian habitat for wildlife, birds and fish. Activities will include soil amendment to improve fertility, native seeding, diverse plantings of native trees and shrubs, and mulch application.

TO REGISTER,

March 25:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2183

April 15:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2184

Apr 22 – Left Hand Creek Flood Restoration

Please join us on Earth Day as we continue the massive flood restoration process at a site on Left Hand Creek, just north of Boulder. Your efforts will help protect our water supply and restore wildlife habitat by revegetating scoured stream banks. Activities will include native seeding, diverse plantings of native trees and shrubs, soil enhancing amendments and mulch, and erosion control fabric. Our revegetation work comes after large scale equipment work has reconstructed the channel and streambanks. This project is an opportunity to learn about river restoration at its best.

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2124

May 6 – Campbell Valley Restoration

Just 20 miles north of Fort Collins exists one of the most important mountains-to-plains ecological transition zones in the Front Range-The Laramie Foothills Conservation Area. However, in the early 1900's, Campbell Creek was used to transport irrigation water while the North Poudre Irrigation Canal was being completed. The elevation of the creek bottom was down cut by approximately 40 feet, causing the elevation of the valley's tributaries to drop commensurately.  This massive change in the watershed caused significant head-cutting and down-cutting of every tributary in the valley, resulting in a loss of an estimated 120,000,000 cubic feet of sediment. Now, erosion gullies range from 5 to 30 feet deep and run up to 1,000 feet across the land and ever increasing leakage from the canal continues to threaten the valley's stability.

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2095

May 6 – Estes Valley Flood Restoration

Join us on the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park as we work to restore the scenic Fall River! We'll be heading up to Estes Park and working alongside the river to restore riparian vegetation that was ripped out during the 2013 Flood. This site is located just outside of the Fall River entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Volunteers can expect a full day of planting and reseeding native plants along the river's edge. We will also be installing erosion matting, adding soil amendment, and applying mulch to protect seedlings and seeds.

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2056

Sep 29-Oct 1 – Dolores River Riparian Restoration and Tamarisk Removal

Take a volunteer vacation with Audubon Rockies and WRV! Join us on National Public Lands Day for this camp-out trip on our fourth year working to restore a native ecosystem inside the absolutely stunning Dolores River Canyon Wilderness Study Area. Volunteers will remove invasive Tamarisk trees and seed and plant native vegetation in "resource islands" throughout the area. This is a rare opportunity to camp with your Audubon Rockies and WRV community and work in this truly scenic and historic area - once the stomping grounds of the infamous rimrockers and notable characters such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!  We'll be working with the Tamarisk Coalition and the Dolores River Restoration Partnership on this one, and we can't wait!

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2063

Oct 7 – National Forest Flood Restoration

WRV and Audubon Rockies volunteers have been breathing life back into our flood damaged watersheds.  This project will take place at either Left Hand Creek, Little Thompson, or James Creek; we'll update you when we have more information. Your efforts will help protect our water supply by revegetating scoured stream banks, and make a difference for the returning river otter, greenback cutthroat trout and the Preble's meadow jumping mouse. Activities will include native seeding, diverse plantings of native trees and shrubs, and soil healing amendments and mulch application.

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2146

Oct 28 – St Vrain Creek Tamarisk Removal – Peschel Open Space

Tamarisk (Salt Cedar) grows aggressively, choking out native vegetation. In the aftermath of the September 2013 flood, many thousands of tamarisk have germinated along St Vrain Creek, east of Longmont. These tamarisk seedlings are intermixed with many cottonwoods, willows and other native seedlings that are naturally growing in response to the flood.  Come enjoy panoramic views of the Front Range and help us remove tamarisk through hand pulling the small seedlings, pulling with weed wrenches on the medium sized plants, and possible "cut and stump" treatment on the larger plants that can't be pulled. This treatment involves judicious dabbing of a small quantity of herbicide to the stump.  You'll be rewarded for your efforts with access to one of the premier wildlife locations near Longmont, normally closed to the public, and will likely see circling eagles as we work.

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2163

Sep 6-9 – Upper Gunnison Basin Habitat Restoration

Wet meadows and riparian areas in sagebrush shrublands provide important brood-rearing habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse, listed as threatened by US Fish and Wildlife Service. These habitats are also important for numerous other species, including neo-tropical migratory birds, elk and mule deer, as well as to ranchers for livestock grazing. A number of wet meadows and riparian areas, already compromised by erosion and lower water tables, are likely to be further altered from drought and high intensity rainstorms associated with a changing climate. These habitats are among the most at risk in the Gunnison Basin.

