Quick N' Dirty

Trout numbers expected to plummet
Trout may just be the canary in the great Western coal mine. A team of 11 scientists has forecast a challenging future for the fish as climate change is expected to cut its habit in half by 2080. The research was published Monday and conducted by a team of 11 scientists from Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State University, the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Washington.

The study predicts native cutthroat throughout the West could decline by as much as 58 percent and introduced brook trout could decline by as much as 77 percent. Rainbow and brown trout populations could drop by an estimated 35 percent and 48 percent respectively. Cutthroats are a keystone species for the Rocky Mountains and the only trout native to much of the West.

Trout Unlimited’s Seth Wenger was the paper’s lead author. “The study advances our understanding of climate change impacts by looking beyond temperature increases to the role of flooding and interactions between species,” he said. “The study also is notable in scope, using data from nearly 10,000 sites throughout the western United States.”

However, Wenger was quick to add that there is hope. By restoring and reconnecting coldwater drainages and by protecting existing healthy habitat largely located on public lands in the West, some of the decline in trout populations can be avoided.
“Trout Unlimited is already protecting remaining strongholds and restoring degraded habitat – exactly the kind of things that need to be done to reduce the impact of a changing climate on coldwater fisheries in the West,” Wenger said.

The researchers used an “ensemble” of climate models to arrive at the study’s findings. However, under even the most optimistic model, cutthroat trout populations in the West would decline by 33 percent. The scientists note that cutthroat trout populations are already in deep trouble. Some subspecies have lost 90 percent of their historic native range and are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Climate change will only further this decline.

“This report is a wake-up call,” said Chris Wood, the president of Trout Unlimited. “It is imperative that we accelerate the scope and the pace of that work if we are to have healthy trout populations and the irreplaceable fishing opportunities they provide.”

FLC taps new director of athletics
Fort Lewis College athletics has a new man at the helm. Gary Hunter, who has worked with the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets, begins work as director of athletics Sept. 1.

“In Gary Hunter, we have an opportunity to bring someone to campus who is exceptionally qualified to move Fort Lewis College Athletics forward,” said Fort Lewis President Dene Kay Thomas.

Hunter worked with Thomas at both the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College and looks forward to renewing the partnership. “I am extremely excited to be back working with President Thomas and this energetic, talented group of coaches and staff,” he said. “The athletic teams at Fort

Lewis College are performing at a very high level, and I look forward to sustaining the success.”

Among other accomplishments, Hunter helped supervise the acquisition and start-up of the Avalanche, which relocated from Quebec in 1995. He also served as a team leader for the design, financing and negotiations with the City of Denver for the construction of the Pepsi Center, home of the Nuggets and Avalanche.

Local rider takes Leadville Trail 100
Durango’s Todd Wells rode to the top of one of mountain biking’s famed podiums last Saturday. The current national champion continued his winning ways and took top honors in the Leadville Trail 100 with the second fastest time ever.

Wells, who was third last year after a mechanical early in the race, rode most of the second half of the 100 miler alone. He briefly appeared on track to match the course record set by Levi Leipheimer last year, but faded a bit in the last 15 miles.

“I felt great for most of the race but in the last 20 miles my stomach turned to knots, and I couldn’t eat anything,” Wells wrote in his blog. “Luckily I could still drink and was able to keep together to the finish.”

Former marathon world champion Alban Lakata, of Austria, took second. He had a flat in the first quarter of the race, and when his inflator malfunctioned, was forced to push his bike to an aid station. For the women, Rebecca Rusch shattered the course record she set last year by nearly 16 minutes. In fact, the top four women across the line – Gretchen Reeves, Pua Mata and Jenny Smith – all finished ahead of the old record.

For his part, Wells is headed for lower elevation and looking forward to turning in a strong performance at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Switzerland in early September.

“I have a little trip across the pond for World Cup Finals and World Champs,” Wells wrote. “I’m hoping for some good form, but I’m excited to spend some time at sea level.”

Anasazi Center greens its collections
The Anasazi Heritage Center is using an innovative partnership to recycle some ancient items – more than 30,000 old plastic bags that no longer meet archival standards and were destined for a landfill. The Cortez Safeway has agreed to accept the bags for recycling.

The deteriorating plastic bags held some of the more than 1.5 million Ancestral Puebloan artifacts – including pottery, stone tools and fragile animal bone implement – excavated during the Dolores Archaeological Program in the 1980s.

The bags went empty after the Colorado Historical Society awarded the center a $100,000 grant to improve artifacts’ storage conditions and record them in a computer database.

Deborah Kelley-Galin, grant project coordinator, came up with the plan for recycling the bags. “State Historical Fund grants encourage ecologically sustainable practices, including the recycling of old cardboard boxes, paper and plastic,” she said. “Our rural location, and the tremendous number of discarded bags, made it difficult to find a partner willing and able to accommodate our needs. Safeway generously allowed us to drop off bags for pickup by their recycling services contractor.”

– Will Sands