Park superintendent recommends cutting pollution levels in half
DENVER – With high levels of nitrogen that scientists fear could lead to fish die-offs and other permanent environmental changes, the superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park is recommending halving air pollution levels at what is often called the “crown jewel” of Colorado.Environmentalists hailed the recommendation by park superintendent Vaughn Baker as “a truly historic step.” Baker said levels of nitrogen detected at the park are 15 to 20 times the amount found in nature.”Two decades of scientific research have shown that the world-class alpine lakes, forests and Colorado’s renowned greenback cutthroat trout are hard hit by rising air pollution at Rocky Mountain National Park,” said Dan Grossman, director of the regional office of Environmental Defense.Vickie Patton, staff attorney for Environmental Defense, said Baker’s recommendation is based on more than 20 years of research and is the first time a national park in this country has used that kind of science-driven management tool.Research by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Jill Baron shows that high nitrogen levels have changed the park’s ecosystem since the mid-1950s. Park biologists say certain species of algae have become more dominant, which has upset the balance and eventually could lead to such damage as large die-offs of fish.Baker wrote in a May 9 letter to state health officials that higher-than-normal levels of nitrogen have been found in the park’s water, trees and soil.The sources of pollution include fertilizer used on farms, and vehicle and power plant emissions.The National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are developing a plan to reduce the pollution in the park that draws nearly 3 million visitors every year. Representatives from the three agencies were scheduled to meet Thursday as part of ongoing discussions.Rocky Mountain National Park, about 70 miles northwest of Denver, has 60 peaks higher than 12,000 feet, and is home to elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, bears and eagles.
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