To address these challenges, we will be working with Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, US Forest Service and others to restore riparian and wet meadow habitats in sagebrush shrublands in the Upper Gunnison Basin. We will use innovative, yet simple, restoration methods-small rock structures-to raise the water table to support plants and insects needed by wildlife. We will apply the approach of restoration expert Bill Zeedyk, author of Let the Water do the Work: Induced Meandering, An Evolving Method for Restoring Incised Channels (2012).  Volunteers will be constructing multiple rock structures on small streams and drainages in the watershed.

TO REGISTER, Visit:  https://www.wlrv.net/index.php?section=events&action=list&type=projects#event2143

 

 

 

 

CO WRAN Newsletter February 2017

For more information contact:

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Tools for Successful Stream Management Planning Webinar Series

The Colorado Water Plan, contains several ambitious goals and objectives to help our rivers and the birds and other wildlife that depend on them. In particular, the Water Plan holds a statewide goal that 80 percent of all prioritized rivers and streams will have a Stream Management Plan (SMP) by 2030. Audubon Rockies places high priority on SMPs.  We believe SMPs can be a critical element in effective community building and river protection.  In conversation with folks across the state there seems to be a feeling of celebration around the SMP goal accompanied with slight disorientation -where to begin and how to proceed. In March, we are offering a two-part webinar series. Part one: The River Health Assessment Framework (RHAF) – A holistic functional assessment tool for stream management and restoration planning. And, part two: Stream Management Planning – Merging science and stakeholder involvement to support river health and community needs. We hope this series can assist existing efforts and will help spark additional SMP momentum. Please distribute this announcement widely.

The River Health Assessment Framework (RHAF) – A holistic functional assessment tool for stream management and restoration planning
Wednesday, March 8, Noon – 1 p.m. MT

Water supply. Conveyance. Recreation.  Aesthetics. Ecosystem support. Habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species. These are just a few of the valuable functions that healthy and resilient streams and rivers provide.  Stream management plans guide decision-makers seeking to maintain ecosystem health and resiliency while meeting community needs for land and water use. The river health assessment framework (RHAF) provides a foundation for stream management plans by incorporating data from a wide variety of river-related scientific disciplines into a holistic assessment of river functional condition that considers all the fundamental factors affecting river and riparian health. It serves as a platform for evaluating the impacts of various land use and water management options.

The newly developed Colorado RHAF evaluates the functional condition of a river reach using 10 variables and 25 subvariables to describe essential attributes of the watershed and the site itself. In this webinar, we briefly explain how an evaluator integrates best available evidence from field observations, surveys, measurements, and monitoring studies to diagnose the degree and causes of impairment for each variable. Results are compiled into a concise and intuitive river health report card. 

River Health Assessment Framework
 

Watershed attributes

Site attributes

Flow regime

Floodplain function

Sediment regime

Riparian condition

Organic materials

River form

Water quality

Resilience

Habitat connectivity

Physical structure


Presenter biographies
Mark Beardsley. Mark's experience is grounded in a diverse educational and practical background. He holds B.S. degrees in chemistry and biology, an M.S. in ecology, and supplemental studies in environmental philosophy and mathematics, along with more than 20 years hands-on field experience as a stream, riparian and wetlands scientist.  Mark specializes in interpreting scientific data to assess the functional condition of streams and wetlands and to evaluate the effectiveness of restoration and mitigation.  He is a leader in the development, testing, and implementation of Colorado's FACWet, FACStream, and RHAF functional assessment methods and is well-versed in all the common ecological and geomorphic assessment frameworks.  As a freelance scientist and principal of EcoMetrics, Mark designed and carried out ecological research projects, hundreds of site-scale assessments, watershed inventories, and stream and wetland restoration projects that use natural approaches.
 
Brad Johnson. After completing undergraduate work in Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brad went on to complete a Master’s, Doctorate and Post-doctorate fellowship at Colorado State University studying wetland ecology and functioning.  Brad’s research since then has focused on ecological health assessment at multiple scales and wetland restoration, particularly for use as Clean Water Act compensatory mitigation.  Brad was a research scientist with the Department of Biology at Colorado State University for 16 years, where he carried out a long-term program developing technical tools for wetland, stream and watershed health assessment, designed for use in the Clean Water Act Section 404 program.  Now that this research has yielded a complete health assessment toolbox, Brad and his company, Johnson Environmental Consulting, LLC are shifting their attention to bringing that assessment technology to bear on questions of watershed and stream management.  Most recently Brad was the technical lead on the development of the City of Fort Collins’ Poudre River Health Assessment Framework which adapted Functional Assessment of Colorado Streams to meet the management needs of the City of Fort Collins.

Register for the March 8 webinar here.

