Summit County recycling program looks to prevent discarded fishing line from ensnaring wildlife |

Summit County recycling program looks to prevent discarded fishing line from ensnaring wildlife

Breeana Laughlin
Breeana Laughlin/

As Dillon Ranger District wildlife biologist Ashley Nettles exited her vehicle at Giberson Bay a group of swallows performed air acrobatics. Yards away, Canadian geese dipped their heads into the water and a handful of anglers lined the shore of the Dillon Reservoir.

Nettles headed over to a white tube near the parking lot, unscrewed it from the bottom and inspected the contents. She had just helped install about a dozen of these containers, which serve as a disposal and recycling bin for fishing line.

With the public’s help, Nettles said, the new monofilament recovery and recycling program will help prevent wildlife becoming entangled in fishing line, and improve the overall recreation experience on Summit County forestlands.

Eagles, waterfowl and ospreys can become accidentally entrapped in the line because it’s difficult to see, she said. Other animals are simply curious or mistake discarded line as nesting material or food. This has resulted in the entanglement and death of local birds.

“We have a lot of osprey and waterfowl out here, and now we have eagles’ nests as well, so we really need to do what we can to keep them as safe as possible,” Nettles said. “There are also kids and dogs running along the shoreline, so getting that junk out of there is going to make it a better recreation experience for everyone.”

In addition to being safety hazards for humans and wildlife, monofilament can last hundreds of years in the environment. Fishing line collected through the program will be sent to a national recycling facility where it is melted down and used to make tackle boxes, line spools and other fishing products.

Nettles and other professionals involved with the program said it’s an easy way for those who fish in Summit County to properly dispose of fishing line.

“It’s a simple thing to do,” Nettles said. “You just pick up a piece of line and throw it in there.”

The receptacles are made of inexpensive materials and were relatively easy to build and install, Nettles said. But the success of the program will depend on whether people actually use them.

“It’s awesome people are out here fishing and enjoying what we have, but there is a responsibility behind it too,” she said. “Most people aren’t trying to leave trash behind, but I think they don’t realize fishing line doesn’t break down in the environment for a really long time. It’s important for people to know that it has a big impact.”

Anyone who walks along the shorelines is invited to throw the fishing line into the recycling receptacles. The initial installation effort focused on high-use fishing areas, initially concentrating on the shorelines surrounding Dillon Reservoir. Nettles plans to expand the program as funds come in.

This program was a joint effort by the members of the Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee, the Dillon Ranger District, Summit County Government, the towns of Frisco and Dillon and Denver Water.

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