Flash flood tops wildlife news in a newsy 2010

It’s no surprise there was a lot of wildlife-related news in 2010.

From the flash flood sweeping down the Gunnison River to the recession-induced closing of a favorite fly shop in Montrose, rarely a week went by that something wasn’t news and attention worthy.

Here are a few of the year’s stories, at least as many as can fit in limited space.

Perhaps the outdoor story of the year was the Aug. 19 flash flood that ripped through a section of the Gunnison Gorge, inundating campsites and changing rapids.

Fishing guides had to discover new routes through the rapids and understandably reported fishing as a bit slow.

The flood was estimated at more than 2,000 cubic feet per second.

“There was a lot of impact from the storm,” said Edd Franz, outdoor recreation planner for the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. “A couple of campsites in Ute Park were really affected by debris and Boulder Garden Rapid was significantly changed.”

The cold front that birthed the flood was “a powder keg,” said one meteorologist, washing away roads in east Utah and western Colorado and causing Hotchkiss resident to report a “mini-tornado” sweeping through their town.

Blue Mesa lake trout removal: The Colorado Division of Wildlife stepped up its attack on lake trout in Blue Mesa, initiating a project of netting and removing medium-sized lake trout.

The division said the multi-year project is aimed at reducing lake trout predation on kokanee salmon, whose numbers apparently have declined substantially in recent years.

Rafters lose access fight: A water fight over who has the right to float through private property made it as far as the Colorado Senate before that inestimable body punted and sent legislation to the Colorado Water Congress to be studied.

Private rafting companies wanted to float their paying guests through a private ranch on the Taylor River, only to be rebuffed by the owner.

Unaffiliated legislator Kathleen Curry of Gunnison introduced House Bill 1188, which tried to find some ground to allow rafters across private land.

Lawmakers declined to intervene and instead set up the 16-member Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force to resolve rafting disputes.

The task force has met once.

Local Elk Foundation chapter is top fund-raiser: According to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Grand Junction chapter is the most-successful of its chapters in terms of fundraising, which includes memberships and net proceeds from the annual banquet.

The Grand Junction chapter was recognized for:

No. 1 nationally for supporting memberships at 926.

No. 1 nationally for sponsor memberships at 171.

No. 1 nationally in banquet net dollars at $118,507.

No. 1 nationally in total chapter activity dollars at $256,363.

No. 1 nationally in cumulative chapter net proceeds at more than $2 million.

Longtime fly shop closes in Montrose: In a move he said was recession-induced, veteran guide and fly shop retailer Bob Burke quietly closed the doors in September on a 20-year venture with Cimarron Creek Fly Shop in Montrose.

Burke said he tried to find buyers or someone to take over the space but the local economy couldn’t afford it.

“We’ve been pushing it uphill for too long,” said Burke when reached by cell phone shortly after shutting the business. “We were hit hard by the building decline in Montrose and Telluride, and everybody is feeling the pinch.”

BLM enlarges conservation area: The Bureau of Land Management, partnership with The Conservation Fund, spent $1.4 million for a much-desired 552-acre parcel adjacent to the Gunnison Gorge Conservation Area.

Conservation Area manager Karen Tucker said the purchase saved the land from becoming a “rural subdivision, which would have changed the character of this area and the adjacent Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.”

Tucker said the purchase of this property was a high priority nationally for the BLM. Funding came from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Hotchkiss hatchery adds capacity: The Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery received $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds to remove six dirt ponds and add eight new concrete raceways.

The hatchery raises 145,000 pounds of whirling-disease free rainbow trout each year and the new ponds will allow the hatchery to raise an additional 100,000 5-inch rainbow trout for the Animas River near Durango.

Crested Butte denied expansion appeal: After years of trying to expand onto nearby Snodgrass Mountain, Crested Butte Mountain Resort saw its hopes snuffed when a U.S. Forest Service official affirmed an earlier decision blocking the resort’s expansion plans.

The initial denial to expand was made by Gunnison National Forest Supervisor Charlie Richmond in November, 2009. Richmond said the proposed expansion was not in the public interest.

Resort president and owner Tim Mueller said he spent four years and $2 million working with Richmond to sculpt the expansion proposal.


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