 


Stream Management Planning – Merging science and stakeholder involvement to support river health and community needs 
Wednesday, March 22, Noon – 1 p.m. MT
Rivers play an important role to all members of a community, and people with a wide range of interests have a stake in how rivers and the lands around them are managed.  Engaging stakeholders in a process that incorporates their interests is critical for stream management plans to be effective and practicable. In this webinar, we describe the practical aspects of stream management planning, including understanding values and interests, assessing available resources and capabilities, and evaluating potential management strategies.  This process overlays a rigorous scientific assessment using the River Health Assessment Framework (RHAF). Successfully communicating these scientific findings and their management implications to a diversity of stakeholders is critical to developing a community-supported and executable plan. Recently-completed and in-process stream management plans provide working examples of how detailed scientific analysis and community input come together for evaluating the costs and benefits associated with alternative land use, water management, and restoration scenarios.

Presenter biographies
Seth Mason. Seth Mason is the Principal Hydrologist at Lotic Hydrological, a consulting firm based in Carbondale, CO. He received his M.S. in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences from Montana State University and his B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He specializes in hydrological modeling; stream characterization; deployment and operation of data collection and management systems; and development and coordination of water quality monitoring and assessment activities. Seth works extensively with city and county governments, federal agencies, and 501(c)3 organizations on a variety of watershed, land use, water quality, and water quantity issues.

Julie Baxter. Julie is a Senior Associate with Acclivity Associates and lives in Steamboat Springs, CO. She is a certified planner and floodplain manager with 13 years of experience assisting federal, state, and local governments in strategic planning, outreach and communications, and mitigation and resiliency planning. She enjoys developing stakeholder engagement and outreach activities to support highly technical projects. Her past experience includes serving as the program manager for the natural hazards mitigation planning program for FEMA Region VIII in Denver from 2009-2015. Prior to FEMA, Julie worked in the private sector as a project manager, as the communications specialist at the University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center, and as a GIS and natural resources specialist for the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife. Julie has a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon.

Mark Beardsley. Mark's experience is grounded in a diverse educational and practical background. He holds B.S. degrees in chemistry and biology, an M.S. in ecology, and supplemental studies in environmental philosophy and mathematics, along with more than 20 years hands-on field experience as a stream, riparian and wetlands scientist.  Mark specializes in interpreting scientific data to assess the functional condition of streams and wetlands and to evaluate the effectiveness of restoration and mitigation.  He is a leader in the development, testing, and implementation of Colorado's FACWet, FACStream, and RHAF functional assessment methods and is well-versed in all the common ecological and geomorphic assessment frameworks.  As a freelance scientist and principal of EcoMetrics, Mark designed and carried out ecological research projects, hundreds of site-scale assessments, watershed inventories, and stream and wetland restoration projects that use natural approaches.
 
Register for the March 22 webinar here.

 

 

CO WRAN Newsletter January 2017

For more information contact:

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Colorado is celebrating heavy wet snow! Continental Divide Photo: Abby Burk

CELEBRATE THE SNOW, BUT KEEP UP WATER CONSERVATION AND EFFICIENCY

The high country in Colorado experienced a January deep in heavy wet snow. The state’s water forecast has been rapidly improving after an abnormally dry fall and late start to winter. The current statewide SNOTEL snow water equivalent percent of normal is approximately 159% of the 30-year median. This is certainly reason to celebrate, and the media are touting the welcomed heavy snows. However, this does not dig Colorado completely out of drought. Almost half of Colorado is still abnormally dry or worse. Places along eastern Colorado remain abnormally dry, in moderate drought, or in severe drought.  In drought stricken areas, much of the spring snow melt may percolate into the dry soil to recharge diminished groundwater levels.

Generally, if snow fall trends continue the decent snowpack should contribute to a strong spring melt runoff supporting Colorado’s rivers and riverine ecosystems. This is great news for river recreation, riparian habitats that rely on overbank flooding for sustainability, and for the birds that critically depend on these habitats.  Although major drought improvements were made in Colorado over the last month, this does not give Colorado a pass to waste water. Efficiency and conservation are more important now than ever. While the entire Upper Colorado River basin is at 145% of the 30-year median, a lingering 17-year drought and the bathtub rings at Lakes Powell and Mead are proof that water scarcity is only a heartbeat away.

What does 100% snowpack truly mean for a state with a rapidly growing and thirsty population? With Colorado’s population expected to double by 2050, conservation and drought preparedness must become a way of life, and everyone's business. Colorado’s Water Plan, approved in 2015, contains goals for action that would lead the way toward water security for people and the environment. However, the Plan is only as good as its implementation. This requires funding, action, and you.  Audubon and our partners will continue to shape support for healthy Colorado rivers, improved water conservation and efficiency, and progressive water policies throughout Water Plan implementation. Our water future depends on it, and we are all in this together.

 

 

 

 

CO WRAN Newsletter December 2016

For more information contact:

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

5 Ways Your 2017 New Year’s Resolutions Could Save Colorado’s Rivers

We may not have all the water we want, but, we do have all the water we need. Colorado’s rivers are not only important to Colorado, but beyond the borders of our state. Water security for people and our environment depends on improving flexible legal frameworks, when, how and for what purpose we choose to use water. Variable precipitation patterns and forms have created a new normal across the West. Learning to do more with less water is a critical lesson for states dependent on Colorado River supplies. Water demands across all water consumers are outpacing supplies and straining our rivers and wildlife they support. The lives of birds are closely tied to water, just like our own. However, there is opportunity in crisis, but only if we act on it. What if your water saving choices and actions became a trickle in a stream? Or, help connect the Colorado River again to the sea? There is hope for the future health of our western rivers, but we all need to pitch in. Everyone needs healthy flowing rivers. Everyone.

Here are some meaningful ways you could help secure a brighter future for western rivers and for the people, birds and other wildlife that depend on them.

#1 Help improve water policy at the federal and state levels. Support government efforts to improve water conservation and flexible water use across Colorado and the Colorado River Basin. Public initiatives and funding like the federal WaterSMART program can help water-resource managers narrow the gap between water supply and demand through collaborative projects. Elected and agency officials need to hear from you that these and environmental flows for rivers are important priorities.  Stay tuned for engagement from Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network.

#2 Participate in a wetland or riparian restoration project. Audubon and our on-the-ground conservation partners actively participate in the enhancement, restoration, and protection of critical freshwater habitats. In Colorado, it is estimated that 90 percent of the state’s 800 species of birds, fish and wildlife depends on riparian habitat, even though these areas comprise less than two percent of the state. Unfortunately, these freshwater habitats are under pressure from diminished legal protections, climate change, contamination, invasive species and development. Restoring ecological infrastructure such as wetland and riparian habitats improve resiliency and water supply. Wetlands work like massive sponges: they absorb snowmelt and rainwater then release it slowly to nearby streams or the groundwater below.

Join us in 2017 for Audubon Rockies sponsored volunteer wetland and riparian restoration projects across Colorado. Project days give greater awareness to ecological functions and values and are rewarding learning experiences. Watch your email for upcoming projects!

#3 Personal water stewardship. The term “water footprint" is a measure of water use, and can be calculated for individuals, businesses, cities, and beyond. Reducing your personal water footprint can go a long way in helping rivers.  Colorado consumes on average 5.3 million acre feet per year. Of that, approximately 17% is from groundwater and 83% is from surface water. An average Colorado household uses less than half of one acre-foot of water per year (~150,000 gallons). Using less water in and around your home will help reduce water bills as well as burdens on rivers -on both sides of the Continental Divide. 

 #4 Native landscaping.   Give your landscape an ecological and water reduction makeover. Reduce or say goodbye to your thirsty lawn and create water thrifty beautiful native habitat. Cherry Creek 3 HOA neighborhood in southeast Denver saved 15 million gallons of water and $100,000 annually by transforming to native landscaping and incorporating water efficiency into everyday life. HOA Volunteer President Don Ireland lead volunteers of his 251-condo development into a new era of water conservation while simultaneously establishing a new landscaping plan that has attracted many new birds and pollinators into the neighborhood. This HOA, without formal training in water conservation but with a burning desire to "do the right thing" has been a poster child for water conservation and Audubon Rockies’ Habitat Hero program around the Front Range of Colorado and beyond. Please visit: Audubon's Plants for Birds and Audubon Rockies’ Habitat Hero programs for plants and plans to help transform your landscape into a water efficient beautiful native habitat.

#5 Make time to visit and discover a healthy flowing river. Float, bike, hike, or go bird watching at your favorite river. (Re)Connect to your local river and experience the thriving ecosystems that healthy rivers and their riparian habitats are.  It is important to remember why we are working with decision makers at the federal, state, and local levels to influence water policy. Rivers need us now more than ever. Together we can make a difference for the essential river habitats that we all depend on. 

Winter Water Webinar Series – Starting January 25th

Audubon Rockies’ Winter Water Webinars beginning January  25th noon-1PM MTN. Dr. Chris Rasmussen, of EcoMainstream Contracting, will take us on a tour contrasting free flowing rivers and restricted rivers from unique perspectives: Blue, the role of water, mobilizing and shaping; Brown, the role of sediment, filling, re-routing and building; and Green, growing, holding and slowing all things mobile. Watch your email for more information and registration. This is an opportunity not to be missed! 

 

 

 

CO WRAN Newsletter November 2016

For more information contact:

Abby Burk | Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

We will need you like never before.

The recent weeks have brought many surprises and potential changes.  As with any election or new administration there are many unknowns. Regardless of what political party is in charge or who is president, we need to be prepared to work with the new administration and Congress where we can and to fight to protect our water and freshwater habitats for birds and people when we must. Audubon’s centrist approach will continue to strongly advocate for protecting birds, their habitats, and our shared environment – like we have successfully done for 111 years.

The election hasn’t changed the fact that Colorado has significant challenges around water. At the state level in Colorado, the overall political landscape did not change much.  However, as always, the best thing Colorado can do is to continue to be proactive in ensuring resiliency and water security for people and our environment.

As we face some of our greatest conservation challenges - climate change, water shortages, and growing urbanization/development of our western landscapes - it is even more critical that we work together. What can you do to help right now? Ask friends, family, and co-workers to join Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN). We will need our united grassroots and WRAN leaders engaged and activated like never before. We are grateful beyond words for you, and Audubon’s strong Western Rivers Action Network.

*Please watch for Colorado engagement opportunities coming in December.
 

Audubon Rockies and O.A.R.S. Green River Gates of Lodore trip

Hard to believe but it’s that time of year to start thinking about river trips!  The 2016 Audubon Rockies / O.A.R.S. commercial rafting trip on the Yampa River was a tremendous success. Due to this great experience – both as pure fun and an educational adventure, we are planning to head out on the Green River through the Gates of Lodore June 12-15th 2017. It has been said that the Gates of Lodore river canyon is one of the most beautiful in America. This gorgeous 44 mile section of the Green River is class III. All physical abilities are welcome! There will be oar rafts, paddle rafts, and inflatable kayaks available to trip participants. Each day participants can choose which type of watercraft they would like to enjoy. Find out more details here!

La Niña is Here.

What do sunblock, skin moisturizer and flip-flops in November mean for Coloradans? The Climate Prediction Center forecasts La Niña conditions are present and slightly favored to persist (~55% chance) through winter 2016-17. Typical La Niña episodes bring less moisture and warmer temperatures to Colorado.  During La Niña events the jet stream tends to favor the norther tier of the country, rather than the southwestern United States. All of this could mean less snowpack for rivers. Right now, Colorado sits at 6% median snowpack statewide. So think and dance for snow! Read more here: The Climate Prediction Center forecasts La Niña  and Colorado SNOTEL Watershed Time Series Snowpack Graphs


Good News for Grand Canyon Habitats.

On November 7-12, 2016 the Department of Interior will begin increasing the release from Glen Canyon Dam for a high-flow experimental release (HFE) of approximately 36,000 cubic feet per second for 4 days (96 hours). The goal of the high-flow experiment is to move sand stored in the river channel and redeposit it to rebuild eroded sandbars and beaches downstream of the Paria River in Grand Canyon National Park. This release follows the science-based Protocol for High-Flow Experimental Releases from Glen Canyon Dam established in May 2012 and is a component of the Department's compliance with the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992. Read more at: Grand Canyon November 2016 High-Flow Experiment


 

 

 

CO WRAN Newsletter October-November  

Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum at Colorado Mesa University Nov. 2-3 Grand Junction, CO

Colorado Mesa University offers an essential and timely theme for this year’s water forum, Complex Systems: Changing Relationships between Water, People and the Environment. As more pressure is placed on the Upper Colorado River Basin to supply water for a multitude of growing demands while supplies dwindle learn how experts try to balance the needs of the river with ecosystem functions. Don’t miss out, learn more and register today!

What do Colorado candidates think about water?

The importance of water quantity and quality are growing across Colorado. Elected officials who are knowledgeable about water policy, healthy rivers, and needed flexibility in Colorado’s water right system are key to providing a water secure future for both people, economies and the environment. As we plan for the future, our water resources are on the minds of many candidates. Annually, Audubon’s partners at the Roaring Fork Conservancy ask candidates in local, state, and federal races for their responses to two water related questions. This pamphlet presents a non-biased forum for candidates to express their qualifications and platforms on water issues affecting the Roaring Fork Watershed and the state of Colorado. Even if your candidate is not listed in the forum we encourage you to read through the responses and inquire with your candidate about their plans for Colorado’s water future.

Audubon Rockies encourages you to vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Your voice is an important part of helping us to protect our rivers. Together we can work towards water security for birds, people, and the habitats we all depend on.

Save the date! June 12-15th Audubon Rockies Green River Gates of Lodore Trip

Details and registration coming in November! If you just can’t wait, email Abby Burk aburk@audubon.org for more information.

We need your help for 2017 river restoration work!

As we gear up for 2017 project fund raising, please consider a donation to Audubon Rockies river and wetland restoration work.  Together we are making a difference for rivers in water policy, on-the-ground restoration work, and helping to preserve habitats for birds and people. 

CO WRAN Newsletter SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER  

Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Peschel Open Space Project Weekend: a Remarkable Success!

Over a hundred volunteers turned out for a weekend of great fun and meaningful wetland and riparian restoration work September 17th and 18th. Thank you to all of the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Audubon chapter members and CO Western Rivers Action Network volunteers who came out to improve valuable habitat for birds and people. We cannot do this critical work without you!

The Peschel Open Space project weekend wraps up the Audubon Rockies sponsored restoration events for 2016. The Audubon Rockies – Wildlands Restoration Volunteers partnership is a confirmed success. Thank you to the JAMES D & JANE P WATERMOLEN FOUNDATION INC for supporting Audubon Rockies and these vital restoration projects bringing people together for the improvement of habitats we all depend on.

2016 Audubon Rockies Sponsored Restoration Project Achievements:

*How much more could we accomplish with your support of either time or donation?

St Vrain Tamarisk Pull

# Volunteers: 45

# Volunteer hours: 390

# Tamarisk pulled:  approx. 100,000 

St Vrain Flood Restoration

# Volunteers on several events:  50

# Volunteer hours: 440

# Native plants/trees planted:  ~1100

Feet of stream planted:  600 feet 

Big Thompson Flood Restoration

# Volunteers on several events:  220

# Volunteer hours: 2020

# Native plants/trees planted:  6000+

Feet of stream planted:  4000 feet

Peschel Open Space Riparian and Wetland Restoration

# Volunteers three days: 135

# Volunteer hours: 1100

#Native plants/trees planted: 6,000+

One mile of shoreline tamarisk pulled

Intensive wetland restoration .75 acre

Riparian restoration 1.5 acres

Colorado University Restoration Planting Techniques Research

2017 Proposed Restoration Project Sites, based on funding levels

Dolores River Tamarisk Removal and Riparian Restoration, CO

Colorado River Riparian and Wetland Restoration, near Grand Junction CO

Campbell Valley Wetland Restoration, North of Fort Collins CO

Saint Vrain Creek Tamarisk Removal, Confluence of St Vrain and Boulder Creeks, CO

North Saint Vrain Creek Flood Restoration – at Button Rock Reservoir, CO

Peschel Open Space, Longmont CO

Big Thompson Middle North Fork Flood Restoration, CO

As we gear up for 2017 project fund raising, please consider a donation to Audubon Rockies river and wetland restoration work.  Together we can and are making a difference in water policy, for rivers, and the habitats we all need.

Coming Soon: Petition for Increased Water Conservation and Efficiency

Thanks to thousands of Coloradans like you, together we are improving Colorado water management for rivers, birds and people! Watch your email for a WRAN petition supporting high water conservation and efficiency. We need your support to help birds and the habitats we all depend on. 

 

 

 

CO WRAN Newsletter AUGUST-SEPTEMBER

Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

 

Get to Know Audubon Rockies’ River Enthusiast: Abby Burk

By Alison Holloran, Executive Director Audubon Rockies

I met Abby Burk three years ago at Audubon Rockies’ first Western Rivers workshop in Boulder Colorado.  You couldn’t miss her. She immediately stood out, asking questions, offering solutions and exuding her infectious passion for our Western rivers. What started out as an interested participant at a workshop proved to be an invaluable advocate for our Colorado River Basin issues.  Have I mentioned she is now an Audubon Rockies full time staff member? 

Abby has extensive ecological land management experience, including teaching about riparian restoration and river health as a former biology and science professor at a Colorado community college.  Her lifelong love of rivers and the wildlife and recreation they support overflows into her work. Audubon Rockies’ Western Rivers Initiative has strategically grown from a policy focused campaign to a more robust science, policy, and on-the-ground restoration program. Abby has helped set this foundation firmly and the program continues to grow with many Audubon Rockies policy and restoration wins. Her background has enabled her to not only understand the complex environmental issues that Western rivers face, but also enables her to translate these issues for decision makers and bring together a wide range of perspectives. 

Abby is dedicated to healthy flowing rivers and quick to share stories and photos from her adventures navigating rivers across the western U.S. in her kayak. Her passion and expertise has been a potent complement to the commitment of our 12,000+ Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN) in Colorado.  Abby will always refer to Audubon’s success as based on the activation and engagement of our WRAN volunteers. Together, we are a great example of the power of the people in making a real difference on-the-ground for freshwater systems and in decision makers hearing the need for smart environmental policies.

Audubon Rockies and Wildlands Restoration Volunteers Wetland Restoration Weekend:

Peschel Open Space September 17-18th

Join us for either one or both project days at the beautiful Peschel Open Space, east of Longmont CO, for this multifaceted project. Like so many locations along the Front Range, Peschel Open Space was devastated by the September 2013 floods. This project weekend will help restore valuable bird habitat and contain two simultaneous components working together: wetland restoration planting, and tamarisk removal.

Wetland Flood and Restoration Planting. The flood scoured away vegetation from the stream bank, making these areas: 1.) more prone to erosion and invasion by weeds, and 2.) poor habitat for birds and other wildlife. Volunteers will plant hundreds of shrubs and trees along the creek, and over 4,000 wetland plants around a nearby pond. *The shrub and tree planting portion will be implemented as part of a scientific research study to test a variety of planting techniques used by Wildland Restoration Volunteers. Dr. Tim Seastedt from University of Colorado Boulder, and graduate student, Brian Sechler, are the leaders on this important restoration technique study.


Tamarisk Removal. Tamarisk (Salt Cedar) has devastated watersheds throughout the West, costing billions of dollars in lost water and habitat. It grows aggressively, choking out native vegetation. In the aftermath of the September 2013 flood, over 400,000 young tamarisk have germinated from County Line Road to the confluence of St. Vrain and Boulder Creeks. These tamarisk seedlings are intermixed with cottonwoods, willows and other native seedlings that are naturally growing in response to the flood. These young tamarisk are virtually all small enough (6 to 18" tall) to hand pull. However, they will grow fast, so we want to remove them, before they become a major and costly problem on St Vrain Creek.

We are hoping for 60 volunteers for each project day! No experience required and all levels are welcome! You can come to one or both days, with the option to camp at a beautiful location nearby.  Visit here to register and make sure to select “Audubon” in the group menu. See you there!

RAIN BACKUP DATE - Oct 8-9 - PLEASE RESERVE!

Birds and Brews. Help Us Name a New Audubon Rockies Beer

October and beer festivals are just around the corner. Audubon Rockies will be approaching several local breweries about creating a beer that is river conservation minded. Would you like to see a stout, lager, pale ale, or IPA? We need your help! Send your best ideas for names and brews to Abby Burk at aburk@audubon.org by September 16th.   

Coming Soon: Petition for Increased Water Conservation and Efficiency

Thanks to thousands of Coloradans like you, together we are improving Colorado water management for rivers, birds and people! Watch your email for a WRAN petition supporting high water conservation and efficiency. We need your support to help birds and the habitats we all depend on. 

 

CO WRAN Newsletter July-August

Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead | Audubon Rockies | aburk@audubon.org

Riparian Birds are Counting on You! Stream Management Plan Workshop August 23-25th Steamboat Springs, CO.

Yellow Warblers, and many other riparian species, depend on healthy flowing rivers and their diverse riparian habitats. Did you know the Colorado Water Plan establishes a goal of having Stream Management Plans (SMP) developed for 80% of priority streams statewide?  SMP success relies on solution based approaches for integrating environmental and recreational values with traditional agricultural and municipal values. The Water Plan’s Conceptual Framework further directs all water interests to work to “identify, secure funding for, and implement projects that help recover imperiled species and enhance ecological resiliency (*you may remember Audubon was critical in getting this language into the Water Plan).” SMPs can help your basin build riparian habitats and overall ecological resiliency.

Want to know how you can be involved in this critical on-the-ground work in your backyard?  Then come to the Colorado Water Congress Stream Management Plan Workshop in Steamboat Springs August 23-25th. The cost is just $50 for the workshop. You will learn what SMPs are, how to do them, who has done them, and what you need to do for a successful SMP for your local stream. Register for this great workshop here.  

Audubon Rockies Yampa River Trip – A Full-hearted Success!

Twenty four Audubon-ers enjoyed a river trip and birding experience of a lifetime. The wild and free-flowing Yampa River was abundant in Yellow Warblers and over 30 bird species. Participants enjoyed floating, paddling, exploring, and creating lifetime friends and memories. Trip participants gained a deeper appreciation for river ecology and the undeniable connection between healthy rivers, their riparian habitats, and the birds they support. We want to share with you the AMAZING photography and blog that Dave Showalter has produced about our trip. Dave’s writing and photography will put you right on the Yampa’s riverbanks http://www.westernwild.org/wild-river-the-yampa/.

Due to the overwhelming success of this trip, Audubon Rockies is scheduling a 2017 Gates of Lodore trip on the Green River. Dates and registration information coming soon!

Thanks to all 1,023 of you for signing the Colorado Water Plan “criteria” petition!

Six months ago, Colorado’s Water Plan was delivered to Governor Hickenlooper. Thanks to thousands of Coloradans like you, this landmark achievement maps new ground for innovative water policy and support for healthy rivers and streams. But, we have yet to see a formalized public and transparent process for planning future water projects, and we are worried that the criteria the Water Plan spells out for selecting sustainable projects could be ignored.

Audubon is working together with our partner conservation organizations, including Water For Colorado, Conservation Colorado, and Western Resource Advocates, to reach as many Coloradans as possible who care about our water future. Thanks to 1,023 of you for signing the WRAN petition July 7-18th. Support for formalizing the Water Plan’s “criteria” was presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on July 20th. Our numbers collectively speak to water decision makers and open the path for a new era of water stewardship and management. Stay tuned for further successes

CO WRAN Newsletter June-July 2016

June is a great (if not the best) month to get outside and enjoy our rivers. June weather and water are nearly perfect. Send us your river pictures as you hike riparian areas or float a scenic stretch. Get out there and enjoy what we are fighting so hard to preserve. We love our rivers and all the birds and wildlife they support!

You Can Help Rivers: Create Habitat! Colorado River Day Webinar

Webinar: Thursday, July 21st 12 – 1PM     Register Here!

Did you know native landscaping can save both significant water and money? When we say significant, we mean it! Find out how the Cherry Creek 3 HOA neighborhood in southeast Denver saved 15 million gallons of water and $100,000 annually by transforming to native landscaping and incorporating water efficiency into everyday life.  HOA Volunteer President Don Ireland will talk about how he and fellow volunteers led this 251-condo development into a new era of water conservation while simultaneously establishing a new landscaping plan that has attracted many new birds and pollinators into the neighborhood. This HOA, without formal training in water conservation but with a burning desire to "do the right thing" has been a poster child for water conservation and Audubon Rockies’ Habitat Hero program around the Front Range and beyond.

River Trip Update:

The 2016 Audubon Rockies & O.A.R.S. Yampa River Trip is SOLD OUT!  We can’t wait to get on the Yampa River with our friends! If you could not make it this year, watch for dates for our 2017 trip on the Green River through the Gates of Lodore – coming soon!

July River and Wetland Restoration Projects –Want to Get Outside and Help?

Audubon is partnering with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers this year by offering a variety of fun volunteer events. Join us for some environmental therapy and help restore a river or wetland, benefiting habitat for birds and wildlife. No experience required, all physical levels welcome.

Campbell Valley Wetland Restoration
Register here for the July 16 event 

One of the most important mountains-to-plains ecological transition zones in the Front Range exists just 20 miles north of Fort Collins—the Laramie Foothills Conservation Area. However, in the early 1900s, Campbell Creek was used to transport irrigation water while the North Poudre Irrigation Canal was being completed. The elevation of the creek bottom was down cut by over 40 feet, causing the elevation of the valley's tributaries to drop commensurately. 

This massive change in the watershed caused significant head-cutting and down-cutting of every tributary in the valley, resulting in a loss of an estimated 120,000,000 (that's right, 120 million!) cubic feet of sediment. Now, erosion gullies range from 5 to 30 feet deep and run up to 1,000 feet across the land and ever increasing leakage from the canal continues to threaten the valley's stability.

This project is part of a larger effort to keep the soil on the ranch and improve habitat for native species. We'll be following up after the construction of simulated beaver dams to reintroduce native willows and cottonwoods around the newly formed wetlands.

Big Thompson Flood Restoration
Register here for the July 23 event

In 2015, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers began a massive 2 1/2 mile river restoration project along the North Fork of the Big Thompson River, which was severely impacted by the September 2013 flood. Construction is complete and the dam has been removed! Now join us as we finish this project by restoring the riparian corridor, a stone's throw from Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Volunteer activities will vary throughout the year, including: planting of native grass seed, trees, shrubs, willows, and wetland plugs; and installation of erosion control products. Our objective is to restore and enhance geomorphic and ecosystem function in the canyon, including the ongoing re-grading of stream banks and the stabilization of banks by installing erosion control products and planting native trees, grasses, and shrubs whose roots naturally armor stream banks and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.

PROTECT OUR RIVERS License Plate

*We need to sell 1,800 of these beautiful plates by June 2017, or they disappear!*  

From our April 2015 newsletter: River and riparian enthusiasts, here is a great way to show your support and appreciation for our rivers. In 2014 Colorado Trout Unlimited (TU) began a program to bring awareness and funding for our rivers. Audubon Rockies has partnered with Colorado TU to expand the PROTECT OUR RIVERS Colorado license plate to CO WRAN members and activists. A portion of your donation will go directly to CO WRAN to further river advocacy, research and restoration! Apart from the money that will be donated to CO WRAN, Colorado TU must spend 100% of the money received from this program on river restoration and habitat improvements within Colorado –it’s required by the law!

How to get your own PROTECT OUR RIVERS license plate.

Any Colorado resident can get the PROTECT OUR RIVERS license plate. Residents can obtain their new plate at any time during the registration renewal cycle. Click here for more information and PROTECT OUR RIVERS FAQs.

  1. Click here to get started: http://www.protectourrivers.net/ 
  2. Begin your application and fill out your information. BE SURE TO ENTER P283 in the PARTNER CODE box. By entering this code you ensure that CO WRAN receives a portion of your $25 donation.
  3. Fill out your payment information and click submit.
  4. Immediately by email you will receive your certificate.
  5. Print and take your certificate to the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles office and pay the one-time $50 special plate fee.
  6. Your plate will be mailed to your home within 4 weeks, often much faster.

Our rivers, and the birds and wildlife they support thank you! Please order your PROTECT OUR RIVERS license plate TODAY! 

Downloadable Resources

How you can help, right now